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The Fourth Wall

The Fourth Wall: Seven words you could never say in my parents’ house

There was great news last month for those of us (perhaps just me) who have never downloaded a song or who don’t know whether CP3 is a music player and MP3 an NBA player … or vice-versa.

Not only did the Recording Industry Association of America announce that sales of actual vinyl albums grew 10 percent in 2017, but both records and CDs outsold digital streaming devices.

This hopeful development — and the obviously related upswing in the sales of turntables — should make you want to kick your heels up and shout in anticipation for Saturday’s annual Record Store Day … which will be celebrated at album-sellers across the Rogue Valley.

It’s also an appropriate time to take those old records off the shelf and inventory your own collection of 33s, 45s, 78s and perhaps the occasional 16 that you actually could listen to with other people without having to share a pair of earbuds.

Leafing through my own records the other day, I was surprised (although I really shouldn’t have been) by just how many of those discs brought back very specific memories. It’s one of the reasons we think of specific artists and songs being the “soundtrack of our lives.”

For instance, I sometimes can’t remember why I went to the grocery store — and often wind up buying the wrong thing — but as I went through my stack and found “History: America’s Greatest Hits,” I remembered playing “Sister Golden Hair” repeatedly on a portable Victrola to mourn the end of a failed teenage romance.

My parents finally put a stop to that — as they often put a stop to the offerings of several albums they heard coming from their kids’ bedrooms.

I clearly remember the day I squirreled away enough cash to ride my bike down to the department store and purchase my first two albums. Until then, my listening options were limited to the favorites of older siblings and those that friends had bought.

And so it was that my parents were introduced to Elton John (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”) and the man I adopted as my teenage spirit guide, George Carlin (“Class Clown.”)

The response to Elton was bad enough — a less-than-gentle knocking on my bedroom floor whenever “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” or “All the Girls Love Alice” made its way down to the kitchen — but when they found my younger brother laughing uncontrollably at “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television,” poor George was banned from the house.

Except, of course, when my parents weren’t home. (They were never very good at hiding things they didn’t want us to have.)

Going through those album covers the other day, certain themes naturally emerged. There was an entire subset of what could only be called “guys with long hair and guitars” — Taylor, Diamond, Simon, Morrison, Lightfoot, Stevens, Croce, Denver, etc — movie soundtracks (“Jonathan Livingston Seagull”??? ... honestly???), greatest hits collections and one-off purchases by artists I wanted to try out … Jethro Tull’s “Songs From The Wood” found itself next-door to Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” (I wonder what was influencing me in 1977).

There was also a subset of artists — Reggie Dwight, Robert Zimmerman, Henry Deutschendorf Jr., Steven Georgiou, Raymond O’Sullivan — who became better known under stage names.

O’Sullivan (for those lucky enough not to remember) only changed his first name — to Gilbert — and became an overnight sensation in the States for his 1972 hit “Alone Again (Naturally)” … and don’t blame me if you now have that worming around your brain for the rest of the day.

O’Sullivan’s “Himself,” naturally, was residing next-door to that other icon of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Judy Newton … better known as Juice.

When I was a cub reporter covering a minor-league hockey team owned by pro wrestling mogul Vince McMahon (that’s about five stories for another time), the sound engineer at the home ice arena was in love with The Artist Formally Known as Judy and would play “Queen of Hearts” during both intermissions — which led to our taking our wives to see her in concert, and the purchase of her self-titled album.

Meanwhile …

… leaving me to doubt / talk about / God and his mercy …

GET OUT OF MY HEAD, Gilbert.

As I was about to say, there are some, well, unique offerings in that stack of records I was sorting through.

“The Slightly Fabulous Limelighters” — which forced me to go ogle the actress Vikki Dougan and now kick-starts so many auto-repeats of “Hard, Ain’t It Hard” that my parents would be begging for “Sister Golden Hair.”

A jazz band called Razmataz (“Everybody Eats When They Come To My House”) that I don’t recall at all, and “The Partridge Family at Home with Their Greatest Hits” … which I wish I couldn’t remember, but will simply blame on being a child of the 70s.

And, of course, the No. 1 Billboard magazine Pop Album of 1963, Allan Sherman’s “My Son, The Nut” — which not only contained “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!” but “One Hippopotami” (sung to the tune of “What Kind Of Fool Am I?”), with its immortal lyric:

“And when Ben Casey meets Kildare, that’s called a paradox …”

And now my head is spinning, the songs and memories are merging (“All the Girls Love Alice’s Restaurant”) and my turntable is about to get a serious workout.

Thank goodness 8-track sales are still down — or I’d promise myself to treat myself and visit a nearby tower.

The Joke ain’t the only fool who knows Mail Tribune senior designer Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com.

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