Wednesday, April 24, 2024


It's kind of funny how life works out.

When I went away to college, I was a kid who listened to Rock and Metal, but also enjoyed Classical music. I had a thing for Canadian power rock trios, as my collection of Rush and Triumph cassettes proved, but I also would listen to the Classical LPs that my parents had in the basement*.

As far as I know, they're still down there.
This pic is from Etsy, but this was
the first album in the set.

I knew that Alternative --aka Modern Rock-- was out there, as was New Wave, but when I was in high school I wasn't really exposed to it at all. The legendary WOXY, 97.7 FM, was up in Oxford, Ohio, and while we could (barely) pick it up back home, it was more well known locally as the station used in the movie Rain Man.

The tagline was created for the movie, and
the station loved it so much they adopted it.

I knew of punk, and what I heard I liked, but it never got on the radio back home. Top 40 dominated the airwaves, and big corporate radio companies (Jaycor, a predecessor to IHeartRadio, began in the late 80s in Cincinnati) were just starting to make inroads on homogenizing what you could hear over the air, so I expected that going away to college would expose me to far more of what I liked than what I could hear locally.

But of all the things I expected to be exposed to, this certainly wasn't on the menu:

My new roommate was from Chicago, and I quickly learned a few things when we moved in together: we both shared a love of D&D and Doctor Who**, he certainly loved his Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears, no city in the US was as good as Chicago, and that he was fine with putting up posters that would have given my parents a heart attack.

We both contributed to the decor in our dorm room. My posters were more along these lines:

Mine was a 5 foot version of this, which
I still have stored away in the basement.
(From Ebay.)

But these were more of my roommate's taste:

I had no idea who Samantha Fox
was until he put this 5 foot tall poster up on
the back of our door. This caused... drama...
when my parents picked me up for
Thanksgiving. (From Worthpoint.)

Oh, and he had eclectic taste in music.

He had an actual CD player --a portable model, and the first one I'd ever seen-- and about a dozen CDs. Sure, I'd seen a few CDs at stores, but compared to albums and cassettes there were very few of them. But I was surprised at what he had on his collection. Amy Grant? Stryper? He didn't seem like the sort for Christian music. He also had Genesis' Invisible Touch, a greatest hits compilation of The Young Rascals, and...

It might have been Fresh Aire III, but
This was a better quality photo. From Discogs.

Fresh Aire? What the hell is this? And...

From Discogs.

"Windham Hill?" I asked.

"Yeah, it's pretty nice music. I'll put it on later."

Given his other geeky pastimes, I was willing to give it a try. And I surprised myself by actually liking both CDs, although I'll freely admit the sound quality of the CDs alone probably had an impact. By October, I'd heard enough to know two things: I actually liked this "New Age" type of music, and I wanted a CD player for Christmas. Given that I didn't have a receiver but I did have a boom box with AUX inputs, that's saying something. 


Fast forward to today, and the past couple of months I've been spending time re-ripping my old CDs at a better bit rate than before***, so I've reacquainted myself with my old Windham Hill and Mannheim Steamroller CDs. I mean, I still play them from time to time, but one thing about re-ripping means I'm hearing everything again, listening critically, to make sure that the CD was ripped properly.****

Because of this exercise, I've been struck by how greatly my roommate from 37 years ago influenced my musical tastes of today. 

And now, I've got online friends to thank for influencing my musical tastes again.

Found this at a bookstore. This one's
for you, Bhagpuss.

*My dad did NOT listen to Classical music; my mom got the Funk and Wagnalls collection --one week at a time as they were released-- from our local discount store down the street. 

**When he was moving his stuff into our dorm, I noticed this magazine on the top of one of his boxes:

Took me a while to find this out of the Parallel
Context archive, but here it is.

I immediately recognized it as TSR's Dragon magazine, so I pretended I didn't see anything so as not to attract my parents' attention, but if I had any doubt that I had found another one of my people, this dispelled it. He also had a signed black and white photo of Tom "The Fourth Doctor" Baker on his desk, next to the prom photos with his (then) girlfriend. So yeah, a nerd through and through.

***Yes, it's still MP3s, because I don't have that much in terms of disk space for storage to handle FLAC. Besides, being in my mid-50s means that my ears aren't as good as they once were, but they're good enough to hear the difference in some pieces of music in a 192-bitrate versus a 320-bitrate MP3. You just have to know where to listen --and have the right sort of music-- to make it noticeable. Sure, FLAC or WAV files are better than MP3s, but MP3s are pretty universal, so I don't have to worry about not having a format that won't play (I'm looking at you, Samsung Music).

****Alas, after 35+ years, a handful of my CDs no longer play. It's not because they're scratched, but it looks like it's a failure of the metallic material comprising the CDs. Among those CDs were The Eagles' Hotel California, The Cult's Sonic Temple, a Greatest Hits compilation from Golden Earring, and Alice in Chains' Dirt.


  1. Everyone loves Olivia!

    Interesting to hear you have CDs that have failed through age. The indestructability of the format was one of its big selling points when it was first introduced, as I recall. I knew cassettes had a limited shelf life but I thought CDs were permanent unless actally broken. I wonder if any of mine no longer play? I doubt I'll ever know because now, if I wanted to hear any of them, I'd just go to YouTube or some other streaming site and play the files there. Apart from in the car, where I do still play CDs, I really only buy them for the tactility, although I did at least think they'd serve as an archive. Maybe they're better made nowadays...

    Also, that cover is surprisingly homoerotic for Dragon magazine...

    1. I remember all the hype about CDs, and how you could bury them in your backyard and pull them out and they'd still play, and I honestly believed it. I was once given a scratched up copy of The Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits that a college classmate found on their front steps, saying "if you can get it to play, you can have it". I cleaned it off as best I could and... The damn thing still played.

      Alas that Father Time hasn't been so kind to some of the plastic sealants used in CD creation from the "old days".

      The first thing I thought of when I saw that Dragon Magazine was "Why the hell is he shirtless? All of those sparks will effing hurt when his fellow apprentice starts pounding on that sword!"

      Only now did I notice the homoeroticism inherent in the cover, because that simply wasn't on my mind in my late teens.

  2. Hehe, I was thinking the same thing as Bhagpuss about that cover. I recently got all my old Dragon magazines back from being in storage at my parents house for nearly 20 years while I moved around the country. I really miss there being multiple magazines in print devopted to nearly everything. Dragon Magazine with the occasional Dungeon magazine or White Dwarf thrown in (usually because they had included some cards for the board game Talisman) was a big part of my high school and college years.

    1. When I made my RPG From the Past post about RuneQuest, I went digging through my old copies of Avalon Hill's The General magazine in the vain hope that I'd find the old AH 1985-ish catalog in there (I didn't). But oh, the memories, perusing the articles about wargames from years' past.

      I do have the Dragon Magazine archive on CD-ROM that TSR (or was it WotC?) put out years ago --the one they had to pull from sales because of issues with content creator rights-- so I have that to fall back on, but it's not the same as having old physical copies lying around.