Yesterday I mentioned my tiny orange record player. I loved that record player with a passion rivaled only by my love for my dog Fritzi. It played 45s, and had a lid that you could latch shut with a sliver clasp. It had a little handle next to the latch, and it was a deep burnt-orange color.
The best thing about my record player was that it could read me stories. I had a million books that came with a 45 slipped in a pocket in the back. I knew how to set up the record player by myself and would play records and “read” my books for hours on end.
My favorite book-on-record was this version of Peter and the Wolf by Peter Pan Records. Peter Pan Records apparently featured heavily in my childhood. My favorite childhood Christmas album was also released by them. I have not been able to figure out who the performers are — probably the same uncredited Peter Pan Collective cast members that recorded the Christmas album I have.
I have incredibly vivid memories of playing that record, and flipping through that book, over and over again. I remember what the book looked like, the feel of it in my hands, the little drawings in the inside back cover, the exact shade of blue on the cover, the smell of the cover, and the sound of the bell telling me when to turn the pages. And I loved the music. I would sing and dance with the music, all the while trying to keep pace with the page turns.
In the summer of 1974, someone (sadly, neither my parents nor I remember who) took me to see a live performance of Peter and the Wolf, with an orchestra, puppets and a narrator. The performance was outdoors. I remember sitting on the grass. I am almost certain that it was part of the annual Peter Britt Children’s Festival, which I remember going to often as a kid, but that’s just an assumption.
I was absolutely stunned to realize that the music I loved so much didn’t just live in my book and my record player, but that people made it! And other people knew about it! And other kids liked it! I had no idea that this music — my music — belonged to other people too. I don’t remember very much of the performance, except that the wolf scared me. What I remember most vividly is the feeling of absolute stunned awe that the notion of an unmediated live music performance inspired in me. It was so wonderful.
So I pick the Peter Pan Records version of Peter and the Wolf to represent 1974 in the playlist of my life. Now, if only I could get my hands on a digital version of that record.
Do you have a favorite song or music-related memory from 1974? Share it in the comments!