I was born in 1977. I was raised in a very musical household. My dad always had music playing. When I was younger I hated his music, and would often tell him how awful I believed it was. He listened to Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Beatles, Thin Lizzy, Neil Young, AC/DC, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc etc. Later, of course, I would come to discover that this music was astoundingly great. Chalk my errors in judgment as another example of the ignorance of youth.
So without further ado, I bring you Bloated Boy’s History of Music: A Retrospective.
When I was two or three years old, I was obsessed with Roadhouse Blues by The Doors. My parents still tell tales of me singing along to Jim Morrison’s drunken shanty, oblivious or perhaps unencumbered by the song’s true message. I was a toddler, years away from being the disaffected man you “see” before you. Yet somehow, something about this song struck a chord with my three-year old mind. A foreshadowing, perhaps? I now consider myself a literary Morrison, even if I’m not quite sure what that means exactly. Here is the song, performed live to a New Yawk crowd in 1970, a full seven full years before I was birthed.
My mother was not musically inclined in any real sense. She seemingly handpicked some of Dad’s favorites and claimed them as her own. Artists like Van Morrison, Joe Cocker and Bob Seger were inevitably able to pen a tune that inspired a reaction from her. Regardless, Dad was the first (and therefore most important) architect of the soundtrack that would help shape my life in those days.
I remember when he brought home a double album: War of the Worlds. I must have been maybe eight or so. To my developing mind, the events told by Richard Burton’s narration seemed as genuine as the most convincing newscaster. Needless to say, I was appropriately terrified. I recall literally begging my Dad to turn it off on more than one occasion. As far as I was concerned, Planet Earth was under attack, and Burton was providing commentary. This music was just as creepy as hell to me, and even now when I listen to it I’m instantly transported back to that time and place and it irks me! Skip to 4:30 of the clip below and you can point to 97.6% of my childhood trauma:
Dad used to order albums and cassettes through a mail order company. I remember when he order an album called Graceland, by Paul Simon. I listened to the album non-stop for months after he got it. I adored it, and to this day I listen to it often on my iPod. There is something about the tribal rhythms and beats that spoke to the ten-year old me. My favorite track was – still is – Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes, but you just can’t go past You Can Call Me Al. Chevy Chase, are you kidding me?
I think that bass solo might’ve planted the seed for me to pick up a bass and start playing when I was a teenager. I always credit/blame Flea for my bass exploits, but maybe it was Simon’s session bassplayer after all.
As we approached 1990 and my burgeoning adolescence (and requisite, predictable angst-filled rebellion), I tried to break free from my parent’s “lame” musical choices and forge my own identity. I started playing guitar and looked to new muses for inspiration, namely Joe Satriani and Poison. I cringe as I type this, but keep in mind that the thirteen year old mind is going through some pretty heavy transitions and therefore some lapses in judgment are bound to occur. I don’t defend my choices back then, I simply present them as some kind of way in which to understand the musical path that I took to get where I am today. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
This song was very inspirational to me, and I spent many hours in my bedroom trying perfect the nuances, time permitting in between copious masturbation of course:
In retrospect, perhaps I should’ve honed my guitar skills in favor of rampant occurrences of self-love. As it stands my current level of rudimentary axe skills suggests that many of my choices back then revealed poor judgment. As for Poison’s sugary ballad Every Rose Has Its Thorn (the hard-rock ballad was a staple of mid-to-late 80’s music, and a relic in the truest sense), I recall declaring to a close friend at the age of thirteen that this would be the song they would play at my wedding:
That guitar solo just slayed the pubescent me. Do it, CC.
[Critical footnote: this track was not played at the 2004 wedding to my lovely bride.]
Then I discovered the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it was all over. At the time, I felt like this band was formed entirely for me. Everything about them spoke to me in the most profound way. They were tattooed before every single person on the planet was. They played funk when it was two decades out of date. They mugged for every photo shoot. They were aloof in interviews. Their music was weird and their lyrics were obtuse. To the fourteen year old me, the one that was shunned and ignored, RHCP were kindred spirits. They were oddballs, and perhaps more crucially, they didn’t run from this fact: they embraced it.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the most important album of my life. I have listened to it maybe seventeen thousand times. Every word, every note is tattooed into my mind, and I like it that way. I always go back to it, like an old friend. Back then, I didn’t have much else. These days, they’re a punchline for hipsters to sling their vitriol at while they tweet and sip chai latte’s in between waxing their ironic mustaches, but make no mistake: the Peppers can play, and no asshole in plaid and skinny jeans is going to convince me otherwise.
Breaking the Girl remains one of my all-timers:
For two straight years, I listened to RHCP exclusively. I would accept nothing else. I got my grubby little hands on their back catalog and I was set. I grew my hair like Anthony Kiedis, and studied his mannerisms in videos like a method actor prepares for a role. I was committed. Or perhaps I should’ve been.
At seventeen, I was introduced to Soundgarden, and a new love was born. Superunknown helped shape my mind in 1994, my last year of high school. People talk about Badmotorfinger, and it’s a fine album in its own right, but Superunknown just ticked all the boxes for me. Here are the lads performing Head Down live when they reformed in 2011:
Chris Cornell is probably 50 and just look at that head of hair. What a band. What genetics. Cornell could still get laid in 2014. Think about that for a second. God bless that man. God bless the genetic lottery and heaven help those of us that lost out.
