“Son, I’m 30
I only went with your mother ‘cause she’s dirty
And I don’t have a decent bone in me
What you get is just what you see, yeah.”—Shaun Ryder, The Happy Mondays
You don’t find music. Music, it is said, finds you. The stuff that stays with you, that resonates far into your later years, can usually be traced to a specific time in your life where you needed it most, either for social or deeply personal reasons. That time for me was 1984-1993, during my teen years and early 20’s.
Prior to that all of my musical discoveries were based on the collections of older cousins; some were/are kind of embarrassing now (KISS, as an example), but I was blessed to have two older cousins with fairly good taste in music who introduced me to some of the best musical output of the late 60’s and early-mid 70’s. The Beatles, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Tom Petty, early Elton John, E.L.O., The WHO, Queen, Dire Straits, at first. I devoured everything I could by these artists, making mixed tape after mixed tape of their collections and then, finally, spending my own hard-earned allowance on actual vinyl copies to start my own collection.
After a while I came across some of the late 70’s bands and things started to change. The first album I can remember that really blew me away was Talking Heads:77, the one with Psycho Killer on it. Everything from Byrne’s vocals to that ultra simple 3-note bass riff to the weird as f*&k lyrics to the sparse production appealed to me immensely. From that point on it was like a dam bursting. First came the guitar bands: Gang Of Four, The Clash, The Pistols, The Dead Kennedys, The Fall, The Ramones and about a thousand others. This first wave of guitar bands, call it “Punk Ethos” if you must, taught me that you didn’t have to be a virtuoso to produce affecting music. It was the attitude, and especially the experimentation that really counted.
Then came the post-punk and synth bands: The Smiths, The The, Tin Tin, Talk Talk (the repeating moniker: a trademark of 80’s bands, yes?), the Psychedelic Furs, O.M.D., Ministry, Pet Shop Boys, New Order (which led to discovering Joy Division), Bauhaus (which led to Love and Rockets). This wave of new music just happened to coincide with me getting my drivers license and being able to go to the “underground” dance clubs in and around Toronto. This also happened to coincide with me discovering cheap wine and Molson Canadian beer. It was a great time.
When the time came for me to give college a go the musical landscape was changing once again for your humble narrator. There was a greater variety of, ahem; substances consumed and British rock was morphing into something new. You need to remember that while the early 80’s were a wonderfully fertile and challenging time for music the mid to late 80’s was a virtual wasteland. The “New Wave” became bastardized and homogenized for mass consumption and, being the hip and cool kid that I was, I started to crave something different.
That “something different” came in the form of a dance/trad rock hybrid. It started with The Stone Roses debut and Pop Will Eat Itself’s “This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This…Is It!” Then The Happy Mondays released the incredible Rave On EP (and then, in 1990, the still incredible Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches LP), which was followed by the genre defining Screamadelica by Primal Scream. Unfortunately this initial wave of bands and albums spawned a shitload of crappy bands in it’s wake. The British music press, of course, lauded each one as the “next best album EVER”, and I bought into that to an embarrassingly large degree, scooping up albums by The Farm, Carter USM, Jesus Jones and the Soup Dragons. But the initial wave, those seminal first recordings, remain very special to me. I just bought the special 2-disc re-mastered edition of Pills, Thrills…by the Mondays and it sounds just as fresh as it did back in 1990. Still dirty and decadent, still a little bit dangerous, still thrilling.
And now that I’m older, I find myself circling back and revisiting some of those bands from early on, thanks in large part to the wonderful Beatles re-masters of late. Some of those albums and songs may have dated poorly, but that can also be a blessing ‘cause it instantly transports me back to that time when I first discovered them, or, rather, when they first discovered me.