19 January, 2008

Musical Discoveries

Inspired by a post by Satanic Thoreau, which characteristically turned out to be way fucking longer than I was expecting, I've decided to discuss where I discovered some of my favorite musical artists.

Classic Rock (Popular)

Most of the classic rock artists I'm into I discovered from a combination of my parents' listening habits as I was being raised (more of a subconscious inspiration), and the stuff I heard on RRK, which was (alas, no longer) the classic rock station in this area when I first *consciously* started recognizing music and acquiring a taste for it (around the end of my high school years). But here are a few specific stories:

Led Zeppelin

Stairway To Heaven was one of the first songs that I really got into in a big way. During the first semester of my senior year in high school, I spent a lot of time at home after school sitting in the dark and listening to RRK. I was "earning my chops" as a listener, in terms of getting to know all the most popular classic rock tracks (at least on big name radio, anyway). But everytime Stairway To Heaven came on - which was relatively frequently - I went into a total trance. It was practically a spiritual experience. The magic of the song, and the power and emotion of the solo. Once, a little later, after acquiring a girlfriend, I pulled the car into the driveway when Stairway came on. She was anxious to get inside, so she shut the radio off - cutting off my reverie. I was pissed.

As far as the rest of Zep's catalog, in addition to what RRK played, they did a Top 50 Albums countdown over Thanksgiving weekend that year. I got introduced to a lot of good albums on that countdown (as opposed to just songs), and I actually used it as a guide for writing up my Christmas list, since before then I didn't really know what albums were good. The albums on that countdown that made the biggest impression on me were Zep's.

Another formulating experience, if I haven't mentioned it already, was the weekend with the ZoSocar. One weekend that December, my brother 'traded' cars with me for the weekend, because he wanted to take the van up to Canada. So I got to drive his white Firebird. It was a sweet ride. He left Zep's fourth album in the CD player, so naturally, driving the car meant listening to the album. It was an amazing experience, that I am sure only increased the magic of that album.

Pink Floyd

I discovered Pink Floyd pretty much the same way as Led Zeppelin, though there wasn't necessarily one song that stood out for me as much as Stairway To Heaven did. But I do remember one Floyd-related incident from my childhood. I was in some way familiar with Dark Side of the Moon, because I remember I would sometimes beg my mom to put it on so I could listen to my favorite part, which was the ambient portion at the very beginning of the song Time. Floyd was probably the band I was most consciously aware of during the early years. In the discovery period, during the end of my high school years, I attached myself to Pink Floyd because they seemed a bit more sophisticated than the average rock band, and also because their music had a certain emotion to it - something a bit more introspective and atmospheric - which attracted me. I remember driving back from the mall one day, by myself, and Hey You came on the radio, and I thought back on my experiences, since I was approaching graduation, and I just had this feeling that Pink Floyd had some underlying connection to me.

The Doors

Something about The Doors reminds me of our family vacations to Deep Creek Lake in my childhood. It probably has a lot to do with hearing them a lot during those vacations. But it might also have to do with a very important experience that has stuck in my memory all these years. We were just coming off the lake as a storm broke out. While our relatives were tying up the boat, my brothers and I ran ahead to the cottages for cover. The doors were locked and nobody answered. We ran along the road from our parents' cottage to our grandparents' cottage, and the van drove right up to us, coming back from shopping. They opened the door and we climbed in out of the rain, and Riders on the Storm was playing on the CD player. Perfect.

The Who

The Who was actually the first rock concert I ever went to. But it wasn't me, it was my brother, that suggested it to my dad in the first place. I wanted to get a better idea of who The Who was - in essence, which of the songs I knew from the radio was actually The Who. I heard Who Are You one day, and I remember coming to the realization that "this is The Who". So I've kind of always felt a little behind the curve in my appreciation for The Who, but there's something very unique about the band, particularly Pete Townshend's approach to playing the guitar, that I've come to appreciate more and more over the years.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones is my dad's favorite band, so my awareness of them is pretty self-explanatory. They don't really have a searing guitar god - Keith Richards has always been more of the rhythm/song-writing type - so I've always spent less attention on them than other bands. But there's no doubt that they have a solid groove, as well as being just downright cool. And listening to them a lot, and learning about them on the side, from my dad's influence, I've learned to appreciate them more and more.

Neil Young

My first encounter with Neil Young was the song Cinnamon Girl which came on every once in awhile on the radio. I remember separating it in my mind from Brown-Eyed Girl, since the title was similar in structure. But between the two, Cinnamon Girl was more interesting because it was electric and had a rock edge. Another time, in a rare occurence, I heard Down By The River playing on the radio, and I was captivated by the electric jamming and groovy atmosphere. Yet another time, I heard Like A Hurricane, and I wasn't sure it was Neil Young, but I had a pretty good idea that it was, because I could hear the stylistic similarities to Down By The River. I tried to look it up, but kept getting Rock You Like A Hurricane, which obviously wasn't right.

I knew my dad had some Neil Young in his collection, so I looked through it one night, and discovered the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, with the song Down By The River - bingo! Listening to the album, I heard Cowgirl in the Sand for the very first time, and it blew me away. I loved it, but I didn't become totally obsessed with the song until my freshman year in college, sitting in the window, watching the students pass by down below, listening to the song on repeat for hours, waiting for just a glimpse of heaven.

