Geoffrey Morrison on "Baba O'Riley" by The Who
This is the first of what will be a reoccurring feature here on the Tech^2 blog. The idea is simple: pick a song that has had a significant impact on your life in some way, and describe why. I'm starting with me to get the ball rolling, but over the coming weeks and months I've got the staff of S+V lined up, plus various luminaries and heavyweights in the A/V and music industries, all with interesting stories and songs from their own lives.
Now before you say something like "Wow, Geoff, you're a genius. This is not a brilliant idea!" Let me say yes, of course, but allow me to give credit where credit is due. The brilliant geniuses at RockPaperShotgun sort of came up with it first with their Gaming Made Me series. I highly recommend you check them out, not least because they have some of the best writing on the web.
So to start, here's me on "Baba O'Riley."
So you probably know who I am, but I'm going to do a little intro to set up the format you'll be seeing in the future...
Geoffrey Morrison is a freelance tech writer, currently writing for Sound+Vision, CNET, TheWirecutter, and others. He was the Editor in Chief of Home Entertainment magazine, technical editor of Home Theater magazine, and has a degree in Audio Production from Ithaca College. Here's a song from his soundtrack.
"Baba O'Riley"- Who's Next, The Who
I had literally heard nothing like it.
My parents are musical people. My father played piano. My mother sang. I have fond memories as a kid canoeing on Hermit Lake in New Hampshire listening to Vivaldi and Mozart on a small single-speaker, battery powered, Panasonic cassette recorder. However, my parents weren't, and still aren't, into popular music. By the time I was a teenager, I'd started to suspect there was a world of music out there I hadn't heard before. As an only child, I had no shepherd to guide me through the vast landscape of great music. I came to rock and roll with no history. Oldies stations in the car were as close as I had ever gotten to serious music. So I did what many did at that age and that time: I joined Columbia House.
In the window between ordering my "free" 30 cassettes (marking down anything that looked interesting, had a cool cover, or I'd heard vaguely of) and their arrival, the family gathered at my uncle's house for reasons that have left my memory with time. Someone mentioned that I was looking to get into music, and asked my cousin, a few years older, if he had any tapes he didn't want anymore. We went to his room and he dug out three dusty cassettes. The first, Invisible Touch by Genesis, was fine, but to this day does nothing for me. The next, Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, was mind blowing and almost worthy of an article like this itself. The third...
There is something about the way the notes dance across the intro. Is that a synthesizer? How is it doing that? The melody, simple, yet made complex with the dancing keyboards and drums. The song builds and builds and builds, then takes a turn, a violin playing with your expectations of what a rock and roll song can do, or will do. And again it builds again, builds further still, before stopping abruptly, perfectly, yet all too soon.
Consider, for a moment, what it was like to hear this song for the first time. Not just for the first time, but with little, if any, experience with rock music. Daltrey belting out vocals with abandoned intensity. Keith Moon exploding onto a drum kit like no one had before or since. And of course, Pete's guitar. This was, without a trace of hyperbole, a life changing moment. I had no idea music could be so good, so powerful, so... loud. It opened my eyes not just to the incredible potential of music, but in a way, life in general. What else was out there?
All these years later, Wish You Were Here and Who's Next are still two of my favorite albums of all time. I wore out those two tapes. I've bought both on CD multiple times, and they were some of the first songs I put on my first iPod. To this day, I'm amazed at the power and grandeur of "Baba O'Riley." It's impossible to say how my life would have been different not discovering the music I did, or maybe even how I did. Perhaps it's partially why I have such an eclectic taste in music, having come to it with no preconceived ideas, biases, or expectations.
Now, when the mood strikes, as it still often does, I "put in the tape" with a left-click, turn up the volume, and realize it was not such a teenage wasteland after all.