Musical Crack for Weight Training
Turned into a helpless junkie by my well-intentioned friends
I am deeply moved by music. I always have been. As a ten-year old child, sent to bed at 8 pm every Wednesday, I would stay awake in my bunkbed until 9 pm so I could hear the sensuous, ethereal theme song music for the TV series Adventures in Paradise. My country grandmother would have gospel music playing on her kitchen radio, my uncle played George Jones and Ray Charles in his Arkansas auto shop.
I came of age in the golden era of popular music. The peak years occurred between 1962 and 1969. The English, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Animals, then the Beach Boys, Motown with Marvin, Smokey, the Temptations and Four tops…Stax-Volt with Booker T., Otis, Sam & Dave, then came Cream, Hendrix (numero uno) and Zepplin…on and on and on. It was easy to become immersed and obsessed with such a continual onslaught of all time excellence.
I have always trained to and with music. I began my iron journey in 1961 in my widower father’s clean, spacious basement. Lovely casement windows let in tons of daylight. I had a plywood sheet laid flat on the bare concrete floor upon which I rested my 110-pound barbell weight set that I used to begin my formalized training.
In 1962 my dad purchased a nice radio for the upstairs living room. He gave me the still perfectly good powerhouse black radio. This was a terrific unit, possessing booming crystalline sound that bounced and rebounded, echoed and ricocheted off the concrete and cinderblock walls and floors that turned the basement into a giant echo chamber.
I had access to four excellent radio stations and was so practiced and adept that I could switch through the four possibilities (two rock stations, one African American R&B station, one jazz station) using the rotating dial knob and do so in four seconds flat. The first time I heard the guitar intro to The Last Time (Rolling Stones) the hairs on the back of my arms stood straight up and I benched my five-rep max for eight reps. I understood from that early age on, that, for me, the right tune played at the right time could and would take my athletic performance up a few notches: that was a flat fact. I began to use music as an integral part of my psyche routine.
Initially we were confined to record albums and radio stations. The invention of the portable listening device in the early 1980s liberated music-loving athletes and allowed us to train while listening over headphones to a customized selection of music of our own choosing. That was a big deal for a lot of elite athletes. I had a series of portable devices and I loved them all. I started with the cumbersome Walkman, which initially seemed miraculous.
I could now train as hard as I wanted to and listen to music of my choice as loud as I wanted, and not disturb anyone. This was incredible. I would carry a half-dozen cassette tapes to a solo training session, switching between artists to find the right groove, the groove that elevated my lifting performance.
Cassettes made 8-tracks obsolete. CDs made cassettes obsolete. I used to stuff the oversized Discman into my fanny pack, along with 3-4 discs for use during workouts. The tiny iPod eventually assassinated the CD. Once I got the hang of downloading, I stuffed 950 songs of my choosing into my first iPod. I think I spent close to 100 hours lovingly constructing the catalog. I thought it was a love affair that would last a lifetime…tragically my iPod died two years later, unexpectedly and suddenly.
Then I lost my backup iPod, 780 songs of my choosing, while running through the woods in a December snow storm. That was painful. I never really recovered from the double loss. I had not the energy to recreate that 1700 song catalog. In about that time, I blinked, and the iPod became extinct, replaced by some nebulous hipster computer music accessing.
I did not have access to computer savvy people. Some will allege I was avoiding them. Regardless, I was a man deprived. I had one ancient iPhone left. I had, maybe, 40 tunes of my picking. Wow. How depressing. Musically it was like living in East Germany in 1965. What a terrible downturn of musical availability. I might as well have been in Pelican Bay swapping 1984 Van Halen CDs with the Uni-Bomber, or living 200 miles north of the arctic circle, stuck with three 8-track tapes: Neil Diamond’s greatest hits, The Starland Vocal Band, and The Captain and Tennille’s Muskrat Love. Pass the shotgun.
