I loved basements as a child.
Well, more specifically, I loved 3 basements… the ones belonging to my father and two of my uncles. They were all set up with the same formula: finished basements with good looking flooring and walls, well lit, beautifully hidden utility segments (laundry, furnace, etc all tucked out of plain sight) custom made bars, and a kickin’ stereo system. These basements were perfect for entertaining guests, and there was always a rotation of who’s basement would be the spot for each year’s New Year party.
For me, the focus of the basement was always the stereo rigs, and this is where my love of music began. My father and uncles always keep tight component systems, and a modest music collection. It wasn’t a massive library, but for my young ears and eyes it was plenty to draw me in. I became a musician before I even picked up an instrument, and I would spend hours in those basements studying everything there was to offer.
There was something wonderful about the whole process that just isn’t there with today’s media. The feel of an album cover in hand with large, vivid cover art. Some would slide out the vinyl along with it’s white protective sleeve then remove the record, others just grab the record right out. Placing it on the turntable and starting it’s hypnotic rotation, and watching a unique label with the record company’s logo going round and round. Or grab a 45… no, grab a few and stack them on that cartridge that goes over the center rod. Watch as one record finishes, the arm draws back, the next record drops and the arm goes back to work. As a child in that era, that was just really cool stuff to take in.
What I loved most about their collections was the diversity of them. In the same stick I would go from the soulful sounds of B.B. King as he made Lucille tell stories that couldn’t be told with words…. then find myself amazed by the thrilling passion of hearing Peter Frampton Comes Alive! (which was an incredible album). Then there were some items that were more obscure finds…. such as an oddball comic singer named Pigmeat Markham crooning about his affection for popcorn (which amused my cousin and I to no end). Then in the same hour I’d find myself in deep with the awesomeness of Kraftwerk;s “Numbers”.
This is where my love for music began, and how I learned to appreciate all forms of music. This is why my mp3 catalog can range from Busta Rhymes to Audioslave to Daft Punk, jump over to Keith Washington, then pick up Vince Guaraldi on the way to Nina Simone’s place, then hit classical all the way home on Pandora. It’s all because of those stacks of wax, in those basements.
Man, I really loved those basements.