Wednesday, July 14, 2010

TVD First Date | Jessica Lanza

"When I was seventeen I inherited my dad’s record collection. He wasn’t a frivolous spender and therefore not a frivolous collector. He wasn’t the type of person to spend money on a careless whim. My dad deemed many activities commonly thought of as normal and worthwhile to be extraneous to our familial lives (examples: vacations outside of northern Ontario, eating at restaurants, having friends that weren’t my sisters and cousins). Accordingly, his record collection is succinct, consisting only of music and artists that he loved and respected. (A side note on respect: my dad hated almost everything, so for him to express an interest in something meant that it had to be pretty special in his eyes).

My dad played guitar in a bunch of different bands from the time he was a teen until well into his 30’s. He and my mom met in a rock band called Bootleg that toured around Ontario and border towns like Buffalo and Detroit in the 70’s and early 80’s. Unfortunately, my dad’s rock star ambitions never came to fruition. Instead, he had a family and became a music teacher. The advent of middle age and obligatory fatherly duties sealed his fate and confirmed that his talents would go forever unrecognized by the listening masses. If he could do it over again I know he would pick our family over musical success, but I also know that this change in direction turned my dad into a bitter cynic.

His cynicism fueled many blasphemous rock music criticisms. Of the more notable are, “Robbie Robertson couldn’t play a guitar solo if his life depended on it,” or, “The only thing Jimmy Page was good at was copying other people.” Up until I was seventeen I was pretty sure my dad hated all music that other people liked. I don’t remember him ever listening to music. Not when I was around at least. He wrote songs and played his guitar, but never expressed an interest in artists or albums. That being said, I never really got to know my dad outside the relationship of parent and child. Because I was in my teens when he died, I didn’t know much about his personality aside from the stereotypically dad-ish, disciplinarian persona he exuded when he was alive.

Photo: Rory Gunderson

A year or so after my dad’s death, when my mom began cleaning out his solitary haven in the basement, I was given the responsibility of hauling his records up the stairs. My mom didn’t want to give them away because she knew how much they had meant to him. She suggested I hook up my grandma’s record player in my room and keep my dad’s collection up there. I obliged, partly because my seventeen -year -old brain thought vinyl was cool (although I really knew nothing about it at the time), but also because I was curious and wanted to explore this facet of my dad’s life that I knew nothing about.

Through his records I learned something about him that I never knew when he was alive: that he loved psychedelic rock bands from the late 60’s and early 70’s. The first record of his that I ever listened to was Spirit’s album, The Family That Plays Together. Shortly after I became acquainted with Son’s of Champlain’s 1969 release, Loosen Up Naturally.

Thanks to my dad’s collection I also discovered and grew to love blues guitarist Albert King. His album, Born Under A Bad Sign, piqued a previously unexplored interest in blues music. Another personal favourite is jazz and blues pianist, Ray Bryant’s album, Alone with the Blues. This record inspired me to actually practice the piano when I was seventeen, rather than spend my time playing half-assed renditions of Bryan Adam’s songs from the Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Soundtrack. Because most of these artists and albums were unknown to me when I pulled them out and dropped the needle there were some trial and error moments, but that was part of the excitement in discovering so much new music. My greatest discovery to date was when I pulled out Townes Van Zandt’s eponymously titled album where he’s sitting at a kitchen table on the front jacket. Like many of the other albums in my dad’s collection, I had no idea what it would sound like, but it’s now become one of my top five favourite records.

It’s too bad I can’t talk to my dad about how much happiness his records have brought me or how many musical interests we now have in common. Hopefully one day I’ll have a kid or encounter some appreciative person who will take my records so that when I die my collection won’t end up in the 0.99 cent pile in the Value Village home wares department."
—Jessica Lanza

Jessica Lanza - Time is Such A Cruel Device (Mp3)
Jessica Lanza - Normal, No Failure (Mp3)
Jessica Lanza - Round and Round (Mp3)
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