Friday, September 21, 2007

Through the stacks of wax

I'm supposed to be showing you my latest FO. Problem is I forgot to take a picture while it was still light out. So you're going to have to wait one more day. Since I'm between projects, I'll keep the daily blogging going with another music entry in lieu of actual knitting content.

I've talked about various artists and bands, many of whom may be unfamiliar to you, so I thought it might be fun to trace my evolution as a music listener.

I had the foresight to hold onto records during the great purge when my parents moved last Christmas, so I can say for certain what some of my first musical memories are. The albums look to be in fine shape, but the jackets were stuck together. They must have got wet wherever my parents stored them.

Anyway, the early days were heavy on Disney and Sesame Street records. Disco was in vogue. I recall being particularly enamored with the Discopedia Vol. 5 record and am certain that it's the second copy we had. (I think the first was broken rather than worn out.) I'm not going to apologize for it. The knee-jerk reaction is to mock the genre, but as The Last Days of Disco soundtrack demonstrated, the era produced its share of good pop music. Not that I spend much time listening to the stuff now. I just think it's silly to write off everything from that time.

I also dug up several Disney story records with dialogue and music from the studio's films. I know we had plenty of 45s, but I don't think I lugged those home with me.

Around the house I would hear my mom playing hymns and songs from old musicals on the piano. I started playing in second grade, so I became schooled in classical music. I also learned some pop hits. Still, most of what I played was classical canon than Laura Branigan's "Self Control". (I want to say I played the later for the fifth grade talent show.)

My parents didn't listen to the popular music of the day when I was a kid, although some of it would slide through on AM radio. (I swear I remember hearing a Top 40 countdown on an AM station during a summer trip to Knoxville.) They did listen to oldies, and I enjoyed curling up with my transistor radio on Sunday evening to hear the hot wax show on 700 WLW.

I wasn't completely oblivious to pop music. Probably by junior high I would sneak listens to Z93, the Top 40 FM station in Dayton. I would tape favorite songs off the radio and try to get them without the DJ's talking over the intros. My mom didn't--and still doesn't, to my knowledge--like electronic music, so she didn't want to hear it, although her objections had more to do with the morning DJs and their suggestive patter. (The scandal of Phillipsburg's sesquicentennial was some inappropriate remarks that Doctor Dave made while hosting the beauty pageant. Keep in mind that my hometown had a population of 700.)

Since I played the piano, I became a fan of Billy Joel. Thus began a deeper immersion in popular music. Next stop: The Beatles. Do high school students still go through this phase? I soaked up everything I could about The Beatles and, to a lesser extent, the biggest bands from the 60s. Classic rock followed. By the time I was a senior my friends had more adventurous tastes, and so began my introduction to modern rock.

U2 and R.E.M. were the bedrock bands and served as jumping off points for further exploration in rock and roll. Nirvana broke during my first quarter of college, so that would introduce me to a bunch of stuff that was foreign to me. I was also heavily involved at the college radio station. I devoured the charts in radio industry publications and set out to be a program director.

By the time I was a senior, commercial radio had appropriated alternative rock. I was checking out indie bands, largely due to Dayton lo-fi legends-to-be Guided by Voices. I should mention that I didn't abandon the other music I liked; the focal point moved.

The next seismic shift was unlikely. Give credit to Johnny Cash's American Recordings for giving me permission to dabble in listening to country music. I heard Kelly Willis' self-titled album and was captivated with her voice even if I felt as though I wasn't supposed to like it. Welcome to the label, which allowed me to justify this newfound love even if there was nothing "alt" about her other than lack of commercial success.

The next group to make a significant impact on my listening habits was Belle & Sebastian. The mystery surrounding the Scottish group added to the allure of their twee pop and opened me up to embracing the music I liked no matter how uncool it might be. B&S were "cool" in that they weren't widely known, but the wispy nature of their music could inspire eye-rolling among the rockers.

Suffice it to say that my musical tastes are broad, although I am partial to that which is more melodic and displays tangible yet modest craftsmanship.

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At 12:50 AM, Blogger Donna B. said...

I am happy to inform you that yes, high school students do still go through that Beatles phase. I meet them every year in the freshman class. And as you know, disco is my favorite pop genre, so thanks for defending it.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger the secret knitter said...

Cool. I didn't know (or forgot) that disco is your favorite pop genre, but I'm happy to stand up for it. I figured stating any affection for it would be met with scorn.


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