The first time I heard the Rolling Stones it cost me ten cents. Same for the John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Standing in a neighbor’s garage, I picked up a stack of small black discs from a dark green Ping-Pong table turned garage sale display case.
“Ten cents a piece,” came a woman’s voice. “There are some good ones if you look hard enough.”
Nixon was president and our family sedan consumed gasoline like a thirsty dog laps up water on a hot July afternoon. My ears were about to lose their virginity.
I’d only recently earned double-digit candles and didn’t know any of the cryptic names printed on labels. Forty-fives, the lady called them. They seemed almost mysterious and different. I bit.
“Hard Day’s Night” / Lennon and McCartney said an orange and yellow label. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” / Rolling Stones read another. I grabbed a half dozen.
At that point in life, I dealt exclusively in coin currency. I handed the lady the correct change. Putting down her cigarette, she counted the coins and sent me on my way– a short walk across our shared backyards.
I remember walking through the back door of our small house, down the hallway, and into my back bedroom. Closing the door behind me, I went over to a small, portable record player sitting on a repurposed cabinet.
Not knowing one song from the other, I randomly selected a disc and dropped the needle arm. Keith Richards came out of 2-inch speaker. To this day, the opening riff instantly transports me to standing in my childhood bedroom being indoctrinated into a magical world of sound and emotion. Suddenly a demarcation line was etched in my lifeline – one with Walt Disney on one side and Mick Jagger on the other.
Losing your musical virginity is a powerful thing.
The morning consisted of me flipping records over and over, not knowing the difference between an A and B-side. My room became a Pandora’s box of musical discovery, me carefully dropping the needle onto the discs for hours.
This changed everything in my childhood home – suddenly I had my own music. And as if a root of independence was planted with the opening riff from Richards, my music exposure was no longer limited to jazz, Dixieland, and classical music – the music of choice in our home. The discovery of rock music was as if I’d somehow walked into a Baskin-Robins after only knowing three flavors of ice cream existed – vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate.
Today I have an AARP card, two adult children, and sometimes find myself standing in the kitchen not knowing what I came in looking for in the first place. I also mindlessly take a cocktail of prescribed pills in the morning in hopes each is going down for a reason and will result is something good.
But no matter how many years pass the best medicine for whatever ails me was purchased long ago for a handful of coins.