The Two Pivotal Years in Music

Music has been such a big part of my life, that it feels like music HAS been my life. Other than my mother, my brother, and my friend, Laura Foote, music is the companion that has been alongside me for this entire 56-year ride. Music was my earliest confidant. From the “Meet the Monkees” album someone gave me when I was 5 years old to the iTunes playlist I created last week. Music has always been there to excite, console, comfort, energize, and advise.

The soundtrack of my life has been a good one. I was blessed to be born in 1961, a perfect year for my musical taste. I came into this world just after the birth of the Elvis-era bee-boppy rock-and-roll and can remember – though vaguely – The Beatles final appearance on Ed Sullivan. The British Invasion gave birth to the Woodstock era, which gave way to rock’s early adulthood. That is my time.

I have long held a theory that the two most influential and formative musical periods in one’s life occur during one’s 12th year, and again during their 16th year.

The music one is listening to at 12 years old (the beginning of adolescence and independent thought) shapes what will become a lifetime of listening enjoyment. The music that came during the previous 11 years laid a foundation, but at 12 years old one can finally connect to the music, and music is always about connection in its many forms.

The music one hears at 16 years old tends to expand one’s horizons and set the future groundwork for diversity in listening. Future independence begins at 16 about the time one secures a driver’s license – and it’s the period of all great rock ’n’ roll songs – women, cars, and passion. We are first born, then we are born to run.

I am grateful to my mother for many things. She was a single mom before single moms were cool. She raised my brother and me on an art teacher’s salary, and I had a wonderful childhood. Though one of the most important things my mother ever gave me was my birth year. I was conceived on New Year’s Eve in 1960 and was born on Oct. 1, 1961. From that point on, my musical fate was carved in stone (albeit a rolling one).

My 12th year and 16th year couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. I was blessed to have two good years of music to set the foundation for a lifetime of musical worship and enjoyment.


My Top 5 Albums of 1973 (12th year)

5.) Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

Young people don’t understand how legit Elton John was. They see the guy who’s still touring today, but don’t understand that – beginning with his second album – he released EIGHT albums in three years. And they are all very good albums, with very, very good songs. That is an impressive feat in these days of artists working on one track for 18 months. Bernie Taupin’s writing was the perfect partner to John’s music. The Yellow Brick Road album was a bookend on one of the more impressive creative periods since the Beatles ’65-’69.

4.) ZZ Top “Tres Hombres”

Before MTV and the spinning guitars and classic cars, these three guys were young, whiteTexans bringing American blues to the rock world. Before the Top, it was the Brits who were turning Mississippi blues music into rock-and-roll. ZZ Top’s Texas-tinged version was greasy and funky and not as prim and proper as their counterparts across the pond.

3.) The Allman Brothers “Brothers and Sisters”

Three albums into their groundbreaking career they lost their leader, and 50% of the family team when Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. This was the first full album without Duane, and it’s hard to believe that they didn’t miss a beat with “Eat A Peach” and this effort. They defined southern rock, but not in a contrived way. They were young, and eager, and talented, and loved to play live. I would give two portions of a digit on one of my fingers, and a substantial portion of my net worth to have seen this band— with Duane and Gregg— live in the early days at the Warehouse in New Orleans.

2.) Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon”

There has been nothing like it since. Actually, there had been nothing like it before. This album came out when I was in the sixth grade and was still on the charts when I was 28-years old and two years into my restaurant career. Enough said.

1.) Led Zeppelin “Houses of the Holy

This is my favorite Led Zeppelin album (and that’s saying something because I am a HUGE Led Zeppelin fan). Most Zeppelin fans won’t pic this one. Actually, most fans would pick any other album (pre-Presence). I love this album. It’s one of my favorite rock albums. It’s diverse and it’s not overly produced. It rocks when it should and chills when you don’t expect it. I used to plug my turntable into a giant four, 15-inch speaker cabinet (I used for my electric guitar) and shake the walls of my room (and my neighbor’s).


My Top Albums of 1977 (16th year)

5.) Fleetwood Mac “Rumors”

I purchased the “Buckingham Nicks” album after seeing them open for an act at USM. When they joined Fleetwood Mac, I became a fan of that band. When “Rumors” came out it was huge. We’ve heard it so much today that it’s hard to understand how unique-sounding this record was (and is even today).

4.) Steely Dan “Aja”

 If you walked into a stereo store in 1977 and asked the salesman to demo a pair of hi-fi speakers, odds were high that he would use this album— and its sonic superiority— to make the speakers sound as good as possible. This record is way more than a sonic masterpiece. It was the pinnacle of Steely Dan’s funk-jazz-rock fusion.

3.) Pink Floyd “Animals”

 Again, many times my favorite album in an artist’s catalogue is nowhere near the consensus choice. As with the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock and Roll,” this is probably most Floyd fans fifth favorite album. Not me. I think David Gilmour is the most underrated guitarist in all of rock and roll and he shines brighter here than anywhere else.

2.) Bob Marley “Exodus”

 Again, many times my favorite album in an artist’s catalogue is nowhere near the consensus choice. As with the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock and Roll,” this is probably most Floyd fans fifth favorite album. Not me. I think David Gilmour is the most underrated guitarist in all of rock and roll and he shines brighter here than anywhere else.

1.) Muddy Waters “Hard Again”

 I grew up in Mississippi, but I didn’t know the blues until I was 16-years old. I had heard British covers of blues classics, but never the real thing until this album came out. It is the first in a series of three excellent albums where Johnny Winter took Muddy and his band (Pinetop Perkins on piano, and James Cotton on harp) into the studio to re-record all of the Muddy Waters classics. This album led me to Willie Dixon’s “I Am the Blues,” which led to a lifetime of blues devotion and appreciation for a style of music that came from my home state. As Muddy Waters sang, “The blues had a baby, and they named the baby rock-and-roll.” Without this, there would be no that.