Fifty years ago I wrote my first song. It was called “Between 32nd and 31st Street.” Odd that I remember the chorus melody after all this time. Haven’t played it or heard it for 49 years. It was one of those adolescent ditties about a girl in my class who was the unwitting recipient of my pimply affection. My dad George gave me a small reel to reel tape recorder for my 12th birthday. I recorded that first song and listened in horror to my own squeaky, girly voice for the first time. That was what I sounded like? Man did I have work to do.
Nestled among boxes of family photos that machine still sits in a cabinet at mom’s house along with the handful of crackling tapes filled with early songs, my sister Mary’s television commercial reenactments, mom, dad, sister, and me giving various stimulating soliloquies in which we identify ourselves laughing clumsily at our agonizing self consciousness.
The AIWA tape recorder was the envy of all my buddies. Not much bigger than a man’s palm, it reminded me of something a spy would stash inside an enemies desk drawer. It doesn’t work anymore but I recently managed to listen to part of a tape by manually spinning the reel. Garbled, spooky sounding voices warbled from the gray plastic grill. There was my family, four of us together long ago, now disintegrating slowly on reels of magnetic, plastic film.
I don’t know if my father ever truly understood what a profound effect his gift had on me. His gift of music, given so many times in so many ways. Music is the thread that ties all my days and years together. Before those little reels of magnetic tape crumble to dust I must salvage the voices etched on them.