My early musical tastes were quite something. The first concert I attended was Tom Waits. (It would have been Pink Floyd’s Animals tour, had it not sold out before I’d heard about it.) My first record albums purchased? Three Dog Night’s Naturally, and the Moody Blues Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. Elton John, of course. Standard thirteen-year-old stuff. Pretty whitebread, huh?
Well, it was kind of a challenge to find soul albums in the Sandy, Oregon Piggly Wiggly’s record bin…
Superfly was my first soul/R&B album. I cut the little flap off the front so Mom wouldn’t freak out over the black girl in the white bikini stretched out at Ron O’Neal’s feet. My 45 RPM collection had a fair representation of black music, but I could not find the album I really wanted:
It was out of print by the time I was fourteen or fifteen, and though I perused the used records faithfully on a weekly basis, I never saw it. Django Records, Park Avenue Records, Music Millenium. Nobody had it, saw it, or could get it. Good luck, kid!
One afternoon my parents had reason to venture into Northeast Portland. You know, the black part of town. (This was a bigger deal then than it is now.) At the time I’d had limited exposure to black people, so it was kind of an event.
It was a non-event. Black people live just like white people do. Go figure.
But…but… Look at that record collection!
I no longer remember if it was Newberry’s or Sears, but as I flipped through the sealed stacks looking for something I’d not seen, there it was:
The motherfucking double-disc Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to Shaft. MOM!
No amount of begging, pleading, negotiation of chores or full-on hysterics could get mom and dad to part with the $6.77 it would take to fill my life’s mission. I MUST HAVE IT.
I took the album and hid it in the back of Ferrante and Teicher‘s section, and said a little prayer to Jehovah that my immersion into black culture could be further realized if he’d just allow that record to stay there until I could get seven bucks together. Seven bucks and ten cents. I’d need bus fare there. I could walk home.
Somehow I came up with the money, hopped the #44 bus to Lloyd Center, then the #6 Union Avenue bus. I was jubilant; the record was still there, nestled cozily amongst the whiteness of the muzak. I plunked down my $7 and felt like I’d just climbed Pike’s Peak.
I still have that vinyl album set, buried in a closet with about 600 others. This morning, however, I sprung $9 to download the whole shebang off Amazon. Ike is serenading me about Soulsville at the moment. But the song I bought the whole album for?
The nineteen-minute version of Do Your Thing. It’s about perfect for the commute from downtown. I will be in perfect form when I tune it in, and the rest of the world out.
Isaac Hayes has always been a favorite of mine. From my early teens, wanting to grow up to be Truck Turner, to getting in trouble for sneaking into the neighbor’s house to play Theme from Shaft on their super-cool quadraphonic hi-fi, to quoting him as Chef from South Park on a daily basis. Your voice still rings down from the heavens, sir.