Music that came to me from my mom or dad, the radio, or the TV. Not necessarily life-changing, but each of these albums/artists were ones that stand out from my childhood, and some laid the groundwork for music I liked later on.
The first song I ever remember hearing was Johnny Cash's cover of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky".
Missing: Willie Nelson's Night Life and a compilation called Lovin' 50s, which was all love songs from the 50s & a tape my mom listened to incessantly.
The first major shift in my musical tastes began in 1985 thanks in part to this album. Up until this time I wasn't very discriminating in my tastes, probably because I was a kid & anything catchy sounded good to me. Anyway, when I first saw Back to the Future, you know that scene where McFly plays "Johnny B Goode"? Well, for some reason that really struck a chord with me (HA!). I became obsessed with that song & had to have this soundtrack.
My dad told me that song was originally done by Chuck Berry, so I started browsing cassettes in stores for his name. As fate would have it, I found one one day (I think it was Greatest Hits 2 or something...can't find it anywhere online) and it had "Johnny B Goode" on it, so I politely asked my grandma to buy it for me & she did. The songs were catchy, which I already liked, but for the first time I really noticed the guitar playing. From then on I started paying attention to the guitars in every song I'd listen to, and appreciating great guitar playing...
In 1986, all of my friends had this album & we'd listen to it frequently. I never owned it then mostly because I didn't feel the need to (and I didn't get around to having my own copy until the early 90s). Back then I liked it because it was funny and catchy, but what grabbed my attention even more were the hard rock/metal samples (though at the time I didn't realize they were samples), not to mention the guitar work of Kerry King.
Thus the Beastie Boys were my introduction to hip-hop AND hard rock/metal. My appreciation for this hybrid was increased by the Run DMC/Aerosmith collaboration "Walk This Way".
From '87 to '89 I spent part of most weekends listening to a program called "Pirate Radio". Whether or not they were actually taking over the airwaves, what matters is that they played exclusively hard rock & heavy metal. Thus, Pirate Radio served as my introduction to the best and worst bands that fell under those tags. Of the bands I was introduced to, the first I bought an album of was Anthrax & they soon became my favorite band.
Their guitar work was awesome, and their lyrics showed a sense of humor and an interest in reading (with songs referencing comic books and Stephen King novels). They also wound up falling in with the above with their rap-metal song "I'm the Man", which still cracks me up.
You couldn't live through 1987 without hearing GNR. They were EVERYWHERE, and with good reason. This remains one of the best albums ever recorded, with its mix of blues, metal, and punk. GNR taught me that rock 'n roll should be unsafe, an idea that's always stuck with me.
GNR & Anthrax both focused my enjoyment of hard rock/metal toward the darker and more intelligent bands that were in the same category. Thus, I favored Black Sabbath, Ozzy, AC/DC, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, and Metallica over the hair metal that became popular in the late 80s. I also loved Van Halen (pre-Hagar of course), Aerosmith, and Led Zeppelin for their awesome guitar work and the way their music made me feel.
In early '89 I bought my first Metallica album and they became my new favorite band. What elevated them above the rest of the metal bands I'd been listening to was their sincerity...I could feel that they believed in every lyric they wrote, and those lyrics were angry and depressing. The guitar work here was exceptional...it sounded more like classical music than metal. And this began my love affair with songs with long running times, as all 9 songs were between 5 and 10 minutes long.
Junior high was a horrible experience for me...I was picked on relentlessly, I started to resent the rules my parents pushed on me, we moved far away from a place I loved living...and so this became my soundtrack and my therapy for those years, along with the previous 3 Metallica albums which I bought soon after this one.
Back to the rap/rock hybrid again. Faith No More seemed so much more than that though. Mike Patton could rap AND sing, and songs like "Woodpecker from Mars" and "Edge of the World" were far too weird to fall under any category. And that's what FNM taught me: categories mean nothing. Great music is great music, the genre doesn't matter...and a band that's willing to push boundaries & defy expectations is worth more than a band who's happy to be pigeon-holed. (My appreciation for bands like this was further reinforced by checking out Mike Patton's other bands over the years.)
