By Rosalie Tirella
Kind of a day off for me. Listening to a few of my lps – and LOVING IT. LOVING THE PHYSICALITY OF “playing my records,” just like in the ol’ days, just like when I was a 15-year-old kid growing up in Green Island, a sophomore at Burncoat High, and had just bought my first Beatles album – ABBY ROAD – at the teeny record section in Jordan Marsh, in the now razed Worcester Galleria. Brought the lp home to our Lafayette Street tenement and “played it on my record player,” a cheapie Emerson stereo my beloved, late mom, Cecelia, bought for me. I played that record 10 times straight – all the way thru, side one, then side two. Loving the goofy Paul McCartney throw-aways, but 10 years later hearing how brilliant side 2 is. Holding the album cover up, away from me, so I could better appreciate the album art, the photos of the band – front and back. When I was a kid, sometimes there would be a poster inside of your album – of your fave rock n roller. Or even glossy colored photo prints!, as was the case with early pressings of the Beatles’ WHITE ALBUM (lost ’em years ago!).
Sigh. The decades, and the lps, keep spinnin’ … away from me. But the young Rose reawakens today as I flip thru the lps, just like when I used to as an undergrad at UMass/Amherst and had amassed an impressive amount of lps (used) and audio-cassettes, mostly homemade, made for me by various plutonic guy pals on my dorm floor. The flipping of the lps, the stopping at one and pulling it out to see the cover and the playlist. Ahh, love that tune. Ahhh, love that B side …
Then choosing the record I wanted, pulling it out ever so gingerly … taking the big lp out of its sleeve, holding it by the edges – finger tips on the lp can leave behind dirt, oil from your finger tips that get into the record’s grooves – and can give it its popping, crackling sound (beautiful, to me)- maybe even skipping, if too dirty or dusty. At Radio Shack they used to sell vinyl record cleaning kits: a small bottle of solution, a velour type of cloth, tacked onto a smooth, pretty block of wood and, finally, a piece of soft cotton. Playing your records was science, as well as sacred ritual! All for: the BEATLES, ELTON JOHN, FLEETWOOD MAC, ERIC CLAPTON, THE MOODY BLUES, STEVIE WONDER … Such perfect music for such imperfect times – your teen years, when you’re gangly, acne-prone, longing for that first kiss, that first caress … but stuck at home with your conservative Catholic mother, kid sisters, Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy … and your Bapy keeps feeding your pet hamster Joy chunks of her hardboiled egg sandwich. “Bapy!” you say to her, “Joy has her own special hamster food!” Your plea falls on deaf ears. Joy is overweight from being fed double – by you and by Bapy!
Sometimes there would be no album art on an album cover – just the band’s name. Written in fancy font or just embossed … almost invisible. This usually happened with the brilliant million-record-selling SUPER STARS, like the Beatles (their “white” album was just that: WHITE, with the Beatles name embossed on it, like a wedding invitation) or as with the Carpenters, even as Karen struggled silently with her anorexia we LOVED her!
… Then propping up the album cover – propping it us against a small stack of books – so I could stare at the album art – and we all considered the illustrations, photos, printing on our album covers to be TRUE ART – gaze longingly at Eric Clapton or the Beatles – as I listened to their songs. Their music. Their world view. Their experiences, hopes and dreams. They were mine, too!
I’d lie on my big bed, in my Lafayette Street bedroom, and close my eyes and just listen … and soon my abusive father, the drunk guy staggering out of Ben’s Cafe, the train ch-ch-ch-chugging down the railroad tracks, the ghetto all around me, would fall away, AND IT WOULD JUST BE ME AND MY MUSIC. Rose playing records.