(this is part of Memoir Mondays over at Two Writing Teachers)
I grew up on KISS.
Not just the ones from Mom and Dad but the over-the-top rock and roll band, KISS.
For a long stretch of my adolescent childhood, my entire neighborhood was enamored with this glam band as it hit the world stage with their dramatics (fire-breathing bass players, unnaturally-extended tongues, animal-inspired painted faces, the whole shebang). I even collected KISS comic books. Remember them? Rock and rollers transformed as superheroes.
At our bus stop before school in the mornings, we all used to take on characters of the band, and pretend that a fallen tree stump was the stage. We’d use the light from the rising sun on our hiking boots to create over-sized shadow images on the pavement as a way to replicate the patented KISS boots (a sort of stiletto heel, but huge, almost like teeth coming out of the foot). We’d listen to the songs on the albums (oh god) for hours at a time, singing out loud to the chorus: I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night and Party Every DAY!!! (emphasis on Day, since we were kids and nighttime partying was a great unknown …. for now)
We followed the drama of KISS as the band considered removing their make-up and what it might mean to the band. We also were curious what they really looked like underneath the layers of disguise. (It later turned out they looked pretty ugly and should have kept the paint on)
So, imagine the looks I got one day when I went and traded my sacred KISS Alive II double vinyl album for an older Earth, Wind and Fire disc. I still don’t know why I did it. Perhaps I was having KISS fatigue. Perhaps, as a saxophone player, I was searching for something with horns. Maybe I needed some groove. I could have been muscled into it by my older brother’s friend (I was very susceptible to peer pressure by the older kids in the neighborhood), but I don’t think so.
Earth, Wind and Fire were not unknown to me. My dad has a pretty eclectic taste and I heard all sorts of music as I was growing up, including Maurice White and company. I thought it was lame, until I started to actually listen.
The first time I put that Earth, Wind and Fire album on, though, my needle exploded with the sound of “Shining Star” and I was never quite the same. With the chorus of “Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be,” I was hooked. “September” still has me dancing, even though the sound is, well, so 70’s.
Oh, sure, I had still had my Foghat albums. And Led Zep still has a certain place in my heart. Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and others never left my collection until I grew up and weeded out the vinyl memories of my youth (I still have a Zep CD, though).
But with that Earth, Wind and Fire album, I realized that there was a whole other world of music out there to explore and I couldn’t spend all of my time listening to KISS. Plus, the ballad “Beth” was getting sappy to my ears.
Earth, Wind and Fire kick-started my heart and I never turned back.
What music informed your childhood?
Peace (in notes between the ages),