I don't read Pitchfork as regularly as I used to, but I still enjoy how the 5-10-15-20 feature asks artists to take an inventory of music they loved at five, ten, fifteen, etc., years old. An interesting way to narrate your life. Give it a try.
I can't say for sure if I was five years old or not, but I clearly remember the two Beatles anthologies, 1962-66, and most especially 1967-1970, always being in the house, circa the late '70s. I think my brother Steve and/or my sister Anna had the records, but I seem to recall checking them out of Hubbard Public Library over and over again too, and listening to side one of the "blue album," which opens with Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, and Sgt. Pepper. Most of the blue album consists of psychedelic songs from the "Sgt. Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour" records. Pretty awesome stuff for a five-year-old. After all, most of the songs sound like cartoons. Really good cartoons, that is.
I should also give props to Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle, which I did a pretty mean version of in my kindergarten Christmas show. The same nuns who taught me that song were responsible for my inability to say the Hail Mary or make the Sign of the Cross without an Italian accent until I was like nine.
At ten, the word "Sandanista" meant two things to me: somebody my Aunt Minnie gave money to (who is this person and why is my lefty great-aunt sending her cash?), and the record of the same name by the Clash. Sure, I dug Rock the Casbah (from the better-selling "Combat Rock"), but Police on my Back from the massive "Sandanista!"...that was the premier tune by the band, in my ten-year-old opinion. A record so great, its title needed an exclamation point. Years later, "in the basement of her mother's house, she once taped the first three sides of Sandanista! for my car" would be the best lyrics The Barenaked Ladies would ever write.
Is there a better age for listening to rock and roll music? I think in tenth grade I listened to Lou Reed's "New York" album a lot, along with Dead Milkmen's "Eat Your Paisley," the first Cowboy Junkies record, oh, and 10,000 Maniacs, who I saw play in Cleveland with Tim Finn of Split Enz as the opening act. I can remember Natalie Merchant singing a beautiful a capella cover of The Beatles's "She Loves You" on the Nautica Stage, in the middle of the Flats, a breeze floating in from the river. I can't think of a better memory of live music.
1993 was a good year to be a music-lover in Detroit. 89-X, which is now a mostly awful "hard" alt-rock station with only five or six songs in rotation, was in its prime. The station broadcast from across the river in Windsor, ON., so they were less inclined to censor song lyrics. Oh, and you could see rock shows for fifteen or twenty bucks. The Lemonheads. Matthew Sweet. The Beastie Boys (playing instruments at Cobo Hall!). Redd Kross. Too bad I never saw Nirvana. Surely they must have played Detroit a bunch of times during that year or two stretch.
I can recall my friend Hung getting packages of Vietnamese food from his family and eating squid jerkey and drinking beer in his room while listening to the hip hop station ("Detroit's strong songs"...is that station still around?). Ice Cube's Good Day and the Dr. Dre Chronic songs (classics) were in heavy rotation, along with I Got A Man and Back to the Hotel (classics? not so much).
I loved the digable planets back then, too. The "reachin (a new refutation of time and space)" record was amazing. I still listen to that CD all the time. What is it...poetry, jazz, spoken word, alt-rap, stoner music, new age philosophy? Yes.
The year before I got married. I moved to Tucson by myself (Nicole was finishing her last year of law school in Michigan) to start my Ph.D. program at U of Arizona. Go Wildcats. I think I listened to the Pixies and the first Patti Smith album quite a bit in my crappy Los Altos Village apartment (one block from the grocery store that many a fellow grad student dubbed "ghetto Fry's"). A lot of new music was pretty bad in 1998 (horrible post-grunge bands and Nirvana rip-offs). Plus, I spent that first year really geeking out in my program, reading classical rhetoric for days on end and setting up a literacy project on the Rez as part of a community literacy practicum I was in. Consequently, I don't recall buying any new releases except for "Stunt," the Barenaked Ladies's big album. I liked the melancholy songs like Call and Answer and In the Car (with the aforementioned reference to the Clash), a good soundtrack for missing Nicole, the midwest, and family. I remember listening to Yaqui Deer Songs on the Rez. And of course mariachi music every time somebody from out of town would visit craving good Mexican food.
I taught at Miami University during the last years of woxy, the great indie radio station out of Oxford, Ohio. 2002 and 2003 saw some really great stuff get airplay on woxy: tunes from Wilco's magnificent "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," early stuff by The Kills and The Libertines, Yoshimi by the Flaming Lips. The Gossip (see the band's awesome leader Beth Ditto, left) had a couple songs on woxy, too, and I credit the station with introducing me to the band before they started playing dance music. I mean, they're still good, but they were a straight-up punk band in 2003 and woxy used to spin Jason's Basement, Don't Make Waves, and Arkansas Heat. Great stuff.
Back in Detroit. Teaching at UM-Dearborn, putting together my tenure portfolio, enjoying the pre-migraine year of 2008. During the not-so-distant-past-of-08, I really liked the song styings of Santogold (speaking of Gossip's merging of punk and dance-pop), Dengue Fever (especially the sublime "Sober Driver"--see link), and, lest I appear to have totally succumbed to NPR-rock, Detroit's own SSM. The latter rocked out at Detroit's Taste Fest that year. We saw them because you couldn't get anywhere near the stage where George Clinton was playing, and they were crazy-good, emphasis on the "crazy" and the "good."
Maybe I'll update this when I have another seven entries to add. I hope each will be filled with good rock and roll music that takes me to the places and the people and the flavors and the fun. Rock on...