In the course of moving, I’ve driven a few trucks that didn’t have bluetooth connections, and I was forced to listen to terrestrial radio. I thought this was going to be the death of me, but a few stations had theme weekends. On one of those 80s weekends, Pump up the Volume by M/A/R/R/S came on.
I was able to track this song in my head, singing along (as best as one can) and really enjoying the experience. I have a distinct memory of my brother Jeff bringing home this song, playing it on the family stereo, and dancing my 9 year old butt off. After hearing it, I realized that this song instilled in me a love of electronic music that has formed who I am as a music listener today. This song took other peoples work, clipped it, re-arranged , tweaked it, and made something truly unique. I loved it then, and I love it now. And my musical tastes today are a reflection of it. Behind the scenes at WFNY I posed this question to the other writers: Think about a song you heard when you were a kid that formed your tastes for the rest of your life. Whatever age it happened to be. Explain. We’d love if if you would give your answer in the comments below.
Corey: As a youth in the car with my two younger brothers, my parents’ car radio either played AM 1260 Radio Disney or the “Pokemon 2.B.A. Master” CD. At my apex I knew all the extra saccharine lyrics to Disney-ified oldies and every Pokemon in the PokeRap IN ORDER. As fun as those were, they did not stay with me as much as my musical springboard – “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. The Las Vegas foursome released the song in September 2003 and 13-year-old me finally left the musical kids menu in favor of more mature tunes. The song remains my go-to karaoke track. It’s a crowd pleaser and works equally well if you’re driving somewhere with the windows down. Yes I know The Killers have a new album coming out this year, and yes I am very excited.
Craig: I don’t think I can really start my musical journey without telling you about how I used to rewind and play FlashBeagle from a Peanuts / Snoopy audio tape as a kid. It is completely awful and cheesy, but something about the tone of that song’s chorus drew me in with it’s urgency. I wish I was kidding. I’m not.
Despite that being one of the real answers, I’m going to go with one of the songs that followed closely thereafter. That’s the live version of “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson from “The Jacksons Live!” from 1981. I think I was five years old when I replayed that song for two days straight on the tape deck in our family room.
Even though it’s kind of a cheesy disco-era song as well, it featured so many of the wonderful musical features that made music a necessity in my life. It’s got a sense of urgency, a sense of melody, a key change to up the intensity, and this performance was live. It’s probably not an accident that I took to a live song so easily.
Andrew: Like Craig, I have something of a moment from my youngest days that has always stuck with me. I vividly remember being a young kid and having a cassette tape of songs my parents had recorded off the radio. Our family was going on vacation, and I listened to the cassette on my personal cassette player the whole drive. One song on that tape was “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians. And I would just rewind the song and listen to it over and over. For hours. It was the first time I was drawn in by a phenomenal pop hook, and to this day I remain a sucker for a good hook. I loved the way the bass line played off the keyboard riff. This was my first favorite song.
But a more real answer comes a little after that family vacation. A kid I used to ride the bus with was big-time into music. He had an older brother who would make copies of all the albums he bought and give them to him to listen to. So his taste seemed so advanced to mine. I didn’t have a favorite band or anything. I mostly listened to whatever pop was on the radio. But this kid loved to talk music and he wanted me to listen to some of his music. So he made me three tapes. All of them were Metallica. One was Garage Days, one was Ride the Lightning, and the third was Master of Puppets. Those three albums blew my mind. Imagine the jolt going from a naive kid listening to 80s pop radio to Metallica. Needless to say, it had an impact. I loved all the tapes, but the one I listened to the most was Master of Puppets, and the song “Battery” that leads off the album is one of the two songs that changed my life. The other, Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” came a few years later, but “Battery” was jarring. The little acoustic intro that gives way to the monstrous buildup, the ferocious onslaught of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet’s riffs, the incredible guitar solo. It was fast, it was heavy, it was loud, and it felt rebellious. I loved it. Metallica was my gateway drug to rock and eventually punk music. Maybe I would have developed my love for music either way, and I still credit “Jeremy” as the song that really changed my relationship to music, but it all started from listening to Master of Puppets as an impressionable eight-year-old kid on the school bus.
Jim: I’m a kid of the 70’s, which makes me way more than a kid, I guess. Like Craig, I have a cavalcade of things here and there that pushed me along the path, like bumpers in a pinball game. My Mom loved Elvis, and my Dad just loved the ‘oldies,’ which back then were the songs from the 50’s and 60’s. So I remember bands like CCR, and Bill Haley and the Comets, and the Doors, and just about everyone from Motown. I loved the Jackson 5, and really, back then, almost anything that was on the radio. I remember Elvis dying, and John Lennon dying, and while that didn’t really shape my musical takes at that moment, it certainly made me take notice of how much The Beatles and Elvis connected with the world, and I would come back to them as I grew up. The first song that ultimately clicked for me, was Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’ I knew nothing about Queen at the time, and didn’t have a clue who Freddie Mercury was…but the base line and drums at the beginning…BA-DA-BUMP BUMP BUMP, BA-DA-BUM, BA-DA BUMP…bleeding into the small guitar part, before launching with Freddie Mercury’s “Let’s Go!” From that point on, the song builds to a crescendo, and for a scrawny white kid growing up in the middle of suburbia, it was the first song that actually made me think I could kick anyone’s ass, if I were just singing that damn song. I know…I know…I was an idiot, but that’s what Music does. Flash Gordon came out right after that song hit in the states, and Queen rolled the soundtrack out for that, and from there, I launched into KISS, and AC/DC, and when I found Van Halen 1 in an arcade the following summer, it all clicked into place. While I’m a rock kid, that initial love for Queen is likely the reason I find myself listening to a variety of genres, since Queen and Mercury really covered it all.
Michael: Music is something that has fallen by the wayside for me as an adult. In the limited bandwidth of having kids and a job alongside a compulsive obsessive desire to be educated in the things that I even do as a hobby, following music was one of the sacrifices that I have made other than the soundtracks to Trolls and Moana (thanks to my daughters). Really though, following music through soundtracks of other entertainment options is how I began following music. Sure, my parents listened to the Beatles and the Moody Blues whom I still enjoy, but that was their music. The first music that was mine rather than my parents was from the eight-bit Nintendo cartridges as a kid. There was the fun, poppy beats of Mario Brothers. The slightly more intense action of Tecmo Bowl. But, the ultimate soundtrack of the entire Nintendo game collection belonged to varied setlist of Eight Eyes.