Going through my journal, I found this from 2001. It was music blogging before I ever had—or likely read—a music blog. I’ve added some links to it and edited it a little bit.
Today was as gray and gloomy as yesterday was clear and bright. I drove through the rain to Oregon Middle School to observe a teacher at work in a classroom this morning.
The kids were seventh graders, but they looked so impossibly young. Most voices were still high and soft, most features still childlike. They are the same age I was in the fall of 1972. That fall I was in seventh grade. I was going to manage the basketball team, mostly because I liked the coach, who was also my English teacher. I had probably begun writing a sports column for the school newspaper. But what frames the period most is what always frames the period—music.
That fall, I bought Lobo’s “I’d Love You To Want Me” and Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead” on 45s—my taste was just as eclectic then as it is now. If I’d scan the charts from that season, I’d stop on “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” by Danny O’Keefe, a song I recall having liked, but a song I couldn’t possibly have understood until much later (“You know my heart keeps telling me / You’re not a kid at 33”). The Main Ingredient’s “Everybody Plays the Fool,” which is on my Desert Island tape today, was hitting recurrents. Michael Jackson’s “Ben” would enter my personal mythology the next spring—it was on for my first slow dance with a girl. Climbing the charts were the Stylistics’ exquisite “I’m Stone in Love With You,” and the infinitely singable “Operator” by Jim Croce and “Something’s Wrong With Me” by Austin Roberts. Songs I have since come to admire were on the radio late that fall as well—Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze,” which didn’t have much of an impact on me then, sounds pretty good now. “Dialogue” by Chicago is one of my all-time favorites today, one of the most monumental records of the 1970s. And while I wouldn’t have heard Clean Living’s “In Heaven There is No Beer” back then, it would become a Friday-morning fixture years later on my radio shows in Macomb. . . .
If the paranormal researcher and author T.C. Lethbridge is correct, inanimate objects can record powerful emotions felt in their presence. Rocks on a battlefield, for example, can be found using his methods to have recorded pain and fear. And if Lethbridge is correct, the walls of my junior high school—indeed, of every junior high or middle school—would have to be literally alive with pain and fear, and lust and confusion and heartbreak and bravado and mirth and every other emotion adolescents can experience. . . .
So anyway—I felt empathy for those kids this morning, awkward and geeky and unsure of themselves. Although they face very different challenges in a world so different from mine as to be unrecognizable, I’m wagering some very universal, very human stuff is happening to them now, just as it happened to me. And some of it will linger in their hearts and minds years from now, when they’re not young anymore.
Coincidentally, about the time I found this old journal entry, I listened to an American Top 40 show from mid-November 1972, which contained most of these songs. Read about that in a future installment.