Recently, on a chilly spring eve, I decided to break out a little vinyl and sit on the back porch, with a drink in hand. The first selection for the night was the self titled Crosby Stills and Nash album, which has been a long standing favorite since childhood. I don’t dig as much of their work after this album, especially after adding Neil Young, but this one is top-notch. The record player is indoors, so I had to do some adjusting, and get the speakers to the nearest window. Sure, I could have easily grabbed my iPhone and Bluetooth speaker, and been done with the whole deal. But that’s just it, vinyl is so great, I’m willing to put in the extra effort.
Window open, speakers placed, I set the needle down on the record, and walked out the back door. Ah...that sound before the music starts...the sweet, sweet crackling. Akin to the warmth and crackle of a fire, that needle and vinyl combination touches on a certain sensor deep in the heart and psyche of many people, yours truly included. I reached my seat just as the opening chords came ringing through the speakers. Moments later I was singing along to the “doo-doo-doo-doo-doo” part of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and the evening had officially begun.
About forty minutes later, and maybe two refills of bourbon, CSN was finishing up things with "49 Bye Byes". “49 reasons all in a line…” I was floating along in the same straight line through the blackjack trees that carpet my backyard. The harmonies on this album are so good, and they all culminate so well on this last song. These three fellas were on top of their game with this album, and it acted as a nice bookend to the 1960’s.
After allowing the record to end and make a few silent rotations, just to hear more of that joyous crackle, I got up to put on a new record. “Hmm, what to pick?” I asked myself. It needed to be good because I don’t get a lot of uninterrupted evenings where I can bask in an album and my backyard. After passing up Chicago II, Marquee Moon, and a Hank Williams Greatest Hits record, I settled on the American Graffiti soundtrack. There are only a handful of soundtracks that I personally get down to, Forrest Gump, The Big Chill, The Endless Summer, and maybe a couple others, but American Graffiti is hands down the best.
Needle down, I made my way to the kitchen for a third helping of that nostalgia enhancing elixir we call alcohol. While in the kitchen, a much needed bag of popcorn was also popped. Snack and drink in hand, I made it to the porch just in time for track three, Del Shannon’s classic "Runaway". The guitar comes in picking out a chord, and then the piano splashes it’s way onto the scene, all the while I’m melting away into dreams of cruising around in my non-existent 59’ El Camino.
Seriously, the songs on this soundtrack are so timeless and dare I say, perfect, I could spend pages detailing and expanding on each one. This soundtrack had a prominent role in my CD player growing up in the 90’s, often times to my passenger’s displeasure. And now, twenty years later, as I sat on my back porch, the songs sounded just as fresh and magical as they did then, and as they did thirty years before that when they were first released.
The next two hours saw me dancing, singing, and bopping around the back porch, unfazed at the probability a neighbor was looking on in horror. I’d like to think that at one point I saw two squirrels getting down to "The Great Pretender" by the Platters, but hell, I don’t know. At some point I had brought the whole bottle of bourbon to the porch so I didn’t have to keep going inside. The night had started chilly, and I remembered thinking I might need a jacket. But then, there I was, wrapped up in the warmth and familiarity of those records and the allure they have on me. Maybe it was the bourbon that had made me forget about the nip in the air, but I’m convinced it was the sound of those old records that did the trick that night.