Music is a huge part of me. As a listener, not as an artist. I’ve tried but failed, miserably….
My first memory of reacting to music was when I heard ABBA. My mom was in a choir and the Swedish quartet was huge at that time. I often sat on the floor, in front of the stereo system, listening to “Waterloo” and “Money, money, money”, shaking my hips like a pro.
But, the first song that really made me interested in music was Queens “We are the champions”. The year was 1986 and my dad was watching the FA cup final. A team I won’t speak of won the title and the song was played. At that moment I didn’t know who played it or the name of the song. I asked my father, but he didn’t know. Even if I tried to sing it for him, he couldn’t tell. His “thang” was Swedish dance music. It might sound hip and cool, but it’s not like Robyn with fat beats, it’s like horror. Horror in all forms!
My first musical journey had started, I needed to know who played that tune. In 1986, in a small place in the countryside, very few cared about music. The only music for sale was music cassettes, sold at the local store, along with food, deodorants, socks and toys. Even if it felt like a thorn in my ribs, I gave up. It was impossible to find out who played that tune…
It all changed some years later. I moved to the city and my neighbour was very into music. When I asked him, he told me it was Queen. Heaven was reached! For my birthday that year I got the thing that changed it all. A Sony Discman and Queen Greatest Hits 1 and 2. The feeling of listening to the music I had searched for so long was truly an amazing experience, even though the earbuds of the poorer kind.
This was when the Discman did not have ESP (Electronic Shock Protection) and the smallest of shakes would make it skip. The way I solved that was wearing a fannypack filled with soft paper. I was a genius, but maybe not a fashion genius… I used my fathers all-weather jacket to hide the fannypack, so no one should think I was from the countryside. My father’s big jacket, stonewashed jeans and some horrible “sneakers” from the local store from the past was my way to blend in.
The next Christmas I got some more music. “The Vorspiel Collection 2”, packed with high-quality hits... Some of the tracks were good, and it opened my eyes for several other bands. Even though I liked Ram Jam, with “Black Betty” the most at that time, the bands on that CD, that later became some of my favourites, were Primal Scream, The Clash and Elton John. Mostly the older Elton John…
In the early 90’s the electronic music and hip hop started to appear in a big scale. At least the hip hop that we thought was hip hop, but in fact just a cheesy, commercial product pushed at the kids not knowing better. This I learned about later, so at the time I enjoyed MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, wore my 501 jeans and my 501 American football jersey with pride, while “dancing” at the local youth disco.
This blog of mine is mostly about watches, and I find my story of music and watches quite similar. When I first really started to buy my own stuff, it was bad. Also, the bad side of electronic music had found me. I bought, and listened to some unforgivable, horrifying and shamefully bad Eurodance and techno-stuff. I even got into some trance. Just for a little while, before I felt sick. I want to write the names of the artists, but I’m too ashamed… The parallel in my world of watches was my deep interest in Invic…. A deep interest that had to end after a short time.
But, I’m sort of thankful for that time. It got me into buying music, searching for it and make up my own mind along the road.
I got back on track, after a while on the musical road through hell, and continued my journey trough the landscape of guitar-based music. The most important moment in my life of music came in the autumn in 1993. In the lunchbreak at school I walked down to the local record store and asked if I could listen to an album. A friend of mine had recommended me to listen to this band, and I wasn’t too hard to convince as new music was very welcome.
I had to wait for a while before the listening booth was mine to use. Of course, the NAD CD player had a broken display, like every NAD at that time. I put the disc in and pressed play. I didn’t have much time before I had to be back at school, so I didn’t use much time on each song. If it wasn’t catchy the first ten seconds, I skipped to the next.
Then came song number five. Not their biggest hit, but a song that made me forget all around me and made me miss school for rest of the day . “Rocket” from Siamese Dream, Smashing Pumpkins’ 1993 masterpiece! Was this for real?? I had to buy it, but I didn’t have the money. I begged my father to raise my weekly “salary”, so I could get it. After two weeks of hard work doing the dishes and throwing the garbage, it was mine. The Discman in the fannypack had a new album to play!