Other Classic Rock/Blues

Robin Trower and Ten Years After

I'm lumping these two together only because I 'discovered' them simultaneously. Ten Years After has more or less been my dad's second favorite band, and my introduction to them during the Woodstock film (Alvin Lee totally smoking on the guitar throughout I'm Going Home) whetted my appetite for more. As for Robin Trower, I heard about him from an online classic rock forum, and decided he was worth checking out. So sometime during my college days, I ordered a TYA album and a Trower album. When they arrived, I took them to the library to listen to while doing some homework (I'm thinking this must have been sophomore year). I was entranced by Trower, and TYA blew me away. One of the TYA songs, You Give Me Loving, actually sounded familiar to me. It was bizarre, because I know I hadn't consciously heard the song before, but the riff must have been burned into my brain subconsciously from listening to TYA a lot during childhood, as I'm sure I did.

Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac

My first introduction to Peter Green was waking up halfway in the middle of the night, with the radio still playing, and hearing the song Oh Well, including the full acoustic portion. It mesmerized me, and I made a point to jot down the name of the song and the band, that the DJ announced after it ended, on a strip of paper so I would remember it the next morning. I woke up and looked at the piece of paper, and told myself that there was no way that song was by Fleetwood Mac, the band that did the Rumours album. So I shrugged it off for the time being.

I don't recall how Peter Green re-entered my consciousness, but I was curious, perhaps still wondering about that Oh Well song, so I went and bought the BBC Sessions featuring not just Fleetwood Mac, but Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. I was sold instantly, after listening to it. Peter Green, with his heart-rending soulful blues licks, and his melancholic sensibilities, immediately became one of my favorite artists of all time. He's an amazing musician, and the very personal songs he sings, I feel like it could have been me that wrote those songs. There's a deep connection there.

Michael Bloomfield

I came upon Michael Bloomfield in a roundabout way. It's pretty ironic, actually. One day, jumping into (or maybe just before getting out of) the car at Guitar Center, I heard on the radio - a rare occurrence, indeed - the version of Season of the Witch which turned out to be by Al Kooper and Stephen Stills. Not at first, but this gradually led me to the Super Session album, from which the track comes, which features some of Bloomfield's best playing. The session was conceived for just that purpose, and Stills' contribution came only after Bloomfield skipped out halfway through the proceedings. So by chance, I was drawn to Super Session by one of the non-Bloomfield tracks!

And then there was the Monterey Pop Festival DVD. Bloomfield plays on it with a band called Electric Flag. But what caught my attention even more, was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's performance on Driftin' and Driftin'. Once again, I just barely missed Bloomfield, because shortly before Monterey, he had quit the Butterfield Blues Band to form Electric Flag! Still, I got interested in the Butterfield Blues Band, and bought the anthology, half of which features Bloomfield on guitar. So from both this and Super Session, I came to discover, in a roundabout fashion, the genius of Michael Bloomfield, forgotten blues virtuoso guitar god of the sixties (and to a decidedly lesser extent, the seventies).

Other Genres

Joe Bonamassa (Modern Blues Rock)

I don't recall exactly how I came across Grooveyard Records, but when I did, I realized that here was a potential treasure trove of modern music that could appeal to my guitar-driven blues-influenced rock sensibilities. I downloaded all of the sample tracks from the various albums they were offering, and I listened to them, paring them down to the very best four. Then, I ordered the albums those best tracks were from. This is how I discovered Lance Lopez, also. One of those first tracks was A New Day Yesterday from Joe Bonamassa's live album of that title. I got the album and I've been a dedicated fan ever since. He's my favorite modern guitarist.

Shannon Curfman (Modern Blues Rock)

One day during my senior year in college, I was sitting at my desk in my room, reading from a hometown mag I had just got in the mail. I scanned through it for anything interest-catching. Well, in the live performances section of the magazine, there was an article about an upcoming performance by a young female blues rocker. My interest was piqued. When I read that she had recorded a blues album at age 15, I was fascinated. I couldn't get home to see her perform that time, but I bought her album and got a chance to see her next time 'round.

Silvertide (Modern Classic-style Rock)

When Silvertide were just getting popular over in Philly, there was a Philly-based member on an online Zeppelin forum I frequented at the time. He was advertising the band, but I pretty much ignored them at first. Finally, this member sent me an audio track or two, and I was really impressed. I also visited the band's website and heard a few more songs, and I was hooked. I got a chance to see the band live as an opening act, and I eagerly anticipated their first album release. Afterward, I even hoofed it out across the stateline to see them perform for a future live DVD release, which never happened. Unfortunately, the band faded into the void behind lies of a second album. Nobody knows if they will ever resurface, but at this time, it looks highly doubtful. Ah well, they were good while they lasted.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Post-Rock)

My initial foray into the post-rock and, more generally, the ambient and atmospheric music genres, came out of my discovery of the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. And that occurred while initially watching zombie horror flick 28 Days Later. Despite their anti-publicity stance, Godspeed allowed one of their songs to be used in the movie - and to breathtaking effect. It certainly made an impression on me. Not only did I fashion the main riff of the first "original" song I wrote on guitar after the riff in that song, but I tracked the song down (which doesn't appear on the film soundtrack, by the way), and I've been a fan of the band ever since. The post-apocalyptic soundscapes that journey from very loud to very quiet sections entrances me.

1 comment:

  1. Anything worth explaining is worth explaining to excess. If Existential Epistemology ever got off of its feet, you'd have five pages for every one sentence under the archaic, sloppy traditional thought-system. ;)