I was 14 and we were in Macon to visit my mother’s sisters, Aunt Frank and Aunt Cooter. Their real names were Francis and Aileen, but no one called them that, it was always Frank and Cooter and my momma Wynokie. In those days, the trip from Savannah took awhile. I-16 hadn’t been completed all the way between the two cities, so you had to exit and take the two-lane till you could get back on the fancy new interstate. I don’t remember listening to any specific music on that long drive, but I’d be willing to bet it was country.
At home, there were few records. There was a Luke the Drifter record, with “Be Careful of Stones that You Throw,” a compilation that included Buck Owens singing “The Race is On” and an Elvis gospel album next to a Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack that the neighbors gave me, because they were too religious for it. So what little musical background I had did little to prepare me for a joy ride with one of my older cousins. I don’t remember where we went, what kind of car we were in, or any other detail except the music coming out of this 8-track player.
Friends, I’m talking about Heavy Metal: Superstars of the 70’s: Volume 2, a Warner Brothers product that not only introduced me to Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Yes and the Doors, but also the Allman Brothers Band, Delaney and Bonnie, Dr. John, Van Morrison and the Grateful Dead. If there was a Rosetta stone, a ground zero, an A. afarensis, a gateway drug, this was it.
Spinning off from one record, I found the heavy metal sludge of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” the slamming proto-punk garage rock of MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” the fabled power chords of “Smoke on the Water,” the funk of T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” “Give it to Me” (J. Geils Band), the swampy night-tripping music of Dr. John and Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er.” Not only were there the big stars of the day, but I was also introduced to bands like Blues Image, War and Delaney & Bonnie. In a time before MTV and even widespread FM radio in Georgia, this was like shining a flashlight in a possum’s eyes; the reflection was luminous. This treasure map led me down so many paths, but each one was worth it. I was now condemned to a life of collecting records, reading liner notes to see who wrote a song, attending concerts, filling my brain with musical minutiae, haunting record stores and methodically searching through their bins for that one record I didn’t know I needed till I found it.
So, here’s what I want to know: any chance I can sue Warner Brothers for not putting a warning label on Heavy Metal: Superstars of the 70’s: Volume 2? I mean, it’s been 32 years and I still can’t give it up.