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How Peter Discovers Music — A Case Study

Monday 02/21/2005 1:02 AM

Everyone's always asking me, "Peter, how do you discover music?"

Having been a record store employee, a nightclub DJ, a college instructor of electronic music and general music nut, the answers to that question are vast and varied and rarely simple.

Case in point: David Bowie.

Now most people my age will tell you stories about how their parents turned them on 70's rock, but not me. My mother was into adult contemporary (think Rod McKuen, Olivia Newton-John when she was country, The Irish Rovers, John Denver, etc) while my dad was never into much more than a few choice country artists (Johnny Paycheck, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, etc). My father had a bumper sticker on his Volkswagen Beetle that said The Grateful Dead Should Be. So Peter didn't get a lot of exposure to the likes of Zeppelin, Bowie, The Stones or even The Beatles.

So, back to David Bowie. I discovered The Thin White Duke by way of the most unexpected of connections: Duran Duran. As a huge, teenaged Duran da fan, I started buying the 12" singles of all their songs. Turns out, on the flipside of the 12" single for "Careless Memories" is a song called "Fame", which I really liked. Incidentally, you can now get all these singles on CD format. Well, you probably see where this is going now. One day I'm looking at the label and I notice that the songwriter for "Fame" is not anyone in Duran Duran, but, rather, it says Bowie/Lennon.

I was confused. Wasn't Lennon actually John Lennon, who was in The Beatles? And wasn't Bowie actually David Bowie, an artist who was not really part of a "group"? When I discovered there was a song by David Bowie called "Fame", I decided I needed to learn more about this David Bowie guy. Through a music club, I got the LP for Fame and Fashion, a now long out-of-print greatest hits collection released by RCA back when Bowie was signed with them (at least two distributors ago). And thus began my lifelong infatuation with Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, which started many other synchronistic, six degrees of separation types of introductions to new and exciting music.

So let's get back to the now.

Last nite I'm sitting in the theatre watching Constantine, and there is a scene where Keanu Reeves puts a needle on a record and this wonderful jazz music starts playing. Realizing I've heard it before and convinced I actually own the CD with the song, I get frustrated because I can't figure out the artist or song. Once the movie is over, I make George wait so we can watch the credits scroll by. This turned out to be a decent plan anyways because there is an extra scene from the movie afte the credits. Anyways, just three songs are listed in the credits and only one of them fits the bill for what I heard: "Take Five" by The Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Home from the movie, I check it out online and sure enough, that's it. But the CD isn't in my collection. So today I tracked it down in the mall.

And that is the story of how I discovered this 46-year old jazz classic that probably everyone and their mother knows.

After my recent infatuation with Eddie Harris, I'm starting to think there is more jazz in my future. Feel free to send recommendations my way. I picked up a copy of The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions by Miles a few years ago, but I've had a lot of trouble getting into it. I suspect that over time, as I acclimate to more and more jazz, that I'll eventually find myself groovin' to the Brew.

For a great many of my CD's, there are meandering stories similar to how I discovered David Bowie or Dave Brubeck. So consider yourself warned if you find yourself wanting to ask me how I ever found out about this obscure but wonderful music. You may have to sit a spell as I walk you through the disparate stepping stones of discovery.

File Under: Jazz; Movies; Music
Music: The Dave Brubeck Quartet "Time Out"

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