Life-long hippie and music lover12/1/2021
5-plus decades of concert-going results in two books for James Taylor.
Once upon a time, it was 1972 or so, and, in a bar in Fairfield, a man, who was clearly not from there, entered.
“What’s it like in Iowa?” This stranger wanted to know.
A young local named James Taylor answered as best as he could and then asked his vaguely familiar bar mate what he did for work.
“I’m the lead singer for the Beach Boys,” he said. “I’m Mike Love.”
Taylor will be 70 in March. The retired truck driver lives in Polk City and is a self-described life-long hippie.
“Can’t retire from that,” he laughs.
Old habits, it seems, die hard. Especially the fun ones. He has a million or more stories he likes to spin, most of them revolving around music.
As a kid, Taylor bought not just the records he enjoyed listening to, but he also purchased the ones with the best-looking album covers and the albums with neat-sounding names — The Presidents of the United States of America, the Dead Kennedys, The Dead Milkmen — even if he hadn’t heard of the musician. This strategy paid off. Today, his collection is so impressive he needs to carry an extra insurance policy to protect it.
“I have over 1,500 pieces of music — albums, CDs, etc. with many signed,” he explains.
The collection fills much of Taylor’s down time — and his basement — but live music fills his heart.
“(I’ve seen) every artist except the complete Beatles,” he says.
That might be a slight exaggeration, but he numbers his concert experiences in the thousands. He has been doing it for five-plus decades, which makes it difficult to pin down his favorite show.
“Visually, probably Pink Floyd,” he says. “I was blown away.”
But one magical night in Kansas City, circa 1975 at Arrowhead Stadium, was a show he’ll never forget.
“Probably the best show I’ve ever heard was The Rolling Stones,” he says. “That was when they were at their musical peak.”
Ted Nugent “was probably the loudest,” according to Taylor. Sly & The Family Stone, at the old Ames Fieldhouse, might have left him the least impressed.
“They played Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) over and over,” he remembers. “Until after about 30 minutes, he (Sly) walked off the stage.”
The memories generated from Taylor’s lifelong love affair with music eventually spawned two self-published books. These books can’t be found for sale at many places, according to Taylor, online or otherwise, but if you ask him, he might offer you one. Be ready for a trip down memory lane.
“I met my wife 42 years ago as members of Des Moines’ first alternative radio advisory board,” one story starts.
“I remember going to see the Monkees (at Vets Auditorium), and the guy who opened up was mesmerizing. His name was Jimi Hendrix.”
Are you experienced?
“I’ve learned so much about bands,” he explains. “I have seen just about every act from the 1960s to now and have had the chance to meet with a few.”
The education continues.
“I went to three shows just this week,” he says. “I saw, I think, the best ‘bar band’ (Stafford) I have ever seen last week at Wooly’s. … the place was packed. … I thought they were the best jam band I’ve heard in 55 years of concert-going.”
And that’s what it is like living in Iowa for James Taylor. ♦