This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the first time I purchased a record album with my own money.
I'm not going to flash my "cool badge" at you and claim the first album I ever bought was from the Rolling Stones or the Clash or Van Halen. I had no older brothers or sisters to inform me what was "cool" and, besides, it was the '70s. We didn't label things like we do now.
Yup, the first album I ever bought was from Australian easy-rock group, the Little River Band. It was the band's best selling album in the U.S., "First Under the Wire".
I liked the first hit song off that album, "Lonesome Loser" (it somehow spoke to me at the time), and I still remember the summer day, visiting my grandmother in Buffalo, asking to go to the department store and then buying the album while my grandma asked all kinds of questions about what kind of music it was. Even then, explaining modern music to your grandma wasn't an easy task.
Today, LRB isn't modern music -- although I think they're still around in some sort of re-re-re-re-reincarnation -- it now falls firmly under the annoying label of "yacht rock," particularly their biggest hit off the album, "Cool Change".
As I've mentioned before, when we listened to music on the radio 40 years ago, no song had a "yachty" sound, it was just pop music. LRB doesn't hold up all that well -- the lyrics are pretty painful -- but at the time, it was straight-ahead pop rock with pleasant four-part harmonies.
It worked for me during a time when Styx was the hardest rocking band that I knew. The songs off this album take me back to summer time when the concept of owning my own music was a brand new and exciting world full of possibilities.
So with this anniversary in mind, it's time for Match the Song Title. Here is the track list. Get out on your boat and drift away:
Match the Song Title -- "First Under The Wire - Little River Band"
Track 1: Lonesome Loser - The loneliest spot on a baseball field, they say, is on the pitcher's mound when that pitcher isn't doing well. Obviously there aren't many baseball cards that show this -- cards are all about glorifying the athlete, not showing him down-in-the-dumps. But I did find this card from a 1999 set that celebrates the late Barry Halper's massive memorabilia collection. This card recognizes Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round The World" and you can see the Giants celebrating on the left and a lonely Ralph Branca walking by himself on the right. At least I think that's Branca.
Track 2: The Rumor - Baseball is filled with rumors, most having to do with transactions, trades, firings, hirings. There is also the personal stuff that those in baseball would rather not become publicized. One of the biggest personal stories this year is Ben Zobrist's disappearance from the field since May to deal with his divorce. Both Zobrist and his former wife, Julianna, were much in the spotlight during the Cubs' World Series run three years ago. Now they've virtually disappeared. Credit goes to the media for exercising some restraint, but I have to say the whole situation is pretty strange (and sad).
Track 3: By My Side - Beeb Birtles bringing it down. Remember these unsettling pairings from Archives a few years ago? Jackie Robinson standing by Matt Kemp's side in an ancient ballpark is just weird, mostly because IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. IT COULDN'T HAPPEN. That's not fun. It's creepy.
Track 4: Cool Change - Like the protagonist in this song, Andrew Luck recently made a break from the life that he had known for a long time for something a little less stressful, a little less painful and much less frustrating. Good for him.
Track 5: It's Not a Wonder - The rocker on the album. I thought it was cool.
Matthew Boyd is part of a terrible baseball team. The Tigers are the worst team in baseball, even worse than the Orioles, which is alarming. I believe I don't know more than five players on the Tigers, but I thought I'd take a look at the depth chart just to make sure.
OK, I know eight. Double digits if you include the guys on the IL. And, yikes, It's Not a Wonder that they're dead last in baseball.
Track 6 and 7: Hard Life - We've flipped the record over. "Hard Life" begins with an instrumental prelude that is given its own track.
I was watching the Orioles play the Yankees a month or two ago, one of the 56 games between the two teams. The Orioles were being annihilated from the start. Dwight Smith, who was playing left field, was having a terrible time, everything hit to him, and he wasn't handling it well. He plowed into the wall once and didn't come up for awhile, and I thought, "Man, that's a hard life."
Track 8: Middle Man - The "B" side of "Cool Change". Listen for the sax, yacht rock lovers.
You don't hear "middle man" in baseball as much today. Those relievers have become "set-up" men. Yimi Garcia is one of the Dodgers' middle men. I don't think the fans have a lot of confidence in him.
Also, I have a completely unnecessary number of Yimi Garcia autographs.
Track 9: Man On The Run - Did you know that Mallex Smith is the Major League leader in stolen bases at this point of the season? I had no idea. He has 38. My league leader cards from the early '80s are laughing at this.
Track 10: Mistress of Mine - I hated this song. Too sappy.
There are far too few cards of Phoebe Cates, with whom I share a birthday, that feature just her. This is a sticker from the 1984 Gremlins set. She's pretty.
All right, that's where the needle comes off the record.
The Little River Band may never show up in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, but it is at the foundation of my love for popular music. Because of that album purchase, I went on to buy many, many albums through the 1980s, and then many cassettes and many CDs.
Listening to music on a streaming device may save money but it's still not the same as going to the store and experiencing the thrill of coming face to face with the album that you had been hearing on the radio -- and then taking it home with you.
I still have the album. I don't play it anymore. Today was the first time I've heard most of the songs in decades. But it still means a lot to me.
Some of you understand, even if grandma didn't.