RECORD STORE TALES #955: Music Enjoyed Alone
I’ve always had a solitary side. Music is a fascinating hobby because it unites introverts and extroverts alike. Everyone has their own preferred environments to enjoy music. Whether you like to go out and rock it at a show with your buds, or whether you like to listen to a record alone with the headphones on, music unites us.
There is a certain amount of joy in both ways of life. Ultimately, most people experience music in a mixture of both settings.
Some of my happiest memories were spent with music, by myself, with nothing but my thoughts and feelings. When I’d get a new album, typically the first thing I’d do was go up to my room, close the door, and rip off the cellophane. Hit “play”! I’d read the lyrics, the liner notes, and study the artwork. Then, after a heavy dose of rocking, I’d emerge to tell anyone who’d listen how awesome the album was. That would often be my sister (usually uninterested). Or, if it was a special occasion like Christmas, and the album was a gift, I would go downstairs to tell my gift-giver how much I loved it. That’s how many first listens went down in my house.
I liked to keep my brain occupied while listening to music. If I wasn’t studying the lyrics or artwork, perhaps I was reading a book. Or doing homework. Or drawing. Or going through my growing stack of Hit Parader magazines, looking for pictures and info.
I’d allow myself a few minutes of air guitar when a favourite song came on. Just drop what I was doing, and hit those air-strings. Give it my all; burn off some energy. Or perhaps I’d pretend I was Bruce Dickinson, fronting Iron Maiden at Long Beach Arena.
I was generally left alone. Sometimes my sister would have a comment about the music blasting from behind my closed door. “There was one really good song,” she might say if I was playing Poison or Warrant. If it were Priest or Maiden she’d complain, “All I could hear is screaming”.
In 1988 I got my first guitar. Periodically I would attempt to pick along to songs, but that was a futile endeavour. I may as well have been playing air guitar. A few years later, my sister got a pair of drum sticks with her VHS copy of Wayne’s World. I would steal them and attempt to drum along to albums. Poorly.
The kind of experiences that I had with music in solitude in my room were rarely equalled in a group setting. My best friend Bob and I would play music and discuss it, while drawing pictures or writing stories. That was the kind of thing I enjoyed most. “Listen to this cool part, I wonder how he does that,” one of us would say mid-song. “What did he say there?” was one common remark. “I have no idea,” was usually the answer.
Treasured memories. But a lot of that time with Bob was actually enhanced by our separate listening times alone. When we met up on weekends, we were ready to show each other something cool we had heard, or had drawn. Perhaps I had some new theories about Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son concept that I had to share with him. The times we spent alone in our bedrooms listening to albums prepared us for the times listening together. We had specific things we liked and wanted to share. It was always nice when one of us got the other into a band. He got me into so many, the last of which was probably Extreme.
When the CD began supplanting the cassette in my life, I added another activity to my solo listening sessions. I still liked to have a cassette copy for portability once I started buying CDs. So I made cassette copies of all my CDs, so I could listen to them in the car or on a Walkman. (I did not get a Discman for quite a few years, as I did not trust them to keep my discs unscratched.) Many happy hours were spent making cassette covers for my CD dubs. I got better and better at it over the years, but sometimes making the cover was as simple as sketching a logo and neatly writing all the song titles down.
While I have had some amazing times singing at the top of my lungs gathered with best friends and associated buddies, some of the best times were spent listening alone!