Monday, February 21, 2005

My Music History, Part III: The College Years

My musical tastes took quite a detour during my college years ('89-'93). I started out listening to alot of different stuff. Everything from Frank Sinatra to Iggy Pop. And you could not go to a party without hearing Steve Miller's Greatest Hits and Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" (although the only two songs anybody ever played were "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad").

Then halfway through my freshman year, I moved into a different dorm room with my friend Jon Mercer and another guy I had recently met and gotten to be friends with - Wayne Boyette. Wayne was a black guy from the inner city who was there on a basketball scholarship. We would end up living together the remaining 4 years and so I was exposed to rap, R&B and hip hop constantly. I ended up listening to quite a bit of hip hop. Many was the time Wayne would come in and say "check out this new one", and I would get hooked. This was a few years before gangsta rap, so it was mostly hip hop. I'm not really sure why I took to it so easily but I think it was mostly the beats and the flow of the music. I listened to a band called the Brand Nubians and liked them alot. I remember Wayne playing the song "OPP" several months before anyone else had even heard of it. I'd have to say the biggest rap/hip hop influence I enjoyed during this time was Public Enemy. They're unabashedly "black power", so I didn't always identify with their lyrics, but their music was fantastic. The song that got me hooked was "Fight the Power", which I first heard in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing". I bought their tape "Fear of a Black Planet" and fell in love with the whole thing. It's still one of my favorites to this day. The energy on that album is fantastic. You just have to get past the "kill Whitey" attitude contained in some of the tracks. Another early rap album I discovered my freshman year of college was the Beastie Boys' "License to Ill". It had come out my senior year of high school, but I didn't discover it until a year later. I listened to this one constantly as well. Who could forget classic songs like "No Sleep til Brooklyn" and "She's Crafty"?!
After completing my freshman year of college, I departed the civilian world for 8 weeks of basic training with the US Army at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. I did this because I had joined the Army Reserves to help pay for college. Those 8 weeks ignited an unlikely musical spark in me; country music. You see, growing up near Boston, I'd never been exposed to it before. It just didn't exist in my area. But anyone who has been in the military knows that there is a large percentage of people from the South. And what do they listen to? Country music of course. We weren't allowed to have radios, but one of the things we would do each night is gather in a room to clean weapons, shine boots, etc, and bullshit to pass the time. Alot of times, someone would start singing a song and most of us would join in if we knew it. I ended up learning alot of country songs I'd never heard, and when I got home, I turned on the tv and lo and behold, my cable system got CMT. CMT was like MTV except that it played all country music. I ended up watching it all the time and heard alot of the songs that we would sing in basic training for the first time. It was such a different sound than I'd ever heard and so I got pretty into it. As you can imagine, I was the only person I knew who liked it, so I got more than a few smart ass comments. Wayne never hassled me about it, although he did like to make fun of a lot of the songs. As it turned out, several of my friends started getting into country music after hearing a few of the songs and seeing a few of the videos (we also got CMT on the college cable system). Eventually most of my best friends from back home who had originally teased me started listening to it as well. By the time I graduated from college, country music was rapidly becoming a fad in New England. Boston even had not one, but TWO country stations founded during this time. Country dance lessons became all the rage. It was during this time that I started losing interest, as most of the country music being made was little more than watered down pop tailor-made for radio play. I listened to alot of country music back then because I liked the honky-tonk sound, the steel guitar, the depressing lyrics. It was fun to go to a country bar in a pair of nut-huggers, hear some "yee-haw" music, drink some longneck bottles and basically act like a redneck for a while. I haven't really listened to much of it in the last 10 years or so, but when I do, it's always older stuff such as Charlie Daniels, George Strait or the Bellamy Brothers.

Although my college years were dominated by rap/hip hop and country (I know, what a mix...), there was a lot of other stuff I listened to. During my sophomore year, U2's long awaited follow up to "Rattle and Hum" came out - "Achtung Baby". I was a poor college student, so I volunteered to give tours during the university's open house, as voluteer's were paid 15 bucks. I took the money and went immediately to the college bookstore to buy it and was not disappointed. To this day, I think it is U2's finest album. Very few agree with me, but I just can't get enough of it. I still listen to it quite a bit.

Another popular music genre during my first couple years was the soft/pop metal sound. I remember the whole dorm listening constantly to such songs as "Heaven" (Warrant), "More Than Words" (Extreme), "Give Me Something to Believe In" (Poison), and "High Enough" (Damn Yankees).

Apart from hip hop and country, these were some of my favorite songs during my college years:

The Power (Snap!)
I Touch Myself (The Divinyls)
Free Fallin' (Tom Petty)
Hippychick (Soho)
Close to You (Maxi Priest)
Twice as Hard (Black Crowes)
Pictures of You (The Cure)
Damn I Wish I was Your Lover (Sophie B. Hawkins)
Joey (Concrete Blond)
I Remember You (Skid Row)
Sadeness, Part I (Enigma)
Everybody, Everybody (Black Box)

The last bit of musical influence of note is sort of strange as well. During my senior year, disco was making a comeback for some reason. I guess it was the whole retro thing. Pretty much every party you went to had '70's classics blasting out of the CD player. It was kind of fun to relive some of that stuff.

I didn't realize it at the time, but after reading this post, I finally got a sense of how strange my college years were musically (and every other way). Hip Hop and country? Quite an eclectic mix. I guess I've never really cared about image, I've just listened to what sounded good to me.

Stay tuned for Part IV...


Dizzysatch said...

I was going to wait till the end of the trip down musical memory lane to make a commment, but there's a Part IV! sheesh.

So I will say this now - you've got a very open-minded approach to music, and I definitely think that's the way to go. Limiting musical tastes to specific genres will just rob people of all the great stuff that is out there.

BTW, Achtung Baby is the only U2 album I know by heart, Bach rocks, Mozart is cool (I'm partial to Piano Concerto no. 21), Leonard Cohen is a god, and if I had to list every artist I liked at one time or another, I'd be here till tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can see you're visiting memory lane too!

Music started having an impact on me during my teenage years. The dynamic and psychedelic 80's! I remember it so well. Punk Rock and New Wave was the music of the times and NU107 was the radio station of the "misunderstood" teenagers! It was the age of spiky short hair and black-lined eyes. The only people who understood me were The Cure, Simply Red, Tears for Fears, Mike and the Mechanics, OMD, Depeche Mode, FYC, Morrissey ... among others.

*Sigh* Great age that was!

Mrs. F

Rik said...

Dizz: Yeah, when it comes to music, I definitely have an open mind. Haven't found too much that I don't like or can at least appreciate (Kinda like beer I guess...)

Mrs. F: The '80's was such a great time for music and for pop culture in general - don't forget the leg warmers and skinny piano-key ties!

Ed Abbey said...

I thought I was the only one in the world who actually liked and knew about Sadness Part I by Enigma. I remember asking a DJ to play it once and he gave me this blank stare. I have a super single of that song on CD somewhere. Man I need to start digging through my archives.

Rik said...

ED: What's not to like? Gregorian chants set to a hip hop beat, what a concept...


JetShack said...

you might check out Vanessa Mae... classiclly trained viollinst fusing modern beats... very good...

Also say Duran Duran over the weekend.... Insane Good... check out what I wrote about it at my site...