The first record I remember hearing was James Taylors “Sweet Baby James”. The vinyl sounded course and dirty. The lyrics confused my 12-year old brain; I had no idea what love was, or how it felt to lose it. But the melodies spoke to me. James Taylor had this way of writing about pain and longing, without sounding whiny or….to use the parlance of my particular time: “Lame”. My parents liked his music, so I was almost forced to listen. I’ve always been glad they were James Taylor fans.
The first album I bought with my own money was the “Days Of Thunder” soundtrack. David Coverdale, Chicago, Guns N’ Roses. I grew up in a sort of racing family, so the film moved me. The soundtrack was silly, and I kind of knew it at the time. But still, I would crank that sh*t to eleven, and imagine myself behind the wheel of a speeding race car.
Grunge came along in the early 90′s, and my interest in actually making music started to take shape. Filthy guitar tones, front-men shrouded in mystery. Why were they so angry? Where did these vicious sounds and words come from? I wasn’t a particularly angry or disgruntled kid at 14. In fact, I had it pretty easy. (It wasn’t until about 15-16 that I started to get in trouble with the local police and disrupt an already dysfunctional family) But records like Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, and the soundtrack to “Singles” made me listen beyond the melody, and forced me to focus on the lyrics. At that point, I realized that pop music mattered, and that lyrics were so important; a time-stamp of an emotion; of a generation.
In 1993, I heard Counting Crows,”Mr Jones” on the radio, cutting through the static of generic “grunge/Seattle” programming. On the record “August And Everything After”, Adam Duritz poured his heart out with reckless abandon. He sang of longing and insomnia. Of love and love lost. Of finding ones true self. He washed his words in americana, and metaphor of vast panoramas and endless highways. I longed to explore the American landscape, free of parents who didn’t understand me, teachers who couldn’t teach me – and myself, whom I didn’t really know. The album, “August And Everything After” made me a guitar player, and a songwriter. It made me an artist, and it changed my heart forever. It made me a romantic. It made me truly care about music, and the effect it had on my life. To this day, I regard that record as one of the most important catalysts in my life – not just it’s musical influence, but it’s affect on the way I viewed the world, and how I interacted with it. Last year, I had the opening chorus of “Rain King” tattooed on my body: ”I belong in the service of the Queen. I belong anywhere but in between.” I see these words everyday, and yet their meaning continues to evolve.
This post is about the music that first affected you….the music that you truly adopted as your own. The music that defined you. What first moved you? What upset your heart and challenged your mind? What defined/shaped your taste for art? What made you dance and sing and shout and cry – madly and unabashedly?
Sound off… Because it this little blog has taught me anything, it’s taught me to listen. And I like to listen…