I think I was 12 when I fist started playing in the Edmonton Youth Orchestra, carefully positioned at the back of the second violins where it was unlikely I could do any damage or throw anyone off. I could play the violin but as a student of the Suzuki Method (Listen and Play approach) my ability to read music had been very well hidden. My sister had played all the Suzuki pieces before I got to the so I hear them practised every day and then I heard them all again at the Saturday morning ‘parties’ where all the Suzuki students came together each week and played together and through as much of the repertoire as you knew. This meant when it came time in my private lessons to play a new piece of music, and the teacher asked me to read the music, I would struggle to gain the first few notes under my finger, but as soon as I recognised the work, I could close my eyes and play through it without needing much from the written page – Success! hmmm. On the flip-side, my first couple years at the back of the second violins in the youth orchestra were a very different story, you can’t feel your way through the second violin parts of the Brandenburg Concertos. I couldn’t sight read at all and in was laboriously slow for me to work out what I was doing. The best part of the youth orchestra, for me, was meeting a couple guys my age who played violin, and finding out they were normal people.
Here i met Brett and we talked about everything, and often got in trouble for talking, and behaved a bit like naughty schoolboys, because we were naughty schoolboys. I think we were even smoking during the breaks at this stage (remember I was 12). I hadp to junior high school and started hanging with a new group of friends who were all into listening to music on the hit parade (630 CHEDwas the AM hit radio with Wolfman Jack) and buying albums. But I was playing Vivaldi and Bach and new almost nothing about records, singles and albums, my one ‘in’ being I had kind of inherited a suitcase record player from my big sister and with it, two or three singles and an album or two. There was Foreigner – Dirty White Boy, Cher – Half Breed and then a Partridge Family album (I forget which but we used to watch the TV show, but I suppose seeing kids play in a band had some impact – I never thought of that before – see how therapeutic this writing thing can be). Anyhow, those bits of music were pretty non music for me. I remember sitting with the CHER single on the record player and holding a pin in my hand and using the tip of the pin to play the disc rather than using the proper tone arm needle; and you know, you could hear the song very quietly coming from the tip of the pin, in fact, feel the vibrations coming up my fingers. It would be years before I saw a high resolution photo of record grooves and began to understand how it all worked. Even today, working on audio waveforms in a digital music editor, the shape of the waveforms tell you what the grooves on vinyl would look like.
So Brett and I would talk about music and I knew nothing of the modern stuff and what was supposed to be good, and Brett seemed like he knew quite a bit. After saving my allowance and paper route money for a few weeks I had a stash ready to go into town and buy a record or two. So I asked Brett his advice and name a selection of albums that would be good to start with. So that next Saturday I headed into downtown Edmonton on the number 51 from Capilano and went to the relatively new Edmonton Centre and headed into the basement area where the food court and record store was. The shop was heaving with people because part of the culture at that time was going to the record store on Saturday and buying a new album you had been saving up for. And there were all types of people there from every background all flipping through the bins of records. The hit parade record list would be hung up on the wall to see who was at the top and the age of picture discs had just arrived so there would be some coloured vinyl disco hits on the wall along with the Rolling Stones Lip discs. I joined the crowd and got to work looking for the albums on my list, and along the way you get sidetracked looking at all the album covers, looking at the pictures and reading the stories and wondering about the bands and where they came from. Edmonton Alberta is quite a long way from anywhere else on the earth and if you’ve never been anywhere else, you don’t realise there is anywhere else that is different. Its just the way it goes until you become older and aware and get the chance to travel.
I was so distracted it was only but the skin of my teeth I got out of there with my treasured choice. And I think it was an inspired choice which ticked all the right boxes for me and somehow illustrates my eclectic tastes in music and stretched my imagination in new and fantastic directions. So here they are in no particular order. My first three long play records bought with my own money that I saved from allowance and a paper route:
- Van Halen I
- Boney M – Nightflight to Venus
- Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the same
Not much I can say about it, I still like all of them. I do remember the next monday morning getting ready for school and I was playing the Led Zeppelin while getting dressed. My sister came through to my room and told me to ‘turn it down, that’s not really appropriate for a Monday morning’. . . . And I felt like I was on my way, I had achieved teenage, I was now offensive and obtrusive. And there was much more to come.