Well into middle-age now, music still holds a very important place in my life. I find it odd that so many people in my age group, people who once LIVED for cool music, have moved on and forgotten the role music played in their younger lives. That hasn’t happened to me, fortunately.
I was lucky to grow up in a household where music was essential. My mom was a fanatic for Elvis Presley, had all his records. She also dug Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, etc. Her collection of 45’s and 33 1/3’s was big enough to keep a ‘50’s-‘60’s style radio station going for months without repeating a single song. And she listened to records every day.
My stepdad was a country fan. And I mean REAL country, not this modern pop-country crapola. Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Hank, Merle Haggard.
So that was the music I grew up listening to. Other kids my age were into Journey, or Steve Miller Band or The Eagles. I didn’t like any of that stuff. I still don’t.
In fact, I didn’t like most of the music my peers were listening to until I was sixteen and was finally introduced to punk. I owe that to a girl named Lana Mini (who is still, against all odds, a good friend of mine after all these years). I remember telling her I kinda liked that Billy Idol song “White Wedding”, which was getting a lot of air play on MTV at the time. Lana gave me two cassette tapes (kids, a “cassette tape” is an ancient form of recording sound, used by the cavemen back in the days before the Great Digital Revolution). The cassettes were: The Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks and Iggy Pop’s Soldier.
Those two tapes changed my whole life. Honest.
Within a year an entire world that I hadn’t even suspected existed opened up to me. I discovered The Clash, The Ramones, the New York Dolls. The Stooges, of course. X. The Cramps. The Dead Kennedys. The Velvet Underground, the Modern Lovers. On and on… so many great bands. And it wasn’t long before my entire life was consumed with the pursuit of new sounds.
At the same time, I maintained a solid love of old music—country, rockabilly, surf, psychedelic, soul. In my mid-twenties, I started unearthing obscure garage stuff from the ‘60’s (thanks, in large part, to the monumentally life-altering Nuggets box set). Bands like The Sonics, The Count Five, ? and the Mysterians, made me realize that punk had been around a LOT longer than the term “punk”.
There were musical side-trips along the way. In the mid-to-late ‘80’s, there was a short-lived but inspired sub-genre called “cowpunk” that grabbed me by the throat, mixing punk up with more traditional folk sounds like country or blues. My favorites were Beasts of Bourbon and The Gun Club. I think that genre crossing opened up punk’s horizons dramatically.
In my ‘30’s, I started getting interested in old jazz, cats like Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver. I followed that thread through to Dizzy, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis. Stopped short of “fusion jazz”, which I still don’t care for. I NEED melody.
In fact, I just NEED MUSIC. I NEED it. Could you imagine a world with no music? I don’t think I could survive it, I really don’t. It means as much to me as reading and writing.
So there’s my little musical biography, if you care.
Now excuse me, please. I’m gonna go listen to some Tom Waits.