Friday, April 13, 2012
The Country Single
By 1981, I had had it with my parents' cast-off console stereo. The sound that came out of it was a muffled, bassy grumble. One could fiddle with the so-called controls, but nothing really ever changed, no matter how much I swirled those knobs around.
Also, by 1981, we had a little extra spending money. We had finally paid off the hospital bills from my last maternity stay. I remember the hospital calling me once, saying, "You have to give us more than $5.00 a month", and I replied, "That's all I have!" And it was. Often, the check register showed a balance of about $2.00 in those early days.
We bought necessities at a discount store called "Tempo" (gee, wonder why that store went out of business). The clothing items would practically fall to shreds before we got them into the trunk of our car. We didn't have Target then, and certainly not WalMart. We had Woolworth's...and Tempo.
But, by 1981, I was back at work, and we'd determined that we could afford to make payments on a new stereo "component system".
So, off we went to a place called Pacific Sound, which was a little shop tucked inside what was generously called a mini-mall; a shop that you had to meander your way through some barely-lit hallways to find. But it had a reputation as the place for audiophiles in my little town, and it wasn't Woolworth's, Sears, or JC Penney.
The sales guy obviously knew he had a "mark" when he saw us. He dazzled us with his displays of various shiny sound things (which was basically what they were to me). He spoke the language of output and channels and dynamics and equalization. But all I could see was shiny sound things.
He told us we could mix and match different brands, which was just amazing to me, because my mixing and matching consisted of a JC Penney console stereo in a lovely artificial wood tone color that matched the faux-wood paneling in our living room. But the one thing he insisted upon (insisted!) was that we purchase the Bang & Olufsen speakers, or B&O, as all the cool kids called them. They were Swedish! I guess that meant they were good. Good, but wow ~ more than I wanted to spend ~ but then again, if you put something on credit, you're not actually paying for it, right? I mean, not right now. Our big worry was that we wouldn't get approved for credit. How naive! As I gained wisdom in my life, I realized that everybody gets approved for credit! That's why we're all here where we are now, isn't it?
(And I still have those B&O speakers today.)
So, we got all the paperwork done, and got it all delivered and put together, and stood back and admired it all.
And then I played my country singles.
One memory I regret that I can't share with my husband is a reminiscence of favorite albums.
Country never was about albums. It was about singles. If I was asked what my favorite country album was from back in the 1960's/1970's, I would stammer something about, "The Best of......Buck Owens"? The only concept albums I recall from the late 1960's were done by Merle Haggard, so maybe I would cite, "Hag", or "Let Me Tell You About a Song". Even "Wanted: The Outlaws" wasn't actually a concept album. It was a bunch of leftover tracks thrown together by a producer and released as an after-thought. Willie and Waylon didn't sit down together and decide how they were going to configure their new, great, groundbreaking release. They didn't even know about it.
I bought a bunch of albums in the sixties by artists like Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Lynn Anderson, Buck Owens, Charley Pride, Waylon Jennings, Porter & Dolly, Merle Haggard; and they all, except for Merle, just covered each others' songs. Yes, Waylon, too.
I wasn't really all that keen on hearing Loretta's take on, "I Don't Wanna Play House", or Tammy singing, "You Ain't Woman Enough". I always figured (and still do) that the original version was (is) the best, so why bother or care?
Music Row producers were focused on the next big hit single. Then they would slap that on an album, and surround it with a bunch of filler. They didn't give the public a whole lot of credit for being discerning, and, I guess they were sort of right, because we ate it all up.
Honestly, I owned (and still do) a whole ton of country albums from that period of time, and I can honestly say that there are maybe three or four that I've ever actually listened to all the way through. Maybe five or six.
So, in 1981, after I got my new shiny sound machine, I slapped on some 45's. Ones that I'd bought at Woolworth's. I think you could get them for less than a buck, and I bought a lot of them. But, in retrospect, I am now in possession of a bunch of singles that I can't even identify by their titles, because I just scooped up whatever was available, and the selection was woefully limited. The singles were situated on an end cap; at the end of a long row of albums. I didn't even shop the albums. Which was strange, because I'd been a big album-buyer in my younger days.
It did seem like every time I went into Woolworth's to sift through the latest singles, my eye would catch this blue album with a cow's skull on the cover; something about the Best of the Eagles, and I thought, oh, another one of those rock groups that I'm not interested in. I had no conception of the Eagles. That was how splintered the musical genres were. It's ironic that this so-called rock group that I turned my nose up at was more country than the country junk that I was piling up at the cash register. I was late to the Eagles.
1981, though, did have some nice country singles. And some bad country singles. I bought all of them, willy-nilly. I bought what I could find.
This song is one that has stayed with me, and I still love it.
You're The Reason Got Made Oklahoma
Here are some other songs from 1981, that I'm sure I purchased. That does not mean they have my stamp of approval.
I Was Country (When Country Wasn't Cool) ~ mmmm, no, but I still like Barbara. It's just not a true statement.
Party Time ~ TG Sheppard
There is no decent performance video of this song. I don't know why, because I love this. So, I guess, listen to the record, like I used to do.
I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink
Fancy Free (I've posted a lot of videos on this blog, but this one, by far, has the best definition of any I have ever posted):
I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal
It's a Lovely, Lovely World (preceded by "I'll Be There") ~ Gail Davies
When I first heard "Lovely, Lovely World" on the radio, I was thrown, because I had no idea that my best friend, Alice, was on the radio. Well, she wasn't. It was Gail Davies. But this is almost exactly what Alice sounded like.
Midnight Hauler ~ Razzy Bailey
Seven Year Ache
I can barely express how much I admire Rosanne Cash's music. She had a few hits that year, but I like this one possibly the best.
Well after this next single was a hit, we got HBO. I think it was one of those special deals ~ the first month free, and then $10.00 a month if you decide to keep it. (Can you imagine? $10.00? I don't have HBO, but I bet it's way more than $10.00 now, and they don't even hardly have movies anymore!)
I watched the movie over and over, many times. And it's still a fun film. Sometimes it's available on "On Demand"; sometimes one can catch it on one of the free channels. And I always pause and watch at least part of it.
Kudos to the person who put this video together; "ifonlytheeighties". It makes me want to watch the movie again, for the 89th time.
Waylon & Jessi ~ Storms Never Last
So, you see, there were a lot of nice singles for me to buy in 1981, and to play on my new shiny stereo system.
There are more that I remember (in scanning the list of top singles for the year), but, you know how it goes. Videos are often impossible to find. Other songs, well, I've featured them in other posts. That doesn't mean they're not good; it actually means they're really good. I just didn't want to repeat myself.
Sure, I'd slap on an album, if I was busy cooking, or cleaning. But if I was really listening to music, and just listening to music, it was the singles, I'm afraid.
Billy Sherrill would say, "See? I told you so."