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Love That Noise!

It is true that popular culture and mass media constitute a fairly large portion of our lives and will continue to do so as long as the earth revolves around the sun. But because of the over saturation of mass media and popular culture, it would seem to me that for one aspect of mass media or popular culture to have a significantly powerful impact on a person, would have had to of reached that person at an early age. For me, this particular aspect was music.

My earliest childhood recollection involves riding in the passenger seat of my Dad's brown, late 70‚s model, Triumph. I remember this car not because it was brown or because it was a late 70‚s model Triumph, but because it had a tape deck. This was significant, because it was in that car that I first became seduced by music. It was not were my Dad and I went in the car or the billboards we saw along the way, but rather memories of us listening to Elton John and Billy Joel that stick out vividly in my mind. Not long after this epiphany did I start getting into Johnny Rivers and, hold back the laughter please, Barry Manillow. I was 4 years old and enjoying my new interest. But it wasn't until a year later that my Dad's new wife would change/corrupt my life, depending upon who you ask, forever.

My Dad remarried in 1980 to a girl significantly younger than himself, and because of the age difference, had different musical tastes than my Dad. It was in this year, while driving to my Dad's house with my stepmother, that I was first exposed to hard rock in the form of AC/DC and Ted Nugent. My life was different after this. My Mom first began to worry about me when instead of asking for Star Wars records or Chipmunk Punk, I was asking for records with titles like "Highway to Hell" and "Dirty Deeds: Done Dirt Cheap." I was also beginning to be looked upon oddly by my peers. They just didn't seem to understand why their older brothers and sisters would want me to bring my records with me when I went to their house. Despite my growing reputation as the "different" kid, I was in heaven. Music had now penetrated my very being, and rooted itself permanently in my soul.

Three years later, my next musical experience was about to take place. Every year during the second week of June, my grammar school would have their annual carnival. This particular year while playing my favorite carnival game, pay a dollar...hit a poster with a dart and win it, I noticed a very bizarre looking poster. It was of three dark haired guys and one guy with really blond hair, I was pretty sure they were guys, dressed in leather, chains, spiked gloves, etc. Instinctively I knew that this had to be some rock band and headed to the record store the day after winning the poster to find out who these guys were. No sooner did I walk in the record store and look up at the new artist display did I notice an all black album cover with the words "Motley Crue" written on with a pentagram embossed on the cover. I was now introduced to a new harder style of rock and my new heroes. The biggest thing that Motley Crue did for me, other than reinforcing my love of rock, was introduce me to the theatrical aspects that go along with rock music. After dressing up like Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue for the next 4 years, as well as trying to find heavier and heavier bands to listen to, Metallica and Slayer for example, something occurred to me. I loved music for two reasons, one the pure joy of experiencing it, and for the passion of live performances. To put it simply, Motley Crue influenced me not only to try to find the "purest" form of metal, but also taught me the importance of being different and creative. But, I was not prepared for what happened next.

A friend of mine who lived down the block from me, who was older than me, invited me over to his house to see his new electric guitar. While digging through his record collection, I noticed an album cover that made even that Motley Crue poster that I freaked out about look boring. The cover consisted of a live photo shot of the band during a concert, but the funny thing was that I had seen this band before, yet not like this. Four guys on the cover wearing extremely elaborate costumes and their faces were painted up like it was Halloween. The title of the album... "Alive!,"the band...Kiss. Growing up in the 80‚s I was used to the post-makeup era of Kiss, but after listening to the album, which came out the year that I was born, this was the only version of Kiss that I was interested in. "Alive!" was an album of such raw energy that I was spellbound and quickly bought every Kiss album made before 1980, and became fanatical about them. Not only was the music raw but you really couldn't get more theatrical than Kiss, at the time. Even most of Motley Crue‚s image and stage show ideas were borrowed from Kiss. Now that my friend helped me find the purest theatrical band, he would now help me find the heaviest.

About 6 months of submerging myself in the Kiss archives, I was once again at my friends house. He had noticed how much I had taken to Kiss, I think everyone did actually, and asked me to listen to another record of his. What else could there be after Kiss, I though to myself. The song started with a slow quiet bass drum, and then from out of nowhere...this bent chord from hell that scared the crap out of me. Startled by the chord to the point where I couldn't ask what the hell it was I was listening to a distorted voice then bellowed, "I AM IRON MAN!" Iron Man? A song this powerful bears the name of cartoon character? After inquiring what it was that we were listening to my friend handed me the album cover, "Paranoid." Black Sabbath. Being the perceptive youth I was, I began feverishly reading the album cover to discover two important things, one being that this was another album that predated myself, and that Ozzy Osbourne was in this band in the 70‚s. I felt cheated in a way, because every rock star or band that was mediocre in the 80‚s was god during the 70‚s. Despite my envy, in finding Black Sabbath I found the purest form of "heavy" music that one could find. Sabbath developed the formula which every other heavy metal, thrash, gloom, doom, death, etc., band would follow, even to this very day.

It seems up until this point that my life would remain in heavy metal limbo forever. But at my 1989 8th grade graduation dance I had another awakening, which for a brief period I thought was an illness...I liked to dance. Because it was very difficult to dance to heavy metal, I discovered the Chicago House scene. This was important, not only because I now realized that there were other forms of music with the similar intensity of rock, but I made my first real genre leap in a decade...oh yeah, I could dance to it as well. After my first big change in music, it became easy for me to explore the vast world of music that was out there. The more genres I would explore, the more music would appeal to me, now more so for the simple pleasure of experiencing something that was fresh and new to me, even if it was rather old, and in some cases, commonplace. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are examples of music that I had always been exposed to, but never realized the importance of or appreciated until later in life. By listening to other genres of music I not only realized the importance of each genre, but the impact that genres had on each other. For example, by listening to Jazz and Blues, I began to realize that real magic behind Black Sabbath wasn't simply their use of distortion or tuning their guitars one octave lower than normal. The real magic was that Black Sabbath took elements of Blues and Jazz and created a new genre by going back and later adding the distortion and heavy lyrics. By exposing myself to different genres of music I not only appreciated music that was new to me, but also had a renewed appreciation for genres which I already had a love for. These days, I try to stay exposed to as many different musical types as I can. Lately, my flavors of the month have been underground, especially neo- disco, and punk. But that is going to change within a couple of days because the Liquid Soul c.d., which is a combo of Jazz, Funk, Soul, get the idea, has been growing on me and I've been eager to check out the new Fun Lovin‚ Criminals c.d. But despite all the music that has come out and will come out in the future, none of it will be imbedded as deeply in mind like AC/DC blasting in my Dad's car.

February 1999

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