Reconnecting with Fame

Hearing David Bowie’s song Fame recently reminded me how much I love music. I’ve been listening to music for a long time and certain songs can take me right back to what was going on at the time.

Fame brought me back to grade school, recess at my elementary school, and the good times friends had on the playground during that time. I’m not sure why it takes me right there to that time, but it does.

Sometimes, though, I forget how important music has been in my life since that first catchy pop song back in the late 60’s transformed my brain from living a life of text to experiencing a life of retina-display 3D graphics!

The cool thing is that my kids are old enough now such that I can expose them to decades of great music since the Beatles started it all, while at the same time avoiding the bad music they needn’t trouble themselves with.

My infatuation with music may have been a tweak beyond healthy, as I absolutely had to listen to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” every Sunday evening without fail – or else.

Music became so ingrained in my weekly life that I often prioritized listening to the Top 40 over sleep or some event a typical ten-year-old would prefer over listening for the latest hit song.

For example, one time the family was in Alaska during the summer while my dad worked on the pipeline. Aside from fishing and hunting bear, there wasn’t a lot to do in Alaska, so imagine how exciting it would be if the locals were having a parade for all to attend?

The weather was great and the parade had a lot of fun things going on – and there I was, walking down the sidewalk parallel to the parade, holding a transistor radio to my ear so I’d be sure not to miss important details about this week’s music movers and shakers. What were the songs that debuted in the Top 40 this week? Which song was the biggest mover on the charts? Did my favorite song make it to #1 or was it being held back by a mass of people who clearly didn’t appreciate the right music?

The current generation has no concept of life without the Internet. I can hear my kids now. “You wrote down the Top 40 every week on a piece of paper, Dad? Why didn’t you just look it up on the Internet after it got published?” Yes, time existed before there was an Internet!

I didn’t just write down the Top 40; my friends and I occasionally attempted to document words to a specific song. I recall the time when John Patricelli, another music lover, and I played a vinyl 45rpm record (a “single”) over and over and attempted to write down the lyrics. The problem? It’s extremely difficult to understand words when artists don’t annunciate or perhaps when singers’ voices are drowned out by screeching guitars and banging drums.

Incidentally, the referenced song here was “Sky High” by the English band, Jigsaw. Yes, one-hit wonders. “You, you’ve blown it all sky high, by telling me a lie without a reason why” and so on. Not sure why we had trouble with these simple lyrics!

Today you can find any lyric to any song ever written in seconds with a quick Google search, but you do have to be careful about malware – something I never faced in my Internet-less, pencil and paper world.

Few songs have what we call “staying power”. So many good and bad songs come and go. Only the really great ones stand the test of time. You know them because you still hear them all of the time today, 30+ years after they last showed up on a Billboard list. The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd – and Bowie.

Which brings us to the subject at hand – Fame. Yes, fame is something many people achieve for accomplishing various feats, but it’s also the title of a David Bowie song from 1975 (and by the way, hit #1 in September of that year). Almost 40 years later and the song is featured in a 2014 commercial by Cadillac. Yes, it’s a brand new song to the current generation, but the beauty is that it could have been released today, but due to Bowie being ahead of his time, the song is absolutely timeless.

I suppose the real beauty of Fame is the anticipation it commands that starts with the very first note of the song. From then on, I find myself drawn in and have to listen to the whole song until the crescendo where Bowie leverages the best available technology at the time to distort his voice bellowing the word “fame” over and over from high to low, from soprano to baritone, until ultimate climax.

Just like the O’Jays so eloquently described in their (also released in) 1975 song “I Love Music”, I love a great song, a song that can stand the test of time. Certainly a song released in 1975 and relevant in 2014 has some staying power. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to know Fame through many generations and am ecstatic to have the opportunity to reconnect with Fame today.

 

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