Swimming Pool Music

May 7, 2005 at 5:06 am (Uncategorized)

I grew up a child of the seventies, the youngest (by 13 years!) of 4 brothers. Back around, say 1970 or so, my youngest brother Phil, had apparently saved up a ton of dough working at Ahmann’s Newsstand on Main St., and wanted to buy a huge above ground swimming pool for the family house. For some reason, my Dad consented to this, probably over the protestations of Mom.

There’s something in our family genetics that doesn’t allow us to do anything small or halfway. This was no ordinary above-ground pool; quite the contrary, this thing was freaking huge. Maybe 50 feet long, in a roughly oval shape, sort of shaped like the Indianapolis 500 raceway. Big. Four feet deep all the way. Dad built two decks onto it, with steps leading up to them. It was a helluva setup; every time I see the pool scene in The Graduate I get all sorts of weird period nostalgia for it, because that’s what it looked like.

So we had this pool. We also then had a bunch of my brother Phil and Steve’s friends, too. They’d open the basement window that faced the pool up so only the screen was on, put both hi-fi speakers on the window sill, and blast tunes. That’s my first memory of pop music being played.

I can still to this day hear certain songs and think of them as “swimming pool music”, from the association with this time. “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” for instance. Heck, most of the CSN (&Y) catalog were very big with Steve. Tommy was also in very heavy rotation. In fact one of the first songs my brothers were allowed to teach me to sing along with as a tiny tot was “Tommy Can You Hear Me” (much to my eternal relief that it wasn’t “The Acid Queen” or “Cousin Kevin”…)

My brothers weren’t the only ones enamored of swimming pool music, though. Dad was waaaay into music, in ways that I didn’t get then, and didn’t really understand until more recently. Dad had a huge collection of records, and if some of his tastes were a little regrettable, he did play a ton of Stevie Wonder (“My Cherie Amour” will always be Mom & Dad sunning on the deck) and Dionne Warwick from her Bacharach period (gotta give it up to my father: my Bacharach/Hal David fixation comes to me honestly).

Dad was really into the modern folk scene though–the stuff parodied in the movie A Mighty Wind? Yeah, Dad was into that. Peter, Paul, & Mary’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane” and their version of “Blowin’ In The Wind” were staples at the backyard pool. So too were Simon & Garfunkel (especially “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and the “54th St. Bridge Song”). Dad was never really into Dylan, but I think he was on Zimmerman’s side. Looking back, I think it’s pretty cool that a factory foreman and WWII vet in his mid-40’s living in the midwest thought that “Blowin’ In The Wind” was a great, great song.

I think its easy to lose sight of how we end up the way we do as humans. Too often, we’re too closely associated with the environment that made us what we are as adults to understand fully how those things affected us both above and underneath our consciousness. Dad died very suddenly when I was 8 years old, bringing this period of my life to a halt. I think that distance and separation gives me a little more perspective than I might otherwise have had. Looking back at him, I remember him dimly as a father who was serious and driven and grim-faced too often in my mind; a strict disciplinarian of blue-collar roots, a factory foreman and a church elder in a hyper conservative church. Remembering then that this same man obsessively played his Paul Robeson, Kingston Trio, and Simon & Garfunkel records at top volume–and would call me into the family room as a toddler to listen and sing along–well, that’s how I turned out the way I did, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

Thanks Dad.

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