28 August 2007

What He Left Behind

It's funny, growing up and being told how similar you are to a person you never met. All my life, my family has told me how much I remind them of my deceased uncle, Stuart, who drowned a few years before I was born. Characteristics in common (from what I'm told) include our ability to enjoy being by ourselves, our apprehension to confrontations (although I seem to handle that apprehension differently), an interest in comic books and the arts in general, and a studious, thoughtful level of consciousness.

Recently, I cataloged Stuart's records. Mostly, I've done this because, as a historian, I have a compulsion to do such things, but I also wanted to get a sense of what I could glean from him through what he left behind.

At first glance, I see that Stuart's favorites apparently included Pink Floyd (4 albums), the Beatles (5 albums, plus John Lennon's Imagine and Paul & Linda McCartney's Ram), Jefferson Airplane (5 albums) and the Rolling Stones (9 albums). Not being someone who ever "got" the Beatles' music, I'm not sure how much alike he and I really could have been.

Still, I've never really listened to the albums, so for all I know I'll discover something there that I never found in the singles on radio. Never been all that drawn to the Stones, either, but this is clearly the place to start. Always liked "Satisfaction," which I mentioned in my blog comment yesterday about enjoying Vanilla Ice's cover on his Extremely Live album. Yeah, that's right, I was ga-ga over Vanilla Ice and never "got" the Beatles. Go figure.

I couldn't help but notice as I rummaged through that box of LP's how eye-catching most of the album jackets were. One of the Jefferson Airplane albums was packaged inside what amounted to a big brown paper sack. Grand Funk Railroad's self-titled album is in a round jacket patterned after the quarter; they even rounded the entire thing, making getting the record in and out actually easier than it is with the normal square shaped ones. And that's not even mentioning the colorful artwork (my favorite being Jethro Tull's Aqualung, whose blatantly religious imagery visually compels me to want to play the record).

I also happen to think that the first reason Stuart felt the need to own the Shocking Blue's self-titled album is that the foursome appear to be naked on the cover and the chick in the group makes up for the three guys. In truth, they're probably all in swimsuits or whatever, but you can't determine that from what's actually shown, and when I consider that he was still in high school at the time of the album's release and I consider that he and I might have been somewhat similar, I'm pretty sure she's the reason he owned that record. Of course, as mentioned in another blog of mine, I still haven't bought Mariah Carey's Christmas album despite being drawn to its cover for, what? A decade now?

The only country album in Stuart's library was Glen Campbell's By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Technically, the only country album jacket in his library was that one, since the record is absent. I immediately thought of the fact that that album won the Album of the Year Grammy award in 1969 and wondered whether he had that as a curiosity. Kind of the way that I've owned some non-country albums over the years but never felt comfortable exploring that musical world.

I can't quite say what it is that keeps me from delving into more popular, non-country, music other than this sense that maybe I don't belong in that world. Maybe that's how he felt about country. Makes me wonder what he would make of my musical taste had he been around. For that matter, it makes me wonder what my musical taste might have been had he been around. Hell, I might have turned out to be the biggest Beatles fan of my generation had he been there to influence me.