(Today’s note is an excerpt from My Life in the Beats of Wax, an analog memoir…)
Grand Junction had one primary record store, an establishment called Mazucca’s on Main Street that had one foot planted squarely in the Summer of Love. The atmosphere inside a 70’s record store was an intoxicating combination of music that you could actually purchase, and relics and artifacts that hinted at the glories of the hippy world beyond. You walked in to the cloud of ever-burning incense smoke, and immediately looked at the album cover on display by the cash register to see what was playing on the turntable. The walls and ceilings above the rows of records on display are completely covered with posters of musical gods and goddesses, old and new.
The wise old balding hippy behind the counter gives you a knowing smile over his granny glasses as you cross the threshold. These weren’t considered ‘head shops’ by the standards of the day, there were no pipes or bongs on display, that would come later in stoner culture. But record stores like this were the only place where you could buy ‘specialty’ rolling papers in wider widths and finer grades of paper than the standard issue Zig-Zags available at every gas station, and of course we all knew what they were for.
The years between when my curiosity about sex and drugs and rock and roll awakened and when I finally managed to get a turntable of my own and start collecting records were an interesting time, fraught with hormones and a longing to know more about the great mysteries that rock stars and counter-cultural heroes seemed to tap into. These figures were like mythical moths who flew too close to the fire — the early 70’s had seen the tragic and sudden demise of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, just to name a few. Coming on the heels of the Kennedy’s and King assassinations, there was definitely a whiff of danger around those who stuck their necks out, either socially or metaphysically.
There was another ‘hippy culture’ outpost in Grand Junction, a small gift shop called Guruji’s. This place didn’t stock any records, but it was big on my older brother’s list of places to sneak into while my parents were busy shopping elsewhere. Guruji’s specialized in all things Eastern and esoteric. One could find a wide variety of incense from around the world, wall hangings covered in Sanskrit script, statues of Hindu and Buddhist deities, books like Be Here Now by Alan Watts, and any sort of candle, curio, or knick knack that an aspiring hippy would want to accessorize their “pad.”
After returning to Grand Junction after our epic Bus Trip around the country things shifted significantly on the home front. My brother was no longer part of the family equation, and we relocated to a house on five acres of pasture with a small grove of trees and an obligatory pair of cows in an area called The Redlands in the Western part of the Grand Valley. My Dad had divested himself of all of his previous business holdings before the trip, so he was eager to get established in a new line of work.
So somewhere about the time I was in 7th grade, my folks decided to go into the retail clothing business, and opened up a Western Wear store, naming it Great Western Stockman. This coincided perfectly with my growing interest in the counterculture, so even though I could have easily been decked out in the finest cowboy boots of ostrich leather, giant rodeo style belt buckles, and Stetson hats, I was having none of it.
Instead, I scoured the sale racks and bargain bins of the local department stores, and put together my own version of what I imagined was a hip ensemble. Striped wide-necked long-sleeved sailor jerseys, an assortment of rock-n-roll and sports tee-shirts, and a favorite pair of salmon-pink bell bottom trousers positioned me as far as possible from what we derisively called ‘Goat Roper’ attire.
This being the 70’s, when it came to hair, it was all about the “mullet.” Grow it out as long as they would let me, part it in the middle, and feather it back on the sides, with the aid of a blow dryer to achieve the proper Bee-Gee’s effect. It’s really cringe-worthy to look at old photos of me from this era.
The establishment of Great Western Stockman opened a new window into the world for me. The shop was in a small strip mall with about a dozen other businesses, and I had ample time to hang around after school and especially on the weekends. Most of the other shops leave no mark on my memory, but there was one about three doors up from ours that became my home away from home.
Serendipitously for me, we were blessed to be neighbors with Grand Junction’s only high-end stereo store. This was a shop that carried amplifiers, tuners, and most importantly, turntables. They had a soundproof listening room in the back with a large array of different speakers set up where you could crank up a record as loud as you wanted in order to audition the gear. Looking back, it was analog heaven!
I had never heard true audiophile sound prior to this, and it was something of a religious experience to be able to hear Steely Dan or Pink Floyd records played on sound systems that were considered state-of-the-art at the time, some configurations costing well over $10,000, even in the ’70’s.
Needless to say, I was hooked. My earlier fascinations with hot rods or model dragsters was washed away, and suddenly I was an adolescent expert on audio gear, collecting every brochure and salivating over the top-of-the-line gear I could in no way afford. I was never given an allowance per se, but I had odd jobs mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and babysitting. So all of my cash accumulation activities now had a focus, my entry level stereo was to consist of a Pioneer amplifier, a pair of Bose speakers, and a Technics turntable.
It was quite some time before I could amass the funds to get my gear. In the meantime, I had my sights set on which records I was going to buy first, and spent many an hour poring over the bins at our local record emporiums. I remember it was probably with my birthday in October or Christmas of my 7th grade year that I came into possession of my first LP. The album was Venus and Mars by Paul McCartney and Wings, and I received it as a gift from my older brother Randy (now Rafi).
That album painted a picture of wild times on the high frontier. I would take it over to the stereo shop and commandeer the listening room during slow times when there were no paying customers.
“Sitting in the stands of the sports arena, waiting for the show to begin. Red lights, green lights, strawberry wine, a good friend of mine, follows the stars, Venus and Mars are alright tonight…”
I could only imagine what big concerts and rock shows must have been like, they were still far off on the horizon for me at that point.
(to be continued…)
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine