Friday, July 25, 2008

Amped Up

There are a few peak moments in my musical memory: Hearing the swirling keyboard intro to "Baba O'Riley" pour out over the crowd at Folsom Field. The thunder of the opening chords of "Born in the U.S.A." roaring out into Mile High Stadium. The echoes of the crowd singing along with the chorus of "Biko" as Peter Gabriel told us "the rest is up to you."
There are more, but the thing that these all have in common are that they were all loud. I studied music, and I was instructed in the ways of dynamics. Sometimes it's necessary to be quiet. There should always be contrast. That is why it is so very important to have an amp that will go up to eleven. After all, it is one more, isn't it?
I remember there was a short period there when Pete Townshend wasn't going to be playing electric guitar anymore. This was due in part to The Who concert at Charlton Athletic Football Ground, London, on May 31, 1976 that was listed in the Guinness Book of Records, where the volume level was measured at 126 decibels. I still remember wondering, after the first concert I attended featuring a very exuberant Elton John, how long that ringing in my ears would last. Pete's working on about thirty years now.
I know that there is danger in those decibels. I also know that my goose flesh is connected directly to the volume control. It's a terrible habit, and I know that I need to be careful about what I model for my son. He wore his ear protection when he went to see DEVO. And The Police. And Springsteen. This kid rocks, and even though I sometimes have to call his name two or three times to get his attention, I know he's not losing his hearing. He's just ignoring me.

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