Peanut Butter Knife

Monday, July 21, 2008

A History of My Taste in Music Part II

Part II 1988-91

During our move I unpacked my mom’s records and decided that both Willy & The Poorboys and Cosmo’s Factory looked interesting enough to play, everything else was Broadway showtunes or easy listening. Fogerty, et al looked downright dangerous in comparison. I loved it right off the bat. It was so much more raw than anything I’d been hearing on 80s top 40 radio. It was also around this time that we got a computer with a 2400 baud modem. In those days, there were basically 2 things you could do with a modem. Sign up for Prodigy and call up the Cuyahoga County Public Library to reserve books and music (yes, I know about newsgroups and BBSs, but I wouldn’t discover those for a few more years). In a way, I was an early adopter to internet music. I could read about a band and look them up in the library’s catalog from home and have the records sent to my local branch. Then when I got them I could tape them for free. Seems primitive now in retrospect, but this was a new thing circa 1989. Since I now loved CCR and since I figured out that they qualified as “classic rock”, I started listening to the classic rock station in town and reading rock history books in order to fuel my late night library catalog searches. My Paves style flowchart would look something like this:

6th Grade: CCR, Eagles, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood, Steve Miller Band

7th Grade: Jackson Browne, Crosby Stills & Nash, Allman Brothers, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lou Reed, The Byrds, John Mayall, Bob Seger, James Gang

8th Grade: The Beatles (so late in the game, I know), Bob Dylan (same), Grateful Dead, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pink Floyd, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Robert Johnson, R.E.M.

It’s here that I have to stop and make a confession. While some of the above bands I still love and others not so much, I have no embarrassment about any of it. Even my week of staying home “sick” from school in 7th Grade and watching TNN and getting into Foster & Lloyd, The Kentucky Headhunters and Alabama is not embarrassing and I see it as a crucial side trip in my musical history – even if I disowned it quickly (though Foster & Lloyd were actually pretty good). But there is one anomaly that I really can’t seem to figure out. Sometime in 7th Grade and continuing through most of 8th grade I became a huge fan of Jimmy Buffett. I had all the albums, I made my mom take me to one of his concerts, I read his short story collection, I wore my Jimmy Buffett t-shirts all the time. To this day, I have no idea what got into me and what made me do this, or how it fits in to the way I listen to music now, but I think it might go a long way towards explaining why my backlash against classic rock was so strong in my early high school years. Despite still enjoying songs from every artist listed above, I have no residual Buffett nostalgia, I can’t stand the guy’s fans or his music. Weird.

But far from being just a list of bands I was into at different times in my life, its important to mention at least a little of what else was going on. As mentioned, I was in a new school that was 3 times bigger than the one I grew up in, the kids were louder, the girls had big hair and the boys were more interested in beating people up than talking about baseball cards, funny movies and pop music. They all listened either to metal (probably why I still never got into it today) or the insipid late 80s teen pop that was booming at the time. A loner by nature, I made little attempt at fitting in and so I guess its pretty fitting that I let myself dive so deeply into music. Around this time, I also started feeling more estranged from my parents and they from each other. Fights were common and nothing from that era seems happy now. On a lighter note, I started taking guitar lessons. I wasn’t a very disciplined player and never practiced enough to be good, but I learned the basic chords which I know to this day and a lot about song structure. Also, being perhaps the only 13 year old in Cleveland’s west suburbs that knew more about Neil Young than New Kids on the Block, I was always a curious oddity in record stores, at my parent’s friend’s parties, radio station contests (I won Clapton’s Crossroads box set from WONE for knowing who Ginger Baker was), etc. All the old folks wanted to talk to me and were tickled pink that I could reel off the entire Joe Walsh solo discography or tell them about the recording sessions for Tusk. So I basically felt like I was 13-going-on-40 during these years. Only adding to my already burgeoning sense of weirdness.

Next up is high school, and while my tastes changed drastically and seemingly overnight, the seeds were all planted here and the shift more gradual than I remember now that I think about it. But that will have to wait for Part III: The Alternative Era.

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