Music : CAMP FOLLOWER Excerpt

“Music—soother of the teenage beast. If I had to give a one-word answer to describe the most important part of early teenage years, it would be music.”

So begins this excerpt from “Camp Follower One Army Brat’s Story” by Michele Sabad. Here’s some more from my Base Teen Town years – may it bring a knowing smile to your own face this cold January morning 😉

“We listened to everything. The older teenagers controlled the record player at Teen Town, so they would play whole albums of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Moody Blues. I loved songs like Sugar Mountain by Neil Young, which was only the B-side to Heart of Gold, and which the local AM radio station would never have played.

I myself taped my own collection from the TV or radio. I’d bully my brothers to silence while the Partridge Family was on so I could sit close and put the wired mike from my cassette recorder up to the TV speaker to get David Cassidy loud and clear. My favourite song on the radio in those days was Guitar Man by Bread. I also loved Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf,  Long Cool Woman by the Hollies, and Bang-a-Gong by T-Rex. And American Pie, of course. I could (probably still can) recite from memory every line of that multi-verse song.

I still had my old Monkees albums, but didn’t listen to them as much anymore. I was buying Alice Cooper (to drive my parents crazy over that Billion Dollar Baby cover) and Deep Purple. But mostly I became a lover of the collections; K-Tel started with their anthology albums in those days. I was—still am—a radio lover and a puncher of buttons to station-switch. In Yorkton, on clear prairie nights, you could tune into American stations from places as far away as Chicago and St. Louis. Only at night, though.

I had plenty of nights to listen, as these were also the baby-sitting-for-money years. Fifty cents an hour, and more after midnight, if the people were generous. The one and only TV station went off the air around midnight when what was known as the Indian head test screen appeared. So, after that I’d play the family’s albums: The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Osmonds, the Jackson Five, Three-Dog Night, and Neil Diamond. If the family didn’t own anything good, I could always play the radio and even phone in for requests. April Wine was popular. I even saw them in concert back then.

Of course, all this music wasn’t wasted on just listening. We had dances at Teen Town at least once a month, and kids did dance in those days, even the boys. We dressed up for special dances, like Easter or Sadie Hawkins, where the girls got to invite a boy to be her date for the night. At Christmas, the base would let us use their lounge at the all-ranks mess for a fancier affair. My mother reworked a dress that she’d made for my Anglican confirmation the year before; it was white crepe with long bell sleeves and an empire waist, so she added a gold filigree band. I looked and felt like an angel. I even let her curl my hair for the event, something I wouldn’t do again until the eighties, when everyone with straight hair had to get permed for most of that fluffy decade.

I still love music, and not just the oldies. I like my music new and varied, like life. Hard to attribute my diverse taste in music to being a base brat, but I do think the craving for variety comes from getting around. No matter either way!

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