Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Music from my high school years

It is a cold, dark, ominous and bewitching winter morning in Radford. The skies appear almost heretical. Ice is tumbling from the clouds like angry, dead skin from chapped scalps. It is an appropriate atmosphere, then, that I post a blog about the music I listened to when I was in high school. Looking back, I listened to many of the same artists then that I do now. Some I listen to more than I did ten years ago, some less, some...not at all. And so it is with some trepidation that I raise the coffee mug to my lips, enter the lion's den--and proceed.

1. Aerosmith
If you've been keeping up with this blog you know my feelings about Aerosmith, so I won't go in to detail here. Long story short...I loved the HELL out of them, bought all their albums, and listened to them ad nauseum. I still like Aerosmith, just not as much. This is probably the last blog for a while that they will show up on.

2. The Grateful Dead
I started listenting to the Grateful Dead in 11th grade out of sheer curiousity. I was at Best Buy, or Sam Goody, or one of those places one day looking at cd's and stumbled across all the Dead's albums. They looked...interesting. Very colorful cover art and quirky song titles (Sugar Magnolia, Jackaroo, Mexicali Blues, Box of Rain, Terrapin Station, Dark Star, etc.) All I really knew about them was that Jerry Garcia was this big hippie icon, that he had recently passed away, and that they had been making music since the 60's. The only song I really knew was "Touch of Grey" for which I had seen the video on MTV. After looking through all the different albums I settled on an early best of mix, "Skeletons from the closet," and made my purchase. I took it home and listened to it. Every song on that cd was vibrant, and happy, and beautiful, and fun. The Grateful Dead are what you would consider a "jam band," but interestingly enough my attachement to them never led the way into any association of my own with other "jam bands." By that I speak of course of Phish, Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, Umphreys Mcgee, to some extent Dave Matthews Band, and many more. I don't dislike any of these bands, and I have great respect for all of them; but they never clicked with me the way The Dead did...and still do. Below is a link for the song "Sugar Magnolia." It was one of my first favorites; and it's a PERFECT song for such a gloomy day. COME ON SUMMER!

3. Eric Clapton
I don't care HOW cliche` this sounds; but I still remember the first time I heard "Layla" on the radio. My immediate reaction was, "I need to listen to everything else this guy has done!" Being 15 though; and having limited funds, I had to settle on just getting my hands on the mega best-of collection "The Cream of Clapton." I clearly remember listening to songs like "Wonderful tonight" and "bell bottom blues" and thinking about girls I had crushes on back then; and how nice it would be to slow dance with them. Ironicly, in one particlucar case that geeky fantasy actually came true (with "Wonderful Tonight") and it wasn't quite as magical as I thought it would be. Funny that, no? It didn't change how I felt about the song though--I still see it as one of the greatest love songs ever. At any rate, there is something about Clapton's guitar playing, and song writing, that seems to have elements of epic black magic, painful romance, sentimentality, incredible heart-break, and rattlesnake ferocity. I guess that's why they call it the blues. (Yes, I realize that last sentence is from an Elton John song. And no, I didn't do that on purpose.) Check out this magnificent, live, extended version of "Wonderful Tonight" below.

4. The Doors
Do I still like The Doors? Sure. Do I still listen to them? Not really. They had their important place in music history, and in my own adolescence. Had Jim Morrison not become a bloated, drunken, pretentious, pratt--ultimately culminating in his premature demise--would they, as a band have matured? Who really knows. But, as a human being, I matured; and it seems i've left the "American Poet" and his crew behind. Morrison will be forever 27, but I will not forever be 17. That's not to say I hate them, or that I openly choose not to listen to them. When I hear The Doors on the radio it takes me back to another place--another world, almost--and I turn up the volume & reminisce. And it's nice. All things considered though, I've moved on. Below is a song, highly appropriate for today's unpleasant wintry mix

5. Lynyrd Skynyrd
I don't listen to Skynyrd as much as I did in high school. But "Tuesday's Gone" is still one of the sweetest ballads I know; "Sweet Home Alabama" still makes me wanna get up and dance, and if I stumble across "Freebird" on the radio while out driving I will ALWAYS, turn the volume up, and roll the windows down--no matter what the weather. I have many fond memories of this southern rock band. It's a shame what happened to them. Ronnie Van Zant died to soon. Airplanes and musicians just don't mix. Also, Rob Zombie made smashing use of "Freebird" in the final scene of his movie "The Devil's Rejects." A movie that is 90% grotesque, breaks free of its hideous cocoon; and transforms into something beautiful & decadent. Check it.

