I just picked up two CD's yesterday and tonight I'm going to a Wintersleep concert. It's hard to believe that there was a time in my life when music didn't mean anything to me. What a stupid six year old kid I was!
Yes, I was exposed to music at quite a young age. I loved the melodic quality of the 50's music my parents often listened to. Here are two of my favorites:
Buddy Holly "Rave On"
The Dovells "Bristol Stomp"
Like most people in their larval stage, music was often just background noise at the time. And at that time the state of the union was dire. Radio was awash in disco. Like this:
Stars on 45 "Stars on 45 (Video)"
If you got through more than three minutes of that crap, by the way, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.
With disco so prevalent, it was only a matter of time before it seeped into my consciousness osmosis-style, yo. When I was eight years old I asked for the Spirits Having Flown record by The Bee Gees. I played that s#!& incessantly, often caterwauling along to the song "Tragedy" (much to the delight of my parents).
As a possible omen (or perhaps it was an ottoman) of better things to come, my ears were also piqued the following year by Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers". He's the vid:
But for some odd reason I didn't ask for or buy the album. Alas, my interest in music continued to be pretty superficial as I entered the Eighties. My listening and purchasing trends continued to be based around the philosophy of "Well, if it's popular, it's gotta be good!" This resulted in some tentative but ultimately, misguided "Columbia House" disasters. Such as purchasing my very own copy of Culture Club's Colour By Numbers album (although I still insist it's a pop classic what with the vocal stylings of Boy George and backup singer Helen Terry on display).
Now having said that, some other ventures into Eighties pop continue to resonate with me to this very day. You may scoff (actually I can hear the scoffage right now) but I still play Cargo and Business As Usual by Men At Work quite often. It was the first time music spoke to me so directly, so color me delighted that I have so much in common with this pack of homely Aussie weirdos.
Songs like "Who Can it Be Now?", "Helpless Automaton", "Be Good Johnny", "Overkill", "Upstairs in My House", and "It's a Mistake" all touched on heavy topics like paranoia, isolation, disconnect, parental pressure and fear of nuclear holocaust. In other words, stuff that most pre-teens in the Eighties likely struggled with. Here's a sample:
But by then, thanks to my cousin Jason, there came from beyond something called THE METAL (special nod to Jack Black). THE METAL made me forget everything that had come before it. As an increasingly antisocial and angry kid with a penchant for horror films, Motley Crue's consciously vacant (or is that vacantly conscious?) Shout at the Devil album was a game changer. I'd been a bit too young for both KISS and Alice Cooper so when "The Crue" came along it was the perfect storm of time, place, aggression level and modest rebellion.
I was hooked. These leather clad, makeup-wearing, be-studded punks were obnoxious, dark, loud, boorish and appeared to be wasted twenty-four-seven. Yes, they were loutish. Yes, you suspected that they smelled awful. And you were vaguely amused when Nikki Sixx defended his band against charges of satanism when confronted with the album cover. His rejoinders sounded weak even to a twelve year old ears:
"Uh, yeah, it isn't satanic cuz, uh, you can see by the title of the album that we're...uh, shouting at the devil, not...uh, y'know...with him."
Back then THE METAL was also the perfect foil to terrify parents, kinda like the modern day equivalent of...well, actually there is no modern day equivalent. Which bring me to a point - why is music so damned safe now? A few years ago it might have been Marilyn Manson, gangsta rap and death metal. But what terrifies parents now? I think I just heard someone say "emo", but that's actually pathetic not EEEEEE-vil. Where the hell is the EEEEEE-vil in music now? That's right, I said EEEEEE-vil, not just "evil." There's a big difference there.
THE METAL proved to be fertile ground for my imagination and self-esteem. The small-minded people that railed blindly against THE METAL had no idea how much self-empowerment and solace THE METAL gave to shy, angry kids. I cheered when Tipper Gore got pwned by Dee Snider during the PMRC hearings:
Until the mid-Eighties, THE METAL continued to infuse my wasted youth with tremendous color. I soon found myself be-mulleted, wearing baseball style T-shirts, castration-prone jeans and leather armbands. I worshiped at the portable stereo altar of my sonic heroes every night. Ozzy Osbourne wrote about self-conviction in "Believer", Iron Maiden fueled my interest in history and poetry with "Aces High" and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", Judas Priest railed against surveillance in "Electric Eye", and Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P. Ronnie!) gave me an appropriately cheesy soundtrack to my Dungeons & Dragons days with "Sacred Heart".
But by the time 1986 rolled around my metal gods were forsaking me. Motley Crue released Theater of Pain and shed their bad-ass EEEEE-vil trappings. Suddenly Vince Neil was tying scarves to his mike stand just like every other glam metal loser. Ozzy got a perm circa The Ultimate Sin. Judas Priest invited me to be their Turbo Lover ("WTF is this crap!?"), which is kinda interesting in retrospect given Rob Halford's eventual revelations. Even the wheels fell off my old standby Iron Maiden when No Prayer For The Dying came down the pike.
THE METAL was moving into thrash and increasingly aggressive tendencies and I had outgrown it. Looking back, I realize I shouldn't have missed the boat with good metal bands like Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica, and Megadeth but this is how it went. It was not to be my destiny.
I fell in with a group of friends who joined an Amnesty International group in High School purely to ramp up their sad odds of meeting girls who might mistake them as "sensitive". I was chided for listening to The Scorpions so I began a "Conscience Rock" phase which involved Rush, The Police, Simple Minds, Peter Gabriel (Yay!) and U2. Peter Gabriel I dug right away 'cuz I had previous exposure. I was pre-disposed to Rush already since they were somehow socially-conscious metal. I stuck with them until the execrable Roll The Bones album was pooped into existence. I took to The Police right way thanks to their punky first album. U2 was initially a tough sell to me, but I borrowed their Live At Red Rocks album from a friend and it eventually grew on me. Thank God I didn't see the accompanying concert footage until years later since the band's appearance would have been a deal-breaker right there, especially Bono's prototypical mullet, Peter Pan boots and tendency to stage prance.
And, oh yeah, Simple Minds bored the crap outta me.
Coming up: I delve back into classic rock, eventually find a musically passion that has sustained me to this day and why liking Nickleback is just plain laziness!
"My Humps" is till worse, IMHO.
Also, here's this week's totally non-music-related comic: