My children recently asked the question that every music loving parent wants to hear: “What was the first song you heard, that made you love music so much”?
For almost a decade I have waited patiently to answer that question. However, it wasn’t merely one song, but two, that I recall so vividly. Both songs were heard on a battery operated AM/FM radio that I would take everywhere. It was one that had the extendable antenna and black fabric loop for securing around one’s wrist. I also remember the white lettering and red dial, against a black background, that would show the AM/FM numbers which would of course correspond with an associated station. I’ve no idea of what became of that little radio, but it lives within my memories as it would often be seen in one hand, while the other hand grasped my ‘baby bear’. Please note, I was about 5 years old at the time. Somewhere in the family archive is a picture of me, my BMX bike, and the little radio and ‘baby bear’ sitting in the basket at the front of my bike. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to share the photograph with you, I can’t find it anywhere. If/when I do come across it, I will be sure to update this article.
The small radio was so frequently used that batteries were continually being replaced. In-fact, I was proud of that fact. The obsession to burn the batteries out was almost as strong as the determination to listen to, and experience, more music. In some ways, this addictive quality has continued throughout my life as I get a buzz out of working my gear, lovingly, into the ground.
I also recall the fascination of tuning past the static to a station that would play this thing called music. At the time I had no musical influences and I really didn’t have an idea of what music actually was; despite being captivated by it. To this day I can’t recall the radio stations that became my favourites, but I do recall their rough positions on the dial (around the 100-110 FM frequency range).
In my younger years, I also recall sitting and listening to live relays of Australia beating England for the Ashes. Although, the English will likely tell you it was the other way around. Truth be told, I don’t recall the outcome, so they can have the win if they want it. As a result, I found that I wasn’t that fond of the talkback style radio, although my grandmother would continually listen to Sydney’s 2CH (now called Magic 2CH) as she drifted off to sleep. She thoroughly enjoyed all their programming, including their late night talk back.
Yet again, my grandmother proved to be a great influence to my interest in music, as one of her most prized possessions was her battery operated transistor radio. During the 90s, her old radio had started to fail and I purchased her a new one for her birthday. I recall the excitement both of us had, but it was also like she was breaking up with a long-lost lover. She truly missed the radio that she had owned since before I was born in the 70s. It had kept her company, been her confidant, and given her music and a connection with the world beyond her own. While my grandmother is no longer with us, I also place significant emphasis on the physical product, as I share the same admiration for all my audio equipment. While I often want to upgrade, I just can’t let go of a legacy piece of gear until it ceases to function as advertised. It gets even more complicated if my family has gifted me a piece of audio gear. The sentimental value, for me, supersedes the sonic quality. While I won’t use these specific pieces as often, I still try to ensure that they are being used to somehow validate their meaning to me. I’m certainly in a sentimental mood today, aren’t I?
Now, what was this post about again?
That’s right, the two songs that I recall hearing that influenced my lifelong love of music. I really have to stop digressing don’t I? Unfortunately, I thoroughly enjoy this subjective reflection and I hope, as the reader, you are similarly captivated.
The first song I recall hearing on my little transistor radio was Starship’s We Built This City. I still enjoy this song today, mostly because it brings back comforting memories of a childhood that had its fair share of ups and downs. However, it is still a great song that highlights the sound signature of the mid-80s. While it is dated to that era, it isn’t a bad recording. It is a fun soft rock/pop song that can easily be sung along to.
The second song, and one that I absolutely adore, is Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl. The beat is fantastic and while the lyrics were a little beyond the comprehension of an impressionable young boy, the song is just fun. It is easy to sing along to and ensured that I had an appreciation of not only music, but Billy Joel. He is an incredibly talented artist and I wish he was still recording new music, but what he did record is absolutely sensational.
After I mentioned, and played, these songs for my children they wanted to know I ever found my ‘uptown girl’, some twenty years after first hearing Joel’s romantic tones? I’d like to think so, but you will have to ask her if she ever found her ‘downtown man’.