My folks brought me up listening to old 70’s folk (John Denver, The Mamas and the Papas), classical music and lots of “oldies” on AM radio. Growing up in Boston, there was (is?) an AM station that played nothing but oldies, all the time. I have lots of vivid memories of being in the basement working on the model railroad with Dad with the 50’s hits playing in the background .
I also have memories of that same basement, but soon it was my prized copy of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and my friend Alex and I working on the railroad. I used to make Alex get up and reset the stylus on the old Heathkit. Alex and I also used to have breakdancing expositions for my family down there too. He had red and blue light bulbs that we’d plug in. We’d then take my Dad’s Sony boombox that had detachable speakers and set it up under a desk. Greg, Alex’s brother, was the DJ, spinning (playing) Fat Boys, Run DMC, and the Beat Street soundtrack while Alex and I would show off all our moves.
I took to the radio as well, pretty heavily. I used to record just about everything I liked off the radio on cassette tapes in the 80s. I’d label them “TAPE 1” and “TAPE 2” and so on. I got up to about 35 and then started to buy more stuff. I still have those tapes and throw ’em in for a laugh now and then. My fav’s were Thompson Twins, Cindy Lauper, U2, Simple Minds, Tears For Fears, The Cars, Depeche Mode, Billy Idol and Duran Duran. Largely, my tastes consisted of anything that was played on the radio, so it was all singles and hits. I didn’t delve too deep into full albums and cassettes purchased from music stores.
In high school I kept to the radio largely until I got my first CD player for Chrismas in 1990. I had recently been introduced to “classic rock” (60s-70s) by some classmates. I quickly fell in love with Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, etc. I asked my Mom for a Led Zep CD to go w/ the CD player and Mom picked out Presence. She couldn’t have picked a more obscure album of Zeppelin’s but it was my first. I ate it up, too, listening over and over and over to Achille’s Last Stand, which I found fascinating in its tempo and drive.
During the next few years I would collect many Zeppelin discs as well as some grunge, hip-hop and pop stuff. I started to get into the Seattle Scene that was bleeding off of MTV’s 120 minutes (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Neil Young, etc.) and quickly into the mainstream. I still remember running over my copy of Nirvana’s Teen Spirit cassette single with my parents’ Toyota. I hated the fact that some of my favs were finding their way into the pop scene. Beck, The Beastie Boys and the above bands quickly made their way to fame and I lamented that. I knew where to dig, though, getting into some local DC bands like Ashes, which I saw after a Go-Go act at a high school homecoming at Maret High School in DC. They floored me.
Getting into College in Delaware I brought most of the same musical affinities, evident in my fairly large and growing CD collection (as well as my subscription to that evil organization Columbia House and BMG. Yes, both). My roommates had pretty similar tastes (as did most college freshman) which was fun. But, there were several new bands that I got turned on to. Most notable was Pink Floyd. I had heard random PF hits on the radio over the last few years, but never really paid much attention to them. It wasn’t till my roommate Brian brought his copy of the newly-released PF box set and played Meddle for me. I was completely hooked. I listened to each album, inside and out until I knew every song back and forth. I was somewhat obsessed with them. An early form of what we know as the internet in the mid 90s was Gopher. I scoured every site I could, digging up PF boards, discographies, histories, news, images, theories, etc, reading everything and eating it up. In my Sophomore year, during the winter session, I lived alone in my dorm room and sat glued, sometimes overnight, to my computer reading all about PF. Some days I would only leave the room to get water for my Ramen noodles and to take bathroom breaks. It was bad.
Luckily it was at the same time that I met one of my best friends, Andy. Andy has an exceptional interest in good music. He was into bands like Over The Rhine, The Sundays, The Cult, U2 (although when Zooropa came out he threw away his entire U2 CD collection), Joy Division, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Morrissey, and so on. Stuff I’d heard bits and pieces of (except U2) but never really got into. Now we were both being introduced to some new music and it sent us on a quest for more. Bands like James, Grant Lee Buffalo, Peter Gabriel, Catherine Wheel, Slowdive, Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine all came into our view. We ate it up. Ate it up with a huge spoon.
A couple years later the next phase began when I was introduced to a guy who was into electronic music, among other things. I had never really taken much interest in it; Kraftwerk was still the butt of some jokes of mine and I owned one Techno album, not exactly representative of the genre. Paul turned me on very quickly to outfits like Orbital, Josh Wink, The Chemical Brothers, Sasha, Paul Oakenfold, Towa Tei, Aphex Twin, and. The second Techno album I purchased was Northern Exposure, a 2-disc set by Sasha & John Digweed which still to this day is one of my absolute favorites in the genre. Others have emerged like BT and Underworld, two of my favorites. Thus, the foundation was laid for much of the rest of my life.
Fast forward to today. Since the college years, I have mainly sought out sucessors to these bands and follow-on acts. I also look for similar groups and try to pick up LPs, EPs and singles that I missed (or couldn’t afford) way back when. I go deeper into catalogues of artists that I adore and rediscover music that I maybe didn’t appreciate years earlier. I have lately been getting into some new Genres, mainly Jazz, Bluegrass and Ancient music, mainly 11th – 15th century stuff, which I just love. Oh, and since having Kyle I’ve been playing a lot of kiddie songs, but we won’t go into that.
I would love to hear recommendations based on what I’ve written here, or thoughts. Music is a huge part of my life and I don’t think that will ever change. It’s such fun to dig an album or a group and immerse yourself in their creations and trivia. It’s addictive and sometimes expensive, but well worth it in the end. This satisfaction of love is overwhelmingly pleasing and comforting. Music does this. It will attach itself to you and give meaning in a tangible, sensory manner. Something that you can grasp and enjoy over and over.