Like nearly all adolescents, I wanted to listen to music that drove my parents crazy. They didn’t make this easy: both my parents have cool record collections and pretty broad taste. It was thus useful to learn that my dad couldn’t abide Andrew Lloyd Webber. Armed with this, I repeatedly listened to Cats and Jesus Christ Superstar, and I extolled their virtues at every opportunity.
My mom was more sympathetic to this particular musical enthusiasm, and she took me to see the Los Angeles touring production of Cats for my birthday. I loved it. My grandma was visiting at the time and she came along, too. Much to my mom’s annoyance, Grandma was overcome by the darkened theater and fell right asleep.
Even at the time, I thought Memory was overwrought, and I’ve since expanded that assessment to include pretty much this whole show. It’s one of the few musical obsessions that I’ve really soured on. Nonetheless, I credit Andrew Lloyd Webber with introducing me to the poetry of T. S. Eliot. Toward the end of my Cats kick, I picked up a copy of The Four Quartets in the school library. Once I’d gotten over my confusion that this came from the same guy who wrote Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, I fought my way through Burnt Norton. This gave me the first real inkling of what poetry could be, which has proved to be a considerably more enduring legacy.