As far back as I can remember, I’ve always liked comic books. When I was growing up, there were always comics around- old tales of the Green Lantern Corps, silver-age Superman stories with Jimmy Olsen, and even some Legion of Superheroes stories with Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl. The Greatest American Hero hit television when I was eight years old, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d love it. With my nascent love of music already running strong, I also loved the theme song by Joey Scarbury. I remember sitting on the end of my mom’s bed, singing along to the song on the radio. Mom was super amused that I knew all the words.
Along with my love of superheroes, I have a long-standing fondness for all things Disney. One of my earliest Disney Music loves was the Main Street Electrical Parade. This goes beyond mere Disneyana. I used to have a tape of a 1983 album by Michael Iceberg, the composer of the theme, with all kinds of neat stuff like a Robot Revolt theme. One year, Michael Iceberg brought his pyramid-shaped synthesizer cubicle, the Amazing Iceberg Machine, to the South Florida Fair. I got to meet the man after the show, and I remember someone commenting that he was spectacularly drunk at the time. In any case, the original parade is long gone from Disney, but the music lives on as an amazingly persistent earworm. Mua ha ha!
Speaking of all things Disney, let’s talk about EPCOT. When I was ten, my dad drove both of us up to Orlando one weekend to go to the theme park for the first time. I brought back two souvenirs from that trip. The first was a brochure book about the park, detailing all of the pavilions, including the still unopened Horizons (coming soon!) and also detailing the planned but never built World Showcase pavilions for Israel, Spain, and Equatorial Africa.
The second souvenir from that trip was The Official Album of Walt Disney World EPCOT Center. On vinyl. I listened to that thing so much it’s a wonder the grooves didn’t flatten out. I can still sing large swaths of the original music from memory, and the vocals in the American Pavilion song “Golden Dream” are directly responsible for an ill-fated and poorly considered audition for the Voices of Liberty that I may or may not have attempted in the early 1990s.
Some of the album is very, very dated – “The Computer Song” specifically comes to mind- but I will always love it anyway. “Makin’ Memories” is another long-time favorite, left over from the early days of EPCOT when the pavilions were all sponsored by corporations. See if you can guess which mega-corporation sponsored this one:
As an aside- anyone who has ever gone on Journey Into Imagination with me can attest that I will always-and-forever sing the ORIGINAL version of Dreamfinder and Figment’s song, very very loudly, over the current iteration.
I’m skipping around my personal timeline a little bit, but I wanted to talk about 8-track recordings. When I was a wee lad, cleaning day was a family affair. We had an 8-track player in the living room, and we got those Columbia House shipments of new titles every so often. On family house cleaning days, we’d fire up the stereo, throw a tape into the 8-track player, and everyone in the family would pitch in to clean the house.
I suspect that a hefty percentage of my readers have probably never heard an 8-track tape, so you may not know that an 8-track splits the album up into four sections. Our player had no fast-forward or rewind, but you could switch between the four tracks, and the music would loop. If you let it play all the way through, our player would automatically switch from track to track in sequence. It’s because of the 8-track of the original Star Wars soundtrack that I whenever I hear The Cantina Band theme by John Williams, I expect to hear a fade-out, track change, and fade-in at roughly the middle of the song. That’s what it did on the 8-track. You can hear the fade-out at one minute and 40 seconds in the video below.
Here are samples of other artists that twisted the mind of proto-Steven from cleaning day 8-tracks- The Lettermen (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), Neil Diamond (America, September Morn), and John Denver (Country Roads, Thank God I’m A Country Boy).
(I just know I’m gonna get flack for the John Denver tunes.)
What music do you remember listening to with your family?
*This post is the second in a series on music throughout my life. Part one is here.