My First Record:
John Elliott

The two albums we had in the house growing up were Chicago’s Greatest Hits and A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas 2. I heard them a lot, Chicago on cassette and Mannheim Steamroller on compact disc (for those thin synths and digital bells). There was no vinyl around. My parents weren’t really music people. Dad threw out all their records from the 60s and 70s when they got married. “Nothing in there, I’m sure.” Some Beatles, some Dylan, whatever.

I was a cassette kid, that’s how it timed out for me. I was young and crazy about popular music just as the cassette was enjoying its brief heyday. I eventually made the switch to compact disc in high school, but not without a fight. I loved the two sides with an intermission. I loved the lost art of the mix tape (mix CDs do not compare). I got really good at guessing length of tape left and making the transitions seamless with barely audible pops.

I did, however, have one record. It’s in a box in a basement somewhere now, where it’s been since late in Reagan’s second term.

It arrived like a magic thing one afternoon. My sister and I were in the playroom and Mom came back from the mall with presents. This was rare. It’s one of those moments I can see as clear as the one I’m in right now. It was later in the day, the light was getting orange. The playroom was a dark and dusty, mysterious place.

Mom came in with one of those paddles with a ball tied to it (with the cheapest rubber band ever made). I was pretty stoked. Then she got more serious and made us understand that something special was about to happen. She reached into a big bag (seemed huge) and Thriller by Michael Jackson emerged in slow motion.

Mom said it was awesome. She put it on. It was awesome. I listened to that record daily for over a year. Countless times. The speech at the end of “Thriller” always scared me. Even when I was a kid I thought “The Girl Is Mine” was kinda dumb, but “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” was one of the coolest things I’d ever heard. And the “Beat It” + “Billy Jean” one-two punch to start Side B? Come on. Followed by “Human Nature” and THEN “PYT.” And that’s Side B.

It made a big impression. Two years ago I moved into a house after living in my car for two years. One of the first things I got was a record player and a bunch of used records. My speakers are shit and my record player is close to shit, but listening to music is as much about the vibe as it is about sound quality. The vinyl vibe is good. It’s analog, like our ears. It connects with our souls in a way zeros and ones never will.

John Elliott

John Elliott has been touring these here United States and releasing albums since 2006. His Honda Civic currently has 221,069 miles and is named Glen. He is based in Los Angeles, CA (though he is rarely there) and has played virtually every venue in town, including a residency and regular shows at Hotel Cafe. His songs have been prominently heard on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “One Tree Hill,” and “Californication.” He has been featured in PASTE Magazine, on NPR and on Neil Young’s “Living With War” website. His release show for his new album, Backyards, is August 13th.

See also:

TVD’s The Ardent Sessions Presents: John Elliott

Folk Alliance International 2011: Amy Lavere, Eliot Morris, John Elliott

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