6. Steve Miller
When I was in high school, I didn't know what a "midnight toker" was. And I didn't care. That's the neat thing about music--you don't necessarily need to know what the lyrics mean, or to understand a complicated time signature to appreciate a song. A song, when it clicks with you, does something to your insides. The way you feel about a song, is similar to the way you interact with the person you love most. You accept them for what they are, and you don't try to change them--because they make a better person out of you. Some of those songs you love, like people, will not always stay with you. But the ones that do are the most important things to grace your life. And that's what it's really all about. Below is a lesser known Steve Miller song; and one of my favorites. I used to try to whistle the guitar solo.

7. Led Zeppelin
is a radical, epic, mysterious band

in 2008, I saw Robert Plant perform the above song with Allison Kraus, and it was one of the coolest things ive ever seen. Ever.

8. Creed
What can I say? I was young? I didn't know better? Nah...i'm not gonna make excuses. It is what it is. Their first album is not horrible. It rocks fairly well; and I very much enjoyed it at the time. It is unfortunate that Scott Stapp developed a Messiah Complex. The band crashed and burned in a resplendent display of embarassing brutality. I hope they find/have found peace and happiness in what ever they endeavor to do with the rest of their lives. The link to the song below reeks of my senior year of high school; and produces a veritable tsunami of memories...both good and bad. P.S. Mark Tremonti is an under rated guitarist. YEAH I SAID IT!

9. The Smashing Pumpkins
I love everything they did up through the album "Machina." But "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" will always be THE S.P. album for me. At a time when I was listening almost exclusively to classic rock, The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the few contemporary bands that I was heavily in love with. And Mellon Collie was the root of it all. I still love them just as much now, as I did back then. It's too bad Billy Corgan is a weirdo diva vampire snob who can't bury the hatchet and work with James Iha or Jimmy Chamberlaine anymore (I recognize that this works both ways, i just like to pick on Corgan)--cause those guys--those guys (along with D'arcy) wrote some of the best songs to come out of the 1990s--contributing grossly to the sountrack of my high school years. And my God...the videos they made...

10. The Cranberries
I was listening to them just this morning :) You can't mess with this band. And if you try, i'll fight you. Bear will help.

11. The Beatles
It wasn't until 11th or 12th grade that I realized The Beatles were a band I should be paying attention to. There isn't much to say except that I went out one day, bought some of their albums, and the rest is history. They have been one of my favorite bands and biggest influences ever since. I recently did a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of scenes from "Yellow Submarine." I framed it and put it up in my apartment. Yes...i'm that guy.

12. Van Halen
Let's get one things straight. 1. Eddie Van Halen is giant dick head. 2. So is David Lee Roth. 3. Sammie Hagar is a happy-go-lucky rock star with the voice of a wiley angel 4. Van Halen rocks pretty hard. 5. the previous fact doesn't mean that David Lee Roth can come back after 26 years to cut a new studio album with Eddie and Alex (michael anthony, the bassist, was fired and replaced by Eddie's 19 yr old song wolfgang....WEAK) because they are all OLD, (except of course for Wolfgang but who cares about him?) and they are all total ass-hats...but that is happening...nonetheless. I really, really, REALLY liked Van Halen when I was younger. In fact, Aerosmith, Guns N Roses, and Van Halen were at one point in time, my top three favorite bands. Ah, but how times change. The music they produced--I will always look back on fondly because A. it was VERY rockin' and B. many of those tunes take me back to another place and time with people who I very rarely converse with anymore. That's all i've got to say about that. Below is one of the lesser known songs, and one of my favorites. It is from the last album with Sammie Hagar, "Balance."

