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Magic men and dashboard speakers

I woke up this morning with “Magic Man” in my head. The song, not a dude. You get it? Anyway, I got to thinking, as I lay there trying unsuccessfully to go back to sleep (it was 4:30 on a Saturday morning, for God’s sake), about what a groundbreaking song that was, in several ways.

I still remember the first time I heard it. It was a morning in May or June, 1976, late in my junior year at Bel Air High, and I was not quite the music junkie I am today, but I was well on the way. I walked out of the house that morning intending to drive to school in my old piece of crap Malibu with the rust-colored roof, but Mark Jones, who lived across the street from me, called out that he was riding to school in his brother David’s badass ‘Cuda, and asked if I’d like to tag along. That car was a couple thousand pounds of American Mopar muscle the likes of which have not been seen on the streets for some forty years now, and I hopped all over the chance to get dropped off at school in it. Talk about arriving in state.

Anyway, on the way there David turned the radio up loud, and “Magic Man” came on. To say I was enthralled would be an understatement. I had no idea who it was, but I knew it was a chick that was rockin’ like I never knew chicks could rock.

Later on, I found out it was a band called Heart, and there were two chicks in the band, sisters, and they looked unbelievably hot on the album cover and they were like an American version of Led Zeppelin without the all the y-chromosomes.

Still later, I blew my first speaker on that song. It wasn’t a good speaker, I’ll grant you. I was in my piece of crap Malibu with the rust-colored roof, and “Magic Man” came on the radio, and of course, I cranked it up as far as it would go, oblivious to the fact that at that volume the sound quality was pure shit. See, we didn’t have actual stereo systems in cars those days, at least not stock. Cars came stock with a “radio,” and if you were lucky, it had both AM and FM bands, but usually you weren’t that lucky and you had to get an “FM converter” if you wanted to listen to WKTK or, later on, 98 Rock. For speakers, you got a single low-bid speaker in the middle of the dashboard that was apparently designed for listening to AM radio talk shows and collecting small pieces of dead bugs, and not necessarily in that order.

FM converters and dashboard speakers. Can you believe it? In those days, cars also had "cigarette lighters" and "ash trays." My cigarette lighter was right next to the "radio." I never used it, or the ash tray. Hey, this is my morning rambling, and I'll digress if I want to.

Anyway, in the middle of "Magic Man", my dashboard speaker made some funny farting noises like a flag in a heavy wind, and then it made sort of a helpless squeak, and then it went silent. It never spoke again. Which was actually a blessing, because I had to go out and get some actual stereo speakers to mount on the package shelf, and my sound experience went up exponentially.

After that, I went out and got a "cassette deck," which made me so cool, I was like James Dean on steroids. I could listen to Heart or Montrose or Alice Cooper or whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Then somebody stole my cassette deck while my piece of crap Malibu with the rust-colored roof was parked at Bel Air High. So I went out and got another cassette deck, and this time I put it on a "slide mount" so I could remove it whenever I left the car behind.

Slide mounts. More forgotten technology. Slide mounts, FM converters, dashboard speakers, cassette decks, cigarette lighters, and “Magic Man,” and somehow in my mind this all ties together.

That’s what happens when you get up at 4:30 in the morning on a Saturday.

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