my mama didn’t dance and my daddy didn’t rock and roll

The albums in my house when I was growing up were:

  1. West Side Story (1961 soundtrack with Natalie Wood)
  2. South Pacific (1958 soundtrack with Mitzi Gaynor)
  3. Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf
  4. Leonard Bernstein’s Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris (by Gershwin)

Um, that’s it.

And what’s amazing is that we had this monster “hi-fi” piece of furniture with which to play my mom and dad’s, uh, four albums. The hi-fi was essentially a sideboard-looking cabinet with a turntable inside. You lifted the top and balanced your album on the metal spindle inside, and settled the swing arm over the album to hold it in place. Push the button, and the album drops onto the spinning plate, and the needle arm lifts and floats over to settle on the disk. Scratchy sounds come out, then the Sharks and the Jets are ready to rumble. Really loud, if you crank the volume when your parents aren’t home.

SO. Since I grew up in the era of Beatlemania, how is it that my parents, who were about 20 when it hit, completely failed to provide a Beatles album for me to hear? For that matter, how is it that I grew up at the same time and in the same city with Lisa Marie Presley, and never had an Elvis album? Or a BB King album? How did this happen?

Once I confronted my parents with this astonishing oversight in my education. Their (lame but accurate) excuse: We were busy.

Sigh. Ok, ok, it’s true. When I was growing up, my mother was teaching full-time, and my dad was working for his father-in-law in the dry-cleaning business, and later selling tools, trying to pay the mortgage on our middle-class suburban domicile with it’s orange shag carpet and green vinyl couch. Oh, and the hi-fi.

And that’s why I had to wait until I was old enough to walk to the mall near my neighborhood, and loiter for hours in the Camelot Music until I was finally able to decide on and pony up for my very first album: an Eagles LP: Hotel California. Followed by Queen’s Greatest Hits. (The Beatles, Elvis, and B.B. King came later.)

And that doesn’t count my shameful secret: I was given both of the first two Shaun Cassidy albums for birthday presents in elementary school. Played ’em on the hi-fi, too.

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