Music was such a big part of my life for a while, and then it really wasn't for a while. But it's always been there. A chronology may help you to understand how my musical taste evolved over time. At least it was fun putting it all down on paper.
The first album I can remember having was a greatest hits album of Jim Croce's songs. There was probably a Sesame Street album shortly before that, but I don't remember. Regardless, Jim Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" could be heard emanating from the speakers of my turntable from an early age -- I'd guess I was about six at the time. I was six, had a turntable, and a record collection.
A couple of years later, my older sister got a "Monsters of Metal" compilation from the Two Guys department store in Hackensack, NJ. On this album was Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". Upon hearing it, I immediately thought it was the coolest song I'd ever heard in my life. Croce was out, so out.
The kids down the street (Bobby and Cory DeRobertis) were into KISS at this point in time. I was in the fourth grade, and even then I could see that KISS was nothing more than a bunch of full of shit, no-talent bums.
In the fifth grade, a friend stole his older brother's Grateful Dead albums so we could listen to them. They were supposed to be very cool; the band members all did lots of drugs, and since we didn't know how to do drugs yet we thought this would make us cool, listening to the Dead. I thought they sucked. I was ten. I'm thirty seven as I write this, and I still think the dead suck. And they do. They really, really suck. They are among the most overrated musicians ever, along with The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.
It was also around this time that my mother was, unfortunately, really into disco. However, she was also very into Steely Dan and I can remember really liking the tune "Kid Charlemagne". She had this habit of playing the "Aja" album on the weekends when she was cleaning around the house, and I know that album well as a result. If I had known when I was ten that Steely Dan was the name of a dildo, I would have bought a Steely Dan t-shirt back then.
Somewhere along the way I picked up a cassette tape of Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album, and used to listen to that as I rode my BMX bike in front of my house, launching off (sweet) ramps, with "Black Dog" playing out of my little cassette tape player. I thought this made me cool.
Around this time my sister & I would occasionally watch "The Uncle Floyd Show", and the host would often feature a band called The Ramones. You may have heard of them. I found them curiously interesting at the time. What did I know. Seeds were being planted.
1979 - "Southern Rock" was big, and I didn't know any better. I got heavily into Molly Hatchet, the Outlaws, and of course Skynyrd. Somehow, my sister and I convinced my mom it would be OK for us to attend an actual Molly Hatchet concert, and so, at eleven years of age, I went to my first concert. My sister, eighteen months my senior, was my "chaperone". We went to the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ and saw Molly Hatchet, and I discovered what pot smells like and observed what happens when you drink a lot of Jack Daniel's (no, not me, you idiot, it was some burnout at the show). More important though, was the opening act I saw. The opening act was the Michael Schenker Group, a German heavy metal outfit that performed in front of a wall of Marshall amplifiers. The wall of amps was impressive enough to this eleven year-old, but the noise that came out of them when Michael and company began to play was transforming. As Molly Hatchet was halfway through their set, I was wishing that 'Schenker was the headliner. Metal, good; rebel flags, bad. (The thing is, I still like to hear that seven hour-long, dual-drummer, four-guitarist solo session in the middle of "Green Grass and High Tides" on the Outlaws' live album. Sue me.)
1980 - The Clash hit America and "London Calling" was getting major airplay. This was the first time I remember camping out in my room, listening to the radio, lying in wait for the first marching, scratchy chords of "London Calling", so I could tape the performance right off of the radio. This, I knew, was great music. If only I hadn't spent all my money on bike parts, I might have been able to afford to buy the album.
This was also the year I heard Rush's "The Spirit of Radio" on the, uh, radio, and thought it was the coolest song I'd ever heard in my life.
The same year, my friend Dave Miller's older brother got a new stereo and a Jimi Hendrix album, and we listened to "Hey Joe"... A LOT. It's still one of my favorite songs, and the opening jangles are burned in my brain.
1981 - AC-DC released "Back in Black", and I bought it, and I listened to it about a hundred times in a row as I packed up a lifetime of toys and memories as my sister, my mother and I prepared to move from northern New Jersey to... southern New Jersey.
1982 - My eighth grade music appreciation teacher -- who looked a lot like Kenny Loggins -- forced us to listen to lots of Beatles songs, and pontificated on why the Beatles were the greatest thing to ever grace the planet. I smelled a conspiracy.
