A few weeks ago, a friend of mine tagged me in a Facebook post, challenging me to share a list of ten albums that had the most impact on me, and that still got regular play. I’ve made this sort of list many times in the past, and have my *go-to* albums I usually pull out whenever someone asks for my favorites.
I fully intended to do the same with this challenge, convinced that these records still were representative of my current tastes. I stood in front of the stacks of records and CDs, pulling out the albums I wanted to use. I made a mental note of them, made my first post.
I wrote a few paragraphs detailing why this record was important to me, how it has affected my musical appreciation and the sorts of music liking this record opened up for me.
So far so good.
Day two was much the same- an album, a description, an hour spent thinking about what that music has meant to me. Then my father commented that while he loved the album in question, it was not his favorite from the band. I was about to argue in defense of my choice when I realized it wasn’t my favorite either. In fact, it might have been my third favorite. At that moment, I realized this list was going to be very different from others I’d created. I no longer had interest in a list of favorites, but rather a list of records that pushed me forward.
Any mental notes I’d made about the remaining albums were tossed aside. With a different perspective and mission, I went through the records again. At least four of the titles I planned to use didn’t remain on the revised list. Some I never expected to be on the list suddenly needed to be there.
In the end, I think this current list is a much more accurate representation of my musical education. One realization, I talk a big game about my varied musical tastes, and while I do enjoy all sorts of music, my favorites reside in a very narrow style window. Which means I need to give more attention to other genres, styles, and see if one of those albums might push its way onto the list. Some are very close. Some I haven’t owned long enough to see where they take me.
It was a very fun project and as I always love listening to music, a great opportunity to spend ten days listening to the stuff that had the greatest impact.
Here is the list if you’re interested. It isn’t in any particular order.
Big Country- The Crossing
The Cure- Pornography
The Police- Synchronicity
David Bowie- The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
The Nocturnes- Aokigahara
Russian Circles- Station
Siouxsie and the Banshees- Peepshow
Nine Inch Nails- Pretty Hate Machine
If asked, what sort of list would you make?
Christmas is almost upon us and I honestly don’t have much to say about writing, reading (arithmetic), or tacos.
I do have something interesting (at least to me) to share. If you’ve read this blog much, or know me in the slightest, you know I have a passion for music. I love all sorts of genres and sounds (and am willing to try just about anything. I love suggestions) from the melodic to the chaotic. I also enjoy interacting with musicians, following their social media feeds.
One person in particular, Brian Cook (Botch, These Arms are Snakes, Russian Circles, SUMAC, Mamiffer, and more) runs some very fun and interesting accounts. His Twitter is great, as is his Instagram, but my favorite is his Tumblr page. He answers questions, shares funny photos (often of his ass, so be warned) and is currently posting every record he owns, one at a time. The best part- He has a personal relationship with so many musicians so each entry reads like a band bio. Anyone with an interest in hardcore, punk, metal, post-metal, post rock, indie bands, pretty much anything really, should check it out. He’s only on the letter B so there is a long, long way to go. So many records!
Anyway, I’ve been so engaged in his posts, I’ve decided to join the party and share each and every album I own as well. I won’t have as many crazy stories about musicians, tours across Europe, long hours in a van sharing music with band members, and I will likely be embarrassed by several of the albums in my collection (I’m posting them regardless), but I think it will be a cool experiment.
Also, it is a good way to play records that often get forgotten, which is too many. One could argue that I’ve too much music if that happens, but that person would no longer be my friend if they dared argue that point. I’m cutthroat people. Harsh.
So check it out, follow if you have an Instagram. If you don’t (who are you people), create one. Comment, like, tell me how crazy I am and how having such an eclectic musical palate isn’t a good thing (it is really. You know this).
Music has always been a very influential part of my life. It is hard for me to remember a day without the presence of some song or other. I’ve talked before about how music (and books) are sacred to me. Musicians are storytellers, and as a storyteller I feel a connection with them that goes beyond just enjoying their talents. Certain music has the ability to reconnect me with my past, transport me places, allow me the opportunity to experience old emotions, people. I’ve been moved to tears by music more times than I can count, and each time I’ve been grateful for the experience.
Music also fuels my writing.
There was a time when I needed silence to work, and any outside distraction was a detriment. I don’t know what changed, but now I cannot compose anything without some music playing. It influences the direction of my writing, the tone, the development. I know certain scenes in my first novel were created in direct response to what was on the stereo at the time I was writing them.
And I have so much of it.
Hundreds of vinyl records. Thousands of compact discs. A few lonely cassette tapes.
I’m always acquiring more as well. The more new stuff that I add to the collection, the more some albums get forgotten. Some albums have not been played in years, maybe decades.
In order to try and remember the lost ones, I determined to listen to each of my CD’s (in reverse alphabetical, reverse chronological order) over a two year period. I call it “The Great CD Listening Adventure. I started in the fall of 2016 and just moved through L and into the letter K this morning (L7 to Kylesa, in case you were wondering).
Because some albums have not aged well, I give myself some outs- I play everything, but if after three songs, I’m not feeling it, the disc gets yanked (set on the pile to take to my local record store where I can get store credit). I can skip live albums and greatest hits collections. Singles are also optional. Otherwise, it’s every album by every artist. It’s been so much fun. I’ve rediscovered some forgotten gems, and realized that I’ve lost interest in some bands completely.
My tastes have always been all over the place, ranging from bubblegum pop to Black Metal and most everything in between. I firmly believe that there is a gem in every genre, and that some of the best music ever made is being created right now. If you’re wondering, disagreeing, curious, I can give you a nice list of artists to consider.
What about you? What sort of role does music play in your life, your writing? When authors use music, does it have any affect on the way you perceive a scene?
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who are you listening to right now? Tell me all about your love of music, please.