Let’s now talk about hip hop, or rap if you’re so inclined. I am a fan. I have been since about 1992 or thereabouts. Back then I liked Public Enemy and NWA, much like every other male my age. Being Caucasian, I inevitably got into Beastie Boys. Here’s the song that got me:
At one point, Mike D rhymes “commercial” with “commercial”. Genius. Add a Jimmy Walker sample and I’m putty in their Semitic hands. Rock rock y’all. Tick tock y’all.
The mid-1990’s were fairly typical: I listened to grunge and mixed that in with a liberal dose of a select few from my dad’s playlist for the sake of musical credibility. This equated to a lot of Led Zeppelin. I could see Zep’s DNA all over some of my current faves: Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, et al.
The eternal individualist, I tried to seek out alternative acts that didn’t sound mainstream. In 1996, this was no easy feat.
I somehow landed on Primus. What a strange and wonderful group of musical maniacs. Here is my favorite track of theirs, Mr. Krinkle off of Pork Soda:
Shine on, you crazy diamonds.
It was around this time that I garnered a lifelong appreciation for Mike Patton. At the time, Faith No More were considered a cheap knock-off of the aforementioned RHCP, though time would later prove that FNM (and Patton himself) were infinitely more gifted and essential in every sense of the word. The Faith No More track that first grabbed my attention was Jizzlobber, one of the last tracks off Angel Dust:
As the man says himself, it is a song about camping.
In around 1996, a friend of mine visited America for a working holiday. When he came back, he brought with him tales of American Women (“rad”), American Drinking (“bad”) and American Music (given the time period, “sad”). He gathered myself and our friends and told us a tale of a genre of music that was the hot thing of the moment: a thing he referred to as Nu-Metal. We were all entranced by this exciting new kind of music he spoke of, and wanted to know more. And so our friend introduced us (imposed upon us?) the sublime musical talents of Korn and 311. Behold:
I admit it: in 1996 I purchased at least one Adidas track suit and matching Adidas Superstar pair of kicks. Phases are great in a sense because by definition they are short-lived. Turns out shame does have an expiration date.
At this juncture I would like to reiterate that I provide you with this musical timeline simply as a “bare bones” peek into what I am today in terms of being an appreciator of music. It would be very easy to say that I started on The Beatles, moved onto Dylan, discovered Miles Davis by way of Captain Beefheart – all with a view to boast a musical knowledge so vast and varied that Pitchfork would be tripping over their dicks to put me on their payroll so I can snarl at all the puerile muck that I am forced to review. Or something.
Instead, I semi-proudly concede that, yes, I have in my lifetime purchased (and enjoyed, might I add) music composed by Bret Michaels. I feel it is best to own that sort of thing and just move on.
It took me four long years to wash the stank of nu-metal off me, and when I did, I’d managed to sneak in a visit the US and A as well. With this trip, I found a new musical appreciation.
Picture it: Manhattan, October 2001. The Strokes and I were meant to collide at some point. It was manifest destiny. I, a 24 year old man-child, angry and sarcastic and ready to fuck and fight. Sadly, the latter was more likely than the former in those days. The Strokes were my avatars, only in skinny jeans and with slightly more musical ability than I. Is This It changed the course of my life. I was obsessed with that album. Here’s Someday, a video where The Strokes play pinball with Guns N Roses in a dive bar and Family Feud with Guided By Voices in a TV studio:
Next up was G-Love and Special Sauce.Again, I feel that Mr Love and I were meant to collide at some point. He was a bluesy sort of dude with hip-hop leanings…it was meant to be.
My younger brother introduced me to Pavement, and a lifelong love was born.
This track contains my all-time favorite lyrics:
Freeze. Don’t move. You’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life.
Now, I’m no anthropologist, but you’ve got to be smoking some serious shit to come up with lyrics like those. I adore Pavement. I’ve seen them live once, when they reformed briefly in 2010, and Malkmus solo once in around 2005. I also saw Spiral Stairs solo in around 2003. All great gigs. I’m not really a fan of live music, I find it is overrated generally speaking – but these shows hold a special place in my heart.
Between the years 2003-2009 I was pretty uninterested in music. I got married, I went halves with my bride in a baby, shit was happening in my life. Plus, it was at this time that I felt like the people around me placed too much importance on music. They were heavily involved with the local music scene and some felt it made them superior to everyone else simply because they were on the fringe of some weird, overhyped scene. It wasn’t fun. As a result, I lost interest in music as a whole and stuck to watching films and reading books, like always. I was tired and bored of listening to the competitive, bitchy backstabiness of everything, and wanted to remove myself from the scene altogether. I did get into Radiohead pretty heavily and considered myself precious and tortured like Thom Yorke. I got over that eventually. Hopefully Thom does some day. Shots fired.
Lately I’ve been getting back into hip-hop a bit more. There’s some great things happening. Death Grips, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt.
Here’s a good one, by a guy that looks like James Harden, minus the bloated NBA contract:
I like this one by Earl Sweatshirt, though it is kind of creepy:
Nowadays though, I mainly listen to favorites from my teens/early twenties (Soundgarden, RHCP, Primus, Mr Bungle), mixed in with my dad’s music that I used to dismiss (The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Thin Lizzy) and the aforementioned hip-hop. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I have a daughter now, she is almost six, and I hope to pass on some of my favorites so that they become her favorites in time. I tried playing her the White Album but she was fairly unimpressed. She currently likes a song called Let’s Get Ridiculous by someone known as Redfoo. I don’t get it. I’ve seen him on TV but I’m not really sure what it is he does exactly. This makes me feel old; older than my actual biological age. I’m 37 in a month. But as my daughter says, that’s “very old”.