I started college in August of 1989...30 fucking years ago. Damn man. I’m not 100% sure but I believe 10-12 of us who graduated high school together came And two of us finished. I’m still surprised one was me. These facts don’t have a lot to do with this post but 1989 will come back sometime later. But now. 1977...
Like most people, music has always been important to me. When i was 6 I received 3 albums. KISS, Alive II and Queen, News of the World and Saturday Night Fever. Vinyl in all its glory to be played on my Fisher Price record player and with assistance my dad’s stereo.
In the late 70’s very early 80’s, I got a hand me down radio that my dad has in his office. I put the receiver and speakers under my bed at head level and would listen late into the night when I should have been sleeping. To this day if Jackson Browne, Running on Empty or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Refuge come on, I can take myself back to that bunk bed on Pirate Ave. in Long Beach, MS.
With the 80’s and puberty came more and more of me defining who I was through what music I listened to. How wonderful, strange and striking a concept, that if asked, most of us can vividly remember the music that defined us at 12 years old. I remember staying up late in 5th and 6th grades (and further) with a small cheap tape recorder, making mix tapes to listen to later. Those tapes, made through hours of waiting with your fingers on play and record, were a source of pride. Of self definition. Of boasting. I took my small recorder with a crap speaker to school and played songs for kids on the 2 mile ride to and from Green Acres Elementary. Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Joan Jett, Thomas Dolby, Falco. I was proud and it set me apart.
When I was in 6th grade, cable TV came to our town and my parents said that if I made honor roll they’d get it at our house. The last report card came and soon after so did MTV.
What an musically insane time to be alive. We spent hours watching MTV and never before had multiple music cultures been so readily available for consumption, for assimilation into our lives and defining who we were (are).
I still love the concept of how we attach ourselves to a band or style of music. How great is it that a lost 13 year old will draw a line in the sand on what they stand for based on U2’s BOY. Fights were had over it. Kids formed cliques and small societies on the bonds of music and true music fandom blossomed.
I will still argue that the 80’s was the greatest era for pop/rock music. While kids did seem to start applying the silos that defined them, there was an air of cross genre acceptance. I loved Howard Jones, Prince, U2, and the Beastie Boys equally and without shame.
Sometime around 1984 I heard U2, Under a Blood Red Sky. I remember being in Steve And Kathy Colson’s mom’s maroon station wagon on the way back from a swim meet in Pensacola. I was 13, I had no politics other than hating the Soviet Union, and it probably took another year or two to really know what the song was about, but I remember being moved by the raw passion.
U2 was probably the first band I was all in with. The first band I drew a sense of pride introducing people to. The first band that I found an obscure B side that was just as moving to me as the hit. It was my band.
My friend Jay Love was also a huge influence on my musical tastes. He was from the Coast and we met through swimming and then went to 7th and part of 8th grade together. Then he moved on to a boarding school in Connecticut. On his trips back to the Coast, we’d get together and he’d introduce me to other new bands. REM, Let’s Active, The Plimsouls. He also played the guitar.
As a maybe 4th grader, my parents rented a piano for 6th months and I took lessons and played one recital in the mall. I played the whole thing correctly, but in the wrong key and had to do it again. Needless to say I was not enamored with the piano and when the choice to narrow down activities between soccer, swimming, scouts, and piano, The piano exited the house. I still regret that.
Fast forward to 1986 and I would sit for hours watching Jay play guitar. Occasionally clumsily picking out the first notes of Sunday Bloody Sunday. I was terrible and would soon just hand it back to him. Interestingly at this time, Jay wasn’t trying to play all of the songs we loved as much as also coming up with songs on his own. He asked me to sing, which I reluctantly tried and was not awesome at either. But we had fun and kept plugging away during his holiday visits.
On March 9th, 1987, the single biggest influence on my musical trajectory occurred. U2’s the Joshua Tree was released. This became the soundtrack for 1987 and would shape much of my decisions for the next 13 years. Later that summer the ensuing tour was announced and a show on Thanksgiving Night was the closest it would come. In Baton Rouge, LA.
The tickets for the show were to go on sale the morning after homecoming so we went to the dance and post dance festivities and then headed to camp out at the Sound Shop at Edgewater Mall. We were like 4th in line and we felt for sure we’d get great tickets. The anticipation was great as the first, second and third people got front row, sixth row, twenty ninth row and then us. Somewhere along the side, 15 rows up. Nonetheless we were fired up and stoked to be going.
Thanksgiving night we piled in Jay’s stepmom’s mini van and drove the 2 hours to BTR. I still remember that we exited at Acadian and drove all the way to Highland Road then took a right, drove straight through campus and ended up at the Death Valley Shell. Living here now I drive this stretch almost daily. We found our way to a parking lot behind the PMAC and went in.
I am not a religious person. I believe faith to be a learned behavior and for a lack of a better explanation, I simply didn’t learn it. The show that night was as close as I had gotten at that point to some sort of religious experience. It would be come life altering in that for the next many years, being in a band became my goal.
Upon our return from the show and the months that followed, I saved as much as I could and eventually in the spring of 1988 I bought my first guitar. I knew nothing and set out on my path to rock stardom...
Stay tuned for part 2 and maybe a part 3.