The Music of My Youth
by Joel Caris
Okay, it's a new year. No doubt, 2007 will see plenty of fantastic music, much of which I just might have an urge to write about. However, I've yet to hear any of it. At the moment, it's all the same stuff I was listening to in 2006. Come January 23rd, maybe I'll want to write about the new Shins album, but for now, I think I should buck the trend of looking to the future and instead go to the past.
The deep, dark past.
The past that is filled with terrible, embarrassing music.
It started in elementary school. I remember a crappy old tape player/radio that sat on the floor next to my bed. With this device, my habit of listening to music while falling asleep was born. Specifically, the song it was born with was "Like a Prayer" by Madonna. I listened to it time and time again, over and over, completely obsessed. I can't tell you why--I have no idea. But I loved it. No doubt it was a bad omen, and my following musical preferences bore that bad omen out.
When I wasn't listening to that song, I would often tune into my then-favorite radio station, Z100. It was the local crappy Pop station and played all kinds of top 40 type hits--mainstream Pop and R&B, basically. (By the way, do all cities have a horrid goddamn radio station called Z100? With the Morning Zoo, of course? Where is this rule, who made it, and how can I kill him?)
I expanded my love of shitty music listening to that station. Over time, my two favorite artists became . . . Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. Yes, these two dominated my musical tastes. Her self-titled debut CD? Sheer brilliance, as far as I was concerned. Emotions? Fantastic. I listened to her albums over and over, completely losing myself in that terrible, terrible music.
Then there was Boyz II Men. Cooleyhighharmony? Sign me the hell up. Of course, their true masterpiece was II. "On Bended Knee," "Thank You," "Water Runs Dry" and, song of all songs, "I'll Make Love To You." How many times did I crank up that song when I was home alone and sing along to it, engulfed in the emotional significance and sophistication of that artistic masterpiece? I can't even say. I played that song and the album time and time again, though, and loved it every time.
At this point I'm in junior high and, yes, still listening to very shitty music. I would listen to Keith Sweat and TLC and LL Cool J, Janet Jackson and Seal, Gloria Estefan and, yes, I would still break out Madonna. Things didn't improve, either, as my taste evolved (which is really an inappropriate term). Do I need to even get into my phase with Sarah McLachlan and Jewel? It would probably be better to not talk about it.
Of course, at the time, many of my peers were listening to the same crap. There's something to be said about claiming the ignorance of youth. My brother would listen to the local alternative station and I always thought it was terrible, to the point of calling it "waste of hearing" music. If only I realized at the time what I would later think of my own listening habits. The alternative station didn't have a flawless line up, by any means, but it was about a thousand times better than the ridiculous crap I was listening to--and watching, with my high enjoyment of MTV, that bastion of nonsense.
I think it's fairly common for there to be that phase of listening to bad or mediocre music as a kid. You have to learn what is good and what isn't. You have to be subjected to all the tame, mainstream bullshit that often passes for music until you eventually start to realize that there's a much larger musical world out there--one that doesn't involve superstars and media whores so much as struggling artists who simply dream of superstardom and media whoredom. Hell, even a few struggling artists who dream simply of making a decent living, putting some food on the table, and getting the chance to be screwed over by the music industry. You need to run any sense of musical decency into the ground and then, dejected and destroyed, give up on the entire music industry until that one, bright, shining day that you discover actual music--niches and small genres and independent artists and good major label artists and all the wheat that's sitting there, just wishing that the dominating, suffocating chaff would hurry up and fucking rot.
Of course, I didn't really start discovering the wheat until the joys of Napster, which I suspect managed to breathe new life into a stagnated music industry and foster the thriving independent scene that exists today. That's another column, though.
So it's confession time. What crappy, embarrassing music did you listen to in your youth? Or hell, yesterday? Let's hear it.
Joel still gets his groove on to Kurtis Blow
Geez, I could write a thesis on this subject.
All I'm going to say for the moment is that at one point in my life, a huge poster of Andy Gibb was on my bedroom wall.
Posted by: michele | January 11, 2007 7:24 AM
I bought a Ratt tape in grade 7 or 8
Posted by: Dan | January 11, 2007 9:29 AM
I have to say I've never understood why people are embarrased by what they listen to. You like what you like so who cares? Except for Dave Mathews Band. I am somewhat embarrased to admit to liking them. But that does not stop me from cranking up the Dave on a hot summer day.
I've got a Paula Abdul cassette somewhere in my basement too.
Posted by: Ernie | January 11, 2007 9:36 AM
Hmmm...Debbie Gibson and Paula Abdul come to mind. And then Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. My first cd! My cousin (an 80's metal guy) made so much fun of me that christmas...
Posted by: Brianna | January 11, 2007 9:37 AM
i'm so happy i grew up in a time that music wasn't compartmentalized on the radio yet, clear channel wasn't around yet. The Mighty 690 AM(60,000 watts or so out of Tijuana, i still remember the spanish station ID that came on once in a while, It was XEDDA or something) passed the time as a kid and then KROQ (ROdney on the ROQ) and 91X, and then it all went to shit around '91.
Posted by: pril | January 11, 2007 9:49 AM
neil diamond was the only music that I listen and still listen to that would be considered out of character for me.
i've seen Mr. Diamond almost 30 times.
Posted by: turtle | January 11, 2007 10:31 AM
Starship (Seriously. What were they thinking?), DeBarge, REO Speedwagon, ELO and Poison for starters.
In my defense, my older sibs, who could have guided me, were much older and either away at college, married or lived out of town.
Posted by: mike | January 11, 2007 1:21 PM
To partially steal a quote...
"Do not besmirch the mighty L.L.!!!" I loved "Radio" and "Bigger and Deffer" when they first came out and I still give them a spin when the mood strikes me.
And as far as ELO goes, six months ago I might have been right there with you, Mike. Until I actually tried listening to them again. Sure, the material may be dated, but Jeff Lynne is a fucking musical genius. No denying it.
Posted by: thefinn | January 11, 2007 2:12 PM
My son recently got into ELO - he says the same thing as you, Finn.
Then again, he likes We Built This City.
Or maybe he plays it over and over again just to annoy me.
LL COOL J RULES!
Posted by: michele | January 11, 2007 2:31 PM
Paula Abdul! How could I forget my love of Opposites Attract? Not only did I enjoy the song, but the completely ridiculous video, as well.
Ernie--it is silly to be embarrassed by music you like, but what can I say? I care what other people think sometimes, even when I shouldn't.
However, I really wasn't embarrassed by it then. And I think the embarrassment is as much my own incomprehension of how I liked some of that stuff in comparison to my taste in music now.
Or maybe it's just me looking at Mariah Carey today and going, "What the fuck?"
Posted by: Joel | January 11, 2007 4:02 PM
I looked up Andy Gibb, Michele, and . . . HOT! How could you have taken that poster down?
Please tell me it looked like this:
Posted by: Joel | January 11, 2007 4:14 PM
Oh yea. that's the pose that made me swoon.
Posted by: michele | January 11, 2007 4:33 PM
Kind of has a Jesus thing going on there, actually. It's creepy.
Posted by: Joel | January 11, 2007 5:03 PM