Music 2: The journey of a listener

Ok, so i inserted an image of the guitar I called Excalibur in my youth, only because if I didn’t, the worst piece of music I ever bought was the thumbnail on Facebook. If I’m going to get embarrassed you should at least have to read the blog 🙂


So let’s go on a journey of my musical listening history, youtube intensive, it’s amazing what is online today (feel free to skip as much as you want, there are only a few that are key). I’m not even going to begin to pretend I’m some musical know it all, I’m certainly never on the forefront of what’s new & happening. I tend to find music after its supposed prime, but I think that allows me to appreciate it for what it is instead of what it is being sold as.

My earliest memories of music are hazy, like all my early memories but that’s another subject. I vaguely recall my parents listening to the Beatles in the car, I remember my sister watching the chart show on tv & the video for Madonna’s 1985 song Into The Groove being on. We didn’t have Mtv, we had 1 hour pop video show on Saturday mornings & 30 minutes of top of the pops on maybe a Thursday? Pah, kids today don’t know how good they have it 😉 These are my earliest musical memories.

Google is going to make me look like I have a better memory than I do. Initially I was struggling with the timing of my early musical events, but looking at release dates it all fits better now.  The year was 1985, 8 years old & I was effectively awakened to the existence of music, more specifically rock & roll, my first and probably greatest musical love. What caused that to happen? Back to the Future. I remember seeing it at the cinema, I remember liking the song The Power of Love by Huey Lewis that was the big song for the movie.

While I really liked that song, what really got me was this:

Talk about a holy shit moment, the into to Johnny B Goode hit me like a freight train, it was love at first listen, rock & roll had found me & while I didn’t know it at the time life would never be the same again.

I wanted more but I was pretty much limited to my parents record collection. My Dad had a double album of 50s R&R which I listened to intensively.  My Mum was a big fan of David Essex and  he quickly became a favourite of mine. I remember in particular I liked his song On My Bike, I liked him so much that my Mum took me to see him, possibly twice, both(?) shows in theaters, I had almost completely forgotten about that until today, yay happy memory for the collection.

What I loved most though was the guitar, I wanted as much guitar as possible, I talked my parents into letting me learn how to play. They were probably as clueless as I was, but they got me a classical guitar & got me in lessons at school & I think private lessons too. I don’t remember how long that lasted but it was at most 1 school year. Again my memory is hazy but I’m pretty sure I got bored with it, I don’t think I could have articulated why at the time (even if I could I wouldn’t have)  but basically I wanted to play Chuck Berry, not Greensleeves on a nylon string guitar.

The first piece of music I ever bought was an atrocious piece of dance/pop music by an artist call Sinita, the song “GTO”.  

Now, I had never heard the song, nor had I heard of the artist, but I had a gift certificate for Christmas & there was a Ferrari GTO on the record cover, so I bought the 12inch single. That right there shows both the power of effective marketing & that I have always been a sucker for beautiful cars. How do I know it was the car & not the woman? Well until I just looked up the image I had no recollection of the woman, but I remember that beautiful machine.

That really is bad, I shared it just because I deserve the same 🙂

The first piece of music that I bought that meant something to me, music that I had heard, fell in love with & wanted to own was Appetite for Destruction. Paradise City was doing well on the UK charts, I watched this

and it was just like Johnny B Goode all over again. I love that album, that album will never get old, those riffs will never get old, to this day it is one of my favorites & probably the 2nd most significant piece of music in my history. I’m not sure that I listened to anything else for about a year after I got that.

By the time high school had started I had discovered hip hop, the lyrical playfulness & complexity intrigued me. The laid back beats of De La Soul & a Tribe Called Quest resonated with the adolescent me.

As high school went on my tasted veered off into the world of electronica, techno etc. What had been an underground scene was blowing up commercially, my peers were into it & so was I.

Then at some point around the time I was 16 I saw a Guns n Roses concert being shown on tv. I was growing weary of electronic music at this point & rock & roll was the perfect tonic. I started listening to Guns again, got out my Dire Straits & Queen cassettes & started to remember what I really liked about music. Then I saw this:

Johnny B Goode, Paradise City, now this, I was in musical love.  The summer of 1993 I had rediscovered Rock & Roll & I had discovered my new best friends, Bon Jovi.

Keep the Faith; if I could have only 1 album it would be that one. I love that music, I connected with it like no other music ever before or since. It was the perfect blend of fun rock & roll, romantic love songs & subtle commentary on the state of life at that time. It was the beginning of a long love affair with the band & in particular guitar player Richie Sambora.

Richie’s playing got to me so much that I took the guitar up, electric this time, but that’s the next chapter of this music exploration. I could go on about why I liked the band, defend myself against the popular option that they suck, but I wont, I just know that their music gave me great pleasure & saw me through some very difficult times. I have seen them 6 or 7 times live, Richie solo once & there is nobody who puts on a better show.

I’m not as into them anymore, their newer music doesn’t hit me like it once did. Richie while still very good is not the player he was in the 90s, it seems to me that his dedication to his craft does not match that of say an Eric Clapton, sobriety (or lack thereof) probably has a lot to do with that.

