Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Albums That Defined My Musical Tastes - Fleetwood Mac "Tusk"

I think back and try to remember the first music I experienced as a child, but the memories don’t come easily. My earliest ones are of my favourite toy (battery powered trumpet), favourite shirt (The Fonz with two thumbs up saying, “AAAYYYY!”), recurring nightmare (falling backwards into a bottomless hole), and random scenes from elementary school (a solar eclipse, plants on the window sill, marbles at recess, my first friend Jeff). For music, I do remember one yodeling song that Sister Kathleen made us listen to in grade 4, which included the lyrics, “Man was made to do his best, work six days and then to rest. In a cheery way work is always play, yodel-e,  yodel-o, yodel-ey. With a happy tune work is finished soon…. yodel-e,  yodel-o, yodel-ey.” That damn song still pops up in my brain every now and then. I’m scared to look it up online because I’ll probably find it.

The first song and album I remember loving as a kid was Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”. It was at 362 Pendygrasse Road in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. My mom and dad had this recording device called a Reel-to-Reel, which was this huge metallic machine with giant exposed tape reels that sat on top of the living room hutch. I don’t remember where dad got it from, or how long we had it, or even how he got the music onto the tape, but I do remember him putting on Tusk in the evening and cranking it up to 9. The song began very quietly, with almost background dinner party noise. Then Mick Fleetwood’s drums start, a hypnotic tom tom repetition that shook the plaster walls and continued until it was joined by the angelic harmonies of Lindsay Buckingham, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks singing “Why don’t you ask him if he’s going to stay? Who don’t you ask him if he’s going away?” accompanied by some innocent, yet somehow sinister guitar strumming. Then the unmistakable bass of John McVie leaps in with a powerful, shuffling riff that knocks over whatever trinkets and knick-knacks were left balanced tenderly on the fireplace mantle, not yet dislodged by the drums. The background noise, now including some screaming and moaning, continues and even intensifies. The entire band shouts out “TUSK!” At the midpoint, a short but intense drum solo breaks out, driving us nutty. By now my brothers and I are jumping around the living room like wild beasts, ramming into each other, and leaping from couch to coffee table to love seat. Mom and dad are laughing at us, having fun, sometimes dancing around too. The song continues, and my mind is filled with powerful images. A herd of elephants crashing through the jungle. A big brass band, marching, and blowing everything into it. A street war. A Roman Triumph parade entering the Forum, crowd cheering, and chariots with bloody wheels. By the end of the 3:38 song, we kids are sweaty and riled, ready to smash something up. Victory is ours.

I enjoy heavy and powerful music. And this song is as heavy and powerful as it gets.

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