It has become the great measuring stick for iconic events. Do you remember where you were when "X" happened. And it is one we heard of with great frequency this past weekend of remembrance and anniversary. And for the record, 10 years ago on September 11th, I was sitting in my office at the Detachment in Arctic Bay when a friend popped his head in to say some airplane had hit the World Trade Centre, and when he returned a short while later to say a second one had, I went home to turn on the news.
But this measuring stick works, I suppose, because we take in everything during momentous events, and lock them away with the event. While other memories fall to the wayside, the lessor details don't because of the big event that surrounded them.
My earliest conscious memory was the JFK assassination, even though I had just turned five. I remember my mom crying watching TV in our living room. I don't think I'd seen her cry before that. I remember the funeral train, I remember the funeral procession and the horse drawn wagon with the coffin. But mostly I remember that initial scene in our living room.
I remember where I was when the Eagle landed on the moon, and where I was when Neil Armstrong set foot there. I remember where I was when Elvis died (although I have no idea why, he wasn't that big of deal to me). It by the way, was in my parent's van on Portage Avenue, near Main in Winnipeg. I couldn't tell you, though, where I was when Michael Jackson died, which ought to tell you where he fits on my scale of importance, and important events.
But music, as important as it is to me, seems to have few of these moments. Led Zepplin II was an album I played over and over, but I can't tell you about the first time I heard it. Ditto almost every single bit of music that I hold or held dear. With one exception, I remember vividly where I was the first time I head Cat Stevens.
My friend Dean and I went through school together, and although we were good friends early on we sort of went separate ways as we reached high school. But when we were 13 or so we hung out a fair amount. He had older sisters (misery loves company) and one day they were trying to get us to be quiet while they played some new music they just got. It was Cat Steven's "Teaser and the Firecat". I was dumbstruck.
After listening to both sides (this was 1971 kids. Back in the old days we had things called records, which had to be flipped over to hear the whole album) I asked if they had any others and they played "Tea for the Tillerman". Cat Stevens was a musical revelation to me. He was relevant, unique, and eminently listenable. I went home and dug up a Colombia House (yeah, I know) application and ordered both LPs.
It is great music and I can't for the life of me tell you why that moment still remains. So much of what he did before he dropped out of the music business, taking the name Yusef Islam after his conversion to Islam. Not everything he did was great certainly, anyone here have "Banapple Gas" on their playlists? Didn't think so (and unfortunately its stuck in my head right now).
But I do know why I'm thinking of it now, as I just saw a portion of a documentary on Yusef Islam on TV. The world could use more people like him, and more albums like "Tea for the Tillerman" and "Teaser and the Firecat".