The Beginning: Linda, Urban Cowboys and the Sandbox Genius

My parents were music fans, so I was lucky in that respect, but on the other hand I had no older siblings to pass down recorded wisdom, and I mostly grew up in rural East Texas. I was a loner, Dottie, though perhaps not yet a rebel. The soundtrack to my earliest memories (say, age 4 on up) consists of what my Mom listened to (Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Judee Sill, Billy Joel’s first record, Jackson Browne, Neil Young), what was on the radio in Houston, TX (ZZ Top, top 40, and that shiny late 70’s/Gilley’s era country like Kenny & Dolly’s “Islands in the Stream,” The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira,” etc.), or what I saw in movies (“Grease,” possibly/unfortunately “Xanadu”). Also, the album cover to Linda’s “Hasten Down the Wind” was… precious to me.

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The above album cover was the starter pistol for my preadolescent sexual awakening.

I’m not sure if it was before or after my parents split up but we were still in the tract house in Spring, TX where we settled after my Dad mustered out of the Air Force. I must have been 5 or 6 and I had a record player in my room, on which I mostly listened to story records (The Muppets “Frog Prince”, Superman, a terrifying Batman one about the origin of the Scarecrow) and the couple of 45’s I had asked for – “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and something from the Grease soundtrack, probably “You’re The One That I Want”. That these two were my first personally selected music purchases is telling. The Charlie Daniels track was a story song so that fits in with my existing collection. I remember really liking the movie “Grease” and the songs were catchy as all hell, so that 45 was really my first foray into pop music for the sake of the music.

Happily my folks still had their college-in-the-late-1960’s vinyl collection and at some point a Beach Boys album ended up in my room. It must have been “Smiley Smile;” I can remember lying in bed at night with the lights off listening to the song “Good Vibrations” and it SCARING THE SHIT out of me. Not in a boogieman or eminent death sort of way. In a “these sounds are doing weird things to my brain and I don’t understand them” way. If you can hear the song in your head right now you’re probably thinking of the chorus and what the shit is scary about a bunch of turtlenecks singing about good vibrations? But click on that link and listen to the whole thing; it was the vocal harmonies on the verse and bridge, the fucking Theremin (which of course I didn’t know existed for another 15 years so to my larval mind it was some sort of space wave), the whole brilliant stack of sound that that sad, crazy man put together.   At the time I thought of none of the above. I just lay there and listened, and had goosebumps and felt weird and loved it. Music could terrify me in the same way that pondering the cosmos would later; it was big and mysterious and powerful, and it made that Batman record seem like child’s play.

4 thoughts on “The Beginning: Linda, Urban Cowboys and the Sandbox Genius

  1. scullymurphy says:

    Funny, but a Linda Ronstadt record was also one of my first *real*, non-kid albums. Blue Bayou/It’s So Easy 33 1/3 single if my memory can be trusted. I used to listen to it on my Fisher Price. Significantly less nipply cover, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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