For the past several weeks I’ve been experiencing writers block. The first time I can say this has happened since I started TheBluesBlogger site. Usually I’m never at a loss for words when it comes to discussing music… So I thought perhaps if I share a little of what’s presently going on, it might help me work through this.
After months of doctor visits and collecting data, my wife and I received the news that our 13 year old son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome… I will not discuss
the details of Asperger’s as we are just beginning to understand ourselves. However, if you’re interested or curious, Tony Attwood’s site is a terrific source of information… The good news is my wife and I are beginning to find some answers to many questions. Now we can move forward with more awareness and structure in hopes of a bright future for our son…
I think we forget how confusing and challenging life tends to be in those teenage years. You face the confrontation of bullies at school, while trying to figure out all the things you have to do to please everyone. And all this while going through hormonal changes you know little about…
Just the other day my son asked the question,
“ Dad, what was going on in your life when you were my age?”
As I pondered this question, I started to drift off… It was always music that was my escape when life was hard to figure out…
During the early seventies when my brother left town, some of his friends adopted me as their kid brother. As a result, my love of music continued to flourish while hanging out with the older crowd. I guess I was cool enough, because they took me everywhere. I never really had friends my own age because my interests were seen as peculiar to a normal 13 year old.
In my early teens, I started accepting the fact that the vibe was different in my household. Times were tough for us financially, and my parents had no other choice but to sell the house. My brother and sister would then move out and start a new chapter in their lives. This was probably my biggest angst at the time. The change in tone in my household was the reason I searched for different styles of music to occupy my imagination. It was just too quiet around the house…
In 1971 my parents and I lived in a small apartment. The scene was set for brand new tensions between my father and me… After my dad’s heart attack in 1969 things changed. It was a far cry from the times I remembered in the sixties… And I recall getting lost in my love of music and my newfound fascination for writing.
My son too would experience a father who suffered a heart attack. But modern medicine and technology would make life a whole lot easier for my family as compared to what we faced back in the sixties. ~tbb
Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy
I remember receiving a new stereo system for my bar mitzvah. Man, I think my father regretted the day he agreed to that purchase. I would spin stuff on that turntable that no one ever heard before. As crazy as it may seem, it was the following two Return to Forever albums that set the tone for my teenage daze…
I recall most of the group I hung out with totally blown away by Return to Forever’s album Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy. In 1973, RTF’s music had more of a jazz/rock feel. This album was very melodic, but lacked the traditional jazz sense of their first two albums. It’s an LP that started my awareness of fusion. There were sounds on that record that were completely new to me and to many others. It combined elements of psychedelic rock, jazz, funk and avant-garde jazz… Not something that went over well with my father.
The guitar playing of Bill Connors was a central focus for me. I was speechless as I tried to digest everything that was taking place. Connors would leave shortly after the band’s release of Hymn of The Seventh Galaxy; deciding to focus on a solo career. He didn’t have the same reputation as his successor Al Di Meola, but Connor’s guitar sound and scorching licks remained the talk of the fusion world for years to come.
Where Have I Known You Before
was the band’s fourth album. It marked even more changes to the group’s style and line-up at the time. Corea explored a more synthesized sound and together with Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and the debut of then 19 year old guitarist Al DiMeola, created a rock filled funky jazz masterpiece.
The band continued to echo the sentiments of other well known artists such as John McLaughlin & The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report; music that also fueled my imagination. The new sounds on these albums would increase the band’s commercial success… Return to Forever helped expand and characterize the fusion genre. They were responsible for adopting many rock fans into the jazz world for the first time…
During those teenage daze, I thought about all the effort that must go into the making a final product like the ones I have mentioned here… And I fantasized how cool it would be to one day work in a recording studio as an engineer…
Return to Forever and its incredibly tight musicianship inspired me. Five years later, I would move and pack many of my albums; these being two LP’s making trip with me to New York City in 1979. The move eventually brought a new set of experiences I never would have dreamed…
When RTF Reunited in the Summer 2008
I was asked by their online promotion team to include a spot on TheBluesBlogger site. It certainly felt like I came full circle from my bizarre teenage influences to the honor of this request. If you’re interested that post can be found by clicking the link located here.
( Return to Forever will be coming out with a new CD called “Returns” on March 2nd,2009; assembled from last year’s tour. And also a live DVD that is to be announced in the near future.)
As I come back to the present times, I want to take the opportunity to tell my son how very proud I am of him. Son, I know it’s not easy, but we are all here for you. Life will toss many curves, but stick to your convictions and be patient. Keep studying and don’t lose your sense of humor. Stay positive and you’ll find your niche… And thanks for being there for me too!
What were you listening to when you were a teenager? How many of you were digging the sounds of Return to Forever in the seventies? Any thoughts musical or otherwise you would like to share? Your comments are most welcome.
With All My Heart,
Great post, I hope all goes well for your son. My daughter has high-functioning autism, so I understand.
And thanks for introducing me to RTF, I’ve never really been a fan of fusion. It took Miles Davis to get me to start listening to that, I had heard of Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke of course, but just never knew that they were in a band together. At that time in the seventies I was knee deep into soul and rhythm and blues.
Being from Louisiana, I’m kind of a jazz purist, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to go back and retrace some of the nontraditional branches.
Fitz— I appreciate all your support and positive words. Thank you! You’re a good man… How old is your daughter?
RTF lost a lot of their original fans when the above albums were released. But they also gained an entire new group of listeners. It was around this time frame that I started getting interested in sound mixing. And I would hang around all the music stores checking out the gear.
My daughter is 22, going on 45. I call her, little miss I know it all. She is a good kid though, and when I was her age I thought I knew more then my dad too. LOL.
Enjoyed the article. Great combination of music review made more interesting thanks to you telling us about your personal life as you experienced the music back in the 70’s.
My wife just turned me onto your blog – I love your writing style and reverence for the blues.
My teenage years were 1959-65. I took piano lessons from age 6 and began playing in bands at 15, just before The Beatles exploded onto the pop scene. My early bands played a lot of blues, sometimes just jamming on a blues progression when we ran out of prepared songs to play. Here’s the song list from one of my earliest bands in 1962:
Notice that one entry says simply, “Jimmy Reed songs” in the key of G.
I believe that playing bands saved my sanity during my teenage years. It made me feel special then and continues to give me a transcendent sense of purpose. The band creates its own world apart from our material existence. Its waves of positive energy can infuse a crowd of people, making them dance and smile for a few minutes.
Last year I posted a blues-related story from 1992 at:
It tells the story of my blues adventure in 1992 on the south side of Chicago while on a business trip.
I moved from northern Virginia to Nashville in 1998, toured the country with a country-rock band the following year and am still playing at age 63. My current band (“Two-Bit Eddie”) specializes in 1960s rock.
I expected to climb a steep learning curve when I first moved to Music City, since I had never played much country music. However, I discovered that a grounding in the blues prepares any musician to play any style of popular music. The blues is the well from which we continue to draw inspiration, and this well never runs dry.
Thanks for helping keep the blues alive!