Another important change in my life was when I switched clubs. I was a footballer, I Switched from the club with the dudes laughing at me when listening to Queen, to a club located in the centre of the city. A club with players from the city, with inner city mentality. After just a couple of days I knew I was in the right place to be. Suddenly I discovered that footballers could listen to other stuff then White Snake, Vanilla Ice and Ace of Base. A new world opened, with British and American alternative music up in front. The team I played for was a good team, but after a year or two I knew that football wasn’t the most important thing for me. Music, friends, concerts and finding my own style. My own band.
This was the time when Britpop exploded. Pulp, Oasis, Blur, Suede and many more. I remember everybody was pumped up, telling Oasis being the biggest thing since the Beatles. For me, Oasis fell into the category “I won’t listen to them because everyone tells me to do”. Stubborn as heck, I needed to find my band and the choice was easy; the all too brilliant Smashing Pumpkins!
I’d got a job at a grocery store and earned my own money, money to spend on music. I bought all the Pumpkins stuff I could get hold of. Singles, albums, Japanese imports, bootlegs, posters, wallets and clothes. Was I a fanatic? Yes, with good reason. The music they made in the 90’s was, and still is, so amazingly brilliant! Release parties, concerts on TV, concerts at venues, nights out and at home with my friends, Pumpkins was the shit! I was so in love with that band I had to get a tattoo, or two…
At the same time as I was drunk on that band, I really loved the British music scene. Listening to what everybody else was listening to wasn’t my thing, I needed to go down and into the cracks to find my music. I discovered Joy Division, New Order, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Slowdive, Swervedriver, The Smiths, Stone Roses, The Psychedelic Furs and many other brilliant bands. Creation and 4AD were two record labels that suited me well! At that time, you could buy any album from any of their artists, and it would be a banger.
I remember, loving both grunge, britpop, hard rock and electronica wasn’t popular amongst the local purists and I felt like it became our generation’s mods vs. rockers. I wasn’t real about it, true to the game. It was not possible to love shoegaze, Prodigy and Tool at the same time…
I couldn’t care less! If I wanted to listen to Adagio Karajan, ABC, Suede or Panpipe Collection 93, from my newly upgraded discman, I would do that. No one could tell me what to listen to. That attitude has been with me since, not only when it comes to music.
It’s important to remember that this was before the internet, MP3 and streaming. New music wasn’t by the fingertips, you needed to make a physical effort to get your hands on it. I have to say I appreciate todays availability, but something important was lost when it all went digital. The feeling of having a physical album in my hands when the clerk handed me the bag with the album I had waited for, with juicy booklets, full of images and lyrics. The feeling of putting the CD in the Discman for the first time, the new Discman, now upgraded with a massive, three seconds ESP.
When buying a new album, that was what you listened to. All the time, everywhere, the same songs over and over again, learning the lyrics, reading about the band and connecting with their story. Today it’s just clicking and listening to a tune, whenever you want. There is nothing wrong with it, I have followed the evolution myself, but for me, important things were lost on that path…
To end the part one of this story of music, I’ll tell you how we did it back in the days, to make to most of the parties. Today we make playlists, and all is good, but in the 90’s, a towel was an important feature at our parties. We agreed to choose one song each, of course from different CD’s or vinyl’s. To save time, not having to put them back into heir covers, we laid them on a big towel that we’d put in front of the rack. A soft towel that wouldn’t harm the jewels. Live, manual playlists… The clean up they day after was a nightmare…
My glasses are foggy, memories are too much to deal with and I need to split this story up.
Keywords for part 2 will be electronica, hip hop, Smashing Pumpkins, concerts, clubs, festivals and Minidiscs, the brilliant product released at the worst time in history. Just as this blog…
Stay tuned for “The music: Volume II.