I'm almost 55 years old, grew up near Rockford and I'm listening to a Cheap Trick record as I write this.
Sounds clichéd, right?
Do I seem less of a stereotype if I tell you that I'm listening to the band's 1994 release, "Woke Up With A Monster?," which no one but the band members and their biggest fans ever heard, or at least remember?
No? Fair enough. I'll get back to Cheap Trick in a little bit.
Music is something I have loved since I was a little kid listening to 45s in my basement bedroom. Music got me through morning paper routes (Walkman) and college all-nighters. For many years as a newspaper editor, it got me through all-nighters as we put out the next morning's edition.
The first album I purchased on my own was "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John. Since then, I have bought hundreds of records, hundreds of CDs and listened to tens of thousands of "records" on Spotify, my streaming service of choice. Best $10 monthly investment I've ever made. My wife and I have attended hundreds of concerts. We saw 114 different bands last year. This year? Two. In 2016, when Sarah was battling cancer, we still saw 79 bands in six states. That year, music saved our lives.
I listen to more music at nearly 55 than I did at 15. So can you. I think we all listen to music to feel young. For me, that's listening to Car Seat Headrest, or Father John Misty or Dogleg (they shred!). But perhaps listening to Journey makes you feel young. Or Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Or The Beatles. Or Cheap Trick.
The important thing is that you listen, and feel. If you let it, music can take you places. To the paper route (Flock of Seagulls), to the student bus heading to your high school basketball team's away game (Styx), to the rooftop in college where you may or may not have been consuming alcohol (New Order), to the walk on the Florida beach (Foo Fighters), to standing in a crowd in the sun at Summerfest in Milwaukee (Something To Do. Check 'em out.).
So, here's something I really want to share with you. Something I think you should go rally your friends and do. Share your love of music with friends.
Talk about it on the phone, on Zoom, in a Facebook chat, or in person – whenever we're allowed to do that again. Or ... form a music fantasy league.
Fantasy league? Yes, a music fantasy league.
I'm in one. We started last year, with four people – me, one of my brothers and two friends. This year, we added two other friends, so there are six of us. We call ourselves the Giant Music Snobs. We have a Facebook page, Giant Music Snobs-Midwest. Go check us out. We haven't done a lot with it yet, but we will.
So each month, we have a Giant Music Snobs Fantasy League draft. Before this year's season began, each of us selected two bands. We each could block one person's pick if we wished. I blocked Johnny Cash. So "Bass" chose Bob Dylan instead.
Our January draft this year was Genesis. No Phil Collins solo stuff. No Peter Gabriel solo stuff. No Mike and The Mechanics. Just Genesis.
We each get 10 picks, in a snaked order. Sixty songs are drafted. We arranged the songs in our desired order. Then we share our playlists with each other on Spotify.
When we get together for the next month's draft, we each discuss the others' playlists and rank them, first through fifth. You can't rank your own list. The person with the most points (5 points for first, 1 point for fifth) wins the month. At the end of the year, the person with the most points gets their Spotify paid by the rest of the GMSFL members for the next year. (If you want our detailed rules, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Which brings me to why I'm listening to a truly awful Cheap Trick record at the moment. We're drafting Cheap Trick songs in about a week, so I'm prepping. I listen to everything from a band before a draft, and come up with a draft prep list, with songs ranked, of at least 60 songs. I come prepared. We all do. That's part of the fun.
Each draft is done in a video chat. So, you get to see and talk to your friends in real time. In these days of social distancing and staying at home, I look forward to our drafts even more than usual.
Music always makes things better. Music keeps you young. And, sometimes, music saves your life.
Jeff Rogers was a reporter and editor at newspapers in Illinois, Wisconsin and Virginia before joining the Illinois Press Foundation as its director in October 2018. The Illinois Press Foundation is the charitable and educational arm of the Illinois Press Association. Rogers also is editor of Capitol News Illinois, a news service covering state government that is published in more than 400 newspapers statewide. He and his wife, Sarah, moved from Freeport to Chatham, and will be moving into Springfield in June.