I've been a music junkie in need of a fix since I was in 3rd grade. It was 1969 and I joined the Record Club of America and voila, the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, Led Zeppelin III, Jesus Christ Superstar arrived and my world was never the same. As time went on my vinyl collection swelled to 2000 discs, tons of 45s, and by the time I was 16 I was working Saturday's in Plastic Fantastic, perhaps the greatest of all used record stores ever, thanks to the founders Harold Gold and his ex wife Betsy Berlin. Between my late nights hanging in the store on my way home from my office, my Saturday sojourns to 3rd Street Jazz, Platters, Radio 437, Sam Goody, Franklin Music and a bunch of hole in the wall record stores, I was always on the hunt for what would be the next big thing.
Somewhere along the way I started to help some friends spin PUNK ROCK on WXPN-FM on a short lived but life changing once a week 1 AM - 6 AM show called "Yesterday's Now Music Today." We played new stuff. Very new stuff. I donned the moniker R.P Android, said my name was Jeremy Stone (taken from a character in the book, The Andromeda Strain) and was on the air as a D.J for the summer. It was back then I started to hang out with the Talking Heads, The Nuns, The Cramps, even Bryan Setzer when his band was called The TopCats thanks to Betsy and Harold as they always had these super cool in store appearance and I was asked to help with them. So between the late nights of concerts at STARZ and The Hot Club, my regular job with the Philadelphia Flyers, college by day, hockey games and concerts at the Spectrum at night, my new found record store connections, I was as much into music then as I'm into wine today. And this was all before I was 19.
I mean, come on, how many teens back then were at Yes, Pink Floyd and then Crosby, Still and Nash all in a few weeks period. Years later when I was in my 20s and leading the renovation of the Flyers offices I was using our coaches office as my base of operations in the back of the house. That means, by the locker rooms. One night Nils Lofgren makes a wrong turn and walked into my office, that was a few hours before he was to be part of the E Street Band with "The Boss". I'd been a Nils fan since before Cry Tough and Keith don' Go. Then there was the time Rod Stewart on a solo tour was playing soccer with his son in the hallway at the Spectrum, and I got to "kick it" with him. Another night there was Alice Cooper coming out on stage in a Flyers jersey in 1974. A few days later I got to listen to soundcheck by Emerson, Lake and Palmer as they rehearsed, or later on in years watch the likes of U2 and Van Halen rehearse. Those stories and more shaped my musical life.
Music was my outlet, while sports was my life. Back then it was the dawn of the Walkman era. We had cassettes, 8 tracks or vinyl. CD's were a ways off, FM album oriented rock ruled the day, so if sports was my master, music was surely my mistress. WMMR, WYSP and WIOQ were the stations for the masses, and WXPN and WRTI were were new music was really found, and day and night one of those five stations was on my radio.
But I digress. For years now I've been playing music from iTunes, Pandora or Spotify, and now that I've discovered the extreme setting in Spotify, I finally felt I was getting that better than CD experience. That was before today when pal Phil Baker, the mind behind Neil Young's Pono Music player handed me a Pono and said "have some fun." And boy, am I.
I'm playing Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, which I downloaded in 96khz sound. Talk about a difference. The sound blows away anything iTunes or Spotify can offer. The mix is rich, ripe and alive. The drums of John Bonham are separated from the cymbal crashes. The ethereal guitar of Jimmy Page mixes and splits from the bass line of John Paul Jones, while Robert Plant's vocals come through as if they were inside my head.
The Pono is audio for music lovers, not for people who just want to hear the latest Lady Gaga song or something belted out by Mylie Cyrus.
The Pono for me, is THE fix to a long lost music junkies' love for great sounding music. To me it makes iTunes sound like AM radio did when I discovered FM or FM when CD's came around.
But, words don't don't really describe it. You need to hear it for yourself.