Yesterday, I fell into an old trap- Reading the comments following a *political post* on social media. As usual, I disagreed with more than half of those who felt they needed to vent their opinion about the topic at hand. I’ve learned to leave these comments alone, not respond, and allow my anger and frustration to gradually dissipate. The next step is learning not to read these comments at all. Baby steps…
The post in question was about artists, and whether or not they should be allowed to share their personal opinions about the issues of the day. The idea was these artists existed to entertain, period. And somehow, that entertainment precluded them from talking about anything at all. “Just sing and act,” many said. “You are here to be a distraction from reality, an escape.”
One comment in particular stood out, and actually caused me to lose sleep last night. This person claimed he had never, not once had a song or film impact his life or teach him anything. I kept hoping that his statements were hyperbole, meant to drive home the uselessness of the artist more than art itself, but he continued to press about the triviality, banality of music and films. Mindless entertainment, pure and simple. He could live without it.
I felt a wave of sadness. How unfortunate for this person, how tragic. Imagine, never having your heart stirred by a song, never having that moment when you knew the singer, the musicians understood you on a level no one else ever had, when you felt that connection to something, someone outside of your small circle. Imagine no film ever impacting you, making you want to do more with your life, be better. Or no work of art ever inspiring you to see the world differently, or bringing you to tears.
I could list moment after moment where art has made my life infinitely better, where someones words or music helped me understand the world better. So many films and stories have exposed me to ideas, ways of living and thinking that otherwise would remain beyond my ability to comprehend.
I was up last night trying to construct how different my life would be without a passion for art. I didn’t like how that world felt. It was an empty place, one with less love, compassion, understanding.
I don’t want to think about that sort of world anymore. I think I’ll go listen to some music, and later, read a book.
At the end of my 3rd grade year, I decided it would be fun to be 4th grade class president (my elementary school was an odd one) the following school year. I felt like I knew most of the kids in my grade and had a decent shot of winning. To promote my candidacy, my mother helped me make posters to hang in the hallway at school. I decided to borrow a phrase from Sesame Street as my campaign slogan.
C is for Carty. That’s good enough for me.
Cookie Monster didn’t help my cause in the end. I failed to make it through the primary election.
But enough about my brief political career-
Music and books have been a huge part of my life since I was a small boy. Because of the influence of my parents, who had what seemed like massive amounts of books and records, when I was old enough (sometime around the age of 7) I wanted my own collections. They started out small and silly- a copy of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go: A 7 inch copy of Cold as Ice by Foreigner- but those small beginnings (my B word again) connected me to words and music in ways that changed my life forever.
I can’t imagine my house without the presence of books. I love the smell of book paper, old or new. There is very little as wonderful for me as walking into a book store and having that smell overtake me. When I was getting paid to be a Librarian, I was surrounded by that scent every day (and some others we won’t discuss).
I love fiction. Made up stories often feel more honest to me than non-fiction. Reading fiction also taught me better ways to write it. I find writing and reading to be intimately connected.
Music is rarely background noise for me. It is almost always front and center. I pay attention to it. I am aware of it. I listen when I write, when I drive, when I settle in for the evening.
Vinyl was always my first love- the feel of the wax as I remove it from the cover, that slight hiss and pop when the needle hits the record: Huge cover art to gaze at while the music fills the room. That first love was left behind for a while when compact discs became popular. I admit, I abandoned my first love for a shiny new one, but she has been good to me as well, letting me hang on to the one thing that matters most to me when it comes to music, something tangible. It is why I refuse to abandon the physical and buy digital music. Lucky for me, vinyl has made a comeback, and while it is more expensive now than ever before, I have reconnected with that first love and found her as wonderful as I remember.
I’ve decided that I can live without almost all of my possessions. They are after all in the end, just things. But I would feel lost and alone without my collections of music and books.
They say more about me than the clothes I wear, the car I drive or where I live. They are my history and my memory. They are tangible evidence of my passion, and I am alright with that.
My first ever rock and roll show was a 4th of July concert up at the old Rice Stadium at the University of Utah. I was 16 years old and still very sheltered from most of the subculture of music that I would soon enough grow to love. The fireworks show was to be preceded by a live performance by Richard Marx. Yes, I paid to see Richard Marx, hair and all! It really wasn’t a bad show, lots of energy, fun music and the crowd was really into things. Some concertgoers were allowed to watch from field level and they packed tight towards the stage. I remember three or four people being helped out by security, overcome by the heat and pressure of the crowd (this is a common site at most of the shows I have attended, but I never expected it at a Richard Marx show). For years, I was embarrassed by this being my first show, but having seen worse and much much better (also being more forgiving of my younger self now) I look back on this with fondness. I had fun, the people I went with had a good time and I don’t regret it.
The worst show I attended has to be the Lilith Fair in 1997. Not because the bands were bad, or the people were annoying, more that the venue was bad; and it rained, cold rain, all day. I was too far away to see anything and the sound quality was poor as well. People having normal conversations around me would often drown out the musicians. Hard to get into a show when you feel like it is being piped over the PA at a mall.
It is very hard to pick the best show I have been seen. Easily in the top five: Halloween show with PIL and Flesh for Lulu where John Lydon abused us verbally all night. Such a fantastic performer. Also up there has to be the TOOL show in 1997. Also, seeing Nitzer Ebb in 1992 was the most energetic and violent show I had ever been a part of. The first time I saw the Cure, also in 1992 was a memorable experience as well. Of the more recent shows, the last time I saw ISIS will stay with me for a long time. I have been to few shows where the band and the crowd seemed to be on the same page emotionally; a truly mystical moment, if I believed in such things. If I had known it would be their last tour, I would have traveled to see them at least one more time.
Remembering this has me wondering about other first shows, worst shows and best shows. Got any good stories to share?