Me & Music

Me & Music

This summer I chose to try out Beats Music and Spotify in lieu of rdio, my streaming service of choice. I'm brewing up a massive, 495-page comparison post that you all will love to pour over. But in the interim, I thought it was worth noting how I feel about music without taking up 494 of those pages.

The first song I truly remember loving in my life was "Copacabana" by Barry Manilow, because my mom was a huge Fanilow. (Yep.) Another song from the far reaches of my memory that I really loved was "Steppin' Out" by Joe Jackson, and of course, its video. For most of my childhood, my music consumption was a steady stream of the oldies station from my mom's car radio. 

Once 6th grade rolled around, though, I started to shift over to contemporary pop music - and, simultaneously, really fell in love with The Monkees. My mainstay was Chicago's B96, and I taped songs off of the radio incessantly. Sometimes, as was the case with "Ice Ice Baby", I recorded the song multiple times on multiple tapes from the radio. (That song landed hard.)

The Door Opens

I drifted and stayed in the whole contemporary pop and classic rock world until I found R.E.M. in 1991. "Man on the Moon" was the hook. It surely wasn't the first R.E.M. song I had ever heard, but it was the one I played over and over until I wore out the CD. It was the first music I chose to really love: I was deep into R.E.M., and was my online home at the time.

The important thing about my exposure to R.E.M. was that it got me really interested in music in general: I started to explore other artists, aided by the booming alternative music scene at the time. I went to my first concert: James, at the Vic. I broke bread with Tim Booth, the band's singer (really!) 

At this time my high school pals and I started playing music together. I picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play. I borrowed books from the library and studied them, but mostly grabbed tabs off of USENET and Gopher (YES) and started to learn chord formations. I distinctly remember trying to play "So. Central Rain" and being overwhelmed instantly. "Oh, he changes chords that quickly?"

I kept practicing, though, and became competent with open chords. I started writing my own songs, but rarely played them for anyone else. I kept them in a big Word file called "Original Songs and Lyrics". I hope I still have that file on a floppy somewhere, but there's one song - "Mistaken" - that I wrote 22 years ago and have memorized.

It's also worth noting that Loadstar, the fabled disk magazine, exposed me to lots of new genres of music I would have never have heard otherwise - like ragtime. Totally got into Sousa for a long time.

Back to the Mc

Over time, though, I started to rediscover the songs I had enjoyed in my childhood, or those that had seeped into my head through repeated listenings. Some of them I loved, some I hated, but the mix of oldies and early MTV and other random sources ended up being more influential than I had thought. It forms a basis for the stuff I like now.

I really like catchy songs, but my tolerance for mainstream pop is limited; power pop is a favorite genre of mine. I don't believe in guilty pleasures - everyone likes what they like. I will defend most of The Monkees' music as solid, well-constructed pop songs. I'm excited to find new music, and since I primarily use streaming services that's mostly where I look for new music. I generally don't like country music (but can appreciate it) and electronica wears thin on me. I find that I really, really love 70s funk. I can listen to "One Night in Bangkok" and "Simple Song" anytime.

Today, I still play guitar with my son, and I sing pretty regularly too. I listen to music every day. And I admit, I'm still blown away by the fact that I can pretty much think of a song, type it into my phone, and listen to it on demand. That's amazing.

The people in the header image, by the way, are the great Sara Watkins, Luke Bulla, and Glen Phillips from their 2007 Various & Sundry tour. Front row seats. Fucking amazing.