2003 JULY 4 #185
Paul V. - Stars and Stripes Forever
Once, long ago in the 1970s, I knew a family in my hometown in southeastern Iowa. (I'll call them the V. family.) The V's had an old player piano in their basement "rec" room, with dozens of old piano rolls from the early part of the twentieth century. Sometimes friends were invited to sing along to the old rolls, even though the piano was somewhat out of tune and the rolls themselves weren't in perfect condition. They were what I considered a very musical family. On the night of my high school graduation several of us friends gathered drunkenly around that piano to sing old chestnuts like "Lucky Lindbergh" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
Suzanne V. was my classmate in school, and once, around 1975 or 1976, lent me a reel-to-reel tape of some album - possibly King Crimson - she wanted me to hear. (Or maybe I was going to record her "Horses" by Patti Smith; I don't remember. I do remember that she didn't like "Horses," and that was about the end of our relationship.) At the end of the tape was a fragment of a recording which Paul, Suzanne's brother, had left on the tape from some previous year. Thus his recording of "Stars and Stripes Forever," accompanied by the family's player piano, came to light, and I have dutifully copied it from format to format over the years, as I gave up on reel-to-reel and then cassette, and moved on eventually to CDs and mp3s.
Unfortunately, the coda disappeared over the years, including a section where sister Allison came in tooting on a recorder, and the tape ended with Paul telling her to "Shut up, Allison! Get out of here!
I am grateful to Mr. Otis F. Odder for appreciating the small charm of this document of midwestern teenage life in the last quarter of the twentieth century, and thank him for cleaning up as best he could a very raggedy recording. I hope anyone who listens forgives my illicit copying - and if any of the V. family ever comes across this, please forgive me! I'm sorry if I didn't return the tape...
- Scott Elledge
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