By Larry Feinstein
I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I hated my piano lessons. I love music.
I remember sitting on the front steps of my house at 69-30 179th street in Queens, New York. A palm-size, turquoise transistor radio magically broadcasting the most important sounds I had ever heard and doing it without being plugged into the wall. As a young boy, it was a time of magic, a time to begin owning my independence. And for many of us, the fact that our parents didn’t like those sounds drove us closer to them.
The music back in the fifties was in transition. High-school bathrooms became the urban mecca for black a cappella groups, while Patti Page sang, “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.” I definitely felt a growing affinity to the music forcing itself to be heard by young people everywhere.
I don’t know how many times a song has taken me over until it ended. Even today, when you can start and stop any song ever recorded, I still listen with reverence to those thousands of special songs without interrupting them. Clapton, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler and Mumford and Sons are just a few of my attention-stealers.
I was one of those mesmerized youngsters who couldn’t wait to see Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show. Wouldn’t you know it? Our Dumont TV crapped out about 20 seconds into his first song and I went screaming over to my neighbor’s house in my underwear to watch him, surprised they only shot him from the waist up and too young to understand the swivel hips controversy.
When it was still OK for 12-year-olds to take the subway to the city, I went to the Brooklyn Paramount. I waited for hours in the winter cold to see Allan Freed’s Jubilee and acts like Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. Since then, there have been too many concerts to remember, but the highlights have to be seeing The Beatles in Shea Stadium and The Concert for Bangladesh in Madison Square Garden, organized by George Harrison to help the victims in Bangladesh.
About halfway through the above paragraph, I realized there was no music playing while I was writing. It was like not having a blanket on a cold night. I am warmer now that I have turned on Pandora, perfect for continuing my love story. Music has always had the ability to interrupt my life, speaking directly to my heart, living in a flawless universe all its own.
In 1986, I left New York City and drove to northern New Mexico to begin a new life. I had a ghetto blaster on the passenger seat, with headphones fitting snuggly over my NY Yankee baseball cap. Silence would have been a cruel accompaniment on this journey of discovery. Legend by Bob Marley, Graceland by Paul Simon and The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby and the Range were my favorites, out of a boxful of cassettes. There is still nothing like driving on a sunny day, window open, an elbow draped over the door, listening to the Eagles. I’ll bet everyone has memories and stories about music.
Professionally, I have had some incredible experiences around music. Working in the advertising business in NYC, I was there for the introduction and launch of MTV. I even tried to pull off a reunion of the Beatles by putting on a global concert at the UN and got as far as a meeting. One of my last jobs was selling advertising time in the TV version of Casey Kasem’s America’s Top Ten.
My relationship with music got even more exciting in New Mexico. In 1989, I promoted a major summer concert series called Music in the Pines, featuring Bonnie Raitt, Etta James and Bruce Hornsby, among others. I was hired to help launch a fledgling British record label called Run River Records. The best musical experience of all was putting a radio station on the air called Radio Free Santa Fe.
Since my days on the front steps clutching my transistor radio, music has definitely changed. Technology is having a huge impact on the art form, keeping diversity alive, while the music business, now down to four global labels, is homogenizing it.
I had a great conversation with Ron Middag of Shaka Rocks 103.1FM. He was a part of Rock ‘n Roll history and his passion is unabated. He misses the fire that birthed the music from the sixties and the passion of the Vietnam upheaval. You can listen to him on my blog, Mind and the Motorcycle.
Music is a language that requires no translation. It will also keep changing as the world it inhabits keeps changing.
Turn it up!
- Larry Feinstein has spent a lifetime in marketing and wondering what we’re all about. Visit mindandthemotorycle.com for more.