Why I like music — the extremely short version

Which, after you read this, may make you wonder what the hell the long version is about.

But it occurred me after outlining all the political details in the previous post that some form of review of why I adore music so intensely might be handy. In ways, it establishes a baseline.

That said I’ll cheat a bit here and pull in some details from other sources — I’ll be doing this a bit this week as I start everything rolling! — along with some further updates. So reaching into the endless sprawl that is the archives of alt.music.alternative, I was able to find this thread and specifically my post on it, detailing “Five Records That Changed Your Life,” at least in my 1997 judgment. Thus:

1. Shawn Cassidy — all his late seventies releases, including the
live album
Easy inclusion — he was the first specific musician I got into. You have to start somewhere — I was six and I thought his stuff was great.

2. The Mighty 690 AM radio station, weeknights, 1981 to 1982
I had gotten my first radio, and this was the station I kept it on, and this is what I listened to every night during sixth grade. There was nothing else. It was nothing but total Top 40, nothing else — the playlist literally repeated, with tiny variations, about every two hours. Pure pop, REAL pure pop, because that was precisely what was played — the popular hits. First introductions to New Wave, dance pop, funk, too many other things — and, of course, Casey Kasem counting down the Billboard hits every Sunday.

3. Duran Duran, “Hungry Like the Wolf”
Still remember the exact first time I heard this — late November 1982, upstate New York, I come down for breakfast on a cold day, and school once again looms. The local top 40 station is on [sigh — no real equivalent to Mighty 690 there], it’s bopping along — and all of a sudden, a woman’s laugh, a keyboard squiggle, a great guitar hook, and this guy singing in a way I’d never quite heard before. From there it was a basic step to progress into Brit synth-pop in general, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, and further and further into realms of electronic experimentation, pop groups, techno, ambient, industrial, swoony orchestrated pop, Roxy Music and glam rock…

4. Def Leppard, “Photograph”
Pretty much the same massive impact on me as Duran Duran, but in a different series of realms [and I don’t immediately remember when I heard it first — just sometime in early 1983]. One *killer* riff, biggest rock beat I’d heard yet, and loudest guitars, and catchy as all hell! Another example why Sheffield is the underrated locale in English rock history [see also Human League, Comsat Angels, Cabaret Voltaire, Pulp…]. From here, it leads to heavy metal in its radio sense for that time [Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, the works], but eventually into Guns n’ Roses, Metallica, Ministry, the Sex Pistols, thrash, punk, loud power-pop, T. Rex and glam rock [one of the many intersecting influences with Duran, actually!], grindcore, pure noise, avant-garde weirdness…

5. My Bloody Valentine, “Soon”
It’s late 1990, and now I’m a DJ at the college station at UCLA. Going to college has merrily expanded the range of what I have to listen to, and basically sent my late high-school record buying mania into an overdrive which has never really disappeared, almost 10 years on now. As I’m doing my show one day, I see the vinyl version of the “Glider” EP by MBV. Someone has reviewed “Soon” as being the most amazing thing out there, easily the equal of anything Sonic Youth might be doing. Being a touch familiar with Sonic Youth, I think, “OK,” cue it up, and play it.


Seven minutes later, the song ends and I realize I’ve been sitting at the console frozen the whole damn time, literally gaping in awe and ecstasy. I can barely move.

I think the rest of my life, musically speaking, will always be a pursuit of a similar moment, when I literally am made senseless by the greatest record ever made.

Now, anyone who’s read Marooned will recognize that concluding part as essentially a stripped-down take on what eventually ended up in my essay on Loveless in said book, so you can tell I’ve been pondering that incident for quite a while.

But as a summation of key records and music sources in my life, the list as a whole still holds well. About all I could add to it would be to note that I happily grew up with records always around — my folks got me a Fisher-Price ‘record player’ that was a glorified music box that I loved, but also got me a basic but fun record player for real that on three speeds (33, 45, 78!) and which I loved futzing around with in my preschool/grade school years.

Between that and the radio and my parents’ own listening, really I can’t imagine a time without easy access to music and favorite listening bursts and more besides. Among my loves included a great 1940s era manners-for-kids record — consisting of all these medleys sung by this friendly guy with a big band orchestra behind him, I’ve got it around somewhere still — lots of Sesame Street albums (up to and including the legendary Sesame Street Fever), Disney records, Free to Be…You and Me and much more besides (and don’t even ask what I thought when my folks got the original Star Wars soundtrack soon after the movie came out). A great stew of things and I haven’t touched on them all by any means, but it gives you an idea of what I was up to before Shawn Cassidy hit me like a ton of bricks.

Now quite why Cassidy, who was essentially marketed and sold as teen-girl material (or younger), should have hit with me is on the one hand a demographic oddity but on the other hand shows why demographics are so much trash. What matters isn’t intent but result, and the result was I heard his stuff and loved it. It had to have been because of his appearance in the Hardy Boys TV series, since I was a fan of the books from fairly early on. I even had the poster on the wall, and no regrets — dude was a hero, as far as I was concerned.

But beyond that — and to wrap up here — I can’t really say there was anything that prompted the rabid love that was already in place. It just simply was, and I had the atmosphere and interest in pursuing it further, as I did. That it took the steps above to reach full obsession is its own story, but I was already primed and ready to go. Now I partly make my living by talking about it on a regular basis — and I can’t say I mind at all. It’s something I always liked to do as well.

Posted in Life, Music. 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Why I like music — the extremely short version”

  1. Fern Says:

    I had to laugh out loud when I read this post 🙂 Shawn Cassidy, Duran Duran, and the Mighty 690, what an incredible walk down memory lane. Growing up as much as I did in SoCal, I spent many years rockin’ to the Mighty 690 as I hung out with all my friends in my neighborhood here in Santa Ana (just a few miles north of where you live now).

    Shawn Cassidy was an exceptional favorite of mine back then. I even had a pillow case, a t-shirt, and a pair of slacks with his face printed on them lol We thought we were so cool 🙂 My best friend and I spent hours listen to his record at her house or mine. Always seemed to lift my spirits whenever we did so.

    Thanks for the memories my dear friend. It’s been a while since I revisited those days. It’s been pleasant to dwell on them with fondness and laughter once again.

  2. Not a list of 15 albums but still something « Ned Raggett Ponders It All Says:

    […] established certain key touchstones in my musical life and talked about them here and there — this post, one of the first I made on the blog, quotes a post from the Usenet days which I think serves as a good a chart of where I ended up as […]

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