Singing To My Soul

goldbars

By your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries. – Ezekiel 28:4

When the lights go down in the California town
People are in for the evening
I jump into my car and I throw in my guitar
My heart beatin’ time with my breathin’
Drivin’ over Kanan, singin’ to my soul
There’s people out there turnin’ music into gold

In 1978, I was an up and coming college student struggling to get by on my part time gig at a local steak house and trying to figure out what I was ultimately going to do with myself. I had given up on my fantasy of becoming a part of the Turner Broadcasting team working Atlanta Braves games (via an Electrical Engineering degree – not for me, thank you) and had settled into a more manageable course of study in Mass Communications and Journalism at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta.

Sports and music were my two favorite hobbies, but I was not good enough at either of them (drums and baseball) to even remotely imagine making money in those endeavors, so I was slowly coming to the realization that I needed to figure out a career path.

Well my buddy Jim Bass he’s a-workin’ pumpin gas
And he makes two fifty for an hour
He’s got rythm in his hands as he’s tappin’ on the cans
Sings rock and roll in the shower
Drivin’ over Kanan, singin’ to my soul
There’s people out there turnin’ music into gold

I was making exactly $2.50 an hour at that steak house and with winter break approaching, I saw an opportunity to pump up my barely visible checking account balance. I say “saw” literally, because as I was sitting at a red light one day, I glanced over at the shopping center on my left to see a new record store that had recently opened. Hey, I thought, maybe I could get an extra part time job over the break…and what better place for a music junkie to work than a record store?

I pulled up, parked in front and approached the guy who owned the place. His name was Al. I needed a job and he needed some extra help checking in merchandise. Sixteen years – and hundreds of new stores – later I was still there, trying to help Big Al turn music into gold.

Ah, the California girls are the greatest in the world
Each one’s a song in the making
Singin’ rock to me I can hear the melody
The story is there for the takin’
Drivin’ over Kanan, singin’ to my soul
There’s people out there turnin’ music into gold

John Stewart was a legendary singer-songwriter long before he teamed up with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham to turn a bit of music into “Gold”, his come-from-out-of-nowhere top 5 single in 1979. John started his career in folk music with The Cumberland Three and then became a member of the Kingston Trio, replacing founding member, Dave Guard, in 1961. The Kingston Trio continued to perform and record throughout the early 60″s, but as the British Invasion took hold, the folk music scene began to decline and John’s writing shifted to a pop tilt.  His biggest claim to fame before hitting with “Gold” was composing The Monkee’s smash hit “Daydream Believer”.

John’s golden decision to team up with Buckingham and Nicks was obviously a terrific move as his album Bombs Away Dream Babies spawned three Top 40 hits including “Gold”, “Midnight Wind” and “Lost Her In The Sun”.

When the lights go down in the California town
People are in for the evening
I jump into my car and I throw in my guitar
My heart beatin’ time with my breathin’
Drivin’ over Kanan, singin’ to my soul
There’s people out there turnin’ music into gold

Yes, sometimes life and success are more about good timing than anything else. It was surely good timing that put me in front of the record store that day and launched my career path. The music industry itself went from being a lucrative business for label execs to becoming the ruler of pop culture in the 70’s and 80’s with the product rolling from vinyl to cassette to CD’s, and everybody demanding their MTV on cable.

Record sales benchmarks went from being measured in terms of gold records to platinum to multi platinum. For those artists entering the market during these boom times, the sky truly was the limit. For a time during the second British Invasion of the 80’s, it seemed that all you needed was a guitar and the right hair (see Flock Of Seagulls) to turn music into literal gold.

John’s timing was perfect too, coming into folk, pop, rock and on into Americana at just the right time with just the right songs.

So, turn down the lights and give this little nugget a listen. And get a glimpse of the way the record biz – back in the good old days – could turn a blob of black wax into pure gold.

Listen to the original here:

My sources for this post include:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stewart_%28musician%29

 

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