For some reason - probably the embarrassment of us having borrowed a friend’s stereo and never giving it back - my parents made a decision they’ve regretted ever since. They decided to give me and my brother Pat a “stereo” for Christmas.
Now, technically speaking, when they asked what I wanted for Christmas that year, I said a guitar. After some grumblings about me somehow shooting my eye out (or was it them blowing their brains out? I don’t remember now), they changed the subject, and we ended up with the stereo.
Comprised of a radio tuner, turntable and 8-track tape player, it was - not counting the guitar - all either of us could have hoped for.
And if we were going to have an 8-track player, we’d need a tape or two to try it out.
Right around that time I’d heard the boffo climax to the title track from Yes’s then-new Close to the Edge on the radio. So when I ran across it in 8-track format at Korvettes, I did something unthinkable:
I Bought It For No Other Reason (not my Birthday, not Christmas, not anything) Than I FELT LIKE IT. This event rivaled that incident in 1971, when I spent almost THREE DOLLARS(!!!) on an Elton John record. I somehow survived both incidents, but still think I’m going to Hell.
Which was how Close to the Edge became our very first 8-track.
In case you don’t know, 8 track tapes divided albums up into four equal parts. Where “8 track” comes from, I have no idea and don’t care. If you do, look it up here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8-track_tape but don’t try to explain it to me.
Given the structure of the album - one eighteen minute song and two nine minute ones - it arrived relatively unscathed in its conversion to 8-track. Oh, the title song took up two tracks and was chopped in two, but the cut was done during a spacey interlude so it sounded okay. The loud click as the track changed sounded kind of like your parents knocking on the bedroom door asking what the hell was going on in there. But once you got used to it, you weren’t startled anymore. It was fun watching your friend’s first reaction, though.
Another shortcoming of 8-tracks was the almost non-existent packaging. If there were liner notes and lyrics, you weren’t going to get them.
And when you don’t have a lyric sheet you tend to make up the words when you try to sing along. Well, now that I have the CD, I can see the lyrics. And damn if Jon Anderson wasn’t actually singing the same nonsense I was singing! But I should have known, with titles like “Total Mass Retain” and “Solid Time of Change”? I knew there was a lot of pot going around at the time, but not THAT much.
I’ve long since grown out of prog rock. After all, if you’re going to be silly, at least intend to be silly. But that’s whole other post, isn’t it?
So while Close to the Edge is totally over the top, the music is real pretty and the band is just awesome. (Technically speaking, anyway. I wish Rick Wakeman has taken some vacation days, though.)
And the proof was in the pudding as they say. Since getting the CD, we’ve played it many times.
So is it grandiose and vague and New Age-y way before the actual New Age? Sure, but is it fair to criticize Liberace for how he dressed? A-
When to Play It: When You Can’t Make it to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for high mass.
When Not to Play It: Hangovers
Next: I’m Not Quite Done Saying Yes Yet.