Liner Notes

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record playing on turntable

When I was young, music was bought and sold differently from the way it is now.  First of all, we bought records. (These are now considered retro, and so they are called “vinyl.”) There were no CDs, no streaming platforms, no digital downloads.

You would go to a record store and look at what they had for sale.  For a while people bought singles (called 45s), but later, you were probably buying albums. And most of the time you were buying songs you had not heard yet.

Maybe you had heard a song on the radio. I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Yes, one of the main ways people heard new music was by listening to the radio. Remember, there were no computers or mobile phones, no youtube or spotify, none of that stuff existed yet. You had no streaming services, you couldn’t pick and choose what you wanted to hear. You had virtually no control over what the radio DJ played. Ok, maybe you could call on your landline and make a request, which might or might not get played eventually. Think about that for a minute.

Or maybe a friend played you a song they thought you might like. You did like it, so you went to the record store to buy it for yourself.

At the record store you might have two options: to buy the single or to buy the album.

The single would have the song you wanted on one side (the A side), and on the other side (the B side) would most likely be a song you had never heard before. In this way you bought a song without hearing it. (The Beatles broke with this pattern by giving you a second hit song on the B side.)

The album would give you the song you were looking for, along with a bunch of songs that you probably had not heard. In this way again you were buying songs without hearing them first.

While you were at the record store you might browse around looking at the other albums of an artist you liked, or somebody you were not familiar with etc. But there was always that challenge, do you take a chance and buy something without hearing it first? Remember, this was before you could go online to hear clips or download songs. How do you know what to buy?

Well, one answer is: words.  Many albums had what they called “liner notes.”  These were short, written descriptions of each song, of what you were about to hear.  Using words, they would try to let you know enough about what you would hear, that you would decide to buy the record.

And that’s what I am trying to do here.  Hopefully you have listened to the free track I was able to make available.  The fact that you are reading this might mean you liked it. Hopefully you liked it enough to want to hear more.

Now that you are here (and I am glad you are), I hope to use words to give you enough of a sense of what each song is like that you will buy the album.  So here goes, here is my version of “liner notes.”

 

WHAT IS “WHEN I GET OLD?”

Simon – I come from a family of ten kids. I’m the third oldest, and the oldest of seven boys. That means I have a lot of experience with facing the indignity of having a new baby brother. Suddenly my parents, and everybody else, would be so in love with the new baby brother, that they’d hardly pay attention to me anymore. I love my brothers, but is that fair? Oh, and none of them are named Simon. I changed the name to protect the guilty.

Hot Day in the City – For my long-term life-partner and wife. I wrote it for her 50th birthday. I asked myself what I wanted to say about her, and this is what I got. The most difficult writing assignment I have ever taken on.

I Think of You – a break-up song. It can take a while to adjust, when that person is no longer there. The title was inspired by Johnny Mercer’s lyrics to the song “I Thought About You.”

Geese – I wrote this walking to and from work, by the lake I would pass each day. The seasons go around. Children grow up into old folks, the old folks will leave someday. Thanks for inspiration go to Joni Mitchell, Mary Oliver and Chuck Berry.

When I Get Old – I grew up around old men who smoked cigars and laughed out loud. What keeps us from completely letting go and indulging our worst habits? In my case, I still want the affection of those I love.

I Wish Mom Would Come – in a decaying old mill town my brothers and I took swimming lessons. Our mom was not always on time picking us up.

Hot Summer Nights – Do you ever wish you could go back to your childhood home?

Knuckleheads – Seriously, what can you do about them?

Pancakes, Bacon and Eggs – On a cross-country road trip I noticed one morning that I’d been having the same breakfast each day; but each day in a different town. That interested me.

About You – another break-up song. Boy, it can take a while sometimes.

The Dead – Growing up, I heard about life after death. What if it’s the other way around?

You Were the Mountains – Sometimes living gets overwhelming.

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