Recently a couple of my top lifters pooled their money and got me a Christmas present. I was given a commercial-free subscription to an online musical service. The boys placed it on my cellphone and patiently explained to me that “Any song you care to hear, at that exact instant in time, you can summon it up. If you can spell the song or the artist, it will magically appear, and you can hear it.”
Skeptical. Very skeptical. They guided me.
“Push the ON button – are you still with me?” I gave them the Raymond-the-Rain Man thumbs-up, “Okay, now, tap on ‘search.’” I complied. This was easy. “Now type in who you want to hear.” Too freaking good to be true. I hit search successfully and typed in, “Funky Broadway.”
Allow me to digress and explain that there was purposeful obfuscation on my part meant to confuse the device. Funky Broadway was a moderately successful hit in the mid-sixties from the mighty Wilson Pickett. It made it up to number 8 in 1967. The purposeful curveball I was throwing was, I was not requesting the famed Wilson Pickett version, no, I was requesting the version done by Dyke and the Blazers nine months before Pickett covered the song with the Muscle Shoals crew.
Only the most discriminating of music buffs would know that the song was a regional hit earlier that same year. Pickett covered and released the song later that same year. The Dyke version has been out of print for decades. A Nano-second later and for the first tine in 40 years I was listening to the original Dyke version – only better. Our modern technology was light-years better than the vinyl 45 I owned; better sonics, better hearing, this was incredible! The boys then made it even better.
“Do you see at the bottom where it says, ‘library?’ Why indeed I do. “Any song you can conjure and that you like, you can then put it in your ‘library.’” This staggered me. As soon as I got the hang of it, I went buck wild. I felt I had been set loose inside the world’s largest music store and told, “It’s all free! Go get whatever you want!” To be honest, I felt like a looter. Stuff I would never buy if forced to pay for, now I scooped it up greedily. Do I really need Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult? (‘More cowbell!’) Not in real life, but if I am looting the record store, sure I’ll grab it because I am a music pig.
I never assembled a big Beatles collection because their stuff was always way pricy. Not anymore! I gleefully ripped off 36 Beatle tunes, then remembered the obscure Phil Spector/John Lennon collaboration, Rock and Roll. I detoured to steal eight tunes off that ‘album’ then for good measure stole a bunch of Wings stuff, because I was in the neighborhood. Monday apparently was funk appropriation day as I pillaged Sly Stone for eighteen songs, raided George Clinton, the Ohio Players and Prince. James Brown was held up for eleven hits.
Jaco, Coltrane, all mine. I now have the extensive Miles collection I always wanted and could not afford. I have twenty hours of un-listened to Keith Jarrett. I am an NSA of music, hovering up everything: George Jones, Merle, Kid Rock, Steely Dan, Bad Brains, the Pistols and the Clash. I am out of control. Plus, since I now actually carry my cellphone with me (a big breakthrough,) anytime, anywhere some obscure, cool, forgotten or just heard tune crosses my path, Bang! I bag it – it is mine!
I got my reality check last week during a Sunday lifting session where it occurred to me to ask, “So, Boys, this online service goes on forever and remains free – right?”
Well not exactly. Once the six-month subscription runs out, it turns out I am on my own. Well that’s okay, I said, I will just take my most awesome music library of all time with me when I quit and leave. Well, not exactly. See to have access to the awesome music library, your perfect temple of assembled musical awesomeness, you must stay a subscriber. You cannot take your library with you.
Oh, and further, if you don’t want to listen to commercials between every awesome song, you need the “premium” membership – which is what we got you. I started itching like a junkie in withdrawal. It was then I understood that I had been turned into a musical crack addict. There was no way I could go back to normal life after this. I am too afraid to ask what the freight was, it didn’t matter. I was as hooked as bad as the worst meth addict. Regardless the price, I HAD to pay. I couldn’t go back!
I have looted and pillaged and now the account has come due. Perhaps we will meet someday at a stoplight, as I squeeqy your windshield and panhandle for change to support the musical crack habit that took over my life. My boys gave me the Christmas present of addiction. Isn’t that special.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.