Music and the lack thereof as a child

Growing up super poor was beneficial to me in a lot of ways. It taught me how to deal with little to no food, how to push off the lights getting shut off or being evicted and how to minimize my belongings. The one thing it didn’t help was owning my own music during childhood.

We did have some music, my parents would buy some of it (or usually get it from friends) but it was never under control of me or my siblings (at least until I hit teenage years and got my own job. What that meant was we had to make do with our own ways of capturing music. In this case, it was with one of those old, large cassette recorders placed next to the tv as a song was playing.

looked sort of like this

The two different songs I remember most recording that way were vastly different. The first was a song from one of my favorite movies as a child, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon”.

I am fairly sure this is the scene

My siblings and I played it for more than a year, a horrible tv version with just enough static from the rabbit ears to give it its own unique sound. I think I liked it so much because I would watch John Wayne with my grandparents, and my grandmother passed away around the time we recorded it. Sadly I don’t think we even had the whole song, it was just the song as it appeared in the movie.

The second song I remember the most is Eddy Grant’s version of “Romancing the Stone”. That was a really popular movie at our house, my parents had rented it for a weekend (with about 20 other movies in our traditional movie spree once a month) and we had recorded it as well. I just remember the faint tv static playing along with the song as we had recorded it.

 I wish I had considered recording the video but we didn’t have mtv. 

I think I still like both of these songs today because as a kid they were just two of a very very small number of songs we had available until I was a teenager (just a year or so after Romancing the Stone came out). Then we started getting music, a lot of music that we listened to between evictions. That is also when we lost the casette recorder but got a big box casette player (aka a boom box or ghetto blaster which at the time I didn’t realize was a racist connotation).

To be honest, I don’t recall why things had changed, our life had become a lot less stable when I was a teenager, you would think maybe it would be harder to get music. Or maybe that is when my parents stopped trying to budget and just gave up on it. Hmm… something for me to ponder on.

Highway to Hell and my dad (music/memory)

ACDC has always been part of my life as far back as I can remember. My parents listened to bands like ACDC, then others like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, etc.

My strongest memory of ACDC though is one Sunday morning we were getting ready to go to church. Church was a rare event for us, my father always had issues with religion after going to Vietnam, and this was one of those days where he was deciding he didn’t want to do it anymore.

My dad a year later, still with that rolling cigarette tobacco sitting next to him, and my little brother.

I was 13 years old, living in our Lombard street apartment with my dad cranking up ACDC at 8am. They had been on a party binge and we all knew my dad wasn’t going with us to church (secretly I was hoping I didn’t have to go).

There had been an argument between my mom and dad over this fact, and my dad said “fuck that, I am staying home and listening to music”. This meant he would probably start drinking while we were at service and that Sunday would be a continuation.

We got dressed and were getting ready to leave, with my dad rolling his cigarette and sitting in his chair. ACDC’s song, “Highway to Hell” was blaring out and my dad was singing to it.

Just before we left my mom started yelling at my dad again. Then something strange happened, and I am not making this up, I watched as the stereo system starting making a clunking sound. Within a few seconds the cassette mechanism spit out the tape and Highway to Hell stopped playing as spooling cassette tape was everywhere.

I watched my dad just stare at the tape deck quietly for a moment. Without a word he stood up and got his coat, then he said, “C’mon lets to church” and we went.

This never permanently effected my dad, the religion problems continued, but he never played loud music and told my mom he was staying home to listen to music again either on a Sunday.

For your listening enjoyment, an oldie but a goodie!:

Jessie’s Girl and Wolsey (music/memory)

See bottom of post for pronoun disclaimer (note 1):

Jessie’s Girl has a special place in my heart. It reminds me of my husband and the time before we got together (before he was my wife, or even girlfriend). The song fit pretty squarely as part of the soundtrack of my life. This was because when I first met Wolsey and fell in love, Wolsey was dating my best friend Doug.

I met Wolsey when I was 17 years old and had just moved to Bellingham WA. I was a virgin, going to my fourth high school in 2.5 years and I had just found a group of friends to hang with. My best friends at the time was Doug  and Jay.

