Once upon a time in another life, I was a music journalist. I started out doing it because I love music and it gave me the opportunity to interview (and in some cases even meet) artists I’d long admired.
It also, at a point when I was dirt poor, helped me feed my music habit.
I’m not sure how old I was when I started buying 45 RPM singles, but a babysitter gave my sister and me her Monkees albums when we were about 6 and 7, starting me down a music-collecting path from which I have never strayed. As a slightly poor single mom decades later, my big indulgence was one new record/CD a month. Things hit a point where even that got out of reach.
A couple of years into trying to escape the dirt-poor stage, I got my first career-track job at the ripe old age of 34. My title was features reporter, and the paper was a small-town daily that published six days a week. (Our Saturday paper was the fat one; we didn’t have a Sunday edition.) One of the first things I did was to start a record review column. As scams go, it remains one of my most successful.
I had just enough credibility with the record companies (read: tearsheets of interviews with Arlo Guthrie, Cleo Laine, Bruce Cockburn and a few others I can’t remember) to make the grade. Within a few weeks of sending them out, along with a letter of introduction on letterhead from the newspaper, the CDs started rolling in. I named the column “Fresh Sounds,” and it ran every other Saturday. On Monday, I’d haul out the scissors and have an arts-and-crafts marathon, clipping copies of the column and mailing them to my contacts at the record companies.
Pretty soon, I was swimming in CDs. Other record companies found me and started sending unsolicited music. Two of the companies, Rhino and Rounder, sent monthly mailings with lists and descriptions of upcoming releases, along with a checkoff form I’d send back with my wish list. Wishes were always granted – in full. Others included Virgin, Ryko (where they let me raid the closet when I visited them on a trip east), Atlantic and Narada.
After I left the daily, I kept reviewing for awhile, and in 1998, Rhino released a four-disc boxed set called “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Original Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968.” I was working at a weekly paper group. There were 22 separate papers, each with its own reporter and a common features insert. The editor of that section gave me the go-ahead to do a story.
Recently Sweetheart and I attended a party to which we’d been asked to bring 60s artifacts. What could be more 60s than a “Nuggets” boxed set? (My Woodstock poster, that’s what. But it’s huge and framed, so I didn’t.)
We got there and opened the box. That was when I discovered I’d hung on to the press releases and interview transcripts. I’d spoken to Lenny Kaye, who compiled the songs for their original Elektra records release (Rhino specializes in reissues) before becoming the lead guitarist in Patti Smith’s band.
I’d also interviewed Mark Lindsay. He was lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders and one of my childhood crushes. He was teen-idol cute with a dazzling smile and a killer voice. I was as smitten as a little girl can be with a grown man who comes to her house via radio and television.
The band performed (including on an episode of “Batman”) in 18th-century costumes. But at least once I saw Mark Lindsay on TV when he wasn’t in fancy dress and he wasn’t singing. He was on a show called “The Dating Game,” (couldn’t find a Lindsay clip), in which a man or woman, secluded from three potential dates, would ask them questions and then choose, based on their answers, which one he or she wanted to date.
I’d opened the interview by asking about his Dating Game experiences. Three lines into the transcript, a throwaway comment from an 18-year-old interview landed me straight in the middle of a current pop-culture moment.
“I was picked for a trip to the North Pole,” Lindsay said, “with the woman who married Bruce Jenner.”
(Note: In case anyone was wondering, Lindsay was delightful. Sometimes meeting someone you’ve admired for decades at a remove is disappointing, especially when he or she turns out to be a jerk. He is totally on my (very short) list of “celebrities welcome in my home.”)