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The Soundtrack of My Life
The Soundtrack of My Life
Jim Meadows
Published by Swampy Meadows
The Soundtrack of My Life

BEVERLY HILLS (MI) –- When I think back to my undergrad years at UD, one of the memories that I recall most vividly is putting a few albums on the turntable, slipping on a set of big ole headphones and lying down on the floor and just soaking up the sound. Maybe something like this:


While listening, I would usually check out the album cover art and the always-informative liner notes to get the back story on the group to which I was listening.

What got me thinking about all of this was the following article from Time magazine from a few months ago, entitled “Vinyl Gets It’s Groove Back” which details the re-emergence of the 33 1/3 RPM LP in the days of the digital download:


I was never much of a serious LP collector, the main reason being, quite frankly, that I was too ****ed cheap. Plus, as an early adapter to cassettes, I preferred to simply borrow LPs from guys on my floor at UH like Michael “Penguin” Davidson (who always seemed to have all of the new releases) and record them. “Penguin” didn’t have any more money than me, but he considered the UD Bookstore record department to be his own personal lending library, so he always had plenty of music.

The most extensive record collection I ever saw was that of Kevin Carroll, with whom I worked at both WVUD in Dayton and WYDD in Pittsburgh. Seriously, I’ve seen radio stations that had fewer albums than Kevin did –- his record stash took up a whole room! I guess that was one of the side benefits of being Music Director at ‘VUD.

Several years ago, I ‘culled the herd’ of my LPs down to what I considered the “essentials” because they were taking up way too much space on the bookcase in our living room. Here’s what I kept:

-- Probably the first two “concept” albums ever recorded: the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the Moody Blues “Days of Future Past.” I listened to the latter almost non-stop the first semester of my junior year in the “house with the leans” on Kiefaber in the Ghetto, because it was the only album that any of us owned. Here’s a taste:


-- James Taylor’s self-titled first album. Understand this ain’t no “Sweet Baby James” by a long shot! This is fresh-out-of-the-insane-asylum, just-recently-kicked-the-heroin-habit style JT. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about from “Knockin’ ‘Round the Zoo”:

Just knocking around the zoo on a Thursday afternoon
There’s bars on all the windows and they’re counting up the spoons
And if I’m feeling edgy, there’s a chick who’s paid to be my slave
But she’ll hit me with a needle if she thinks I’m trying to misbehave

And now James Taylor is ‘America’s Troubadour’ -– go figure.

-- “John Barleycorn Must Die” by Traffic. Side one of this LP, featuring “Glad” followed by “Freedom Rider” and “Empty Pages” flows as well from one song to the next as any album ever made.

-- The soundtrack album from “The Big Chill” which re-introduced the Motown sound of the ‘60s to movie goers in the early ‘80’s. Trivia question time: who played the corpse in the opening scenes of the movie? Answer: then-unknown Kevin Costner.

-- “Tom Cat” by Tom Scott and the LA Express, an album that probably did more to speed the progress of the fusion of rock and jazz than anything that came before it.

-- “Breezin”, “Give Me the Night” and “Livin’ Inside Your Love” by native Pittsburgh guitarist George Benson, a guy who helped cross jazz over to pop. I always used to slip these three on when Mrs. Swampy and I had company, because you could listen to them and still carry on a conversation.

-- The definitive jazz LP of the late ‘50s, “Time Out” by Dave Brubeck featuring the ultimate jazz tune of that period “Take Five”:


This album was a gift from my father-in-law when he cleaned out his extensive jazz record collection because he bought duplicates of them all on CD.

-- Two other gifts were organist Jimmy Smith’s “Midnight Special” which features Jimmy playing with fellow legends Stanley Turrentine and Kenny Burrell and “Bashin” which includes the superb jazz version of “Walk on the Wild Side”:


-- He also gave me “Friday Night” a rare live LP from the incomparable Miles Davis.

-- I kept 4 Charlie “Bird” Parker albums because I only had 4 of them to keep.

-- Clifford Brown is the closest that I have ever come to what record collectors refer to as “Completionist Hell.” That’s the obsessive-compulsive notion that you must possess every single piece of music ever recorded by a particular group or artist. Kevin Carroll first exposed me to Brown when he gave me a copy of “Brownie Eyes” that ‘VUD was never going to air in the first place. The album notes by jazz historian Leonard Feather tell the tale of a meteoric trumpeting talent who died in a car accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1956 at the tender age of 25. I absolutely loved the “fat” sound of Clifford’s horn and I suppose it was the fact that he was the exact same age that I was at the time when he perished that drew me to him. Because he died so young, I figured it should be easy to acquire every record he ever made. I own 10 of them, including some rare Japanese imports. Check Brownie out, here with Max Roach on a tune called “Cherokee” from the “Study in Brown LP:


Remember: this was recorded over 50 years ago, probably on an old Wollensak reel-to-reel tape recorder, so the quality ain’t what we are used to today.

