The year the music died


The year the music died
by Jahanshah Javid

A few months ago my cousin Shirin emailed some old photos. They were from the summer of 1976. I was 14 and had just arrived from Abadan, waiting to start my freshman year at Thacher, a boarding school in the small town of Ojai, a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. I was staying at an apartment in Santa Monica shared by Shirin and my older brother Roger, who were in their early 20s. I couldn't wait to grow up and live like them, free from parents, do whatever you liked, go wherever you wanted, be with whoever you desired.

When I saw the above photo, I remembered that room well even after more than 33 years. Opposite where I sat was my brother's TV which was  showing the Democratic Party's national convention. Jimmy Carter was giving a speech. I was witnessing democracy in action for the first time. The concept of elections and voting for candidates was new to me. There was nothing close to that when I was growing up in Iran, where we had a Shah and he was the head of state forever. None of this noisy convention business impressed me. Looked more like a circus with red white and blue balloons flying and people wearing silly hats.

Much more than politics, I was into pop culture, especially music. I loved listening to FM radio and American Top 40. One of my favorite songs at the time was "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John & Kiki Dee. Obviously my taste was pretty gay, so to speak. And my very first album proved it. One day I was at a record store on Westwood Blvd with Shirin. She said she would buy any album I wanted. I'm embarrassed to say that I chose Vicki Sue Robinson's "Turn the Beat Around". And I still think the title track is a great song! Yikes!

A lot changed when I entered boarding school as I was exposed to a wider range of bands and musicians. Hank my next-door neighbor introduced me to Elton John's masterpiece "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". Another dorm-mate frequently played Peter Frampton's live album on his stereo on high volume and then on his electric guitar. One of my classmates with big rock-star hair and a southern accent from New Orleans was into Lynyrd Skynyrd. Another was a big fan of Chicago.

The dorm counselor played what I thought was the strangest music. His room was behind mine and I could hear stuff never played on the radio coming through our joint wall. It wasn't rock, it wasn't pop, and certainly not classical. It had a great beat though.  One day I was passing by his room and the door was open. I saw a big poster on the wall of a guy with crazy hair and a beautiful smile named Bob Marley. I think it was through the same wall that I fell in love with WAR.

Walking to class every morning I heard music from Heart, Jefferson Starship, the great Steve Miller Band and the incredible Blondie blaring out of the windows in another dorm building.

My father had bought me a small cassette-tape machine when I first arrived at the school. The only music I remember coming out of that box was the Bee Gees' "Nights on Broadway". But when my father and brother Roger visited me a couple of months later, I got the greatest gift in the world: a used, no-name-brand record player for $20 from a classmate who had a for-sale sign on his door in our dorm. From then on, my record collection steadily grew.

One of my favorite pastimes was to go to the record store -- I especially remember Warehouse Records on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, when me and my younger sister Michelle were living with my sister Sue-San and her husband Hossein. I rarely bought anything because a) I usually couldn't afford it and b) I didn't know most of the artists. My main source for new music was the radio stations and they mostly played pop songs. So I would stare at the big, colorful album covers and wonder: Should I pay seven bucks for these scary guys called Aerosmith? What on earth is Led Zeppelin? The Cars? It was a big risk because you couldn't return something once the plastic wrap had been removed. I thought long and hard before I bought Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life". Great album.

I paid what seemed like a fortune for the best of The Beatles in two double-albums. It was worth every cent. And their collection of love songs too from the years with Capitol Records, which drowned me in romantic fantasies of my girlfriend Laura in Hawaii. I faithfully bought every album by Paul McCartney's Wings. All except for "Band on the Run" were, I don't want to say junk, but not so good except for a couple of hit songs in each one.
I was so obsessed with Boston's first album that their next didn't have a chance in hell to meet my expectations. But everything Fleetwood Mac put out was awesome. No one was more beautiful, or could sing a ballad like Linda Ronstadt. Boz Scaggs' "Silk Degrees" was an instant classic. The Eagles didn't have one song I didn't like. Same with Supertramp -- God they were so good!

Music was my biggest pleasure.


Sometime in late summer, early fall 1979, I made my decision. I put all my albums in a bag and walked over to a second-hand record store somewhere in Huntington Beach in southern California. The man paid me 50 cents for each and I walked out without sadness or hesitation. I was proud I had sacrificed my most precious possessions for Islam and the revolution.


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more from Jahanshah Javid

I reckon music never had anything to do with being religious

by mannya2001 on

It is really crazy, but I get to act and think all Jihadi when I am listening to a pumping music.  I understand the lyrics, but I ain't paying attention to them as much.  I would concentrate on the melody and tune and get all pumped up.

 But its funny, when I was young, I wanted to go to Turkey & US so bad when I was a teenager.  I figured it was fun and exciting.  Turkey back in the day was wild!

Never did I know that GOD would make it a 16 yr experience. 

 Better watch out what you wish for, God might pay attention to the first part only!!


Well, the music would have died one way or another!

by sima on

Might as well go out with a big bang of a revolution.

Anahid Hojjati

Dear Jahanshah, thanks for sharing your memories

by Anahid Hojjati on


Thanks Jahanshah.  It is great that an early age, you were exposed to all kinds of muisc. About the same time in Iran, gradually, interest in western music for many young poeple was being replaced with pre occupation with revolution.  That is why from 1978 to 1983, I did not listen to much western music.  However, I do remember being in a party in summer of 1983 in Tehran and young people dancing to Michael Jackson. 

Jahanshah Javid

Full recovery

by Jahanshah Javid on

Niki, I did rebuild my collection when I left Iran at the end of 1989. My first stop was my brother's apartment in Paris. I think I listened to Prince's "Purple Rain" album a thousand times in the few weeks I was there. I bought a few hundred CDs in 90's but they are all in a box in the garage now. YouTube is so convenient. And I subscribe to Sirius satellite radio, which has more than a hundred music channels -- commercial free.

Life is so much better :)


Good thing you repented being a Muslim ;o)

by Khar on

Here's to you buddy, "No angel is born in Hell"

The Day the music Died (American-Pie):


A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they'd be happy for a while.

But february made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn't take one more step.

I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died............


JJ I have one song for you

by masoudA on

Child of Vision - Supertramp.   From the Breakfast in America Album.


You and I have somewaht close taste in music - feel free to check out some of my video music selections on my website.  You may get a kick. 


Niki Tehranchi

What a cutie!

by Niki Tehranchi on

I love the little Lord Fauntleroy ringlets and the bright smile :o))) Heyff that you gave all your records away.  Did you ever reconstruct your music library?