Friday, January 16, 2009

"Are You Experienced?"

The other day I came across a CNN article about the recordings that changed the lives or represented a seminal moment in the development of the various people interviewed. Some of the records featured were:

“Can’t Buy a Thrill” by Steely Dan
“The Wall” by Pink Floyd
“Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues
“1984” by Van Halen
“Good Bye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
“Signals” by Rush
“Life’s Rich Pageant” by R.E.M.

The album that did it for me would be “Are You Experienced?” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. You have to picture the scene – it was the summer of 1967; me, a 16-year-old hick from small-town Iowa, trying to be cool. Here comes this album, which featured three really freaky-looking guys on the cover, with music that ranged from hyped-up blues rock to pure acid psychedelia (it’s easy for me to categorize the music now, using 40-plus years of experience, but back then, I didn’t know what the hell to call it; it was just cool music that blew my mind, even without an MTV video to stare at). I played it constantly and played it loud, using a child’s mono phonograph hot-wired to a Silvertone bass amp (since my brother played guitar, we had plenty of amps lying around, but no decent stereo); when the needle started to wear out, we weighted the tone arm with a drum key to keep the record from skipping (which would horrify the audiophile purist, I’m sure). Even now, the record still knocks me out when I play it (my enjoyment made bittersweet due to the recent death of Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell); where else can you hear a frizzy-haired black guy singing, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky?” (or “kiss this guy,’ if you misheard the lyrics like I did). So let’s go back to those days of black light posters and freak outs, and ask the question again: “Have You Ever Been Experienced?” (“Well, I Have…”)

That’s my story – what’s yours?


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Great topic. I'm gonna have to get back to you on that one after I've given it a think. The temptation of course is just to name a bunch of songs that I really liked & listened to a lot.

But which songs marked a "seminal moment" in Whoamusanyway's "development" (assuming for the sake of argument that I've actually developed rather than just gotten old)? Now that's a good question!

OK, I'll be baaaaack later this weekend.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Re what recording represents “a seminal moment” in my life. I think it’s an excellent question. I also think it sounds vaguely obscene, but the point is, I’m ending up having to choose between two true stories, both of which obviously will have more meaning to me than to thee, so I will keep them short.

Story 1:

I was 10 or 11 years old, lying in the upper bunk in the bedroom that I shared with my little brother. The windows were open because it’s summer. A car radio was playing down the street at the Fishers. The Fisher kids consisted of one boy (who was my pal) & his 6 older teenage sisters. All these girls had boyfriends, & most of them had cars. And so there was always something interesting going on down there. This night, I was about to nod off to the usual boy-girl chatter out in the street when suddenly somebody cranked one of the car radios up just as loud as it would go. And that is how I first heard the opening riff to Satisfaction. I got up and peeked out the window and there all the bad kids were, smoking cigarettes in the dark, playing rock ‘n roll, laughing and dancing in the street. I was never quite the same again.

Story 2:

I was 13 years old, down in the basement rolling & folding newspapers for my paper route while the rest of my family slept. Over my transistor radio earplug came a cool yet somehow eerie tune having something to do with the time of the season. Maybe it just felt eerie because it was nearing Halloween and I was associating the song with that. But several hours later when I had finished my route, the song was still in my head. So I reached into my windbreaker and turned on my transistor – and presto! There it was again, precisely on cue, & this time I heard the DJ name the band – The Zombies. So it all felt very mysterious as I rode home through the falling leaves and listened to the song and I think perhaps I might have really felt for the first time that there was more to this life than meets the eye. I was never quite the same again.

Different as they are, I don’t think I can choose between those two. CharlieMac, hope you don't mind if cross-post this over at my blog, because of course now thanks to you I have two more songs that I have to add to the Whoamus Top 20 Bands’ Top 10 Songs List!