Andrew: Since this is going to be our first Rocktober post, I figured I would start at the beginning. What is your musical genesis story? What are your first memories of listening to music and when did you realize that perhaps music was going to be something important to you?
Craig: Mine is crazy. I remember seeing a promo contest on Nickelodeon with New Edition. They were the first group I ever obsessed about. My mom took me out to get their tapes. Had to have been 1985-ish when I was only five or six years old. I remember seeing that they had two tapes in the store and I remember thinking it wasn’t an option to not walk out with both of them. I mortgaged a couple future “allowances” in order to have that in my hands right then.
A: I always remember listening to records. As a very young child I loved Christmas records. We had a Sesame Street Christmas album and I just loved it. Then I started with my parents’ record collection and the first album I really remember loving and listening to over and over again was the Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer”. It was two LPs, and I would just listen to all four sides from start to finish over and over again. The melodies and harmonies just hooked me. So infectious. I also remember listening to a couple Paul McCartney albums, Blue Oyster Cult, Styx, Iron Butterfly, Santana. My dad also had Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy” on 8-Track, which was just killer. My favorite of my dad’s records, though, was definitely Queen’s “A Night at the Opera”. Freddie Mercury’s voice was so unique and so powerful, and the way the songs all fit together just awakened the sense of what an “album” really is. I remember using my parent’s stereo to record it from vinyl to cassette. I then cut out a cover for the case out of construction paper and I recreated the album’s artwork by hand. I eventually figured out all the lyrics one at a time and made a lyric sheet to stuff inside the artwork. I suppose that was sort of the moment that, in retrospect, I really began to discover the obsession that music would be in my life. But I didn’t realize it at that time. I just thought the music was so cool and I was bored enough to do the artwork.
Those were among my earliest musical memories. But there were definitely a couple albums that really were my awakening, so to speak. The contemporary albums that really molded me into a rock fan. Before I get to mine, do you want to share some of the albums that really formed and molded you as a music fan? And maybe why they connected with you?
C: Other than the aforementioned New Edition, it was mostly influenced by my dad. He was a huge Motown fan growing up seeing those groups like the Temptations in small clubs in Cleveland. That translated into really soulful music later including Lionel Richie’s solo albums and things like Hall & Oates “Rock and Soul Part 1.” That album cover is one that sticks with me to this day almost as much as the songs.
I don’t know how it happened exactly, but the things that always stuck with me were intense, emotional, sad and cathartic songs. Party music has never been my style for whatever reason. For every party pop song, I’ll gladly take three “What’s Going On” or “Bernadette.”
From my earliest moments listening to music though, I could listen to a single song on repeat for hours. The earliest song I can remember listening to on repeat was “Rock With You” from The Jacksons Live album when Michael and the Jackson 5 toured in 1981. Something about the syncopation of the chorus made me keep hitting rewind.
It kind of makes me laugh to realize how much R&B and soul there was at the start and yet now I don’t listen to much of the pop music it spawned. But much like the Browns, you don’t have much choice in your first music whether it is passed from a parent or an older sibling or whoever. That’s what makes the journey to people’s eventual musical tastes so interesting.
A: Yeah, there’s no question my dad had a huge influence on my rooting interests in sports and his records sparked a different fire inside me. But that was like the proverbial primordial soup of my musical consciousness, before the beginning. There were a couple defining moments for me a couple years later, around middle school time. I remember a kid at school had gotten his hands on the 2 Live Crew album “As Nasty As They Wanna Be”, and I remember it just being the coolest thing. I mean, I thought the music was just awful, actually. But knowing this was something forbidden that my parents would hate me listening to (sorry mom and dad) just made it something I wanted to listen to that much more. This was probably first realization that music is art (yikes, did I really just imply that 2 Live Crew’s music was art?), and that it’s capable of pushing boundaries, asking questions, and just in general making people uncomfortable.
One of my best friends had an older brother who was much older than us. He had all the Guns N Roses albums….Appetite, Lies, and the two Use Your Illusions. We listened to “Use Your Illusion II” all the time. My friends and I all passed it around to make copies on cassette. It became the unofficial theme song for us. This was really when I was just beginning to understand modern rock music. I began to appreciate the direction music had gone since my dad’s old records.
From there, a kid on my bus overheard me talking about GNR and he told me I needed to listen to Metallica. I had never heard them at that point, so he gave me his Walkman and let me listen to “Enter Sandman”. This was the first moment I ever remember my mind being blown. It sounds funny now, but to a young middle school kid, hearing the powerful riffs with these almost catchy, hook-y vocal melodies was just nothing I had ever heard before. The kid on my bus gave me copies of the Black Album and the original Garage Days, and from there I absolutely knew that I loved music that was fast, aggressive, emotive, and just powerful. I remember friends listening to stuff like Anthrax, Megadeth, etc. I was probably on my to becoming a little metal-head until….
One day I was over at a friend’s house. It was the summer before 7th grade (summer of 1992). My friend popped in a tape and said “Just wait until you hear this band.” He hit play, and the song “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam played. I was floored by it. I bet we listened to that album four or five times in a row that day. He let me take the tape home and make myself a copy, and from that day on, Pearl Jam has been my favorite band in the world. I began to read as much as I could about the band and their influences. Their music opened my eyes to a more broad appreciation of music and I have spent my entire life, from that moment on, trying to discover as much new music as I could. Pearl Jam’s “Ten” remains to this day one of the most important albums of my life just because of the insane inspiration it gave me to focus so much of my life on music.
So now we turn it over to you, our readers. I love hearing other people’s stories about their earliest musical memories and the first albums they listened to and/or the albums that helped shape their life in some way. So please, share your stories with us below. This month is about celebrating music, so we want to hear about the music that is important to you.