Saturday, January 7, 2012

My First Album - Mason Williams - The Mason Williams Phonograph Record

Mason Williams Phonograph Record

I was incorrigible when I was eleven years old.  It was 1968 and we had just moved to Los Angeles from Hazlet, New Jersey a year earlier.  I knew no one in Los Angeles and I was angry and defiant that I had been up-rooted from school, friends and relatives to move 3,000 miles to a place where I was only slightly familiar with a second cousin I met on a two week car trip cross-country in the rear seat of a 1962 Oldsmobile 88.

In 1968 my parents bought their first California home.  It was on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island in San Pedro, California.  My brother and I were placed in two
bedrooms of the three downstairs bedrooms, while my parents’ room, the front door entrance, garage and living areas were all upstairs even with the street.  The downstairs bathroom had a door to the rear patio and stairs led up the side of the house to the street out of the gaze and view of my parents..

Within a week of moving in I stole a County roadwork sawhorse, complete with blinking light, and put it in my room.  Shortly thereafter I met a welder when I was at an outdoor art show with my parents on La Cienega Blvd  He later became rather famous for his kinetic energy sculptures and ball-rollers. He had four stop signs he had stolen from some street corner or other and had cut into them individual letters “L-O-V-E” chained together by iron links.  I asked him for it and he gave it to me - I swear.  It adorned the wall opposite the caution yellow psychedelic strobe lit sawhorse.

Still, two walls, one with a sliding door closet and entry door, and a wall that connected at a right angle that ran the length of the room to the window, remained barren..  They needed decoration.

Back in 1968 one of the biggest top 40 L.A. AM radio stations was 93 KHJ. While I was resting in the reverse backseat of a teammate’s parents’1966 Dodge Coronet station wagon between games of a little league double header, "Classical Gas", by Mason Williams, played on the radio.  I remember I thought it was kind of “boss.”  I had just started guitar lessons and I remember thinking "Classical Gas" was a really nicely produced acoustic guitar piece. 

D.J. Charlie Tuna came on after the song and mentioned that the song was off of Mason Williams’  release The Mason Williams Phonograph Record and that the album included a life-sized poster of a Greyhound Bus.

Soon my father had a need to go to the White Front store off Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance, CA.  I tagged along and brought my $5.98 in allowance earned over four months just in case White Front had The Mason Williams Phonograph Record.  I searched the bins and there it was with Williams on the cover smack dab in the middle of the Greyhound poster that was promised to be included inside.  I bought it.

My father approved, at first.  He had heard "Classical Gas" and was taking guitar lessons with me.  However, as we drove away, I opened the album to see the prized poster.

It was life-sized alright.  As my father drove I unfolded fold after fold until my father screamed at me because he could no longer see out the passenger window, half the windshield, the right backseat window, and half the rear window.  I quickly and carefully crumpled the poster together so he could see.  When we got home I opened the passenger door and it and I poured out.  I grabbed the album and the poster as best as I could and made my way inside and downstairs to my bedroom.

The endeavor took a massive amount of scotch tape.  I was chastised, derided and finally grounded by my parents for the unauthorized use of Elmer’s Glue.  Yet after a three day suspension the life-sized Greyhound bus remained and adorned two walls in my bedroom as a backdrop for a yellow psychedelic sawhorse and a four way stop love sign. 

As for the album, "Classical Gas"  it is, well, classic. Some of it is really funny novelty such as Prince’s Panties about a Prince who named his dogs Panties because that is what they do.  Unfortunately they attack him and he is eaten by his Panties.  By and large, though, I bought the album for the right reasons as most of the music is really rather average. The bus remained on my wall until 1971 when I bought my first album from money I earned working at an actual summer job - Machine Head by Deep Purple. 

- Old School

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