Friday, January 23, 2009

Beware: Self-indulgent music post (that's why I'm posting it at the end of the week)

I was born in 1979, which means I became aware of music in the eighties. At that age I was lucky just to be able to enjoy the light fare of Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. I had a 45 of the J. Geils Band that saw heavy play on my Fisher-Price record player, and the first album I actually bought (a cassette tape) was Crowded House. From there it seemed my musical tastes devolved in the latter part of my first decade as I acquired a taste for tripe like the New Kids on the Block and Poison; for a time I was certain that the latter would be the music I would enjoy for the rest of my life. At least as certain as an eleven-year-old can be about anything.

Then, in 1992, I turned thirteen. Like everybody else sitting around mindlessly enjoying the latest MTV offerings of Warrant and MC Hammer, I was yanked out of my stupor by all those masochists in flannel from the left coast. Granted, at that age I was likely to absorb whatever new musical fad came along, but I was lucky to have an older brother whose nascent CD collection still informs my own. Just as I was hitting the age where I began to see the world as mine, I was blessed to hear bands like Pearl Jam, Faith No More, Screaming Trees, and The Lemonheads (east coast, I know.) And we were off and running.

It wasn't until years later that I became aware that 1992 just happened to be the year that this "good" music overtook all the aforementioned tripe in popular culture. It was actually there all along, just waiting for MTV to cherry-pick it. First, I discovered the Pixies after being a fan of Frank Black's post-Pixies solo work for several years. Then, I went waaaay back to the sixties and started listening to the Velvet Underground. More recently, and somewhat ironically, I've settled back into the eighties, that decade of popular tripe, as the apparent wheelhouse of my musical tastes. You can have your Winger and your Ratt, I'll take the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Husker Du. I'll even take the Cure and REM long before any of that Culture Club bullshit, although Robert Smith and Boy George could probably trade tips on make-up application.

I know there is plenty of good music being made right now, and I do listen to some of it. As always, the good stuff is out there if you're willing to find it. But I've always benefited from being way behind the times and right now I'm enjoying going back twenty years and hearing the songs that people were making that would sound ahead of their time if they came out today. I missed it the first time around, after all. I still don't think anyone really "gets" Sonic Youth, but it sure is fun trying.

In other words, all those nostalgic people currently proclaiming the eighties as the greatest era in music may be right, but it was the stuff the radio wasn't playing that made the decade such a goldmine.

Furthering the self-indulgence in an attempt to illustrate the point to no one but myself (since I'm certain I'm the only one still reading this rubbish), here's a video of the Pixies covering a Jesus and Mary Chain song:

Have a nice weekend, children.


Allie said...

The Lemonheads are seriously underrated. It's A Shame About Ray was a fantastic album.

You left out Boston.

I miss flannel and all that went with it.

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing, Mickey. I always enjoy learning more about others music preferences. This is why I love watching the VH1 tops lists.

There was recently a top 100 rock songs and not only do you get exposed to things you might have missed (a considerable list in my case) but you also get to hear rock stars explain why it was so innovative. I feel like I learn a lot.

Anyone else know the story behind "Smoke on the Water?" It's pretty interesting.

Aaron said...

I don't think I've ever met anyone who got into Frank Black before the Pixies. Kind of a roundabout-but-awesome way of doing it. You are an iconoclast, my friend.

I've been listening to 1992 music (Lemonheads and all) like nobody's business the last week or so on account of my screenplay idea, and while I've been enjoying the trip down memory lane, I think you're right about the eighties. While there was lots of awful stuff on the radio, there was a LOT of good music made in that decade. I mean, it was the era of The Smiths and New Order.

Also, Hall and Oates.

Jacob said...

I'm basically a year behind you, and there was a brief period where I was a fan of NKOTB and Kris Kross, but the first tape I bought was a single of Bon Jovi "I'll Be There For You". I did buy some Bobby Brown and Garth Brooks and a few other country and R&B the next year before being heavily influenced by grunge and an excellent alternative station out of Savannah. By the time I was in high school, I was a huge fan of bands like For Squirrels, The Nixons, Pearl Jam, Local H, and The Rugburns.

I didn't have the elder sibling with good taste to open me up to the older stuff. I didn't learn about that stuff until college and later.

There's actually a lot of good under-the-radar stuff from the '70s too.

The Modern Gal said...

I've obviously been searching for new music in all the wrong places.

nancypearlwannabe said...

Yeah, the Lemonheads and Pearl Jam were my very first cds. Sadly, that fact is marred by the fact that my first concert was NKOTB.

surviving myself said...

Man, I used to love me some Dinosaur Jr. But really, they didn't stick with me through the years.

A Free Man said...

OK, first of all, there's nothing wrong with Poison. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"? Hello.

Second of all, who in the hell is suggesting that popular music from the 80's is the greatest of all time. Show them too me and I will beat them with a cricket bat to insure that they don't breed.

sid said...

Most of the bands you mentioned I've heard of BUT ... I've never actually listened to their music.

Courtney said...

Don't be fooled, people. Mickey still busts out the Poison every now and then.

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