*** disclaimer: This a bit of a longer article ***
You probably knew a kid like me in my younger days. I didn't really listen to modern music or artists but was mainly into "other" music. While other kids were talking about bands such as Winger, Faster Pussycat, and Saigon Kick - wow, I'm really dating myself here - I was thinking about the AM Radio artists or something from a movie I've recently seen and liked. I did dabble in a little bit of everything but usually I stuck to my own narrow-minded area, probably because I didn't know what other great stuff was out there. Don't get me wrong, I did listen to "pop" music when it came on the radio but I mainly listened to tapes of things that weren't on the radio mainstream anymore. Some...well many actually...called me a dork or a nerd or whatever. I didn't care. I enjoyed my music. As I got older, however, I found and explored other genres and got into more diverse musical tastes, never forgetting the music styles I started with. Here's a bit of a look back on my history of my musical exposure and I may just throw in a few of my faves as well.
That little orange button is kryptonite protecting the whole thing from damage.
As a kid I didn't have a stereo but I did get nice Panasonic tape player (Panasonic RQ-2309) with a built in microphone. The thing was damn near indestructible - definitely tried - and I could record my own tapes! This was well before the time of digital so the sound was marginal at best but it was still cool. Even as a child the novelty of recording your own voice wore off quickly and not having any money I had to figure out something for new music. So my dad dug around and pulled out what came to be the era of Hand-Me-Downs and Home-Made tapes.
Dad didn't really have any "new" stuff on cassette but he did have some good artists on old tapes. I got music from oldies and classic rock artists like the Beach Boys, the Steve Miller Band, and the Byrds. It was basically mostly AM Gold type stuff. In the meantime he was still buying vinyl so occasionally he'd record me some custom tapes with songs that he liked which I, in turn, came to like as well. I got mostly artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nazareth, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Supertramp...Listening to these definitely solidified my love of classic rock from an early age. Couple of my favorites from that time are:
"Gold and Platinum" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
2 disc set with pretty much all their greatest hits on it from 'Sweet Home Alabama', 'Simple Man', and of course 'Free Bird'. For a live "greatest hits" style album, try out "One More From The Road"
"Eliminator" by ZZ Top
Good mix of some of the Texas Trio's best including 'Sharp Dressed Man' and 'Legs'.
"Crime of the Century" by Supertramp
This has one of my old favorite songs, 'Dreamer'
"Double Live Gonzo!" by Ted Nugent
The Nuge is one of my favorites for his raw, guttural guitar playing and hooks. Includes some of his biggest hits like 'Cat Scratch Fever' and 'Great White Buffalo'.
As I got older, I was able to choose more of my own music and for whatever reason, I gravitated towards more of the movie soundtracks and classical music. Oft times I would watch something and thoroughly enjoy the songs or scores and that would prompt me to get the soundtrack for it. This is also the time I caught the most crap regarding my music choices from those I went to school with as they just didn't get it if it wasn't from a hair metal band. Terrible was the time that I ran into a cluster of them who were at the mall's Tape World store in their Poison t-shirts looking for the newest Def Leppard tape. I was asked what I was looking for, which was a soundtrack at the time, and the mocking came. Today I wouldn't really give a rip but in the junior high school era, image and the opinions of others seemed everything. Oh well. I took my lumps and didn't give up on my own musical identity, staying with my soundtracks getting to know and love John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Hans Zimmer. Going along with modern scores was classical music. My Grandma got me into Beethoven and Bach (among many others) and pointed out that classical music was everywhere! She pointed out that many cartoons have snippets of classical all throughout them. Now, I loved my Looney Tunes - and still do - and those featured tons of classical music. Until my eyes were opened, the younger me though it was just cool to listen to and added to the cartoon, not realizing it was actually music from decades past. Grandma also watched me playing Tetris on the NES one time and mentioned that the music was Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy". Now classical is in video games too? Could it be? Classical music is cool? I still love my soundtracks and classical but it's evolved to include scores of other works, such as video games. Of course, I have definite favorites:
"Ride of the Valkyries" by Wagner
To this day I can't hear it without thinking about Elmer Fudd singing "Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit..." or about his "spear and magic hewmet".
Nearly anything by John Williams
In my oh so humble opinion, one of the best contemporary composers, period. C'mon, the dude did Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and the Olympics. Oh and Beef...it's what's for dinner. :)
"Classical Thunder" by Various Artists
Time Life set that has a ton of different composers on it and could be considered a "greatest hits" of classical. Anyone who is getting into classical would find this a good starting point.
"Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" (aka Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight) by Michiru Yamane
My favorite video game soundtrack hands down. I can't say enough about this. The music ranges from guitar rock to creepy classically styled with a choir in the background. Anyone who has played the game knows the music is good. The tracks are available through iTunes or, if you'd rather have an original disc instead of burned, it can be found online but be prepared...import discs are not cheap.
