You probably remember Columbia Record Club, especially if you are of a certain age (what a horrible thought that we are of a certain age…). You may not have ever joined, but those advertising inserts caught your eyes.
“My name is Craig and I joined the Columbia Record Club.”
“So, the deal was that you would get 13 records for a dollar and then you would buy seven more records at full prices. Oh, and you had to pay for shipping and handling.”
Really, there is a lot of garbage in that list of choices for picking your first 13. What if you couldn’t find 13 records that you wanted? How many Andy Williams records did you want to own?
I was obsessive, compulsive, and cheap, so I waited for the perfect selection in the Columbia Record Club ads until that special day arrived. Even so, I needed some filler. So, I made an educated guess. I don’t recall what else I picked, but I know the Hearts and Bones album by Paul Simon was meant to round out the list. I liked his other stuff and maybe I would like this album even if it was not that popular- at least I wasn’t hearing a lot of it on the radio. That may have been during one of those periodic Ozzy phases that the world seems to go through, so go figure that I wasn’t hearing a lot of Paul Simon.
Like I indicated, I had not expected a lot from Hearts and Bones, but I was an idiot. This was Paul Simon, perhaps our finest living songwriter.
We’ll talk later about what Simon & Garfunkel meant to my teen years (there are 239 of these left), but I love the way this album spoke to me when I was older and wiser. We have already established my collegiate affinity for music that had a limited audience. The truth is that other people mostly liked the Grass Roots and Jonathan Richman and the Raspberries and such once they heard them. They were not a hard sell. With Hearts and Bones, I pretty much found myself sitting alone in the room listening. I was the boor in the room trying to explain why it was so great. If you’re not a graduate student in philosophy, that’s not a good look.
As it turns out, plenty of people loved the album. I just didn’t happen to know any of those people at the time. So, where do we go with art for which we are an audience of one?
My Dad did quite a bit of acting over the years. One night, our town was hit by a blizzard and they were scheduled to do a show. My Dad made it to the theater as did enough of the cast to perform the show. A handful of audience members appeared at the appointed time for the sold-out performance. The cast asked them all to move down to the front and the audience obliged. The show went on, which is the eternal motto, though it is really a motto aimed only at the artists. Why did the audience show up? TV and radio still worked at home. More than that, I suspect the audience never really forgot that special performance.
Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War and The Late Great Johnny Ace still take me back to that place beside the stereo in that early apartment. Just me and Mr. Simon, a few memories and a little art.
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 239 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.