Chaz meets the Classics

or, "How an unrepentant pop junkie discovered the Music of the Ages without so much as breaking his stride"


On a regular basis, cultural pundits appear as if from nowhere and bewail the fact that teenagers seem to be listening a lot more to [fill in name of current chart-topping act] than to the Old Masters. This happened just as much in the Sixties as it does in the Nineties, and truth be told, I wasn't paying attention to the cultural pundits — I was trying my best to rock out. And, being the pitiable geek that I was, I wasn't succeeding very well.

Cover artThe year is 1969, and I'm browsing the record racks at the University Co-Op, across Guadalupe Street from the University of Texas at Austin. Suddenly, two or three aisles over: a vision, one I've seen before but have never dared to address. Today, I don't remember her name, and can barely remember her face. What I do remember is that I had the preposterous notion, based upon half-heard stories filtered through my own special brand of delusion, that the way to her heart was through classical music — if I could be seen purchasing actual concerti and such, she couldn't help but fall into my arms. I quickly decided that the time to act was now, so Santana was shelved for another day, and as conspicuously as possible, I grabbed the heaviest-looking symphonic stuff on the rack, which turned out to be a recording of Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony.

Merely owning the material, I sensed, might not be enough to do the job, so I set about the task of familiarization. I popped open the shrink-wrap, pulled the disk — very heavy, it seemed — out of its envelope, set it gently on the platter and dropped the all-purpose sapphire stylus in the lead-in groove.

I'm not quite sure what happened after that. The side