My First Record: Ronnie Kwasman of Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s

Well, this might completely destroy what’s left of my “indie credibility”, but the first vinyl record I ever purchased with my own money was an album by Styx, it was called Pieces of Eight.

Let me start off by saying, I grew up in Chicago in the 70s, and at that time the biggest and coolest bands were Cheap Trick, Kiss, and Styx. Cheap Trick was my first concert in 1979, and it changed my life and made me, thanks to the amazing power pop styling and insane guitar virtuosity of Rick Nielson, the guitar player I am today.

I knew then, after that show, that’s what I wanted to do in life. But I digress…

Every day after school, I would go straight to this record store in Evanston, IL called the Flying Karamazov Brothers. I would start at “A” and look at every LP making my way all the way to the end: Zappa comma Frank. Every cover was like some gateway to unknown music, fantasy and other worlds I had yet to experience. Growing up in a house of music fanatics, I was already familiar with every Beatles, Stones and Kinks records, I had read every liner note, devouring every piece of information I could get my hands on, reading Cream magazine, like it was the bible.

Even at 9 years old, I was obsessed. I knew every Dylan record, Simon and Garfunkel, Big Star, all the Beatles solo albums, as well as every Pink Floyd album. Side note: my earliest memory dates back to 1973, when my step-sister Jamie brought home the “new” Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon. I remember the feeling it gave me when the needle dropped on the beginning sounds of “Breathe,” with the heartbeat and screaming and finally that first guitar chord… Ahhhhhhh. Now, mind you, I was 3 years old.

I was always fascinated by album covers, the artwork, the layout, and the liner notes; who produced, who engineered, and who played what. I didn’t even know what those words meant at the time. Why was Alan Parsons the “engineer?” Did he drive a train? Who was this “George Martin” character… did they actually wear lab coats? (They did.) My FAVORITE covers were the more ambiguous and abstract, usually done by a company called Hypgnosis, and this is what led me to purchasing STYX’s Pieces of Eight.

I remember in school seeing photos of Easter Island, those giant totem heads. How did they get there? Aliens? I was fascinated by the image. So one day near the end of 1978, going thru LPs I saw that very image. I wasn’t really familiar with STYX, the band, but I knew that image, and I knew I had to have it. It was a Hipgnosis cover and it for some reason reminded me of all the other cool covers I loved. I remember getting home, going straight to the basement and putting on this record, listening to songs like “Great White Hope,” “Blue Collar Man,” and “Renegade.” The guitars screamed thru the speakers, the sounds were so fresh and alive and, LOUD. It was just what my 9 year old self needed. Hell there was even a song called “Lord of the Rings” on the album, a perfect mixture of power pop, classic rock, prog and fantasy. At that time, it was perfect. And wait, what’s this…They had TWO lead guitar players.

That was the year I started playing guitar, the next year I saw Cheap Trick and my life plan was set.

I was going to be on stage.

I never stopped collecting music and have thousands and thousands of vinyl albums, magazines, 7inches, etc. It’s an obsession, it’s a sickness, and it’s my life.

Ronnie Kwasman

Ronnie Kwasman plays in Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s

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