How did you get into rock music? Here's my story:
It was August of 1967 and I was fifteen years old. I had my first summer job - on a tobacco farm near Delhi in southern Ontario. This meant of course that for the first time in my life I'd have a real wad of disposable income - and my plan was to get some of those records to which I had been grooving on the radio. Some of the tunes that stood out in my mind from 1966-67 were "Paperback Writer", "Eleanor Rigby", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" by the Beatles, "Paint It Black" and "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" by the Rolling Stones, "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas and Papas, "These Boots Are Made for Walking" by Nancy Sinatra, "Sounds of Silence" and "Hazy Shade of Winter" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire, "Time Won't Let Me" by the Outsiders, "I Fought the Law" by the Bobby Fuller Four, "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" by the Electric Prunes, "Pied Piper" by Crispian St. Peters, "96 Tears" by ? & the Mysterians, "Come on Down to My Boat Baby" by Every Mother's Son, "Red Rubber Ball" by the Cyrkle and "Let's Live for Today" by the Grassroots. I was quite familiar with the music from earlier in the decade since the radio station to which I had been listening was CHLO in St. Thomas which played an oldie every second number on a Souvenir Safari program every weekend.
Having fulfilled our quota relatively early one Saturday afternoon, some of the older fellows (very cool twenty year olds from Montreal!) were given permission to take the farmer's car into the big town, that being Simcoe, and the even bigger metropolis of Brantford! At the 100 plus mile per hour speed at which they drove the car (no, no seat belts), it didn't take us very long to get to those places.
Of course we stopped at a record shop. The new exotic Beatles' album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", was on prominent display and I decided to make it my first purchase when I got back home in September.
The other album that I remember catching my eye was "Flowers". The cover picture featured a more decadent and vaguely threatening looking group of young fellows. "Are these the Rolling Stones?" I wondered. I hadn't yet seen the Stones on TV but my guess was of course correct.
The new psychedelic sounding Rolling Stones single "We Love You" was just hitting the airwaves when I returned home just before Labour Day. I listened raptly and marveled at the sound I was hearing.
I went through with my plans and made "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" my first record purchase. I quickly followed up this purchase by acquiring the Beatles' first three Canadian albums in order, "Beatlemania", "Twist and Shout" and "Long Tall Sally".
I then stepped outside the box in October and bought "Big Hits - High Tide and Green Grass" by the Rolling Stones. I was floored! I found the Stones' record far edgier than the comparatively tame Beatles' albums. Then of course there was the innovative for the time booklet of their pictures included within the double sleeve.
I wasn't entirely sure which Stone was which at the time but the brooding, mysterious Stones appealed to me in a way the Beatles did not. I went out and added "Flowers" to my swiftly growing record collection within a couple of weeks.
I think the "Best of the Animals" may have been the first non-Beatle or Stone album I bought. "We Gotta Get out of This Place" had been a popular chant at the boarding school I had attended in Kennebunkport, Maine for grade nine although my favourite Animals' tune at the time was "It's My Life". The "Kinks' Greatest Hits" may have been the next.
I took to reading the record/music review sections of "Time" magazine to which we had a subscription and "Stereo Review" which I could find at the library to get an idea for new, cutting edge bands that weren't necessarily being played on top forty radio.
My musical horizons were further altered when the Doors released their signature hit, "Light My Fire". When I heard the dark melodic strains on the kitchen radio for the first time I was fascinated. I loved it! It was like nothing I'd heard on the radio to that time. I knew that the boundaries encompassing rock had just been dramatically expanded and that rock had left its period of youthful innocence behind.
It was the Doors' performance of "Light My Fire" on the Ed Sullivan Show that established them as the cultural icons they remain today. Jim appeared wearing tight black leather pants which must have caused appalled parents' jaws to drop across every single living room in North America. I certainly expected expressions of horrified disgust in as many as two languages from my very old school father. He must have been too shocked though, or maybe he too was hypnotized by the seductive organ riff behind Jim's throaty vocals. Much to my surprise he just sat there in silence. All I know is that I watched the performance intently in almost rapt disbelief. These fellows made the Beatles look like innocent schoolboys! They were a step above and beyond whatever else was happening in rock at the time. Here's the video:
Interesting too is that Ed Sullivan had demanded that the Doors change the words of the song from "Girl we coudn't get much higher" to "Girl we coudn't get much better" as a condition of performing. You see it was actually illegal to use the word "higher" as a drug reference on American TV at the time. The Doors had agreed but when it came time to sing the line, Jim clearly enunciated the word "higher". Ed Sullivan was understandably furious and banned the Doors from any further appearances on his show. When told that the rest of the band's five scheduled appearances on the show had been cancelled, Jim reportedly said "Hey man, so what? We just did the Ed Sullivan Show!"
I just love that type of insolence. Stick it to the straights I still say! I may be a stockbroker and a "respectable" member of society these days, but I still take delight in offending those more straightlaced than myself. And woe to any bureaucrat or corporate suit who annoys me and finds himself in my company!
I bought their debut album a couple of months later - and let me tell you I was well and truly hooked on the Doors within a couple of plays. The music just drew me in.
When I played it for one of my buddies, he stayed uncharacteristically silent - but bought his own copy a few weeks later. He later confessed to me that the Doors sounded so moody and Satanic to him the first time I played the record that he never thought he'd be able to like them! He's remained every bit as much of a Doors fan as I am to this very day.
By the end of 1968 I had progressed to buying albums by the Doors, Who, Yardbirds, Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin. All these I played on the Seabreeze suitcase stereo with detachable speakers that I had bought to replace the family record player. My father condemned my purchase as shamelessly profligate since the existing mono record player that we'd purchased used some years back was still perfectly serviceable!
Now of course I have hundreds of record albums and 45s as well as a steadily growing collection of CDs which I play on a very nice stereo sound system indeed. (My father would be aghast I suppose.) My musical tastes are many and varied - but, nevertheless, after all these years I'm still very much a Stones and Doors fan.