January 1, 2009

My shifting musical tastes

At the moment, I'm working my way through the 4346 unrated songs on my iTunes (new computer a couple of months ago, iTunes copied via portable harddrive from three friends) and listening to Leonard Cohen's "Sister's of Mercy", a beautiful song sung by a man without a beautiful voice, and it got me to thinking how far my musical tastes have shifted over my three decades on the planet.

My first musical crush was on Boxcar Willie picked up somewhere along the way of seeing commercials for his greatest hits on cassette back when I was about five years old (the opening of the '80's, in case you were wondering). I don't know if it was the simplicity of a man named Boxcar or of a man whose "tales of travel and freedom of the rails tell of a time gone by" (from his website), but I must've been so loco for the locomotive man that my parents had to hide from me the fact that Boxcar came to my hometown for a show that year. Apparently they were afraid that I'd drive them nuts enough begging to go that they'd actually break down and take me.

From there, I shifted to Kenny Rogers and the first cassette that I ever owned - Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits - and certainly the first one that I played nearly to the breaking point. I remember carrying around my portable cassette player (kinda like the one in the image there) from home to my grandparent's house if I was staying there for the afternoon or night so I wouldn't be without my Kenny Rogers. Heck, I remember a friend of mine in elementary school chasing me around the playground with a bit of an electric guitar that he had at home - his dad's probably - as he yelled about rock and roll and I told him how much I loved my Kenny Rogers tape.

I'll stand by "The Gambler" as a great song. From there, well...

Somewhere along the way, however, that friend of mine - Brian Tanksley - helped me shift my musical tastes over to the old 95.7 WQMF and 102.3 WLRS in Louisville, my first classic rock stations and the rockier 80's tunes. From there it was fully into rock - "My Sharona", "Freezeframe", REO Speedwagon, Queen, and a lineup of music that wouldn't sound too different from what's playing any day on 92.5 here in the Cincinnati area.

I remember a brief dalliance with softer 80s music - owning cassettes of Phil Collins' No Jacket Required, Lionel Richie's Dancing on the Ceiling, Janet Jackson's Control.

But from there I threw myself fully into classic rock, embracing the shift to cd's to buy Jethro Tull's greatest hits, the Band's The Last Waltz, the best of Jimmy Buffet, and enough Queen cd's - initially just News of the World - that my collection eventually outgrew the Diadora box that I'd been carrying them all around in. Those first cd's were bought often with the idea that they would make up the bulk of my music programming when I was lucky enough to get a shift - or a dozen shifts if I could manage things right - on WNAS 88.1 FM, my high school radio station. (You can listen to the home of the Bulldogs here anytime.)

We weren't supposed to bring in our own music, and I know that it wasn't until after I'd played both "Mr Brownstone" and "Who Are You?" on air that I learned why we weren't supposed to bring in our own music. Thanks, forever, to Derek Barnes for pointing out the inappropriate lyrics while the song was playing on the air.

As I headed from high school to college, the cd collection had stretched to breaking out of the ninety-six cd cases that I'd moved up to, and the music tastes were shifting again with the influx of new friends and fraternity brothers - plus there was the influence of The Girl who was never a real classic rock kinda Girl.

The college years are a bit of a blur musically - Bob Marley and Live playing from the frat balcony on a summer day, debating whether Eric Clapton was endorsing drug use in the song "Cocaine", adding in celtic music from my junior year spent in Aberdeen, coming back to the folk music of my mother's misspent youth, dropping in Lyle Lovett and the Beastie Boys from The Girl's musical collection - and in the decade and change since I left Wabash, things have only expanded to the point where if someone ever asks me what kind of music I like, I find myself stumped to ever narrow it down to a genre or two.

Current favorites, in case you're curious now or later...Ryan Adams (with the Cardinals over without)...Wilco (in a big, big way)...Richard Thompson...the Beastie Boys...Bob Dylan...Chris Isaak...Lyle Lovett...Mountain Goats...Randy Newman...U2...Yonder Mountain String Band...

I guess if I had to look at those and find a common thread, I apparently like music made by white guys.

Rock it, crackers!

And in honor of today's music musings...

the return of the Friday random ten...not just from my collection but all from my iTunes...
  1. "The Knife Edge" by The Hokey Pokey Strings - an instrumental cover, the opener of a Richard Thompson tribute album, all string (unsurprisingly), four stars
  2. "Bartering Lines" by Ryan Adams (solo) - another four star tune, good banjo tune with more around it, very spare, tales of woe from a man who can write great ones
  3. "Ruby" by Yonder Mountain String Band - live YMSB, it rambles a bit in the middle as YMSB are wont to do in concert, three stars
  4. "My Three Sons" by Nelson Riddle - ah lounge a little known love of mine, from the estimable Ultra Lounge series - the Tiki Sampler in particular, cutesy take on the tv theme song, three stars
  5. "Only If..." by Enya - this must have come from Lakes' iTunes as my only Enya is the Watermark album, one that connects so strongly to LA Story for me that I think of it as one of the touchstone soundtracks to my relationship with The Girl, much of Enya's music feels too similar and cold to me - this one's a bland two star thing and will likely be deleted
  6. "War Child" by the Cranberries - my senior year roommate (and now Wabash prof Jeremy Hartnett) played the first Crabnerries album absolutely to death - everyone on the floor hated him for it, but somehow that album weened its way into my brain and got me to by their later album To the Faithful Departed - a great album, this one's a four star song
  7. "Happy Together" by The Turtles - oldies but goldies, our first five-star song here, great tune that I would hope most of you would know - right up there with the "Sloop John-B" as oldies for me
  8. "End of the Line" by the Traveling Wilburys - another five star effort from one of the most criminally underrated albums of the 90's, the light feel and fun that the Wilburys are clearly having on the entire album is probably best summed up in this tune on which they trade verses back and forth with a whim, so much good feeling here that it's practically bursting from the speakers
  9. "Paw Paw Tree" by The Fiery Furnaces - freaky, freaky band - like a weird symphony in every track, this album's hard for me to pin down because there are times when I crave it but lots more where it's just too dissonant and discordant for my ears, I dig it but not all the time, three stars here for one of the middling tracks on the album
  10. "Fatal Wound" by Uncle Tupelo - they became Wilco and this one's an early Jeff Tweedy lead vocal, not their strongest effort, but you can clearly see where he was headed if he hadn't pushed off from Jay Farrar - into great, heart-wrenching country rock/folk/rock tunes, three stars


achilles3 said...

That Traveling Wilburys CD is one of my favorites and was a huge part of my teens.

ame said...

It's amazing that someone didn't steal your Kenny Rogers CD and hide it in a grate on the stairwell going to Claudia's apartment at the pool.

PHSChemGuy said...

The first Wilburys album is nearly perfect. The second one not so much.

It was a Kenny Rogers cassette. And I'm not getting the Colonial Club reference. Did I hide a favorite cd of yours at some point?

Amellia said...

I stole that cassette and hid it in the air grate going up the stairwell, but Brock found it and mentioned it in front of Dad and I had to put it back where I found it. I thought was was being smooth, but I got caught before you even knew it was missing.

I don't think you ever hid any cassettes, but you did threaten to break my NKOTB cd one time.

PHSChemGuy said...

Well, the New Kids could be a little mind-numbing...that might have been defensible.

Brock never could keep anything quiet.