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A Peek Inside

A Peek Inside

Last time we unveiled the cover to My Heart Sings the Harmony: Twenty Years of Writing About Music; this time we’re offering a peek inside.

Beyond the framing introduction and conclusion, My Heart Sings the Harmony is made up of nine chapters. Chapters 2-8 feature around a dozen reviews each, broken down by both theme and era (Classics, Crushes, Rants, Discoveries, etc.), with an artist interview or two finishing off each chapter. Chapter 9 is the closing catch-all, featuring concert, book, and film reviews and an essay (“Remembering Ronnie Montrose”).

Chapter 1 is where a substantial portion of the new material specifically written for this book resides, a look back over my shoulder at the path that led up to the moment not long ago when I realized that an itch I first tentatively scratched in March 1996 had turned into a 20-year obsession encompassing more than 600 album reviews and artist interviews.

That watershed moment may have come in March 1996, but the roots of my passion for music had been threatening to burst upward through the fertile earth since I’d been old enough to understand the words to the songs my older brothers played on their stereos, depositing one platter of vinyl after another on the turntable and setting the needle in the groove.

Here’s a longer glimpse of that backstory, excerpted from Chapter 1 (“My Musical Life”):

“My musical education started early and benefitted hugely from my status as the trailing, by-far-the-youngest of four brothers in our household. The treasured moments when I was invited to hang out with my older brothers often revolved around listening to music in their rooms—because let’s face it, they didn’t want little brother around for most of the rest of what went on in there during their teenaged years in the second half of the 1960s. My early childhood memories are set to a never-ending loop of the Beatles, Byrds and Stones, Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash, spiked with Motown classics and intriguing glimpses of soul-jazz artists like Les McCann and Stanley Turrentine. My mother’s influence was strong, too, given her habit of cranking up the volume on bolder, more dramatic classical artists like Mozart and Beethoven (the original rock and rollers). The point is, in my memories, the irregular rhythms of our at-times tumultuous household were punctuated by moments of pure musical bliss, and I bathed in those beams of light like a sun-drunk kitten.

“During my teenaged years, music moved closer still to the center of my existence. In time-honored adolescent tradition, I asserted my independence at first mostly by making myself scarce, barricading myself in my room with my record collection, or going off on long adventures with cars full of friends. Our playground was the San Francisco Bay Area circa 1978-79, a teeming nexus of musical invention whose citizens included Santana, Jefferson Starship, Journey, Sammy Hagar, Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, the Grateful Dead, the Tubes, the Doobie Brothers and more. We often spent these nights blasting the custom mixtapes we had spent hours designing and assembling at home, carefully hitting pause on the cassette recorder before lifting the needle off the LP and exchanging one record for the next.

“Only in the dimmest recesses of our hormonal, adrenaline-craving young brains did we—the revolving band of four to eight guys ages 16-17-18 that I spent most weekends with—understand that we might be experiencing the most carefree moments of our lives. Love and loss and work and responsibility barely made a dent in our collective consciousness during the first two of the three years we spent together, as sophomores and juniors in high school, just old enough to drive and just young enough not to be focused on the road ahead. We lived like a band of lost boys during those years, relying mostly on each other and the music that formed the soundtrack of our lives. I only ever met Sammy Hagar once, after following his cherry-red Z28 into a Mill Valley hardware store parking lot in 1979, but his presence, and that of fellow travelers like Ronnie Montrose and Pete Townshend and Bob Seger and Tom Petty and a hundred others informed our days and nights like a script informs an actor. These musicians helped shape our world, and we loved them unashamedly for it.”

My Hearts Sings the Harmony will be available March 21 in trade paperback and Kindle editions. In the meantime, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter by midnight tomorrow—March 15—for a shot at winning one of three signed copies of the book. (The ridiculously simple sign-up form can be found below on the right.)

Next stop: Publication Day.

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