Monday, March 10, 2008

Music Monday - "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" - Traffic



For other tales of musical adventure, please visit Soccer Mom in Denial.



There is nothing more evocative from my high school years than "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys".

I switched from a very alternative, small school that I had attended from pre-school through 8th grade, to a power prep school for high school.

My old school was in Harlem; my new school was in Riverdale (what was really a suburb and extremely nice area). At my old school, we called most of our teachers by their first names; at my new school, everyone was Mr. or Ms. or even Dr. At my old school we did term projects on topics of interest - we built African villages in Central Park, we created a speakeasy for our studies on the 20s, we passed petitions on Hudson River clean-up, we participated in moratoriums against the war. At my new school, we wrote essays, we read Beowulf in the original, we wrote out mathematical equations, we carried masses of textbooks. At my old school, the school song was "Make New Friends, but Keep the Old;" at my new school, it was a theme in Latin that took me until Senior year to get through without a hitch (and I never did understand what all the lyrics meant).

I was, in my own small way, in culture shock.

My parents tried to help by "fixing me up" with a couple of their friends' kids who went to that new school before I entered. And the interesting thing I found out, was that no matter whom I met, when our talk turned to music, as it generally did in those days, Traffic was a constant. And I almost always found the familiar sky blue album cover with the checkered floor somewhere in a new companion's collection.

I got over my culture shock eventually and made many good friends. I was always a "floater" - rather than having a particular group, I had friends in several. The one common denominator continued to be "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys." I could listen to this album in an apartment on Park Avenue with a bunch of preppies, or with my hippie friend, Jose, in his apartment in the South Bronx, with my partying Irish friends in Yonkers, or with my theater crowd on the Upper West Side. It didn't matter. We all liked Traffic, apparently.

And to this day, I can not understand the connection. But maybe you can. If you have some time, listen to the track below. Or maybe you already know it. What do you think is the magic that brought together so many diverse kids of the early, NYC 70s?

PS. For some reason the video isn't posting, so if it doesn't get here, you can find the piece here

17 comments:

dianamuse said...

The alchemy of Steve Winwood + Jim Capaldi. Sigh.

What a remarkable adolescence.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It was an interesting adolescence, for certain. Useful? Maybe. But NYC in the 70s was a great place to grow up. So much energy and opportunity. And neighborhoods still dotted Manhattan. I know they still do, but it's different, somehow.

mae said...

Write more about the schools -- it's fascinating!

Ben said...

As I was reading about this I was transported to NYC in the 70's. I love NYC and I will live there again some day. And though we are from different generations, some things, like music, are timeless.

Flower Child said...

Despite the divisiveness that preceded the 70's - somehow we all agreed on the music. I have no idea why but I can tell you that no matter who I talk to we all really loved the music. Maybe we just all feel old.

Dru said...

I think community spirit. NY in the 70s was awesome and everyone like each other.

cablegirl said...

Nothing beats having an eclectic group of friends with music to bring you together.

Great post. :)

anno said...

These stories about growing up in NYC in the 70s are amazing -- they make a remarkable collection. I hope you have plans for them...

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Whew, this is what I get for returning to the computer late in the day!

Mae - I will definitely write more about the schools. I've already written a bit about the alternative school on another Music Monday jaunt - Born to Be Wild, I think.

Ben - see, this is where I got confused because I saw a bunch of NYC photos on your other blog, and then realized that you must live in the Columbus area. NYC is a great, wonderful, rollicking town. Great music scene, too.

Well, Flower Child, maybe so, but I'm amazed how many kids of THIS generation love that music, too. A friend of C's put a CD mix together for him called "Songs Everyone Should Know" - because she was appalled at his lack of music knowledge and it was ALL stuff from our era. I rediscovered Traffic and Cream putting together a counter disk for her about songs SHE should know, lol. And she loves it, of course.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Well said, Dru. I think that really was there, in its own way. Even during the horrible Summer of Sam, New Yorkers drew together to try to fight this blight. New Yorkers are great at the "pull together" thing.

I agree, CG, absolutely!

Anno, I kind of do have some plans for them eventually, but in the meantime, I want to get that mystery series off the ground! (ie. as in sold) ;-)

Greg said...

Wow! Music was a divisive thing in the 1970's at my high school. Only the real "heads" were into Traffic...The Low Spark of High-Heel Boys was a constant on my stereo, as well as their follow up album Shootout at the Fantasy Factory.

soccer mom in denial said...

Sigh. I only wish music was that unifying. By the 1980's you had the kids who only like hair bands, others into pop and then me and my folk - moody British bands...

Jane the Sane said...

I haven't been to NYC in years and your post made me wistful for it. At no other time in my life do I remember being both anonymous and part of something to such a degree.

Oh, and I tagged you. No pressure though :)

Flower Child said...

Hey! Share that CD with the rest of us!

Rebecca said...

I want to go to your old school, like now! Or, send my son there. Or just make a pretend speakeasy, whatever. Have a great tome in NYC!!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Greg, that's what I found so interesting about the fact that this was such a constant in so many places...

SMID, I think by the 80s a lot of divisiveness was occurring in all sorts of areas... and music was probably just one.

Jane, I think I responded to the tag and thanks! and I'll do something about it once I'm back home. NYC is great fun. ;-)

Flower Child - Low Spark? I think it's pretty easy to find. ;-)

Rebecca - my first school was definitely great fun. Sadly, it no longer exists. I think it ran out of steam/money in the 90s. The second school is still going strong, though.

mental mosaic said...

In my teen years, music was definitely used as a cultural divider. I've always enjoyed hanging out with a diverse bunch, but I can't think of any album we'd all agree on.
Interesting post!