I suppose it might be wise to offer a bit on how I got into music in the first place. I’ll do these in pieces over time since there’s a lot of ground to cover.
I am getting a bit long in the tooth these days but I think I’ve pinpointed the first memory I have of actually sitting for awhile and listening to music. It would have been in the early ’80’s – I am guessing here but I think it was ’83. I would have turned 6 that year but was probably still 5 at the time.
I was over at my grandparents’ house staying the evening and my uncle’s room there was uninhabited for the night. I sat with his stereo and his – wait for it – 8 track collection.
I don’t remember exactly what all I jammed out to that evening but I very much recall hearing Jimi Hendrix. That would stick with me to this very day and Hendrix is one of my favorite artists of all time.
I wouldn’t get into having my own music until several years later. In the intervening time I would absorb it through the usual mediums of the time – from relatives’ collections on huge old stereo systems that are now retro and worth money, on the radio, and on the up-and-coming music video channel on cable TV. (What was its name?)
I’d hear and like a lot of the big names of the day – The Police, John Mellencamp, Springsteen, and all the various one-hit wonders of the time. But the one that really got me was Van Halen. I’m far from the only one – Van Halen truly rocked the world. They were the ones who, more than anyone, launched me onto the path I’ve been on all these years.
I was 9 when my mom finally relented with my unending demands for my own music and she bought me a record, straight off the shelf of our local Wal-Mart in Cowtown USA. It was one of the most popular records of the year and probably not something a lot of people would do much but sneer at today, but dammit it was mine. It was Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet.
I’ll be upfront about it – I still dig it to this day. Excellent songwriting and fun stuff to jam out to. I won’t say I’m a huge fan of their whole catalog but this album gets it done for me.
After that my family took the hint and started buying me music as gifts. I’d get the standard fare for the time – hair metal, Michael Jackson, that sort of thing. It’d be a few years until I got into anything off the beaten path, but that’s a whole other story.
The process of discovery was the great thing about the early days. It was easy to do back then, music was massive business and was all over the place. It was also nice to be too young to be into the gatekeeping, elitism and smugness that would come in later years. It was simply a matter of enjoying something that was cool and moving on from stuff that wasn’t.
Alas, the joy and innocence of childhood discovery is long since lost to the ages. But it’s always cool to think back on how a lifetime of musical enjoyment and appreciation began. And somehow there are a series of straight lines to draw from here to extreme metal, and to country, and somehow later curving back to Britrock and shoegaze. But we’ll get there.