The Phoenix

When it comes to music, the beat goes on

- By Terry Alburger

Music as always been instrument­al in my life, pun definitely intended. But I think we can all agree, music has changed immensely from the time I was a kid.

And no, I’m not even talking about the music itself. I’m talking about the ways we listened to music. Kids today will never understand the struggles we endured in the pursuit of our favorite tunes.

At the risk of sounding like an old-timer, the youth of today don’t know how good they have it. Let me take you back. When I was a preteen and just starting to like popular music, it was tough indeed. I had a little transistor radio, the size of half a brick (and that was small by the standards of the day!)

It was AM only, which in itself is limiting. Thank goodness for WFIL! I still remember it being 5.6 on my dial. And yes, it was indeed a dial. The sound was horrendous, with static and interferen­ce, but to me it was a gateway to another world; a place to where the music would transport me. But I was a prisoner to the whim of the DJ’s of the radio station.

Then came the tape recorder. Yes, for cassette tapes. I would wait for a song I loved to come on the radio, poised to hit the red record button, simultaneo­usly hitting the play button at exactly the right time, as close to the beginning of a song as possible. It was digital poetry in motion, to get it just right.

You had to act fast, of course. You needed the reflexes of a cat to get as much of the coveted first few bars of the song as possible. Repeat this process to fill the two-sided, 60-minute cassette (30 on each side) and hope that none of your precious songs got cut off at the end of a side.

But oh, the rewards were great! Once you filled up your cassette, you had a wonderful collection that you could play as you wished at your leisure! OK, the quality was horrible, most of the introducti­ons were non-existent, and there was no rhyme or reason to the order of songs and artists. But, for its day, it was a treasure.

Just one drawback — if the cassette tape came out of its spool and got tangled up in the metal spindles of the recorder, you had what’s technicall­y known as a mess. The only saving grace was to remove the cassette carefully, without tearing the delicate tape that had come unthreaded,

and utilize every cassette user’s best friend — a pencil.

The pencil was placed through the hole that the cassette fit on the player and carefully turned it to rethread the tape. I think this would have been great training exercise for surgeons, applying just the right amount of pressure, torque and speed for a successful outcome.

Then came the days when I could save my babysittin­g money and buy actual vinyl records. Oh, what a glorious day indeed. In those days, vinyl records were a veritable treasure trove, wrapped up in one package. Not only did you get a profession­al recording of a dozen or more songs, but you got them in the order the artist wanted you to

hear them.

Often, full lyric sheets were included so you no longer had to decipher the sometimes undecipher­able words to each song. In addition, you could see just who played what on each song, what special guest artists may have appeared and even how long the song was. And best of all, there were lots of photos included of the artists … for a hardcore fan, it was heaven.

Next, of course came the advent of the CD player, and albums shrunk to the size of a waffle. And a small one, at that. Most CDs had the same perks as albums but in a much smaller and portable format. You could even listen to them in your car! Miracle of miracles.

Then came the digital

world of MP3s … suddenly, I no longer had something I could hold in my hand, and I lost the ability to look at pictures of the artists, or the lyrics of each song. Oh sure, I could now listen to music on a number of devices, and even on my telephone. It is indeed convenient.

And of course, I can look up the songs and find the details of the recordings, but it seems to me that it has lost something. I am glad that I am still in possession of my many vinyl records, a massive collection that will one day be my children’s inheritanc­e and/or problem.

These days, I begin my mornings with a minidance and play session with my pup. It begins with the words, “Alexa, playc…” and Alexa obeys my every musical request. I cannot lie — it is indeed convenient and fun.

Some days Alexa will even ask if I want her to suggest a song — I let her, on occasion. However, she never seems to get it right. Today she asked if I wanted to follow up “Surface Pressure” from “Encanto” and “Pressure” by Billy Joel with her suggestion… it was a Barry Manilow tune. Um, no thanks, Alexa! And on I went to “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie.

The art of listening to music has come a long way. I’m just happy to have music in my life in any way, shape or form. It is an integral part of my life, and hopefully of yours too. And the beat goes on!

 ?? PIXABAY PIXABAY ?? Listening to music on vinyl was a rite of passage for many of us.
PIXABAY PIXABAY Listening to music on vinyl was a rite of passage for many of us.

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