When you’re reading any sort of non-fiction memoirs, articles in newspapers & magazines, blogs, it’s good to know where the writer is coming from. Having an idea of the author’s general tastes, opinions and areas of expertise make it easier for us to know how to interpret what they write.
This all sounds very serious for an MP3 blog, I’m sure, but I am a print journalist at heart. So, for your reading and listening pleasure, I’ve documented a musical timeline of sorts for my life. “Indie cred”-wise, it’s probably more embarrassing than impressive, but I like it that way, and I think you will, too.
Our story begins around 1988/89, when I was four or five years old. I can’t recall exactly how the infatuation began, but I spent endless hours watching the musical The Music Man. It could’ve partly been Robert Preston’s smile and charm (something I’m admittedly still a sucker for in any guy), but really, it was the music.
Unfortunately, this is the one portion of this musical history that I don’t have MP3s for , but anyone who’s seen the film surely remembers songs like “Ya Got Trouble” (“trouble with a capital T / and that rhymes with P / and that stands for pool!”) or “76 Trombones.”
It all seems a bit hokey and deceiving now (I don’t think I realized that Prof. Harold Hill really was a con artist when I was younger! And a town that protests a pool hall? Wow, those people would have to be really bored), but it’s an overall enjoyable film with memorable musical scenes. It certainly paved the way for an art form I still love to this day; a few years later, I would discover Les Miserables and Phantom Of The Opera, and my development into a musical lover was pretty much complete.
I don’t remember exactly when my country roots started to grow, but it was some time after Music Man began my appreciation for music, and some time before I turned 10 years old, which puts this chapter between 1990-94.
When I was in fifth-grade, Alan Jackson was the first concert I went to. I went with Anne, my only other country music loving friend (today I’m surprised I even had one), my mother and two of her friends. That’s right, folks. I didn’t grow up listening to Madonna, Michael Jackson, New Kids On The Block or Nirvana (even though I’m from Seattle, shame, shame). I grew up listening to a guy in his thirties or forties sing about heartbreak, ghosts and down-home country living.
My mother had been listening to Alan Jackson, and it didn’t take long to grow on me. But I didn’t just like Alan Jackson, I was obsessed. My father’s death when I was around three years old notwithstanding, I can’t say that I had a particularly sad or rough childhood. For the most part, I remember being a largely happy kid. Still, there was something about all those twangy songs about lost love that struck a chord with me somehow. I listened to almost every song and album of his non-stop, but I remember listening to “Wanted” (download) and “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” (download) the most, as well as “Midnight In Montgomery” (download), a song about Hank Williams’ ghost (which is quite possibly one of the eeriest tribute songs ever).
Before posting this, I hadn’t listened to Alan Jackson in years, but I still have a soft spot for old, sob-story country tunes.
Between sixth and seventh grade, my favorite country music radio station, K106.1, went out of business. Unsure of how to find new music (I refused to listen to the other country music station because it didn’t play as much traditional country, which I grew to favor), I turned to my friends. By this point, Nirvana and grunge had left its mark on Seattle, and it seemed like everyone was listening to “Alternative Rock.” I watched a few videos on MTV and the radio, but few artists were really standing out to me.
One day, while shopping with my mother at an antique/thrift store, a tape of Metallica’s Load fell into my hands. I had remembered hearing their name, so I paid a measly $1 and put it in my portable tape-player, where it stayed for weeks, maybe even months. This was unlike anything I’d heard before, it was fast, it was heavy, and they swore. Can you imagine a little redheaded sixth grader’s reaction to “Ain’t My Bitch” (download)? I thought it was hilarious (and thanks to James Hetfield’s amusing pronunciation of “bitch” as “biiiiitch-ah!” I still do).
I saved up my allowance and bought myself a ticket to see them (I even saved enough $$ to pay for my mother’s ticket) at the Key Arena on their Load tour. I will never forget my mother telling me that what I was smelling was marijuana, the people next to me who gave me a Metallica guitar pick from one of their other shows, or how beautiful I thought it looked when everyone held up their lighters during “Hero Of The Day” (download).
As I bought more Metallica albums, I realized that Load wasn’t their best album by any means (though I still think “Until It Sleeps” (download), about Hetfield’s father’s battle with cancer, is one of their better songs), but it’s always held a spot in my heart. (Let’s hope they don’t find this during the week that I’m hosting these files and sue me.)
