I am a nut about music. I’m definitely not a musician, nor a music intellectual, but I love it and I learn all that I can about it.
As with most of my artistic passions, I know what I like and I know what I don’t like, and don’t try to persuade or dissuade me, it just makes me more adamant about my personal judgements.
In the realm of rock music, I do have my personal favorites which I pay a lot of attention to. But there are great rock and roll artists who I don’t follow very much at all.
However, as I get older, I am expanding my horizons if just by force of repetition. There is one rock-and-roller who I have come to give a lot of credit to simply because I know so many of his songs by heart because I have just plain heard them so many times and so many are worth paying attention to for their great images, clear messages and great musicality.
These are the songs of Bob Seger, a motorcycle guy from Detroit. Though we are from different ends of the country, we are close to the same age and from his songs, I know we have experienced and seen so many of the same things from the same vantage points.
The thing is, Seger knows how to write songs about such things. Me, I have to plod along in prose. With some brief stanzas, and some clever guitar work, this guy can hit the nail right on the head and give you a good idea of what he has felt and what he knows and he can, to an extent, share the feelings and knowledge with you.
Seger has one haunting, soulful song that stops me dead in my tracks every time it comes across the air waves. “Turn the page” is a song about a musician’s down time, not when he’s the rock star up on stage, but when he’s the pooped out traveler, tossing and turning as he tries to sleep in the back seat of crowded, old cars. It's tough on these musicians to be driving from gig to gig, in far-flung towns so many miles apart and, as the song says, “with the echoes of the amplifiers ringing in your head.” You stare at the cold, impassive stars, trying so hard to ignore them and the echoes of the amplifiers for the sake of sleep but it’s a hard task to concentrate on.
Read the following lyrics and taste the angst and bitterness about those sorts of nights:
Well you walk into a restaurant,
strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you
as you’re shakin’ off the cold
You pretend it doesn’t bother you
but you just want to explode
Most times you can’t hear ‘em talk,
other times you can
All the same old cliches,
“Is that a woman or a man?”
And you always seem outnumbered,
you don’t dare make a stand
During the summer of 1966, most of the students that went to San Jose State College had gone home for the summer and the small clutch of new, San Jose hippies stuck together in the two or three “head shops” located in the cheap, long vacant store fronts on San Jose’s derelict First Street.
The variety and department stores had already moved to Valley Fair and others were starting to populate the newer shopping malls being built all over the Valley. San Jose’s downtown was now becoming a ghost town. The only reason we strayed away from our “off campus” haunts near the college was to buy the cheap, durable clothes at the army surplus stores, or get smoking “paraphernalia” at the head shops or have endless meals at the German deli on Market Street, where, on Tuesday nights, they had an “all you can eat” smorgasbord for a couple of dollars.
One sunshiny day, I spotted a small, handwritten ad on the main head shop’s bulletin board. It was just a roughly torn scrap of paper from the corner of a newspaper page. About all it said is that someone had some land for sale up in Northern California, something like $100 per acre. There was a phone number with a central valley area code and a comment “ask for George.” I don’t think I was quite yet 19 when I saw this ad and I was about as naive as a raw egg. This looked like a great deal to me, back to the farm!
I had been taking a class at the new “Mid-Penninsula Free University,” an alternative educational institution organized and operated by liberal Stanford professors and teaching assistants. The T.A. that ran my class was involved with a group who had bought land up in British Columbia and were in the process of setting up a “co-operative” community (as opposed to the more popular communes of the day). Each member of the group would own his own section of their parcel but the large tools (such as tractors and trucks) would be owned by the group. This arrangement was acceptable to me. I didn’t want to be a communist. Some of my friends and I talked about this arrangement and decided to maybe follow the teacher’s lead. These acres on the newsprint scrap might just “fit the bill,” Mr. Naive thinks.
Our college freshmen group talks over the cooperative idea and the ad. Steve and I volunteered to follow up on the ad. I had gone to kindergarten with Steve at Almaden Elementary School and every other year of school since. He was tall and Swedish, I was short and Italian. We had both just started growing out our hair and beards that prior winter. The hair was pretty well along by now.