The oral history of Avalon reminded me of a formative experience.

Circa 1982, I took the long train ride to Halifax to visit the only young adult I knew – the brother of a friend of mine, who was now enrolled at Dal. Ensconced would be a better word for it, since he had an apartment in the graduate residence, Fenwick Towers.

Being rush hour on a Friday, it was pitch black out and the weekend had psychologically begun. My friend gave me the run of the place, so the first thing I did was turn the radio on. I did that by flicking up an industrial-quality stainless rocker switch on a receiver, then twirling a knurled steel ingot to turn up the volume. Through seriously high-quality speakers, I heard Bryan Ferry complete his last minute of crooning “Avalon” as I walked toward the balcony windows and saw nothing but bright lights and big city below.

Now, just you imagine for a minute what kind of a wallop that packed. Cosmopolitanism, refinement, urbanity, suavity, effortlessness.

This kind of experience, visual but with a connection to something else, leaves a permanent imprint. I see now this sort of thing had already happened to me (spending one’s teen years staring at Letraset catalogues) and to others of like mind (leaning one’s head off the bed to gaze at a double-page magazine spread on the floor showing a Jaguar parked in the semicircular driveway of a Tudor manse). When rock snobs tell you about the pleasure of removing a record from not one but two sleeves and lining up a stylus just to hear a song, the phenomenon they describe is the same.

Having lived in both eras, I doubt the kids today – bolt upright at a monitor or head down at a touchscreen – will live through anything resembling these epiphanic sensory conjunctions. Susceptible minds will miss the chance to be forever changed.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.06.24 14:24. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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