I can divide my life into different sections — eras, or chapters, or something. Most people can, I suppose, if they decide to think about it. Probably in several different ways. I can break my life up into different musics. Is “musics” a word?
Beautiful 102, and the John Doremos Show
The earliest music I can remember isn’t really music. It was the early 1970’s, and I remember my parents listening to “Beautiful 102, easy listening,” and the John Doremos show. “Put that in your pipe….and smoke it,” was the line he always said after some long, grownup story that I never listened to. I never understood why parents would snicker after he said it, either. It always seemed to be on the car radio — I was only three or four, and we had a brown ’68 (or so) Thunderbird. I remember hating that car — because the back seat had metal Thunderbird emblems on it, and they ground into my back. I didn’t have my own taste in music yet. I just went with what my parents listened to.
The Beach Boys
The next real phase I can remember is my Beach Boys phase. I found a box of my mom’s old 45 records, and it set the hook. At one time I had several Beach Boys records — yes, on vinyl, this was around 1980 — and even a cassette tape. My best friend and I would play them and sing along and act like fools. I still like me some Beach Boys, but not to such an extent anymore.
In middle school, Michael Jackson was THE thing. They played “Beat It” in gym class, and “Thriller” was everywhere. Michael was still black, and not such a freak back then. We debated whether he’d had…*gasp*…a NOSE JOB. Vincent Price was on one song, Eddie Van Halen played guitar on the other.
In a greater sense, I was developing my music tastes. I liked Top 40 pop. Nena had their 99 red balloons, and Loverboy was still a group. Cheap Trick was, too. Older kids on the school bus played Aerosmith and I hated that haa-aard rock stuff.
Van Halen’s David Lee Roth cracked me up the first time I saw him on “Friday Night Videos.” Ah, Friday Night Videos. Before MTV made music videos a 24×7 thing (before MTV stopped playing music videos) there were videos on Friday nights. Billy Idol. Dire Straits, and yes…Van Halen. My tastes were evolving toward rock, though Rock was still part of pop, if that makes sense. It was the 1980’s, and music was cool. Hair was cool, clothes were cool. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but the 1980’s were a cool time to be a pre-teen…and then a teen.
Guns’n Roses, and Hard Rock
Oh man, Guns’n Roses. In 1987 they changed the face of rock and roll. I’d been listening to a steady diet of glam bands — Poison, Motley Crue, Cinderella, you know. Then “Welcome to the Jungle” ripped through my boom box’s speakers like napalm. All of a sudden, guys with teased hair and eye makeup were out. Axl Rose, denim and being drunk were in. Oh, they were repulsive, all right…but the rock they unleashed was like an enema for the music scene. Overnight, people in school ditched their flamboyant “80’s” clothes for ripped denim.
Nirvana, and Grunge
I didn’t know what “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was when I first heard it…I just knew that I liked it. It was 1991, and I was in college, and grunge did exactly what Guns’N Roses had done four years ago. Suddenly everyone was wearing flannel, and Seattle was no longer just the rainiest place anyone in Michigan had ever heard of. Kurt Cobain’s semi-intelligible wailing touched a nerve, and opened the door for Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, and a wave of other angsty bands. This could be the first musical phase of mine that I still listen to regularly and by choice.
In 1996, freshly graduated from college, my girlfriend and I moved to Atlanta, and Collective Soul was all over the radio, as was Natalie Merchant and Deep Blue Something. No, that’s really the band’s name. My musical tastes were being softened by a woman. I listened to Alanis Morrisette. Alanis Morrisette, I tell you! We were in a new city, away from parents, and away from the countryside we knew. It was an exciting time.
After Atlanta, though, we moved to Indiana so my wife could attend Purdue. It was a pretty dark time for me, and my music tastes changed pretty drastically over the five years we lived there. Ditto for the first couple of years back in Michigan after that..
To be continued…