It was around that same time that I got into "Weird" Al Yankovic. I would stay up late on Sunday nights from 10 to midnight listening to the Dr. Demento Show. Weird Al always stood out as his songs were always the funniest and his parodies were second to none. I got the 'Polka Party' tape and wore it out to the point of having to buy a new one on CD later on in life. I've seen him in concert at least 4 times and each time he's just as awesome as before. I won't go too much in depth because Dalmationlover
wrote an outstanding article on here: http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/5594/.
I really do like all of Al's stuff but a couple favorites:
"Peter and the Wolf" by "Weird" Al Yankovic and Wendy Carlos
The story is mainly what you've come to know but with some funny twists. Wendy (formerly Walter) Carlos sounds good on the keyboard and Al is funny. A definite listen to if you can get your hands on it. I was lucky and got a copy super cheap.
This disc is full of great songs and songwriting. The parodies are good but his original 'Hardware Store' is one of my all-time Al favorites.
"Dare to Be Stupid"
Has really good parodies and, truth be told, it kinda outlines my thought on life sometimes.
Fast forward to the end of junior high and through the beginning of my first try at college...If I had to pick a time when musically I opened up and exploded, this would be it. I broadened out to new and diverse musical stylings and typically this would come from advice or suggestions of others as well as the radio. Each and every "dude, you have to listen to this" or "don't bother it sucks" would introduce another window of opportunity. It wasn't just classmates or friends either. I found that family helped a ton too. Already said how dad got me into some classic rock but my uncles helped there too. My uncle Carl was a huge rock fan and a techie. Whenever we would visit, he'd always have something playing loud and always had a pretty extensive music collection. He's mainly responsible for me getting into Van Halen and Pink Floyd, just by me happening to like what he was blasting. One time, however, it was just luck. Uncle Carl came by and it was around my birthday. He gave me a CD with a solid black cover with a coiled up snake in the lower right. He could tell that I didn't know what to make of it when (apparently) I made a bit of a face. "The guy at the record store said you'd like it" he told me. Since it was a gift and I'm not the ungrateful sort, I played it and my head nearly exploded. This was loud, hard, and awesome. That CD, if you didn't guess, was Metallica's "Black" album. From there I was hooked and have since picked up most of their older stuff and, aside from the "S&M" concert, not as impressed with newer stuff. A different uncle got me into another classic band. I went with my uncle Brian one day to work and he had a 45 minute commute. This was back in the time that CD players in cars were huge expensive so he was just using a car kit with a Discman and put in a Rush CD. Started off a bit odd but in the drive I got an earful of some of Canada's finest rock and roll. The rock was sound, lyrics told a story, and it was just incredible. A big shout-out and thank you to family and friends who influenced my musical choices. A few faves from this period would be:
"2112" by Rush
This was a great place to start listening to Rush. The first track, '2112', is a 7-part suite that told an interesting story and the whole disc just rocked without even needing any of their more well known hits like 'Limelight' or 'Tom Sawyer'.
"Van Halen" by Van Halen
This was my first introduction to Eddie, Alex, Michael, and Dave. Great riffs. One of the few albums I can listen to start to finish without wanting to skip.
"Discovery" by Daft Punk
Good electronic disc featuring crisp and entertaining music...probably an odd way to talk about DP but whatever. Thanks Stu.
"Voodoo U" by Lords of Acid"
Techno with fun beats and dirty lyrics. Definitely not something to listen to if impressionable ears are present.
Next we move into college years. This is where techno, remix, and arranged music got put into my repertoire if only because that's all the bars in my college town would play. The only way you could get something different was if you spent a fortune on the jukebox (A buck a song? iTunes, maybe. College jukebox? Screw that!) or went to the non-dance bars in town which basically consisted of country bars playing solely OLD country (I can handle new country - Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, etc - but older stuff gets on my nerves. A song and a half of Willie Nelson or Gene Autry and I'm done) or the townie bars playing super oldies or polkas. Since it was just as easy - let alone way cheaper - to go to a friend's house, we usually went and hung out with a group there. Smoky bars with no control over music and deejays playing the same crap for hours and hours on end weren't my thing anyhow. From the few times I did go, I did get into a few different artists that I looked up stuff for. Some of my remixed, techno, or arranged favorites are:
"Xpander" by Sasha
Full of just great house music. Heard it at a bar, then a house party.
"Twenty First Century Jesus" by Messiah
I got introduced to Messiah by a former friend after hearing a portion of it at a dance bar that I shot darts for. The piece was good and it turned out the whole disc was even better. In a couple of the songs they sample lines from 'The Running Man' and 'Mad Max' along with some good, fast beats. What more would you need?