We had met in a geeky Dungeons and Dragons game (and this was summer of 1987 I believe). By the end of that school year (so summer of 1988) my friend had shifted from being a geek to being a stoner/punk (I didn’t, I was sort of my own thing… think older brother from Stranger Things but from a biker family but who is a geeky gamer).

The advantage of Doug and Jay shifting from geek to stoner/punk was meeting new people and one of those new people I met was a very beautiful young lady who eventually would change her name to Wolsey after we had been married for decades (original name is classified as Wolsey hates it).

Wolsey was friends with another girl named Colby and they were also in the punk scene. Colby dated Doug for awhile, and I met Wolsey a couple of times. I thought she was pretty cool, and I was attracted to her. The better part though was I felt like we could be friends.

From R to L: Rob, Colby (laying down), Doug, Wolsey. (yes there is a censor line, the photo reveals a little too much).

Fast forward through teenager drama and Doug and Colby broke up and Doug started dating Wolsey. This meant I saw Wolsey constantly and we became best friends. I introduced Wolsey to Dungeons and Dragons and while Doug and Jay would play but fuck around, Wolsey and I both enjoyed the role-play, the story telling. I learned that while Wolsey looked punk as fuck (and hippy sometimes, Wolsey would float between the two) Wolsey liked reading, stories and was super creative.

Doug and Wolsey moved into their apartment together and I was there all the time. Doug would bail on us and a lot of times it was just Wolsey, myself, with others in our social group hanging out. It was fairly soon after we started hanging out with each other like that, that I fell in love with her (him).

It really was angst with a happy ending!

However, Wolsey was dating my best friend and I absolutely would not do something like try and break in on that. Funny enough the next time I was in this type of relationship situation with another woman I went the other way and not sure that it was any better a result.

Funny enough my parents both knew Wolsey well by this point and tried to get me to pursue her (him). I told them there was no way she was interested in me, and both my parents shook their head and said that Wolsey would be perfect for me (they were right in the end… damn them 🙂 ). Although I still to this day wish I had listened to my parents and done it. I didn’t realize they were right and she had a thing for me at the time.

The first time I noticed Jessie’s Girl as a song (it had been out for awhile) was when I was sitting in Wolsey and Doug’s living room. Doug had just been an asshole to Wolsey and stomped off. Wolsey was sitting there looking annoyed and frustrated and the song started playing. That was the soundtrack of how I felt about her for a couple of years. For some reason the song kept playing that summer too, even though it had been out for a few years.

I never wanted to jeopardize our friendship though. Even with how fucked up my childhood was (or maybe because of it and what my dad did try to instill) I tried to remain the paladin, true to my word and to my friend.

The other large part I didn’t act was that I truly truly loved being Wolsey’s friend and I never felt like I was in the “friend zone”. In fact I valued our friendship above everything and didn’t want to jeopardize that.  It is why I can’t stand friend zone people and incels. The other person owes you nothing (and Wolsey absolutely owed me nothing, I was just happy to get Wolsey’s friendship).

That is how it was for nine months as my best friend (well he had sort of drifted away as being my best friend to be replaced by Wolsey) and his girlfriend lived together and I would go over and visit. As a side note, in all fairness Wolsey was interested in me, showed me several clues but I was too shy/resistant I didn’t follow up. My romantic soundtrack for that time period was Jessie’s Girl.

I do realize now as a fully mentally formed adult that the song can be problematic, but I still like it and it reminds me of when my husband Wolsey was a pretty girl dating my best friend before she (he) usurped that spot and replaced Doug as my best friend.

Disclaimer Note 1: Let me get a clarification out here, I do refer to my current husband in historical terms as my friend, partner, etc. I also refer to him as my “wife” or “girlfriend” sometimes when talking about a memory when I was younger that happened before his transition. Sometimes I do this because it gets hard tracking who is who in those stories.

He is ok with this, as I am ok with him referring to me as his husband or boyfriend when recounting memories. It is hard with pronouns, especially when in context memories and of referring to us both as people we no longer are (myself as a boy back then and my husband as a girl back then). Just a FYI, he is ok with the pronoun use.