When October goes

18 comments on When October goes
3 minutes

As we clean out Mom’s condo, my brother and I are each taking with us some things that we want. I brought home Mom’s CD collection. I didn’t count her CDs, but they fill three Trader Joe’s paper grocery sacks.

When I was a kid, our home was often filled with her music. At first, Mom used an enormous portable record player, the kind with a hinged lid and built-in speaker that was common in the 1950s and 1960s. Later Dad bought her a component stereo set. She owned a tall stack of vinyl records, and even a number of breakable 78 RPM discs.

Mom listened to the music of her era, of course. She especially liked standards and popular jazz, and was especially a fan of Johnny Mathis. Over the years, I bought her all of his 1950s and 1960s albums on CD. I also found Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, the Ink Spots, and Nat King Cole in her collection.

She also enjoyed a number of rock and pop artists — the Beatles, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Elvis, and Queen. She was an enormous Barry Manilow fan. Holy moly, did she ever own a lot of Barry Manilow CDs.

My brother and I bought her a CD player as a Christmas gift in about 1987. It was a portable player, Walkman style, except it wasn’t an actual Sony because those were super expensive. It was a Sanyo, I think, which was a lot less expensive. We thought she’d wear it around the house and yard while she went about her days. Instead, she figured out how to patch it into her stereo and used it like a full-size player. If we had known, we would have bought her one of those in the first place!

It’s useless to own a CD player when you have no CDs, so we bought her a few discs too. She loved Barry’s 2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe, a concept album. Imagine Barry in a smoky bar after last call, playing melancholy, spare jazz. It’s a remarkable record, really. Anyway, I had to have it special ordered. I lived in Terre Haute at the time. I bought all of my music at Headstone’s, which was a hippie-era head shop that by that time sold far more music than rolling papers. When it came in, they called: “Jim, your Barely Manenough CD is in.”

My brother and I also influenced Mom’s listening. My brother turned her on to Prince, and she owned a bunch of his music. Through me she came to love Eric Clapton. I took her with me to see him on his blues tour in 1995. It was one of the two or three best concerts I’ve ever been to.

I also turned Mom on to British heavy-metal pioneers Iron Maiden. I didn’t do it on purpose — she heard them in my car and asked about the band, and so I bought her a couple of CDs so she could hear more. I found eight Iron Maiden CDs in her collection, which means she bought more on her own!

I spent some spare time ripping her CDs into my computer, the ones I wanted, anyway. She had a couple dozen classical CDs that didn’t tickle me, and music from a handful of contemporary artists I don’t much enjoy. But now I’m left to listen to the music I did keep, and enjoy the memory of my mom.

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18 responses to “When October goes”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Love this because it was kind of the story of my mom as well…she was the one with the decent component stereo, my dad was perfectly happy to listen to opera on a boom box. Ditto for the developing music tastes as she aged, and in the years before her death, she went with her gal pals to a ZZ Top concert, and Rod Stewart. She listened to opera as well as my dad, but also things like Charlie Christian jazz albums, and modern pop and rock. Our eclectic moms!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My dad didn’t seem to care about music one way or the other. It was weird. Mom often turned off her music when dad came home because he didn’t really like it. That was a shame.

  2. Shaun Nelson Avatar

    Iron Maiden? Rock on Mom! :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It was a surprise to me!

  3. matt Avatar

    Well, she has good sons: Prince and Clapton. Hard to beat that musicianship.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


  4. adventurepdx Avatar

    “Jim, your Barely Manenough CD is in.”

    Ah record store snob snark! Don’t know if I particularly miss it. I picture the above comment being said by someone who resembles Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Not bad! It was a fellow named Harold who was an aging hippie, with long gray hair and hat. He sounded a little bit stoned at all times.

    2. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      Have to laugh, altho High Fidelity was a pretty famous British book, I’ve always considered the movie to be the quintessential Chicago record shop story….

  5. ronian42 Avatar

    I think music has far more influence on people’s feelings and moods than they give it credit for. Maybe I’m more of an auditory person, but I feel I can link more memories to music than to any other medium. Maybe I’m just plain weird, who knows. Anyway thanks for this fascinating glimpse into the character of your Mum (as we say over the pond).

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh yes. I hear the right song in the grocery store and suddenly I’m 8 years old swimming in that pool that summer.

  6. -Nate Avatar

    Bittersweet memories I think .

    Mom’s was across America when she passed and my sisters looted her place .

    I have a sugar bowl she made in the 1950’s before everything went sideways .

    I imagine all my records and CD’s will go in the trash when I die, some are serious rarities I search years to find but music is a very subjective thing .


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There’s a long, sad story as to why I no longer have my vinyl records — but I, too, had some rarities I searched long and hard for. So frustrating.

  7. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    I threw out some of my vinyl a few years ago, but kept what was important to me even though for a while I had nothing to play it on. I still have all my grandmother’s LPs, mostly classical. She was an excellent musician (had a band in the roaring 20s) with excellent taste. All my CDs I have ripped to itunes, but I have kept the CDs. More recently I came across a huge quantity of CDs and LPs in a thrift shop. Someone’s lifetime collection of music, classical and jazz, painstakingly collected and curated. At 50c each, my first visit to the store cost me $50. And I went back for more. Obviously none of the family were interested, it is a quality collection and I am very glad to have acquired much of it! But as you say, music is an individual thing, and I doubt there is much in my mother’s collection that I will want to keep…..

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I got rid of all of my vinyl in 2003, and for the most part I don’t miss it. I had some collectible records — those are the ones I regret not owning still. I ripped all of my CDs a couple years ago, and gave away the discs themselves. I don’t miss them.

  8. J P Avatar

    My mother loved music too. It became something we shared, although our tastes diverged in many ways. I still have much of her vinyl, especially the stuff I grew up hearing.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s got to be a terrific way to feel connected to her.

  9. Ward Fogelsanger Avatar
    Ward Fogelsanger

    Nice memories…

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