I remember first hearing ST's Mike Muir on some radio station that turned the mic over to him for about an hour. He played some ST songs and some Infectious Grooves songs, apparently to promote new albums from both bands. I went out & picked up this album, and I couldn't quit listening to it. The way they mixed metal with funk and hardcore was awesome, and I loved Mike's sense of humor & lyrics, much of which I strongly related to. Most importantly, this was the first time I heard optimism expressed in metal and I didn't hear it again until I got into punk and hardcore.
When my family moved back to Texas in 1990, my first true friend was a skater. We connected over our love of heavy metal and humorous hip-hop, and then he introduced me to classic punk. The Ramones were first, followed by the Sex Pistols, Black Flag, and the Misfits. Here were bands full of outcasts, mad at the world & writing some of the most sincere lyrics I'd heard yet. They taught me that sometimes less is more, and changed my focus more toward the lyrics than the music.
My skater friend introduced me to another guy in our neighborhood, and he was completely in touch with underground music. We bonded over punk, and then he introduced me to a bunch of bands I'd never heard of. The first one I fell completely in love with was Pixies, and it was this flawless album that did it for me. This was my introduction to the soon-to-be-popular loud-quiet-loud dynamic that Nirvana (he played them for me too) delivered to the masses.
Along with this came my introduction to bands like Sonic Youth, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and countless other bands that would soon fall under the "Alternative" tag. Some of these went on to become huge bands, while others remained in the background.
Another band the same friend from above introduced me to. Alternative, yes, but these guys were quirky. Their lyrics were tailor-made for the nerds, geeks, and other intellectuals, a group with which I identify. I was shocked to find out there were only 2 band members & they played and sang everything on the album. They kept my appreciation for humor and fun in music alive, and showed me that you didn't need an entire band to make multi-instrumentalist music.
Also from the same friend I first heard Fugazi. They fit in with the punk I'd been listening to, but their lyrics were more positive at times. What impressed me the most was their DIY way of doing business. They owned the record label their albums were released on, they charged a flat rate for their CDs, and they only charged $5 a ticket when they played shows.
Fugazi taught me that bands can exist and survive outside the major-label world, and their music grew more interesting as time went on.
The release of Oliver Stone's The Doors pushed them fully under my radar. I'm sure I'd heard "Light My Fire" before, but in 1991 I felt like I'd discovered them for the first time. The soundtrack collected some of their best songs, along with the Velvet Underground's "Heroin". After listening to the whole thing about 100 times I started looking backwards in music & really focused on 60s and 70s rock 'n roll. Around the same time I finally went out of my way to get albums by (among others) Zeppelin, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles, albums which I will always listen to and appreciate (though I love The Doors above all of them).
I remember listening to this album and not being able to focus on anything else. I heard the vocals, guitar, bass, and drums equally, and had to listen to it a few times in a row so I could focus on each instrument. Today I'd say they took The Doors' spirit and mixed it with Zeppelin's sound. Few bands hop from psychedelia to punk to metal to funk to soulful balladry so effortlessly, and Jane's did so without coming off as pretentious or insincere. What I heard here was a band creating art with no concern for whether anyone else appreciated it...and I loved them for it.
This was a push in a weirder direction. Here we have the bass as the lead instrument, and at times it seems like the guitar, bass and drums are each playing different songs at the same time, yet it all works well together. You've got lyrics about going fishing, a racecar driver, Tommy the cat, tweekers, and persevering in the face of shitty music. I loved every second of it, and quickly declared them one of my favorite bands.
At the beginning of '92, I found Pantera & they immediately replaced Metallica as my favorite band (thanks in part to the fact that I hated the black album). Their brand of metal-punk was the most brutal thing I'd ever heard, and the whole album kept getting better every time I listened to it. It became my new outlet of aggression, turning it up & screaming along with every word. Dimebag slayed on guitar, Vinnie Paul beat the drums like red-headed step-children, and Rex's basslines...well honestly I paid the least attention to them. Probably because Phil Anselmo was pissed off at everything, and delivered his lines with complete sincerity.
The aforementioned albums prepared me to appreciate Broken, but by the time I'd listened to it I'd decided no other album had ever compared. The metalhead in me loved how heavy and angry it was...T-Rez is so sincerely pissed off you can FEEL it. The heavy riffs meet harsh waves of dissonant noise, adding to the tension and anger being expressed. Forget Nirvana, here was an artist speaking my language clearly, both lyrically and sonically. Pantera had to settle for a permanent backseat, especially after The Downward Spiral came out.
