Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Hardest Choice of All

I don't know how I got the money. Saving up from allowances maybe. Hard to recall that detail all these decades later.

What I do remember is the decision. The difficult decision, almost impossible to make. Standing between the two rows and having to decide: which will be my first record album.

I'd purchased and received some singles over the years: Popcorn and Last Train to Clarksville and A Cowboy's Work is Never Done among others. But I did not own an LP.

I now had the money but I had to decide, what was it going to be? My tastes were odd, I think, even for the early seventies. The first song I taped off the radio onto cassette was Also Sprach Zarathustra, Deodato's jazzy version of the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey. Later recordings on that same cassette included themes from TV shows (such as The Time Tunnel) recorded by shoving the microphone up to the television speaker. Yes, my preference for film & tv scores manifested early.

But in the aisles of Richman-Gordman that day, I knew nothing of soundtrack albums, just the pop records filling the bins. So I had to choose. I wanted an album that contained songs I knew, and I had it narrowed down to two artists: The Carpenters or Olivia Newton John.

I still recall moving back and forth between them, checking out the contents of the records, trying to decide, trying to decide. I loved Have You Never Been Mellow and Please Mister Please and Olivia was, well, really really cute. But the Carpenters had Close to You and We've Only Just Begun -- and both songs on the SAME record.

I took the albums out of the bins. I gazed into Olivia's eyes, so magical, so inviting. And I bought The Carpenters. And I loved it. For many years, their version of Help! was the only one I knew.

My second LP was probably Westworld, found in a cut-out bin at a discount store. Or it may have been Live and Let Die. Either way, it was movie music. Pop radio had already lost its tenuous grip on me.

I still own that Carpenters LP. I may go drag it out right now.


Jim said...

Karen Carpenter: What a voice! You can't go wrong with The Carpenters, then or now. Hmm, I may go dig out my Carpenter CDs and give them a spin.

Anonymous said...

The Carpenters are favorites of mine to this day, too. As is Olivia. I still play those perfect songs. In a much lesser matter, my family had that damn Popcorn instrumental on an 8-track tape, and sadly I can still summon its percolating melody at will.
--ZapBrannigan (from FSM board).

Tim King said...

My parents had that same Carpenters album when I was growing up.

Years later, I put a Carpenters tape into the boom box at work, and my coworker calmly told me that Karen's voice sent him into epileptic fits. I don't think he was trying to mock people with epilepsy, but trying to get me to pick something different to play. I selected something different to play.