Whatever kind of music we listened to in high school and during our formative years, that’s usually the kind of music we listen to for the rest of our lives. Even if it’s crap. I’m doing my best to avoid posting those songs, the ones I’m embarrassed to say may have left an impression on me at some point in my life. I haven’t and won’t post any songs by Jan & Dean who I thought we’re cool when I was 10 years old. No songs by Cory Hart, Def Leopard, “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, no Billy Idol, that “Turn Around Bright Eyes” song by Bonnie Tyler. (I listened to a lot of the big hits of the ’80s.) Even music by Pink Floyd is kind of embarrassing to me now because it takes itself too seriously. That last band I took seriously, and can’t do it anymore because they take themselves too seriously, was Marillion. I thought they were fantastic from the time I was 16 until sometime in my mid-twenties. Not unlike Peter Gabriel, some of their most intriguing songs were B-sides. At one point I thought this B-side song, “Tux On,” was a work of genius.
Also on the So Serious I Can’t Take Them Seriously Anymore list… Hmm. Forget about it. It’s too long a list.
My father had a few blues records around the house, stuff like B.B. King (who I love), but nothing that made me want to dive deep into the blues to figure out what was so great about it. I give it up to Stevie Ray Vaughan for hooking me into the blues like nobody else. And my brother. He played a tape in the car one day that had “Tin Pan Alley” on it and I said, “Who the hell is this?” I couldn’t believe it was Stevie Ray Vaughan.
I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan play Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return),” but I had no idea he could play the blues like this. I don’t listen to him much these days, but his version of “Tin Pan Alley” is the song that got me exited about the blues and led me to discover some really good blues music. You gotta start somewhere.
George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass is another vinyl box set belonging to my father that was never played in the house. I was about 13 years old when I dug it out and listened to it about a hundred times. I listened to all The Beatles records, too, but for some reason songs like The Art of Dying, Run of the Mill, I Dig Love, Apple Scruffs and this song, “The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll),” appealed to me more than anything he did with The Beatles.
This is before Jeff Lynne got hold of George Harrison and made everything like an E.L.O. record. What a shame that was.
I saw a 3-record anthology called Commodore Jazz Classics banging around our house for years. It was never played. The vinyl records were shiny and new. I gave them a whirl sometime in high school and thought how different my childhood would have been if I’d grown up listening to jazz. “Basin Street Blues” performed by Eddie Condon and His Band has been on my playlist ever since.
I eventually transferred all six sides of the vinyl onto CD. I still don’t know much about jazz, but I know what I like.
My brother got a double album anthology for Xmas once called The Story of the Blues. (The same Xmas I got a Lonnie Mack album — WTF?) The first track is an early 1900s recording of some African tribesmen chatting through rhythms that become the foundation of the blues. The second or third track on the album is a 1928 recording of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Stack O’Lee Blues.” I’ve always loved it.
Years later I picked up more recordings from Mississippi John Hurt recorded on actual tape instead of scratch acetate discs. They’re all great.