13. Bob Marley
Considering I just used his song "3 Little Birds" in preschool storytime last week; I think it safe to say I still hold Bob in the highest regard. Much like my introduction to The Grateful Dead, I simply stumbled upon Bob Marley somewhere along my sophomore year of high school...and fell in love.

14. Pink Floyd
It was a phase. It still is. :)

15. Sublime
It was in the spring of my ninth grade year--that I first remember hearing "What I got" and "Santeria." Bradley Knowles was already dead. But I REALLY liked those two songs. So, when in April of 1997 I found my self at a record store in New York City (because of a high school band trip) I purchased a Sublime album. Another kid from band (a trombone player named Craig) saw me buying it, and called me "Poser." I wasn't popular enough, or filled with enough self-worth to say anything back; I was still figuring myself out. So I paid for my cd, put it in my disc man, and plugged up my ears with a strange, provocative combination of white boys effortlessly maneuvering through a unique blend of ska, reggae, and punk. I'm still mad at Bradley for offing himself on a heroine overdose--not only because he left behind a dalmation named Lou Dog, and a brand new little baby girl--but also because at the time of Bradley's death, Sublime was just breaking through. And Lord, who KNOWS what those boys could've accomplished? Musically speaking. So...was I really a poser? Nah, that guy was just a giant deuche bag. But I feel sorry for him. Cause after all these years, and miles, and learning experiences, i've found that love is what I got; and i'm willing to bet he sure as shit hasn't.

16. Jimi Hendrix
Another young man to expire himself far earlier than he deserved. The first time I heard Jimi was in the movie "Forres Gump," when Forrest finds himself in Vietnam and the soundtrack lets loose with Jimi's cover of Bob Dylan's "All along the watchtower." Shortly thereafter I went out and bought "Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience." Jimi was a unique guitarist. Sort of like Clapton...but sexier. It's really a shame he never made it past 27; but the curse of Robert Johnosn is a hard one to survive when you live the lifestyle of a mad-man. Wanna hear something cool? Click the link below.

17. Alanis Morrisette
Is it weird that I had a crush on her? Alanis's more recent work has never made the impact on me that "Jagged Little Pill" did. I remember spending the night at my buddy matt's house one time. We stayed up until three or four in the morning...just talking, mostly about girls we liked and that sort of crap. But we kept "Jagged Little Pill" on repeat the entire time. Alanis could be so sweet, and so quirky, and so fierce, and so wise. I bet she's fun to go bowling with. I imagine this video, will bring back just as many memories for you, as it does for me

18/19. Jimmy Buffett & Tom Petty
I've said plenty about these gentlemen already, and like with Aerosmith, if you've been reading my blog you should know by now that yes, I began listening to them in high school. But that was merely the beginning. Both artists have, over the years, escalated to the highest ranks of my favorite singers. They've been with me so long that both feel like old friends. Below are two of my favorite songs from high school days.

20. Nirvana
I love all their pretty songs.

Honorable Mentions: Guns n Roses, Big Bad Voodoo Daddies, The Rednex, Janis Joplin, Weird Al, Metallica, and Journey.

Next week's blog: Favorite music moments in film


  1. The first Sublime song I ever heard was "Date Rape". I thought it was hilarious. I'm not sure what that says about me. I purchased their albums and listened to them all.the.time. Especially, "Summer Time" while riding around in a Ford Escort with my best friend baked out of our minds. Yay High School!

  2. have you ever heard the sublime/snoop duet of "summertime" ? It's super sweet.

  3. Zeppelin blew my mind in 8th grade. I got the Remasters box set for Christmas that year and was OBSESSED!! I stepped away from them for about 10 years, but then I discovered just how brilliant their Acoustic work was. Sometimes I think "Gallows Pole", "Going To California" and "Battle Of Evermore" rival anything else in their catalog......but I'm also a sucker for a Mandolin!

  4. and i'll be swingin' from the gallows pole while goin' to california for to fight in the battle of evermore!!