Although I recall memorizing at a tender age the words to my Dad's Beatles and Barry Manilow albums (quite a selection there, Pops) and the songs constantly flowing (check that--oozing) from my Mom's favorite Easy Listening station, my first musical love was Journey.
Greg and I had LPs and 45s when we were younger, but those were mainly filched from our parents (with the possible exception of Paul Hardcastle's '19', which came to us in mysterious ways). The first record I actually owned, presented to me (along with a Garfield nightgown) on my 11th birthday, to my immense pleasure, was Journey's Frontiers.
I remember this album well: the band members in a weightless, space-suited circle on the back cover; the vaguely creepy, Metropolis-esque face on the front; the lyrics printed out in miniscule type on the sleeve. I listened to it for the first time (although I had, of course, heard chunks of it before on RI104) the moment I got it, there in Aunt Connie and Uncle Vinny's living room. Glenn, my impressively musical cousin, slid the record out of its cover, held it (like you were supposed to) between his palms, barely touching it, and lowered it onto the player.
And there it was: 'Separate Ways,' that timeless plea of heartbreak and promise, swelling out into the room. Glenn turned up the volume; my 11-year-old self sat down on the couch and reveled in the music, the words, Steve Perry's soaring voice giving shape to a conundrum I could not, at that age, have truly understood (although that understanding would come some years hence).
It was bliss, and I was hooked. I don't think anything else touched my record player for the remainder of the summer and well into the fall.
As with so many things we adore early on, I eventually moved away from Journey, tucked Frontiers into Dad's record case and more or less forgot about it as I turned to (in approximate chronological order) the illicit pleasures of Purple Rain, Top 40, Bruce Springsteen, and, come the angst-soaked days of high school, as much moody Brit Pop as I could digest.
And although it's easy--almost too easy--to make fun of Journey these days ('What Would Journey Do?' is a prime example of the ease of the jest), there's still something in me that surges at the memory of that summer day, those notes, those words. My adoration of music, my belief that it said to the world things I was feeling but couldn't say myself, may have been established well before the needle hit the record, but they were reconfirmed, forever confirmed, the moment Journey filled the room.