1982-1984 - I bought and listened to loads of mediocre british metal, as this was what my sister's boyfriend was into and I was, as ever, just trying to be cool. There was some good stuff, like Deep Purple and the Who. But for every "Highway Star" there was a "Friday Night" (by Vandenberg, in case you were wondering).
1985 - This was the year of the musical big bang for me. That year, my sister's college classmate & a neighbor of ours, played me the Circle Jerks' "Golden Shower of Hits". It wasn't good, but it was funny and interesting -- certainly nothing like anything I'd heard before. My sister's classmate became my friend, and together we went to a Dead Kennedys show in Camden, NJ. What I heard, saw and felt that night was unlike anything you'd see at a Debbie Gibson concert, that's for sure. Well, that was it, hardcore punk rock was my world for the next several years.
1985-1987 - During most of my junior and senior years of high school, while my classmates were going to parties at each other's houses or drinking in the woods, Big Mike (Edington) & I were going into Philadelphia and soaking up the very active hardcore scene that was flourishing at the time. Every weekend, there was at least one show -- usually at Abe's Steaks at 40th and Market -- featuring three of four bands for something like five bucks. It was there that I saw countless bands and usually hung out with them afterward. The big acts of the day played City Gardens in Trenton, NJ, and there I saw Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys and several others.
Back in Philly, I saw Marginal Man, the Rhythm Pigs, the Offenders, and local faves The Dead Milkmen and SCRAM, many times. During these years I was buying records at a blistering pace, and music was a big, big part of my life.
It was also during this time that I was starting to work at a certain bike shop, with a couple of old hippies. They regaled me with tales from Woodstock, and evenings listening to Iron Butterfly while naked and painted in blacklite paint. I sort of understood where they were coming from.
1988-ish - As I settled into my college years, I spent less time at hardcore shows as I got more involved with other school activities -- and also as the Philly hardcore scene went into a period of decline. It was around this time though, that I started "playing guitar", and this caused me to discover all kinds of other music. I never became a serious fan or scholar of it, but I listened to a lot of blues and jazz during this time.
I even listened to some opera, since in 1989 and 1990 I worked for an opera company. Again, I found some things I liked, but I was never what you would call a fan, I suppose. I dig La Traviata, though.
By the time I graduated from college in 1991, music had taken a back seat. I find it interesting that during the time that most kids discover & embrace music, I was actually losing interest.
1993-1998 - The dark years; I'd entered a period of my life where I was working hard, and was totally disgruntled with music, thinking that all the new stuff was shit and starting to think I was turning into an old man who only liked "old music". I started trolling through record stores looking for new releases on familiar labels, like Dischord. Came across a new release by a band called Bluetip on their label, and took a chance. I loved it, and when Bluetip played Maxwell's in my then-hometown of Hoboken, NJ, I went to see my first hardcore show in probably eight years.
Somewhere around this time I read a review of an album by a band called Walt Mink. (note, the review I link to here is not the review I read, but is similar to the one I would have written.) They seemed to kick ass in a rocking kind of way, and I bought the album without having heard a note. I loved just about every inch of this album, and Walt Mink became my Favorite Band of All Time. But I wasn't paying close enough attention; they broke up just a year or two after I found them, and right under my nose. They played their farewell concert in New York City, and I could have gone to it, had I known about it. At least it was recorded for posterity, and was released as their final work.
Walt Mink's cover of Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" (on their first major release) is the greatest cover interpretation ever done, hands down, bar none, end of fucking story.
2005 - I asked for and received the Dischord Records 20-year retrospective triple-CD box set for my birthday. The old grouch, looking -- and listening -- back. My wife Brenda, swayed by Amazon's "perhaps you may also like" suggestions, also got me a couple of hardcore compilations featuring a bunch of bands I was unfamiliar with. It turns out, that during my dark period, and right up to present day, there are/were tons of good hardcore bands still grinding it out, and I've spent the last month listening to these five CDs over and over again. Something like 120 bands, many of which I like very much. Looks like I still have a lot to listen to. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to Jawbreaker rip "Chesterfield King" live for about the 40th time.