Songwriter: Dewey Bunnell
Original Release: Hearts
Definitive Version: Live, 1977
My halcyon childhood days, which really weren’t all that halcyon, ended when my parents divorced. I went from being an irresponsible little boy to the de facto man of the house. At the same time, outside my family, I went from being a pretty happy extrovert to being a sullen invtrovert. Nobody, but nobody, understood what I was going through. (Slam!)
But I had my music. I could safely retreat to the sanctity of my bedroom (Slam!), and when no one else understood, my music understood … except there was one problem.
Another clear demarcation of my childhood was more or less the end of my childhood music. In 1975-76, my most favorite bands were alphabetical: America, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.
After 1976, pretty much each of those bands did nothing. BTO was done, so was CSN. The Eagles seemed finished. (The Long Run, of course, was still 2 years away—a lifetime back then.) The Doobies released Living on the Faultline, which was forgetable. And my favorite band at the time—America—had just broken up. Well, Dan Peek left the group, which seemed to mean the same thing.
Before they were about to disappear into the good night, America released a live album. It was just Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, but it was America’s songs, and I had to have it. Fortunately, Christmas was coming.
At Christmas 1977, the big gift on my wishlist was this funky light in the Sears catalog. It had prismatic plastic face with a wood top and base. It looked something like small, cheap glass bricks. Anyway, it had multicolor large Christmas bulbs, and the lights looked like stars through the plastic.
What made it really cool was that it had four settings. One was on, one was just the blue light on and one was flashing, where the lights would flash in random sequence. But the fourth setting made it a must have, at least to this 13-year-old. It was voice-activated, so the lights would flash when you spoke or when music played. How cool is that?
And on Christmas morning, there it was under the tree, on the voice setting and flashing away as Jin, Scott and I stormed the living room. Leaning next to it was America Live. Yes! Santa came through again.
So from then on, I always associated that album with the light. I’d put it on, or Frampton or Four Way Street and set the light to sound activation most of the time or flashing others, and fall asleep to that as a nightlight.
That was my routine all through 1978 as I continued to feel more and more withdrawn (Slam!) and my music became more and more old and outdated. Disco sucked and dominated the airwaves. I needed something new and exciting soon …