"One Step Ahead of the Spider" by MC 900 Foot Jesus
It's definitely a unique mix of music and some spoken. A little sidenote: Listen to "If I Only Had a Brain" and then look on YouTube for Beavis and Butthead making fun of it. Hilarious.
"Happy Rave 5" by Various Artists
This here has a little bit of everything, heavy and light. There's even a song one of the discs called 'The Melodie' in which the singer references Mega Man.
"Rockman 2: The Power Fighters" by Capcom
This disc features remixes and arrangements of Mega Man music, much of it coming from the NES classic, and one of the best games in the series IMO, Mega Man 2. It may sound totally dorky but if you like the music from the original game, it's an awesome listen. This CD was wicked hard to get ahold of but totally worth it, if anything just for the remix of the Dr. Wily Stage 1 music, 'Mecha Dragon'.
From that point forward to current, I have also come to appreciate more of the music I overlooked as I lived through that time period: 80's music. It's all just fun to listen to as it doesn't really take itself very seriously and stays pretty lighthearted. Not too much else to say about it really. This decade of music has fans that are passionate about it even though it's come and gone and I have to say I'm one of 'em. I like music from almost all decades but I Love the 80's. Ok, well, 80's music, yeah!! 80's fashion...not so much. Most of my 80's likes are one-hit wonders but a few artists are more than that:
I would wager that one would be pretty hard pressed to find someone who doesn't know at least one Journey song. Even if you hate the 80's and all that it was about or whatever, tell me this: Would it really be possible to find someone who doesn't know at least a few words of 'Don't Stop Believin''?... "Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world...she took the midnight train going anywhere..."
Pretty good, albeit slightly dated, rock and roll. First song that comes to MY mind (and others too probably) is always going to be 'Workin' for the Weekend'. Why? Either because A) nearly every radio station in the English speaking world plays that at or around 5pm on Fridays or B) the Chris Farley/Patrick Swayze 'Chippendales' sketch on SNL.
Another pretty solid rock band. The music may sound "old" as it were but still stands pretty strong. Personally, I was pretty happy to hear Boston included with the first Guitar Hero game (More Than a Feeling).
Pretty good rock and decent ballads. I've listened to them for a long time it's nice to see they're still occasionally touring and having their stuff used commercially such as in an advertisement for the Discovery Channel show 'Dirty Jobs' (Dirty White Boy) or for the DVD release of the 'Alvin and the Chipmunks Squeak-uel' (I Want to Know What Love Is).
Thinking back, I had a couple other sort of random thoughts/memories but I wasn't sure where to put 'em so I'll just add them here.
Mary Poppins OST
I'm guessing this was my first soundtrack but I don't remember how I even got it. Maybe it came handed down with the hand-me-down record player. I do remember loving 'Mary Poppins' as a kid (still one of my favorite movies) and all of the songs. 'Step in Time' and 'Chim Chim Cher-ee' were quite well liked but the favorites had to be 'A Spoonful of Sugar' and 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' which, much like the kids in the movie, I would walk around the house singing. Shortly later, I found out that playing a 33rpm at 78 speed was funny and made everyone chipmunk-y. The record disappeared not too long after that...
"Appetite for Destruction" by Guns 'n Roses
This was the first tape I ever bought that wasn't a soundtrack. I was in junior high and we had a talent show and a couple of the guys did a lip sync of 'Sweet Child 'O Mine'. It was awesome so I went out and found the tape. I listened to the whole thing but wore it out with 'Mr. Brownstone' and 'Paradise City'. My dad liked it but wasn't too thrilled with the language but never took it away. I guess he realized that I probably have heard worse from him and the movies.
"Dr. Feelgood" by Motley Crue
This was the first CD I ever bought myself. This also stemmed from a talent show. This one was for "Same Old Situation (S.O.S.)". The song sounded good so I headed over to Inner Sleeve record shop and picked it up. This was back when they had those huge cardboard, space wasting cases. Can you imagine how much bigger the CD section of stores would be if they wouldn't have dumped those?
When it's all said and done, I'll admit it: I'm a music junkie. I have all my CDs on my computer so I have full access to anything whenever I want and will make random mix CDs on a whim. I listen to radio stations across the dial to get my fill of different styles of music and to hear the 'Two-fer Tuesdays', 'Mandatory Metallica', 'Totally 80's Friday Nights', and 'Psychedelic Sundays' or whatever other gimmicky radio shows play good music. Why? Because I have to have music in some way, shape, or form whenever it's appropriate. I'm glad that I had many stages of music as I grew up as it let me into a whole new world of sound.
Thanks for reading!