Music: If you don’t mind the mind…

Did you ever hear Jumpin’ Gene Simmons hit song, Haunted House? Some classic lyrics, there…

He ate the raw meat right from my hand
Drank the hot grease from the fryin’ pan
He said to me now you better run
And don’t be here when the mornin’ comes

It’s stuck in my head, sort of. I don’t remember all the lyrics – just the main guitar riff and the ‘hot grease’ part. I’m guessing it sometimes happens to some of you, too. A song you like, or don’t like, keeps playing on the jukebox-brain.

Funny thing is – and I’ve probably mentioned this somewhere along the line – there are other associations that get caught up in there. For example, I can tell you where I was when I first heard that novelty song. I was riding in a school bus with a little radio held up to my ear.

I can even tell you where the bus was driving when the song really caught my attention: we were westbound on what was formerly called Grand Avenue in McAlester.

Many years later, my brother-in-law Dennis introduced me to the music of Steve Goodman, a Chicago songwriter who died way too young. He wrote Go Cubs Go – which probably gets played more often than his song City of New Orleans, a train-riding hit for Woody Guthrie’s son, Arlo.

It was easy to remember that Dennis provided the musical introduction. We were at a family get-together and his record ended up in my Steely Dan album jacket. It was several years before we got that mix-up squared away.

For some reason, I was thinking about my mental-music-retention (talk about a slow-day-brain-activity, but anything can trigger it… the song Low Rider just came on the shop’s music system – which I remember first hearing as a DJ at Top-40 KQYX in Joplin, Missouri.): earlier, something made me think about the jarring way I was introduced to Led Zeppelin.

In Mr Sittel’s first-hour Mechanical Drawing class, we toiled away to the soothing sounds of his classical LPs, played on a little record player mounted on the corner wall. Whatever the reason, he invited us to bring in a record of our own to play during the period.

As a tenth-grader, during my first-ever stint in a public school, I was about as small as I could make myself. There were a number of seniors who sat directly across from me: I think Don Whitehead and Jim Sadler were among those sitting opposite, but I don’t think they ever spoke a word to me all year. I did listen, though, and I ascertained there was some sort of conspiracy afoot. Might have been Johnny Peccio who provided the record album.

Too naïve to know what it was all about, I watched along with everyone else as Mr Sittel carefully removed the record from the paper sleeve and got it spinning on the player. There was a palpable sense of anticipation before the first shocking blasts of guitar rolled out over our drafting tables. It wasn’t Classical Music, that’s for sure. Couldn’t have been a full couple of musical measures later before Mr Sittel grabbed the tone arm and scraped the needle from the LP.

I recall thinking that was sure to cause a scratch (something you young whippersnappers never experienced in your non-vinyl musical lives), a playback pop to be heard ever-after on what I heard described by a classmate as a ‘brand new record.’ Mr Sittel, red-faced and blustery, was none too happy.

And that was my introduction to Whole Lotta Love, the first song on Side 1, Led Zeppelin II.

Later, I acquired a copy of the record. It was one of those that was in the regular rotation, but truthfully, I was more of a Beatles fan.

And starting up their albums could be done without raising up memories of a surprised Mr Sittel, the speediest music censor ever, at McAlester High School.