Editor’s Note: The first record you buy is a rite of passage. Here’s one music lover’s experience; feel free to share your own “first album” in the comments!
My sisters are ten and twelve years older than me. There were times growing up when I would peek into the oversized unit that housed the radio, the clunky turntable, and of course, the records. I’d walk my little fingers through their albums by the Stones, Smothers Brothers, Herman’s Hermits, Jerry and the Pacemakers, the Beatles, and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (that last one belonging to our parents).
Even at seven years old, I was entranced by the cover art (I filled in Revolver with colored markers). There was an unexplained “grown-up-ness” to these items. I’d sit on the living room floor with them spread out around me, willing the music into me by osmosis.
Of course, being so little, I had to wait until my sister(s) were in the mood to actually play them; I couldn’t be trusted to not scratch or break them. When the needle finally dropped, I was transported. I wanted more. I wanted my very own record(s) that I could play whenever I felt like it.
Like many kids of that generation, the Beatles were my go-to. I’d heard about the new one that was coming out, Magical Mystery Tour, and was determined to own it. Of course, a seven-year-old isn’t exactly rolling in cash, so it took me weeks to save enough of my allowance to purchase it. I can’t remember exactly what it cost: it might have been five bucks; it may as well have been a hundred. But there came a day when I shook out my piggy bank and had my mother drive me to the little local store where they sold records (along with things like candy, socks, sewing needs, mesh lawn chairs, and goldfish).
With that colorful cover art seared into my brain, I knew exactly what to look for and found it immediately. Once I slipped it out of the rack and paid, I could barely wait to get it home and play it. No sisters to tell me I couldn’t – it was mine.
First, though, I had to show it off. Back home, I slid out of the car and ran over to my best friend’s house. Their cool, damp basement was where all the neighborhood kids tended to congregate at one point or another during the day. There was a pinball machine, a TV, and a full stereo set up. I can still see myself walking in, pulling it out of the bag, flashing the cover, and asking her older brother to put it on. Then those first bright brass notes broke throughout the room. “Roll up…roll up for the Mystery Tour…”
For a few minutes, this seven-year-old was the coolest kid in the joint.
That first album started a lifelong passion for vinyl. Like, a ridiculous amount of it. Plastic milk crates full of albums that would be lugged between dorm rooms and apartments. Not to mention the eventual eight-tracks, cassettes, and CDs. The best part was, I could play them whenever I wanted, big sisters be damned, especially once I got my first cheesy little record player as a birthday present.
Like anyone, my personal album collection traces the story of my life: the classic and Southern rock of my high school years, the female singer-songwriters (like Joni and Carly) who spoke to me in college, a healthy dip into punk and New Wave, an exploration of classic country artists like Johnny Cash and Hank Sr., a brief flirtation with Miles Davis and Chet Baker, and some classical discs as a nod to my love of ballet.
But of all of the hundreds of albums I’ve acquired over the years, that treasured, well-worn copy of Magical Mystery Tour remains the centerpiece — the touchstone to the musical life that would follow.
Roll up, indeed.
Photo: Magical Mystery Tour (fair use image)