Awakening

8 08 2008

For music enthusiasts, time can be measured by when they discovered certain albums.  I didn’t exactly grow up in a musical household.  My parents mostly listened to country music & when I would spend time with my cousins, we’d listen to KDWB; so that’s what I listened to too.  I wasn’t exposed to too much else when it came to music.  Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.  1994 was a big year for me because I discovered one of my all time favorite albums, which definitely helped shape me into the huge music fan I am today.

“Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once?”  Those are immediately recognizable words for someone who was in high school in the mid-nineties.  During that time, if anyone was seeking assistance with anything at all and they asked “do you have (the) time…” someone would complete the sentence with “…to listen to me whine?”  It happened all the time.  In case you don’t recognize it, that is the opening sentence to the song “Basket Case” from Green Day’s Dookie album.

Before Dookie presented itself to me, I listened to the pop music that was played on KDWB.  I’d hear songs by Ace of Base & Tony! Toni! Toné! and I admit that I enjoyed the songs.  They were catchy.  They churned out manufactured pop hits that lacked any substance for the sole purpose of selling cassettes and CDs.  I enjoyed what I heard, because I hadn’t been exposed to anything else other than Garth Brooks.  Sure, there were some Beatles mixed in, but I didn’t learn about them from my parents.  I learned about them from my uncle who is an obsessive Beatles fan.

I first heard “Basket Case” on KDWB in the summer of 1994.  I was extremely intrigued by what I was hearing, but I didn’t catch who the band was.  A couple of weeks later, I was at the State Fair and I was riding the Skyride for my first and only time.  After we got in, right before our ascension, one of the workers went over to the CD player, popped in a disc, hit the skip button a few times and then there it was.  “Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once?”  Oh, my gosh!  It’s that song again!  What is it about this song that pulls me in and most importantly… who the heck is it?!  We ascended into the sky before I could scream to the ride operator to tell me who it was that was affecting me in this way.  I eventually found out and I had a friend record the CD onto a cassette tape for me.

I was hooked.  I listened to that tape more than any other.  It is probably still the album I’ve heard more times than any other.  I would listen to it in my car on the way to school, on my walkman between classes, outside during lunch, on the drive home from school and then over and over for the rest of the night.  I can honestly say I’d never heard music like that before, ever.  It was “alternative” music and they sang about drugs (oh no!), masturbation (blush!) and violence.  The most shocking element of all; these songs had curse words!

The “awakening” had begun.  I sought out both of Green Day’s pre-Dookie albums and I found they were also great.  In some strange way, I could relate to what they were singing about.  It didn’t take long before I found out about 93.7 the EDGE.  A friend suggested I check the station out because they play Green Day quite often, and did they ever.  It seemed like every time I tuned in they were playing Green Day.  Either before or after each Green Day song they would play other music that piqued my interest.  Such as Jennifer Trynin’s “Better Than Nothing,” R.E.M.’s “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?,” Meat Puppets’ “Backwater,” Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom,” Sublime’s “Date Rape” and the two most intriguing songs of all for me; King Missile’s “Detachable Penis” and “I Got a Girl” by Tripping Daisy.  Before I knew it I was listening to the Edge all the time.  I was “discovering” bands I’d never heard of that the rest of the world had known about for years; like Pearl Jam and especially, Nirvana.

I used to sit next to a guy in one of my classes who thought he was Kurt Cobain.  He also thought Green Day was lame.  He would talk about Nirvana all the time and I would talk about Green Day.  Instead of paying attention in class, he’d write down Nirvana lyrics on a piece of paper and slide it over to me.  I’d write Green Day lyrics on it and pass it back.  Eventually, he let me borrow Nevermind so I could record it.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  For the second time in about 3 months, I’d come across a band whose sound I’d never heard before.  How did I manage to live in this world for 4 years before I ever heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit?”  I don’t know how to describe what I was feeling.  Everyone knows that feeling of excitement you get when you know you’ve come across a special album.  I became obsessed with Nirvana.  I immediately went out and bought every one of their CDs.  Kurt’s lyrics were incredible.  Once again, I’d been introduced to an artist whose lyrics were like nothing I’d ever been exposed to before.  I am still, to this day, amazed by Kurt’s lyrics.  He remains one of my favorite lyricists.  Kurt Cobain’s music has had such a profound impact on my life that I once considered getting a Kurt Cobain tattoo.  I still might, but my burning desire to get a tattoo has kind of passed me by.

The third and final musical awakening came with the Wrens.  It was several months after Elliott Smith’s death.  A co-worker of mine asked me if I had heard whether or not Elliott’s death had finally been ruled a suicide or a homicide.  I hadn’t heard any news, so I did a Google search for the information.  One of the sites that turned up was a news article on the issue from Pitchfork Media.  I had never heard of the site but was always looking to find new review sites other than Rolling Stone & Spin magazines, both of which I’d grown very tired of.  So, I explored the site and one of the best reviewed albums at the time was The Meadowlands by the Wrens.  Immediately after reading the review, I locked my computer, went to lunch, drove to Cheapo and purchased the album without hearing a single note from it.  It blew me away.  It did take several listens for me to really appreciate it, but I could tell right away that what I had was something special.  I recommended it to a friend and referred to it as a “music snob’s wet-dream.”  He agreed and now loves the album as well.  Because of that album, it caused me to look into what other albums Pitchfork Media gave really good reviews to.  Pitchfork Media has had a great impact on the music I choose to listen to today.  I still read their articles everyday.

I do believe that people can measure time by albums they’ve discovered.  Such as, “wasn’t it three years ago when we last took a trip to Chicago? I remember I was just getting into the Hold Steady at that time.”
I remember the summer after I graduated from high school I had finally checked out theReplacements and had fallen in love with their album Tim.
 In January of 1999, I purchased the Afghan Whigs’ 1965 and that album certainly changed my life forever.  Their singer, Greg Dulli, is possibly now my favorite musician of all time.  I can’t speak for other music snobs/enthusiasts, but one thing I know for certain is that I have had several musical awakenings and I can measure time by the moments in my life when I’ve fallen in love with an album.
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