Tales of a Jukebox Graduate – Part 1 August 17, 2009Posted by Matt in Tales of a Jukebox Graduate.
Tags: 1980's, 1990's, cassette tapes, childhood, mix tapes, teenagers, vinyl records
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My parents first gave me music of my very own sometime in the early 1980’s. I’ve still got some of the records that they gave me as a small child: there is a Sesame Street one (rubber ducky, you’re the one!), a Smurfs one, a Bozo the clown one, and even a Chipmunks Christmas album. We had one stereo in our house and it had not only a turntable and a single cassette tape player, but also an 8-track. My parents also gave me the first of many cassette tapes that I eventually owned, some of which included the Oak Ridge Boys (come on, admit that you still love “Elvira”) and other country music artists that we heard on the local central Arkansas radio station from which our tuner never strayed.
I began to develop my own tastes in music as I entered my early teen years in the late 80’s and early 90’s. As a 12-13 year old in the pre-grunge era, my small tape collection included people like the New Kids on the Block (Yeah, I’m not afraid to admit it. Seeing that I was a part of their choice demographic it was unavoidable.), Milli Vanilli (ugh), and even bands like Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses (my parents wouldn’t let us but this one because it had a Parental Advisory sticker on it, but I think we had a recorded version). As a young teen in the ’89-’90 time frame, there was no conflict in my mind between being a fan of both the New Kids and Motley Crue, that was just how it was.
Another favorite activity of mine at that time was recording tapes from the radio, an art that has been lost over the past two decades. By this time I had my own little boom box and a collection of blank cassettes, one of which would always be present inside the radio. I would listen diligently and, as a song played that I at least semi-enjoyed, I would press the record button to capture it, stopping it just as the song ended. Sometimes this could be quite tricky, especially if the DJ talked very far into the song and you often had to know the song by its opening notes to be sure and capture the entire thing, so it truly did become an art form requiring some bit of skill. Soon we acquired a boom box that accommodated two cassettes at a time, and it was as though we had our own archaic form of Napster or Kazaa. Everyone’s cassettes became public property as we strove to build the perfect mix tapes.
As I grew into my teen years, my tape collection seemed to grow exponentially as I spent nearly every cent I could gather together from my weekly allowance on music. I turned 14 in 1991, the year that the grunge scene broke through, and soon classic releases by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, became among my most prized possessions. We would go to the local flea market in Beebe (known to locals as the Sale Barn) and buy tons of inexpensive cassettes (3 for $10) that were obvious forgeries and had terrible sound, but to us at that age it just didn’t matter. By the time I was 15 or so, I bet I had 200 tapes filling large wooden cassette cases that were mounted on my bedroom wall. Also, by this time I had my own stereo system, one that had a turntable and dual cassette recorders. When I turned 16, I inherited the family vehicle – a 1985 Toyota 4-Runner – which had a tape player that we turned up loud all around the mean streets of Beebe and along any of the vast web of backroads upon which we could find ourselves. I remember picking up my best friend Andy, who was almost a full year younger than me, and blasting White Zombie on our way to school. There was only one music store close to us at that time and that was about 20 miles away in Searcy, but nothing slowed down my collecting. Every time a new release was announced that I desired, I would be at the store, allowance in hand. I’m sure that this would seem strange to kids today, but I even remember standing in line in the early morning on the day Pearl Jam’s second album, Vs., was released and the euphoric feeling of listening to it for the first time, of looking through the liner notes for lyrics and pictures and anything else that might appeal to the senses. In another act that is probably completely alien to today’s youth, I remember lining up in the wee hours of the morning at a car audio store in Searcy to buy tickets to see Pearl Jam in concert, for that was a time before the internet and before one could purchase concert tickets in the comfort of their home with only a few clicks of a mouse.
To be continued….
Sound of a Generation – pt.2 July 4, 2008Posted by Matt in Sound of a Generation.
Tags: 1990's, alice in chains, Generation X, grunge, music, Pearl Jam
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See part 1 of the series here.
With the ascension of Nirvana in the early 1990′s, Seattle was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as a sort of musical Mecca, with the youth of America suddenly turning to the Pacific Northwest for some sense of direction in their aimless walk through life. Soon, the airwaves were inundated with Seattle bands, many of whom had been toiling in obscurity for years in the dismally overcast city. The sound itself was something far from that which had dominated for the last several years, with loud, crunching guitars tuned so low it sounded as though they were being beaten in a mud pit.
It was a dirty-sounding, depressing sort of tone that soon rose to the forefront of generation – one that encapsulated the feel of a generation struggling for some sense of identity. The songs of bands like Alice In Chains were slow, dirge-like and very, very heavy – bearing a great similarity in sound to earlier groups like Black Sabbath and others. They combed the depths, searching for some sense of purpose in a life of despair, but seemingly coming up empty
Around the same time, another group of young men suddenly broke through into the mainstream with a classic-rock sound, reminiscent of bands like The Doors (without the overbearing, cheesy keyboard) or The Who. From seemingly out of nowhere, Pearl Jam quickly became an internationally famous band, with Eddie Vedder’s Morrison-like singing and penchant for crowd-surfing atop his legions of adoring fans. Here’s a clip of them doing the unreleased track “Porch” from their incredible debut album.