“I prefer the mystic clouds of nostalgia to the real thing, to be honest.” –Robert Wyatt
To me, there are very few things that can evoke memories the way that music can. Sure, the smell of Colgate sends me straight back to the days when I was a child, learning to brush my teeth. Standing over the sink with my mother, her mouth merrily frothing like a rabid animal, as we laboriously scrubbed at the germs in our mouths with our toothbrushes. Or the sharp bite of perfectly pickled kimchi that brings me back to my childhood house, mom and dad both cooking dinner for the family. Mom, with love. Dad, with flavor, also known as salt. The warmly lit house, before the days of harsh halogen lights, but the warm yellow glow of 75 watt bulbs…
But I digress. Music. Just the letters placed together form more than just a word. To me, music is the ultimate form of art. You can feel the life of the song pulsating into your bloodstream like an IV. The instruments call to you, reach into your soul and tell you of things you have yet to discover. MUSIC.
And while I can go on and on about music today, and how it has evolved since I started to appreciate it (was not too long ago, in the grand scheme of things. My history on music goes from my reading about the lives as well as listening to classical artists like Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and the like, to several Elvis tunes, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, then leaps to the mid to late 80’s. Apologies to the decades I missed!!) I am choosing today to reminisce on the artists that influenced me as a youngster, in no particular order.
1. Gin Blossoms (Hey Jealousy, Until I Fall Away, Found Out About You)-This band I first heard when I was nine years old or so. Thanks to my mother, I had been mostly brought up on learning the lives of the classical artists, through illustrated books that depicted the lives of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and the like. The other music I came across was courtesy of my older sister, whom I would catch playing Vanilla Ice and working on her Running Man in the backyard, or MC Hammer. Hearing Hey Jealousy for the first time on the television took my breath away, because there was a yearning in the voice of Robin Wilson, the lead vocalist that I had never encountered before. I still feel that yearning, all these years later, and every time I hear that song, I’m nine again.
2. TLC (Baby-Baby-Baby, What About Your Friends, Red Light Special, No Scrubs)- Now, these sisters had something special. They got me jumping, dancing, and begging my parents to deck me out in fluorescent colors, wear scrunchies, do that whole loop your shirt under and over your collar, and though their careers were tragically cut too short with the passing of Left Eye (in my posse, I was Left Eye, so I was especially distraught over her passing while filming a documentary in Honduras), they released albums from when I was seven till sixteen. They were with me when I learned how to play golf, when I started junior high and high school, and those three beautiful women were like my friends. RIP, Left Eye.
3. Gravity Kills (the ENTIRE self titled album)-This band will always be one of my favorites. I was technically a tween when I went to my very first live musical shindig, and with my older siblings, we drove all the way to the Shoreline Amphitheater to partake in KAMP KOME. The summer of 1996 will always be a great one, because there I learned the joys and magic of moshing, I saw my sister crowd surf, and thanks to the wonderful bands there like Poe, 311, Dishwalla, and Gravity Kills, I learned that letting loose, screaming like a crazed lunatic, thrashing limbs everywhere, and music could really, and truly HELP people feel better in a physical way. I couldn’t do the Running Man to save my life (I think I can tread water somewhat nowadays), I couldn’t actually hold a tune, and I had no skills with instruments. My poor mother must have been so devastated when she found out that I had a tin ear and was (still am) essentially missing a knuckle and my stumps for fingers couldn’t glide across the piano the same way hers could. But I had MOSHING. And oh, how it changed me. I still haven’t been in a physical fight with another human being, but moshing had given me an outlet that I still use to this day. THANK YOU, KAMP KOME!!!!
4. Better Than Ezra (Good, Porcelain, In The Blood, Southern Girl)- In 1995, I was really getting into music. The mainstream bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam never really touched my soul the way they did most people. I liked bands that had voices that didn’t sound like they were doped up (which, sadly, I came to find was the exact case for Kurt Cobain, RIP) and though the band hasn’t reached the heights I imagined, I still listen to In The Blood, and am back in the sixth grade, where we were king. Mrs. Smith, Matt Rogers, Derek Hansen, Tiffany Combs. Hot summer days, where everyone seemed to have a birthday party, a pool party. But more than anything, Better Than Ezra remind me of the days when I first started playing golf, where my parents would drop off my siblings and me, and we would play 54 holes a day in the summer and learn tp hone in our skills. Those were the days…
5. Nine Inch Nails (too many songs to list, but Closer, Hurt, March of the Pigs, to name a few)- Trent Reznor. WOW. What a human being. While a lot of my friends were listening to Marilyn Manson (don’t ask, I don’t know why), Rob Zombie (again, no clue), my brother introduced me to some amazing musical groups and artists, like NIN, Deep Purple, Underworld (oh, how I wish Underworld were still together!!), and I was introduced to dark ambient, industrial metal, and a whole new world of music that was created in ways most bands didn’t. I learned about Shinjuku Filth, the entire score to the movie Strange Days filled me with wonder over what the next millennium would bring. Sadly, we don’t have chips in our brains, live like every day is the end of the world, or have access to the internet in our minds. Though I think our smart phones are pretty damned close, and I DO love to wear me some black leather boots and dramatic eye makeup!!! Because that’s just what you did when it was the end of the world!!!
I could truly go on for hours more about the things that bring me back, but these were some of my biggest influences when I was a (pre)teen. Leave a comment and let me know what songs bring you back to your childhood!!!