Zip Line Tour Of My Musical Memory

The journey of a thousand songs begins with one step down memory lane.

I listen to the radio a lot. More than most people I suppose. It’s the background soundtrack to our jobs and really, life in general. I have a lot of time to think, so I’ve started to pull together my rather nebulous thoughts on music. Hopefully, some of you can identify with some of the thoughts I have.

Although I’ve listened to almost every genre of music in my life, rock has had the biggest impact on me. You can blame my taste in music on my brothers, both of which had their musical preferences shaped firmly in the grip of “Generation X”. By most accounts, I came about very slightly after that generation ended, which is unfortunate because I can easily identify with them, and not so much with the younger “Millennial Generation”. To start this, I suppose I should begin from my first recollection of music…

As I search the chronicles of my mind, the very first music video I ever remember seeing was George Harrison’s cover of Got my mind set on you in 1987. What a fantastic video! I sat in front of the TV and moved to the beat as best as I could. I had no idea what he was singing about, but I knew I liked it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who liked it, the video went on to be nominated three times for MTV’s video music awards. The main thing I remembered from this one was all the crazy shit flying and flapping around in the background while George calmly strummed his guitar and sang like it was no big deal.

It wasn’t long before watching MTV was as regular for me as cartoons were for most kids. Those were some interesting childhood memories, from around the same time period I remember seeing the controversial (at the time) video for Don’t come around here no more by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. From what I remember, this one did win a VMA. I have to admit, as many times as I’ve heard the song, the video is more memorable. I always imagined that it was pretty close to what one would experience if you tried shrooms while watching Alice in Wonderland. Come to think of it, Alice in Wonderland probably encourages people to try shrooms anyway. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers remain one of my all time favorites even today.

My brothers, seeing my interest in all things that were totally rad quickly introduced me to their favorites, which of course became my favorites too. I vividly remember them sitting in their room listening to Guns N’ Roses new cassette tape Appetite for destruction and trying to decide which songs would be hits. Good Lord, how could you possibly go wrong with that! They even had a Guns N’ Roses poster that was so much more bodacious than my Roger Rabbit poster that seemed so out of place in my room. undoubtedly, that is where my love of silver revolvers and thorny flowers came from. There were others too of course, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, Metallica, and many more.

My next memories came a few years later. By this time I had a radio in my own room and my oldest brother was already enlisted in the Army. My other brother had his own car by now, a white Pinto with red leather interior. His big thing now was the Grateful Dead, but he still listened to what he called classics. You know, Jimmy Buffett, and the Rolling Stones. Soon after, he would enlist in the Navy and I would be on my own to pick out what was cool for myself, and fortunately, there was a new genre on the block ready to greet me with open arms and dirty Dr. Martens, Grunge Rock!

Grunge is what I remember the most from my childhood. It was the first thing I ran to once my brothers were out of the house, and the first new sound of the 90’s. It shaped every aspect of my life at the time, and I can see how it affects my sense of style even now. Primarily, my liking of simple, cheap, durable clothing items, slightly baggy and comfortable jeans, my misuse of flannel, and love for thrift store pick-ups. In many ways, it’s very similar to early punk rock styling. Grunge was simple, and that’s what we loved about it. No flashy antics, no gimmicks, just straight forward music that spoke to the masses of a generation trying to find out who they were. Oh, the memories! Vaseline and Interstate love song from the Stone Temple Pilots were huge hits, and who could forget that freaky ass music video for Black hole sun by Soundgarden? Ah, I remember them all. Bush, Hole, Collective Soul, Candlebox, and of course, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. This began what I call the “post Bill and Ted era” of music. The one and only complaint I have about this era (other than the absence of “happy” songs) was the difficulty in figuring out the song lyrics. Even if you could use all your mad crypto-linguistic skills to decipher what they were saying, the songs largely seemed to make absolutely no sense at all. Really, what the hell was Yellow Ledbetter about? It was the one song you couldn’t help but (try) to sing along with and I had no freaking clue what they were saying or what the song was about and neither did you. Apparently, it may have been an anti-war song… Who knew?

Eventually, the sound started changing. Grunge faded into the larger genre of Alternative Rock, and that gave us the soundtrack to our junior high years. The Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers probably spurred this change in sound more than anyone. Segments of punk rock and ska were going mainstream, and there were newcomers with a sound all their own. Harvey Danger came out with Flagpole sitta, Chumbawamba had Tubthumping, others followed. Pop was actually getting fairly good too. It seemed like the golden age of music! There was a lot of strange stuff that came out around this time too, like the Dresden Dolls, Marcy Playground and Aqua… But the rest was pure and great and shiny and new. Audioslave, Fastball, the Cranberries, Fuel, Third eye blind, they were all fantastic.

I took a quick trip into mainstream pop for a while around my high school years, but rock was always there. Linkin Park, Kid Rock, the Verve, Sugar Ray, Sublime, Tool, and the Offspring were the main ones I listened to. Along with Blues Traveller, and even some Creed. Now that I think about it, there’s no way to name all the bands I listened to through high school… Everything from Blink 182 to Bad Religion. Put on any music from 1999-2002 and I probably remember at least something about it. This was also around the time I got into punk rock and folk punk… There’s one you don’t hear much about. Remember the Presidents of the United States of America and their hit song Peaches? The timeline splits innumerable times here, everyday was something new. A new sound, a new band, the world was wide open, MTV was dead, and the internet was changing how everyone bought music.

It was a brave new world. Then I enlisted in the Air Force. Music took a back seat for a while I learned the finer points of folding underwear. I actually don’t remember much good music coming out for the next couple years, and it seemed like the bubble had burst. There was no new Aerosmith, no new Metallica, no new Ozzy… No one there to take their place and fill the void. Rock seemed dead and the best we could hope for was a rehashing of an old song or an old band coming out with something new that vaguely reminded us of the good old days.

However, in this modern age of information, many indie bands and independent artists are coming out with great stuff and unlike the old days where you had to see them in person to hear their sound, we can easily find them on the web. There’s a brand new day for finding good music now, and no shortage of small time bands to suit any connoisseur of rock. Find the good ones where you can, and support them. This is the grass-roots heart of music fandom, and if you’re lucky, maybe one of them hits it big. Then you can act like a snooty hipster and tell people you were into them before they were mainstream.

Enjoy the music. It’s the heartbeat of a generation, and an art that transcends canvas. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and rock out for a few hours.

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About raywiggington
I've made a lifetime of uniformed service. From being an eagle scout to a US Airman to being a correctional officer. Never so much because I wanted such things as rank or title, because those are useless in the end, but because I believe that there is good in helping others. I enjoy hunting, camping, archery, non-electric blacksmithing, and other primitive and traditional lore.

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