How I Became a Music and Gear Nerd
The year was 1975 and I was ten years old. The music bug had bitten badly several years prior. My dad’s younger brother was also very interested in music and was an audiophile. At that particular period of time, quadraphonic technology was the cool new kid on the block and he had a full 4-channel system. He was in his early twenties, finishing up school and still living at home with my grandmother. His bedroom was packed to capacity with audio equipment. Four Celestion speakers, not much smaller than I was at the time, a 4-channel Kenwood amp, tuner, Nakamichi cassette deck, Panasonic quadraphonic 8-track player (which even back then seemed bizarre to me), and the coolest piece of music gear I had ever seen, a big Teac reel-to-reel. When I’d go to my grandmother’s house, I’d immediately head straight to his bedroom, quietly stare at all the gear and flip through his records. I would sit on his bed and forensically examine his large collection of LPs - Venus & Mars by Wings, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John and Beatles’ albums. It mesmerized and captivated me. The guys with long hair, crazy-looking clothes and high heel boots, awesome looking drum kits and wild looking electric guitars. I remember it like it was yesterday and looking back, I realize now that at any period in the history of Rock ‘N’ Roll music, that time period was arguably the absolute pinnacle. Between 1965 & 1975, an absolute shit-load of music, was prolifically being written, played and recorded. Under the “Rock Music” moniker, there was Country Rock, Hard Rock, early Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock, Glam Rock, Southern Rock, Art Rock, and just a couple of years
behind, the emergence of Punk Rock and the subsequent wave of…, well, New Wave. The creativity of that time is most likely, and unfortunately, never to be matched again. By my parent’s good planning and a healthy dose of serendipity, I found myself smack in the middle of the music and at a perfectly impressionable age.
My grandmother would spend the winters in Florida, so when she was gone, my uncle would pull all his gear out of his bedroom & set it up in the living room, giving the gear, and music, more space to breathe. On one particular visit in 1975, I arrived at the house with my dad to find the sound system already set up in the living room. Everything appeared larger and all the cables connecting everything together suddenly fascinated me. There were stacks of LPs everywhere and those two big Maxell reels on the Teac seemed to be staring me down. I submissively lowered my eyes as I inevitably usurped control to a higher power, measured in watts and decibels. My uncle sat me down in front of the amp and handed me something I had never seen before. It had turquoise round foam pads, an arching plastic piece connecting the foam pads together and a cable coming out of one side with a large silver plug at the end. They were Sennheiser headphones! He placed them over my ears & proceeded to place Sister Golden Hair by America on his Dual turntable. It was my first experience with headphones, and the strange contraption straddling my noggin produced a sound I had never heard before. It was like I was wearing the music and the band was jamming within my skull. The headphones looked as if they were from distant planet and Sister Golden Hair seemed to perfectly capture the mid-70s laid back west coast Rock doctrine. Since that very day in ‘75, every time I hear that song, it immediately carries me back to that day in my grandmother’s living room with those headphones. When my dad & I left the house to walk home, I told him “when I get older, I’m gonna have a stereo just like that, with a ton of records”. As a result, I’ve been happily chasing that dragon for 40-plus years, and can report I have stayed true to that personal mission statement. It was the 70s after all, and there was certainly no shortage of music to be discovered.
I became obsessed with stereo equipment. Without computers or the internet, very little access to stereo magazines, nor the funds to purchase them, I wasn’t sure how to proceed to quench my audio thirst. My dad at the time worked with a guy who also loved audio gear and one day he came home from work with a pile of pamphlets from companies such as Techniques, Pioneer and Kenwood. I was thrilled. Some of the gear looked very hightech, Techniques turntables, black rack mount components with handles in the front and large speakers with big hornlens tweeters. It only whet my appetite for more. I wasn’t going to own any of this gear anytime soon and relying on my parents to drive me to stereo shops in Montreal was going to be difficult and infrequent. One day in school an idea popped into my head. My plan would be to write to the companies I was enamoured with and tell them I was a recording engineer, looking to set up my own studio and was considering their brand for my gear. I had recently seen some McIntosh equipment that looked super-cool. So I ripped out a page of lined paper from my school workbook and in pencil, with every second word probably misspelled, in 10-year old penmanship, I went about constructing my fake story and requesting brochures & pamphlets. Every day after school I’d ask my mom if I had received any mail. Three-to-four weeks later, a large package from McIntosh Laboratory was waiting for me when I arrived home from school. I excitedly ripped it open to find brochures of almost all their current offerings and a nice personalised letter on company letterhead. It worked! My mom later Inquired why a “laboratory” located in the US was sending me large heavy packages and wanted to know what I was up to. I think she was somewhat relieved when I told her it was only audio equipment and not something potentially nefarious. With that positive result, it was time to step up my letter writing campaign. I would end up writing to Crown, JBL, BGW, SAE and a multitude of other companies. Some companies did not respond, probably seeing through my charade, but others sent me a ton of stuff, some with letters pontificating how they thought their equipment would best suit my “professional requirements”.
Three more years would pass until I got my own, three-dimensional, actual functioning, stereo system, with, of course, help from my uncle. By that point, I had also accrued stacks of brochures from a multitude of brands, and was rapidly building my own collection of LPs. Inadvertently, perhaps, but my uncle had passed on his love of gear and music to me. At that point I wouldn’t have guessed that that love would remain and actually increase over for the next forty years. A few years later, when I was sixteen, my uncle and his young family were moving, and he asked me to help him with the move. When we had moved everything into his new home and the day was coming to a close, he gave me most of his prized record collection. I was thrilled, albeit somewhat shocked. My LP collection had suddenly grown exponentially!
Today, I’m glad to report that I still possess those records, the very ones that initially drew me in and ignited the passion. When I feel nostalgic, which occurs more often than I care to admit these days, I go back to the collection and look through the very records I adoringly gazed at, a long time ago. Now, I’m a dad, and my twelve year old son Brayden is also very passionate about music. Every now and then, I take him through the infamous LP collection. Like my uncle before me, I’m just passing the whole thing forward, hoping my son will get the same thing out of music that I did. So far, it looks very promising, and if he’s lucky, it’ll remain with him for the next forty years.
Mango Mirror smart mirror.