I’ve got the music in me

It has been said that music has a way of capturing a time and place in your mind better than any other art form. There’s something about popular music (or even not-so-popular music) that can instantly transport you to a precise location with specific people at an exact point in time – say, the high school parking lot during prom night – every time you hear it on your radio, or stereo, or iPod.

It’s uncanny, really. The first couple of seconds of The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” or Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” or Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” can conjure up crystal-clear images of where you were when you first heard them. This even holds true with the dreaded ear-worm songs – the ones with the incessantly annoying but undeniably gripping hooks and lyrics that made them chart-toppers even though you hated them with a passion: Paper Lace’s “The Night Chicago Died” or The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” or Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” or Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater.”

Music can get in your blood, inhabit your soul, infect your head, steal your heart. It does all this to me, and more. It’s my passion, and, I’d wager to say, it’s yours too. That’s probably why you’re reading this, the first entry in a new blog that aims to examine the irresistible hold that music can have on us all. I was born in 1955, the year that rock and roll first showed up in the mainstream of pop music, the year of “Rock Around the Clock” — exactly halfway through the black-and-white decade of the Fifties, the demarcation point between the safe, puerile music of our parents’ generation and the edgy, defiant sounds that would dominate the charts thereafter.

My peers and I were perhaps a bit too young to absorb the radical nature of roots rock as it happened. But that didn’t stop us from learning to appreciate it later, once we’d come of age and been exposed to the cornucopia of styles and genres that defined the phantasmagorical orgy known as The Sixties: Motown, the British invasion, girl groups, garage rock, folk, psychedelia, country and blues. It all competed for our attention – sometimes, in those days, on the same radio station.

And then came the decade everyone now loves to disparage – The Seventies. The confessional singer-songwriters, the progressive rockers, the country rock cowboys, the Philadelphia soulsters, the androgynous glams, the faceless arena bands, the angry punkers, the disco kings/queens, the new wave mavericks. It, too, was a period of competing styles, each with its own radio station, its own rabid fan base. Music sold in greater numbers in the ‘70s than at any time before or since – mostly on full-sized vinyl albums but also on Dolby cassettes and on the dreaded 8-tracks.

Finally, the Eighties, the age of MTV, when everything seemed to become more synthesized, more fine-tuned, more of a spectacle, sometimes more about the video than the audio. Dominated more than ever by huge superstars – Madonna, Michael Jackson – and yet open to a burgeoning underground of vibrant sounds and manifestos that demanded to be heard.

These are the years that interest me. The years of my childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, even (dare it be said?) middle age. The music from these times – good and bad – shaped me, resonated in me, reflected my desires, my dreams, my regrets. I am moved to write about this music, and I hope you’ll enjoy what I have to say in this blog. Some will be amused by it, some will be enraged by it. Some may find it intriguing, or exhilarating, or boring. I invite you to tell me what you think. Suggest future entry topics. Ask questions. Challenge theories. Make me work harder.

Music is a passion we all can share. Let’s do it here.

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28 comments

  1. Teresa Marino Lionetti · February 7, 2015

    Music has always been a matter of Energy to me. It’s the fuel that feeds my soul. It’s where words fail, music speaks.
    I love your blog!!

    All the best to you.
    xox,
    ~T

    Like

    • brucehhackett · February 7, 2015

      Thanks, T! And thanks so very much for the beautiful illustration you made for the home page!…

      Like

  2. freddie55 · February 7, 2015

    Way to go Hack!!! Good stuff. I will post occasional witticisms and frequent misspellings!

    Like

  3. B. Bailey · February 7, 2015

    Eight tracks? Now we’re talking. i used to have an 8-track recorder. I think it’s in the Smithsonian now.

    Like

    • brucehhackett · February 7, 2015

      Never went the 8-track route, but drove around in a lot of friends’ cars equipped with them. Sound quality was pretty awful. And lack of a rewind/fast-forward option was a major drawback…

      Like

  4. Mark Frank · February 7, 2015

    Always a stack of 8 tracks in my Camaro to and from U.S. Track changes in the middle of long songs was a real treat (Mountain Jam comes to mind). As the tapes began to wear, you could hear additional tracks in the background. Sometimes I was singing to one song and humming to another.

    Like

    • brucehhackett · February 7, 2015

      Waiting for cassettes with Dolby noise reduction was definitely the smart move.

      Like

  5. Jo · February 8, 2015

    Great opening blog. I am looking forward to reading more.
    Speaking of ear worm music: Rock The Boat was one that to this day can get stuck in my head and annoy the daylights out of me.
    Great job Bruce!

    Like

  6. Moody · February 8, 2015

    Go Bruce. This will help me to focus more on picking up my guitar more often.
    “I’m a Beliver” — The Monkeys

    Like

  7. Moody · February 8, 2015

    Well served Mr. Hackett, well served.

    Like

  8. Moody · February 8, 2015

    Speaking also of ear wigs.
    I can’t play the theme song from Phantom of the Opera (music of the Night) without it droning in my head for over a week. Like no other piece of music, this one haunts me.

    Like

  9. Paul Vayda · February 8, 2015

    Very good intro, Hack.

    You wanted suggestions: These have always attracted my attention:
    1. Groups and songs that feature different guitar tunings. Joni Mitchell, Neil Young to name a couple.
    2. Groups and songs that feature time signature mixes within a song. Led Zepp and the Beatles to name a couple
    3. and if you want to get us all going : Other than longevity, why the Beatles crush the Stones!

    I’m signed up and psyched to hear you blog on, Bruce.

    Joltin’ Joe Drums

    Like

    • brucehhackett · February 8, 2015

      Songs with different tunings and time signatures have always intrigued me too. They’re more interesting, more complex to absorb, more challenging to perform. But they usually don’t do as well on the singles charts, where simple/simplistic works best…

      Like

  10. john kmiecik · February 8, 2015

    but I liked Sugar Sugar…..ha ha…love the blog

    Like

  11. Dennis Thatcher · February 9, 2015

    Nothing better than some well-written, story-yelling prose. I love forward to the next installment, Bruce…

    Like

  12. Dennis Thatcher · February 9, 2015

    Story-telling (yelling works, I guess, for some heavy metal music)!!!

    Like

    • brucehhackett · February 10, 2015

      I was going to mention that. If I want to do some “story-yelling” in print, I guess I use ALL CAPS, right?

      Like

  13. Gregory Leschishin · February 10, 2015

    Hello Bruce…
    I got word of your blog through my music-infected cousin. And I’m fascinated…and jealous! I was hoping to do the same thing! Would you consider any topics or discussions to include in your blog? For instance, I worked in the music industry for a number of years…and still think that one of the most perfect 3 minute song ever recorded is “I Love the Nightlife” from Alicia Bridges. But then again, I have an incredible romantic encounter associated with that tune… 🙂

    Like

  14. Maria · February 14, 2015

    Bruce, Dahhhling Great job on your blog! You are the Music Man!!

    Like

  15. Barbara Christian · February 21, 2015

    Believe me, folks, this Hack guy is no hack and he knows what he’s talking about and possessed of a memory we should all envy and research skills of the former print reporter he was in an earlier life. .

    Like

  16. Stu · March 7, 2015

    Bruce:

    Summer 1975 (I think)
    World Series of Rock
    Cleveland Municipal Stadium
    Line up:
    Jesse Colin Young
    Santana
    The Band
    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

    Like

    • brucehhackett · March 7, 2015

      I was at that show, Stu! It was August of 1974, actually. Incredible day! Overcast and some rain in the morning, and Jesse Colin Young brought out the sun with “People let your light shine,” and it was all perfect from then on. Wonderful memories…

      Like

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