-- Another group that fuses jazz with rock and has for over 3 decades is Steely Dan. I own seven of their LPs, including the incomparable “Aja.” Many Classic Rock stations have a feature entitled the “Perfect Album Side.” To my mind “Aja” is, quite simply, the perfect LP. Every single tune on the record “Black Cow”, “Aja”, “Deacon Blues”, “Peg”, “Home at Last”, “I Got the News” and “Josie” was a hit and got major radio play. And best of all, it’s timeless: listen to “Aja” today and it sounds as fresh as it did back in 1977:


-- Pink Floyd defies description, but whatever they are, I love ‘em. I only have two LPs, “A Collection of Great Dance Songs” and “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” the reason being that at that point in my life I started to acquire all of their CDs. I did have a vinyl version of “The Wall” but when my nephew Jeff marveled at the fact that I had somehow managed to buy a used copy of it for only $3, I told him to take it. Mrs. Swampy and I saw the Floyd at the Palace of Auburn Hills -– they were the first rock act to play there. Tremendous laser show and you could actually feel the bass in your seat, especially on this tune, which was recorded live during the same tour:


-- I’ve saved my favorite group for last: The Alan Parsons Project. I kept 8 of their LPs, including “Eye in the Sky” and “I Robot” even tho I already had CD versions of the albums. The combination of full orchestration and rock has always been appealing and it just all comes together for me in APP. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Parsons and company perform live 4 times: once each in Pittsburgh and Cleveland and twice here in Motown, one of them at the Detroit Opera House with a full symphony orchestra accompanying them…the way that the Alan Parsons Project was intended to be heard. Here’s the title tune from what I consider their absolute best (and, because of various legal problems, least known) album “Freudiana”:


The one tune that seared the Alan Parsons Project into my consciousness was “Time” from the “Turn of a Friendly Card” album. I was working at an easy listening station in Pittsburgh in the early ‘80s (WPNT “The Point” KDKA’s FM station) and every couple of days amidst the droning of the Bert Kampfert and Percy Faith elevator music drek, the syndicator would slyly slip in this haunting melody, delivered by the magnificent voice of Eric Woolfson.

Fast forward a few years and it’s the night of my mother’s funeral. I had tried to be so strong throughout the visitation and her burial that I had not cried a single tear. It was uncommonly warm for December, so I borrowed my sister’s Triumph TR 7 convertible with 5 speed transmission. With the top down and the radio blasting, I took off alone on the twisty New England back roads that I knew so well for a good, long, hard ride. Suddenly, there on the radio was that song:


and these lyrics:

Goodbye my love, maybe for forever
Goodbye my love, the tide waits for me
Who knows when we will meet again, if ever
But time keeps flowing like a river, to the sea, to the sea
‘Til it’s gone forever, gone forever, gone forever more.

I totally lost it as I sang along with Woolfson, finally pulling off to the side of the road to shed the tears that I could not hold back any longer.

Yeah, I guess you could say that music means a lot to me.

That’s it “From the Swamp.”
You can email me at: swampy@udpride.com
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By 1in25 on 04-29-2008, 08:49 PM

Who was the other DJ that worked the morning show with Dan Pugh (Patrick) in the seventies? They had some of the best comedy gags I've heard. Thanks for your time.

Go Flyers!!!
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By Swampy Meadows on 04-29-2008, 09:48 PM

That was after my time at 'VUD -- somebody out there will be able to tell you.
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By AustinFlyer on 04-30-2008, 12:45 AM
I was trying to remember that myself. Used to listen to their Waldo Snivels skits with Mayor Paul Leonard on WTUE back in HS.
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By Viperstick on 04-30-2008, 05:32 PM

Thanks for the inspiration! Just pulled up an MP3 of "Sirius/Eye in the Sky" to listen to. Parsons rocks!
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By IAFlyer on 04-30-2008, 09:00 PM
Music has always had a big part in my life as well. Love APP and Steely Dan - A couple of groups that I can just listen to and not get tired.
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