In 8th grade I switched from private school to public school and discovered that everyone wasn’t listening to rock, they were listening to rap. For all of that year, I listened to nothing but rap/r&b, but didn’t walk away with any one particular artist I enjoyed, just certain songs. In 9th grade, I found myself turning back to the driving guitars of rock, but, thanks to a crush, I also discovered the first rap artist that I enjoyed through and through.
I had overheard my crush talking about Hello Nasty, and I had heard and liked “Intergalactic,” so on a bit of a whim, I picked it up. Openers “Super Disco Breakin” (download) and “The Move” (download) drew me in, and soon enough, it became something of a soundtrack for my high school years from there on out, something I would always throw in my portable CD player or my car when I needed a mood lifter. Later, of course, I picked up License To Ill, and made “She’s Crafty” (download) my unofficial theme song.
I don’t listen to them as often anymore, but they opened the door to all of the rap and hip-hop I enjoy today. And if you want to witness a truly hilarious sight, put on Hello Nasty when I’m around. I can still rap the lyrics to at least half the songs.
My sophomore year of high school (well, all four years, really) was hell. To this day, I don’t recall a time when I’ve been more miserable than I was then. All the pressures from schoolwork and social life were too much for a very naïve girl with only two years in public school. The one highlight was Peter Parker, a band I discovered through yet another crush.
While getting ready for school in the morning, I became a faithful listener to Andy Savage’s morning show on The End 107.7. Mr. Savage’s co-host was “Steve the Producer,” who was the subject of my schoolgirl infatuation. Through the radio station’s website, I found out that Steve was the drummer for a band called Peter Parker, so I bought their debut, Migliore!, on Amazon.com.
I put the CD on in the background one night when my friend Erica was over, and when front-man Matthew “Parker” screamed “and it’s H-E double hockey sticks / this little piggy made his house out of bricks” on “Meet The Beatles” (download), we stopped everything. We started the CD over again, this time listening more intently, and fell in love with songs like “Eliot” (download), we fell in love with a whole new world.
Peter Parker became the subject of years of obsession, and the band I have seen live more than any other (I believe the number of shows I got to before they disbanded was just under 30). I listened to their sophomore effort, Semiautobiographical, so much that I wore out my first copy and had to buy another. The bitterness, cynicism and numbness expressed in songs like “Fade Without” (download), “Where I’m Calling From” (download) and their destructive cover of Damien Jurado’s “Paxil” (download) were not only fitting to my attitude throughout high school, but were expressed in ways I had never heard.
Going to their shows exposed me to indie culture, something I’m still very much a part of and still connect with today. Because of Peter Parker, I found other bands, like Death Cab For Cutie (who I have a whole different special relationship with that I will surely explain here at some point), Harvey Danger, Pedro The Lion, whose shows, in turn, introduced me to other bands, and so on. They are, undoubtedly, the band that influenced me more than any other.
My first week of college, I joined the campus newspaper and re-discovered “classic rock.” Artists like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were the only artists that all of us could agree on, so the classic rock station was always on in the office, and being the young, motivated freshman that I was, I was in the office all the time.
While I was growing up, my mother listened to a lot of artists that more or less fit into this category (Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones). I had always liked listening to “Dancing In The Dark” (download) or “Start Me Up” (download), but it was during college that I turned back to those artists and really explored them. There wasn’t any one particular artist whose work motivated me to do so, though Led Zeppelin’s “Tangerine” (download) was easily the song that did.
The reason this bit is here is because since then, I spend as much time (if not more) listening to music from the ’60s, ’70s and even ’80s, as I do the more recent indie stuff, and I’m constantly finding new songs and artists from those time periods that I love, a lot of which I will be posting here.
Last semester, to fulfill my last class for my music minor, I decided to take a jazz history course. I’d always known a little bit of jazz, mostly vocal, but it was a genre that intrigued me, one that I really wanted to know more about.
On the first day of class (or maybe the second, I forget), our professor played a handful of different versions of the Porgy & Bess song, “Summertime,” to illustrate just how different the many subgenres of jazz are. I loved every version, because I love the song, but Miles Davis’ version (download) absolutely floored me. That night, I got Kind Of Blue and Birth Of The Cool, and the smooth tones of songs like “Moon Dreams” (download) and “So What” (download) made me feel the most excited about an artist/genre since I had been in the early days of my indie rock discovery.
The entire course was absolutely outstanding, and jazz has become a new infatuation for me that I am hoping to explore even further (give me your recommendations!).
That pretty much brings us up to date. This was much longer than I expected, but hopefully you’ve enjoyed it.