NIN also served as my introduction to industrial music. "suck" was originally recorded by Reznor & Pigface, so I went out & bought a couple Pigface albums. I found out Trent had also worked with Revolting Cocks, so I checked them out, which led me to Ministry...then Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, etc.
Later on, Trent would also lead me to find other bands I hadn't heard by mentioning them in interviews, playing their videos while appearing on MTV (back when they still played videos, that is), and playing their songs before NIN's live performances every time I went to see them.
The rap-rock of the past gets put to shame. More political than most of the punk bands I liked, this album also displayed sincere anger at everything. Most striking was Tom Morello's guitar style...the dude could play great riffs, sure, but he could also turn his guitar into a turntable, something I never would've thought possible.
Around the same time I got this album I'd also picked up Anthrax's Attack of the Killer B's, which has their collaboration with Public Enemy ("Bring the Noise"). That got me into PE, and both bands had me at least thinking about political issues even if I wasn't old enough to vote or anything yet. Both RATM & PE also helped elevate my standards for what hip-hop should be. Sure, I still enjoyed the groups and MCs that made me laugh, but I also sought out those with something to say. I hadn't realized before that sincerity existed in hip-hop too.
I miss the Tool I was introduced to in '93. At the time they came out they sounded like nothing else I'd heard. Their lyrics were weird, intelligent, and had a sense of humor running through them. The music was close in some ways to The Doors...psychedelic, dark, strange. This band was clearly on some good drugs.
Beavis & Butt-head introduced me to this one when they watched the video for "who was in my room last night?". I bought the album expecting it to be heavy & what I got was one of the weirdest listening experiences of my life. No 2 songs were the same. There were funny songs, angry songs, songs that didn't sound like songs, and the vocals sounded like they were done my multiple people (this taught me about vocal manipulation)...it all taught me to check my expectations at the door in the future.
The first time I saw NIN, this was the band that opened for them. Between NIN & Butthole Surfers I had already heard similar sounds, but what makes this album different is that it's the first album I bought due to an amazing live performance by a band I'd never heard before. Marilyn Manson's live show in those days was pure anarchy and theatrics, and it both scared me and excited me. This (plus the performances from Jim Rose Circus & NIN that night) started my addiction to concert-going, and fueled my willingness to check out any opening bands I'd never heard of in the hopes that I'd find other bands I might love this much.
At the time Rubberneck came out, I was living in the Dallas area, as I had been since 1990. I was flipping through the daily newspaper in search of the comics when I stumbled upon a review of this album, in which the critic called Toadies "Fort Worth's answer to the Pixies". I then went out & bought the album, & I couldn't stop listening to it. This was 1994.
In the summer of 1995, a single from this record called "Possum Kingdom" (surely you've heard it) was finally released to radio stations. When I heard it on the radio, I panicked. This was a song I loved, from an album I loved, and I knew it was going to be big. I didn't want the radio to ruin the Toadies for me by overplaying their songs to death, and so I turned off the radio & never went out of my way to listen to it again. Sure, I still had to listen to the radio in other people's cars, but I didn't bother with it in mine anymore, nor did I listen to it at home.
This makes this album hugely influential on my musical tastes for a couple of reasons. First, it inspired me to look beyond the radio to other avenues of finding new bands to listen to (record store listening stations, magazines, live shows, friends & the interwebs). Second, this album led me to discover the Dallas/Denton/Fort Worth music scene, of which Toadies are still a part. In the mid to late 90s, the DFWd music scene was full of great bands, many of which deserved to hit the big time but few of which actually did (among them, one of my all-time favorite bands Tripping Daisy). That scene was a big part of who I was from 1995 onward, and it's all thanks to Rubberneck.
the giraffe's rating:
All of which led me to...
Some of the great bands/albums I found thanks to those that shaped my taste. All of these are the first album I heard by each band.
The story of the evolution of my musical tastes as told through the albums that caused the most significant changes along the way.
If you enjoyed this list, please check out my other music lists