The New Age

Here’s a postscript to the few lines I wrote about Dan Deacon’s America last week.

A couple days ago, with the best-of post still in mind, I pulled out that album and listened through it again. The song “Prettyboy,” which I hope you’re already taking in via the clip above, reminded me — with a touch of embarrassment — of an album I hadn’t heard in probably 25 years: Deep Breakfast by Ray Lynch. Released in 1984 and a gift from my hippie aunt, it was the only thing I owned, as a teenager, that fell into the category of New Age music. According to what sounds like a self-authored Wikipedia page on Lynch, I must not have been alone in my appreciation of this release: “He and his wife Kathleen sold over 50,000 albums out of their small apartment in San Rafael, California before licensing the music to a distributor.”* I played the hell out of that cassette tape, especially at bedtime, and when I listened to it on YouTube the other day I realized how deeply it’s still engraved on my unconscious. For your pleasure:

You have to admit it’s a stunning album sleeve if nothing else, an invitation to consider your place in the cosmos, or to wish you were a space alien hovering over Sedona red rocks in your spacecraft, hoping to make contact with Tom Cruise or Shirley MacLaine. Certainly, as an extraterrestrial, you would have been friendly to Earthlings, especially to Navajos and piano teachers, but all the same you would remain glad you were from a different star system. This album prepared me for Kid A, I’m sure. For the Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin. For Dan Deacon’s “Wham City.” For America.

Who knows what I thought about while I listened to this album as a teenager. I do remember, though, that one night when I was 18 and back home from my freshman year in college, I took my girlfriend to the local high school football field, where we spread a blanket on the fifty yard line and listened to this — or was it Lynch’s 1989 follow-up, No Blue Thing, which I also owned and would have just been released? We played it on a beat-up old boombox, staring at an Arizona sky stuffed with stars. We weren’t supposed to speak, and we weren’t supposed to make out, though I’m not sure how well that went. Somewhere in the middle of the second side, just before the spaceships land, the sprinklers came on. We hauled in the blanket and grabbed the tape player and scrambled for the parking lot. If a door had opened up for us leading into a different dimension, somehow we must have missed it, distracted, soused, still not quite adults no matter what we thought.

And you? What’s the most embarrassing record that left the deepest impact on you as a kid? I want full confessions.

*Also from the Wiki page: “Ray Lynch, under his given name of Raymond Lynch, has been at work for more than a decade on a book about mathematics, music, and harmonics, which also explores ancient cosmologies and mythology, the nature of number, metrology, geodesy, the mathematical constants of physics, human spirituality, the precession of the equinoxes, human prehistory, and the meaning of ‘history.’ No release date as yet.”

11 responses to “The New Age”

  1. Josh K-sky says:

    This is wonderful. I put it on and wrote my college roommate asking, “Didn’t you used to have this?” and my wife heard it and said, “Deep Breakfast! We used to put this on and get stoned and feel safe in New York City.”

    (The answer to your question is like four Styx albums and Bat Out Of Hell.)

  2. Mister Smearcase says:

    Holy god. The first boy I ever fell irreparably in love with put this on a cassette for me in 1990. I haven’t thought about it in a very long time.

  3. Rachel says:

    I listened to Deep Breakfast too! For reasons unknown, I and my band geek friends were obsessed with Ray Lynch, along with the Windham Hill samplers of the 1980s. Oh, and my first-ever concert was (ahem) Maynard Ferguson.

    As for “deepest impact,” I like to tell people that the first record I ever bought with my own money was Prince’s Purple Rain (which is true), but Billy Joel’s Glass Houses and The J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame imprinted on my psyche considerably earlier.

  4. Bryan says:

    I’m pretty relieved to find out that I wasn’t the only one bobbing along to “Celestial Soda Pop.” All three of you have my deepest gratitude.

    Actually the Deacon dip into New Age has me wondering if I should have outed myself in this manner or just tried to slip a Ray Lynch song into a mix and see if anyone raised eyebrows.

    Also, I’m not sure if “Freeze Frame” should be in the same category. It’s still horribly cool, emphasis on the horrible. Deep Breakfast, on the other hand. I enjoyed it the other day, but what a melodramatic trip!

  5. T-Mo says:

    Kitaro was my most embarrassing venture into New Age, when I was in college. I’m trying to think of what this record taught me before I jettisoned it in a move. I guess it led me to listen to Paul Horn’s solo flute record done inside the Great Pyramid, which doesn’t sound as horrible and pretentious to me today as it did a few years after I used to listen to it a lot. (Wait, I just got to the noodley vocal part; it *is* horrible and pretentious, but it wavers just on the edge of something that is interesting to me.)

    It’s funny, there have been a few phases I had early on about which I was terribly embarrassed later but now am not. I was very into Jimi Hendrix when I was 15, but by the time I was 30 I didn’t listen to him. Now he sounds amazing. During those same teen years I loved this Vanilla Fudge record, which I sold when at some point later it became embarrassing to me. My brother-in-law was listening to it when we were over at his house a few months ago, and it sounded amazing to me again. Now I have to track it down.

    Another embarrassment of my New Age phase was Shadowfax, which suddenly sounded horrible to me after a couple years, and has ever since. Without Shadowfax, however, I probably wouldn’t have ever heard Oregon, who share some elements with them, but there’s something meatier about their songs and playing that keeps me listening to them (or at least allows me to be less embarrassed).

    And if I’d never listened to Oregon, I may not have been prepared to move into avant-garde jazz like Don Cherry. I’ve written here before about my interest in that genre.

  6. Bryan says:

    I really like your links in a chain that should then be removed and left aside, Tim. I wonder what else I listened to at one point obsessively that led me to something better but should really be forgotten. Erasure?

    New Age music was a weird thing. Does that stuff still exist? All those Wyndham Hill artists? (Was it an orchestra/band nerd thing, as Rachel implies?) It kind of kills me, though, how much the Dan Deacon track above traffics in familiar gestures. And I relish them.

    Great name, Shadowfax. I think I imagined that as a British folk outfit though.

  7. jeremy says:

    Isn’t Shadowfax the name of Gandalf’s horse in The Lord of the Rings?

  8. T-Mo says:

    Nerd alert!

  9. Bryan says:

    Hence why it’s a cool name.

  10. Bryan says:

    Also hence I thought it was a British folk outfit, which isn’t quite as cool.

  11. Mark says:

    My most embarrassing would be Voice of the Beehive – Let it Bee. Nobody seems to have ever heard of them, though they had two female vocalists like the B-52s with great harmonies. Maybe Hoodoo Gurus would be up there, if nothing else than the fact that I could never say the name to somebody else without cringing.