Today Bon Jovi are like an old friend from another town, a best friend, that you keep up with on facebook or over the phone. You care deeply about them, you want nothing but the best for them, but your lives are no longer intertwined like they once were.

One of the really cool things about my passion for Richie was that I started to look into his influences. Through him I discovered Clapton, I already knew about him obviously, but hadn’t paid much attention. I also discovered guys like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Robert Johnson etc. When I found someone I liked I checked out their influences & peers, soon I was discovering artists I would have never found before like Stevie Ray Vaughn. I was finding genres that I didn’t know about, especially the blues. It turned out that I love the blues.

Funny thing is, I was getting all into a band that was huge in the 80s (ok they’re still huge) while the 80s scene was dying out & grunge was coming in. I had Nevermind before it blew up in England, but by the time grunge was breaking big I couldn’t stand it. It was everywhere, it was depressing & I didn’t want any part of it. I wanted my happy rock & roll & I wanted everyone else to like it too, that’s when I fell into the trap of supporting my band instead of loving music. Fortunately I got over it but in my zeal for my music I’m pretty sure I was very annoying at times, in fact I know I was because I could hear what was said behind my back. I’m sure no more annoying than any other 17 year old boy, but still, whatever. Unfortunately I missed out on some really good music, I wasn’t ready for it at the time, but now I really like Soundgarden & Stone Temple Pilots, I enjoy Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains & pretty much most of the big bands from that era.

By the mid 90s I was enjoying all kinds of music, the brit-pop movement was going strong, I got to go to a couple of festivals, fantastic experiences that I would write more about but I don’t remember that much & what I do remember I’m not putting on here 🙂

I don’t remember the year but at some point in the late 90s I went to my 1st rave, well a rave-esq gig, organized at a university in Leeds. Dreadzone & Death in Vegas were the 2 main acts. It was that wonderful night when I learnt what it meant to just give myself to the music. I didn’t dance, I never danced, fear of being judged stopped me, but that night I just went with the music, I danced like a lunatic all night & it was wonderful. I rode that wave for several years, loving to dance whenever I got the opportunity. Unfortunately these days I again don’t dance, unless it’s with my daughter in the living room, I should probably remedy that.

Fast forward a while & I moved to the US. By this point my tastes were wildly eclectic. From the Stereophonics to House, Metallica to Garage, from Sinatra to NWA, Oasis to Al Green, Springsteen to Bob Marley and anything in-between. When I first got here I really delved into the blues. It was when exploring the blues that my appreciation for Clapton really came alive, he & SRV shot up way my personal rankings to become 2 of the most significant artists in my musical makeup

After a little while, inevitably living in Texas, I started to develop a liking for country music. There is something wonderfully honest about goo d country music, it’s also one of the few places you can go to find music about regular life. Brad Paisley is my favourite country artist, not only are his songs well written, sometimes beautifully romantic, sometimes hilariously tongue in cheek, but he is one of the most incredible guitar players I have ever heard. One day I hope to see him live, I bought tickets just this week, that is the 3rd time I bought tickets, the 2 previous occasions we were rained out, so hopefully 3rd times a charm.

I love this song, it recalls wonderful memories or being a boy infatuated with automotive Americana. I grew up on the Dukes of Hazard, A-Team, Knight Rider, Fall Guy, Convoy, Smokey & the Bandit, Gumball Rally, Cannon ball run etc, etc, etc


That brings me almost up to date, I’ve skipped a lot, shared some crap & opened the door to peek at some memories long forgotten.

There is one more kind of music that over the last 8 years has started to play a role in my life & that is Contemporary Christian music. Initially it was just what was sung at church, but as my faith has become a more central part of my life, it only makes sense that my love of music would want to merge with that.

This has been a bit of a struggle for me, I liked the music on a Sunday, but the rest of the time, unless I’m in certain place spiritually a lot of what is out there just sounds, not fake, but well, not rock & roll. It has no balls. That’s ok, I get where it comes from, I get what needs to be heard on a Sunday too. There is Christian “rock” out there I’ve just not found any that really speaks to me yet. CCM just seems to me a lot of the time to try too hard to sound like what is popular & not be true to the music they could be making.

Having said that there is a lot of really good Christian music out there, I’m slowly developing a collection & merging it into my everyday listening. It seems that most of the Christian music I love comes out of Bethel Church in California, they have an incredible music ministry.

There are times, usually when I’m in a really good place spiritually, when all I can listen to is worship music, its all that my heart can accept, maybe that’s weird but I get a kick out of how it feels to be in those places. Sometimes God uses the music to talk to me, sometimes he uses secular music too, but he speaks to me mostly through worship music. Am I weirding you out? Well if you’ve read this far I’m sure you’ll get over it, I love you whoever you are. I shall leave you with this, some Christian music with balls,  a piece of music that God used at the back end of last year to wake me up, this song is as much a reason as the others I’ve given as to why this blog began.

Wake up child, it’s your turn to shine, you were born for such a time as this…

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