I bought my first record when I was 7 or 8 years old. My sister and I were obsessed with the thrift store down the block from our apartment in Redondo Beach. That's where I bought a junky portable turntable and my first records.
There was Wayne Newton’s Danke Schoën (which I played on the wrong speed for comic effect), a top 60s hits album with the Supremes on it and a great Tijuana Brass record that I can still hum, note for note.
Later, my best friend and I got really into Lesley Gore (“You Don’t Own Me” was our mock rock song of choice; four of us girls wore poodle skirts with the words “you don’t own me” on each of our little felt jackets). I was no doubt a weird kid, obsessed with Elvis and making home movies staring my stuffed animals.
Over the years I've collected records at shows and swap meets and unlikely places. Sometimes you get lucky and find that 50 cent Loretta Lynn record that changes your life forever (Rated X was that record).
Over the weekend, my mom and I listed to records together for the first time.
She was visiting from LA and we were lounging in the living room catching up. I was flipping through the massive record collection Reid has amassed in his life, everything from 60s exotica to Conway Twitty to L.A.’s Wasted Youth and Neurosis, which remains his favorite punk band to this day.
I like to poke through his stacks on an afternoon with nothing planned. I hope I never tire of this...I'd like to spend 10 years methodically exploring from A to Z. Who wants to listen to your own records? It's so much more delicious to explore someone else's hoard.
There is such an element of discovery: You are discovering the B-sides and rarities in the stacks, but also the B-sides and rarities of the collector’s life. There’s the grubby 7-inch punk records Reid bought as a teenager in Colorado and the “adult” jazz that I still don’t really get (does he event get it?).
If you were to look through my humble collection, you’d see the Blasters and X of my 17-year-old self, the Waylon of my 20-year-old self, and a whole lot of changes in-between.
So here we were, mom and daughter, sipping white wine and talking music. It was an intimate and simple moment that I wouldn’t change for the world.
My mom was in New York City in the early 80s when punk was at its peak and she even saw Joey Ramone waiting in line at the movie theatre. The music scene was part of life in the city. CBGBs was another divey club and you could hear the world changing all around. I like listening to her stories about that time, before the new new wave.
I knew exactly what to put on for this visit: Patti Smith's Horses. I don't know why, l just had a feeling.
My mom doesn't sing and she says she's gone deaf, but she will sing along if she really likes something and it's just you and her, and I remember her singing "I'm an old cow hand" to me as a lullaby when I was a baby.
I also saw her sing recently at a Mariachi El Bronx concert, which made me so unbelievably happy. And she sang along to Patti in my living room, imitating her strange poetic rhythm with some accuracy. She told me she remembered exactly when the record first came out and how the city felt instantly different. She hadn’t listened to the record in years in it felt like an old friend.
Here are a few of her comments, which I found interesting, funny, and touching.
"It was the first time anyone had done a record cover like that. Back then women were still supposed to be feminine, but look at her. She wasn't having any of it."
"People said it was unlistenable. Terrible. They thought her poetry was pretentious. No one thought the album was going to be as big as it got."
"Can you believe she took a break from music and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for 10 years? She was a housewife."
(Looking at Wikipedia on her trusty iPad) "Did you know she married the dude from the MC5 and then their kid married Meg from white stripes?!"
"Holy crap. She's in her 70s now.”
Me: “Blondie must be ancient!"
Note: Smith is 89 and just put out a record, and Debbie Harry is 70.
Growing up I remember hearing the Go-Go’s, Cole Porter, and tons of Elvis Costello in the house. Mom says there was so much more than that, but those are the things that stuck. She said when she was a little girl she and her friend would hole up in her friend's dad's den and listen to show tunes, which was weird for the 60s.
"You think of girls my age loving the Beatles but we loved Rodgers and Hammerstein and Bing Crosby," she said.
I guess we are all strange and latch onto whatever speaks to us as kids. I remember seeing Broadway shows with my mom on trips to NYC and singing these songs in the car on the way to school in our new home of Atascadero. I guess my mom got into the Beatles later in life because I do remember the White Album and Sargent Pepper, too (which is really an awesome kid's album when you consider how playful it is and forget the drug references).
I remember mom blasting the Wayne's World soundtrack when I was in third grade and being embarrassed getting picked up from school, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody " blaring. Of course, now I think it was so totally awesome.
After listening to both sides of "Horses" and marveling at the effortless, improvisational feel of the music and freedom in Smith’s voice, I put on Elvis Costello’s first record. After that: Joan Jett's "I love rock n roll."
I want to sound like Joan Jett. I don’t want to imitate her voice, but I want to reflect that raw honesty. She doesn’t try to sound “pretty” like a woman or “gritty” like a man. Joan Jett is Joan Jett.
I want to show my mom what I’m going for. So, I put on my newest recordings, four rough Hayley and the crushers mixes.
By this point, we're sitting in the backyard and the music is drifting through the window into the setting sun. It’s not on vinyl, just a rough mix coming through computer speakers, but it sounds, as my friend Randal Sena who recorded it would say: "immediate."
"I've wasted me life," mom says, smiling and closing her eyes.
"That's a really weird thing to say," I reply.
"I should have been you!" She says. "But if I had been you, then you couldn't have been you."
We listen and laugh.