Monday, May 5, 2014

In Praise of Vinyl

Before you get too excited, this is not a blog about sexy lingerie from Frederick’s of Hollywood.

When I was a kid I became an avid music fan. It’s probably why I decided to pursue a career as a composer/arranger then a music teacher, until I figured out how much it didn’t pay. Then I decided to become a writer, which doesn’t pay much better. That didn’t stop my lifelong interest in collecting classic vinyl. Today I have a collection of stuff that has never seen the light of CD or MP3. Jazz, soundtracks, easy listening, big bands, classical – you name it and I’ve probably got it in one form or another.

Recently I added a new turntable to my entertainment system. Then I began sorting through my collection, playing records (yes, records – remember those?) that I hadn’t listened to in years. Perhaps it was because I had finally gifted myself with a decent turntable, but damn – they sounded better than I remembered! Count Basie. Duke Ellington. Ella Fitzgerald. Nat Cole. Sinatra. The original soundtrack album from “Goldfinger.” Beethoven’s nine symphonies. All in glorious mono and stereo.

While I listened to them, the memories came back - late nights in college spent listening to Dave Brubeck and Earth, Wind and Fire (with and without Lambrusco or weed). Make-out sessions accompanied by Barry White or Lou Rawls. The thrill of discovering a rare jazz or Sinatra album at a record collector’s convention. Listening once again to a classic Bob Newhart or George Carlin comedy routine recorded live in front of an enthusiastic audience.

Music and romance have always walked hand in hand. Would “Casablanca” have been the same without “As Time Goes By” on the soundtrack? How about the comedy “Sabrina,” where “Isn’t it Romantic?” could be heard every time Audrey Hepburn was about to be kissed by William Holden? And who can forget “10,” when Bo Derek seduced Dudley Moore by claiming that she really got turned on doing it to Ravel’s “Bolero”? I’ll admit that one had me scratching my head, but it was funny.

I remember Saturday nights when I was growing up, our folks would hustle me and my brother off to bed early with the excuse that it was past our bedtime. After the lights were turned off I’d hear music emanating from the living room. Being a curious kid I peeked around the corner. There they were, dancing to the tunes of Tommy Dorsey or Glenn Miller from the record player. Mom’s head would be resting on dad’s shoulder, her eyes closed while his arms enfolded her.

Man, if that wasn’t true love I’d never see anything like it. Memories are made of this.

While studying music I developed an interest in the arranging talents of the late Nelson Riddle, who orchestrated many of the classic Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole sessions. During an interview Riddle claimed that sex and music were synonymous – “After all, what else is there?” he asked.

Think about that the next time you program the soundtrack for a romantic evening.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author whose books range from romantic mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. His website is www.timsmithauthor.com.


Tina Donahue said...

I had no idea you had music in your background, Tim. Fascinating post. I'm always amazed at how musicians/artists compose songs. They seem so intricate to me because I know zip about the field. But it is similar to writing. Fans often ask how I plot and pull everything together. The best I can tell them is that it's like a puzzle. I would imagine composing is the same.

jean hart stewart said...

Fascinating, Tim, and just thinking of some of those old tunes is romantic. Can't really understand how some of the clanging sounds of today music could set the same mood,,Thanks for an enjoyable post.

Fiona McGier said...

My Dad was a HUGE music fan...in fact her moved to Chicago when he crossed "the pond" from Scotland, to be near the blues musicians he'd been listening to for years, buying their 78s as imports. He got to meet many of his idols, like B.B.King and Louis Armstrong.

He also loved classical music and told me that when Ravel's Bolero was first played the audience was shocked! Absolutely shocked! As I listened to it, I asked him why. He told me that it mimics the act of sex: first it's so quiet you almost can't hear it, then it gets steadily more intense with each repetition. There's only a slight variation once in a while, otherwise it's the same tune over and over again until it reaches such a grand crescendo that it literally "explodes" with sound!

Now that I'm old and know more about such things, I'd have to say it's the musical depiction of a male's sexual experience, because if it was the female's, there would be repeated explosions, each one bigger than the last one, until the huge one...then there'd still be "after-shocks" of tiny ones that gradually abated to a satisfied hum. Why doesn't someone compose that?

Oh, and my husband prefers LP sound also, but he sacrifices for the convenience of I-Pods.

Tim Smith said...

Tina, you're right about composing/arranging being akin to plotting a story - it's all about putting the pieces in the right order, like a puzzle.

Fiona, if Bolero had been composed any time after the 19th century it wouldn't come across as sexist LOL. Keep in mind that Ravel was a horny Frenchman, so... I had heard your analogy in college but never saw it put to such funny use as in that movie. Proves my point that Blake Edwards was one of the wittiest sceenwriters of all time.