(Inspired by this: http://ourcollective.org/next-room/)
I don’t remember a time without music in my life. My mom wanted to be a rock star and constantly played music. People think I’m joking, but mom really did put me to sleep to Led Zeppelin. She also played guitar and taught it for awhile, so I often heard her deep Cher-like voice singing along as she worked on Paul Simon tunes. When I sang with her, my dad would joke, “Which one’s Garfunkel?”
Mom’s music was always very drum and bass heavy, so I naturally gravitate to that. Her LPs from my childhood are like a Who’s Who of Classic Rock. That’s still my “default setting” when choosing what to listen to. It’s comforting to me, songs I know so well I can sing along to without really paying attention. Songs that have just Always Been There.
As a kid, I remember listening to our local AM station. The morning DJ played a lot of comedy, so I have fond memories of Cheech & Chong and stuff like that, but I also have a soft spot for those early 70s Top 40 songs. “The Night Chicago Died” was a favorite. When I got “cool” in high school, I wouldn’t have admitted that, but now I don’t care.
My dad’s sister is 11 years older than me and his brother is 9 years older, so they also played a big part in my musical upbringing. My uncle was the hard rock guy. Aerosmith was probably the biggest contribution he made directly, but he also got me watching Saturday Night Live and The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. In the 70s and 80s, those shows were constantly introducing new music to the world, and I soaked it all in. I’m fairly sure that I first saw Blondie, The B-52s and Devo on those shows. I probably also got into watching Sha-Na-Na’s show with him, which is where I got into 50s music and first saw The Ramones. I read his Creem and Guitar World magazines constantly.
My aunt was into the Sensitive Singer-Songwriters of the era, James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg especially. She also had these amazing books full of lyrics, some with her notes about what they meant. My love of rock music as poetry and as a medium for more than love songs comes from those books. She also subscribed to Rolling Stone, which I devoured.
High school led to meeting A., who introduced me to T-Rex and Golden Earring and other cool lesser-known bands, but more importantly she was plugged in to the burgeoning Punk and New Wave movements of the early 80s. We played records and made mix tapes, some of which I still have. We listened to WYDD Pittsburgh when they started playing this new music. We stayed up late on Sundays to listen to Rock Over London and then talked about all the awesome songs we’d heard on Monday at school.
It seems sometimes like those days of insane creative overabundance are long gone. So much now sounds stale and auto-tuned and made-by-committee. Can you still hear music that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before? Or that takes the familiar and twists it in some way? I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. I don’t think I’m just getting old and crabby about this (I hope). Maybe in this age of the Internet, you just have to go searching a little harder.
All we hear is radio ga-ga…