"My life is a stereo, turn me on and let's go. Turn me up louder, I'll scream as loud and clear as I can scream. And if you like what you're hearing, please hang on to me."
~ The Watchmen - Stereo
Different periods of my life have been defined by certain albums or bands or genres of music. I can trace this back almost 30 years. Let's start at the beginning...
The Golden Oldies - This period of my life started when I was about 6 or 7 and just discovering the joy of putting a cassette in the stereo and rocking out. I had a number of golden oldies cassette tapes, featuring songs from the '50s and '60s. My favourite song was probably The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" which was the first song on one such golden oldie cassette. I wish I could remember the name of this compilation...
The Stray Cats, Built For Speed - By 1982, when I was 8 years old, I was listening to AM radio. One song that I thoroughly enjoyed was The Stray Cats' "Rock This Town". It was a modernized take on those 50s songs I loved and I excitedly requested and received Built For Speed on cassette. The Stray Cats transitioned me from golden oldies to current rock.
Duran Duran - Another band I started to dig on the radio was Duran Duran. "Rio" and "Hungry Like The Wolf" sounded awesome to my 9 year old ears. I remember going to a used record shop on Bloor Street near Runnymede and buying Rio on vinyl. Rio was my favourite album, but I was equally into Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Needless to say, Duran Duran was my favourite band and in no time I was choreographing break dance routines to the song "Reflex".
Billy Idol - By the time I was 11 and 12, I was hungry for something a little edgier than Duran Duran. Friends in grade 5 introduced me to Billy Idol. When Vital Idol came out in 1987, I had a new favourite album. Billy Idol transitioned me from the pop of Duran Duran to the heavier rock that would follow.
Guns N' Roses, Appetite For Destruction - By the time I was 13, I was listening to a lot of Q107, tuning in nightly for the top ten at ten. That's where I first heard "Welcome to the Jungle" and I was hooked. I bought the cassette of Appetite For Destruction and played that thing until the tape eroded. My early teenage years included a lot of hard rock, everything from Alice Cooper to Cinderella, but it was always dominated by GNR.
Public Enemy - At the end of the 80s, my rock was losing its edge. Poison, Motley Crue and Extreme seemed too much like the popified hairspray music of Duran Duran. As a moody, angry white teenager, I was naturally drawn to Public Enemy. Public Enemy's first three albums supplied the bulk of music that would get me to and from high school. I could tap into what Chuck D was saying. His hard core rhymes over hard core drum beats kicked more ass than any hair band on the planet. PE was #1 in my books, and it stayed that way until a certain explosion in Seattle.
Grunge - In 1991 I was 16, going on 17. By this time, I was purely listening to CFNY, and that's where I first heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten become the staple albums, but they were nicely complemented by gems I'd discover from Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. They called it Grunge, and I loved it. That organic energy kept me riding high for years.
When Kurt Cobain died in 1994, I was almost 20 years old. I've been listening to music ever since, both new and old, but at this point the soundtrack map diversifies completely. The past ten years have been dominated by bands like Green Day, STP, The Offspring, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, The Strokes, System of a Down and whatever else floats my boat.
You'll note The Tragically Hip is conspicuously absent. They've always just been there. From the first time I heard "Blow at High Dough on Q107 through the recent World Container, I've enjoyed every note and seen them live ten times. The Hip are one constant that's been there since the 80s and has never faded or disappeared.
Life ends in a stereo, pack me up and let's go. Put me anywhere, please don't think of leaving me behind. Whatever happens to you, I'll get on just fine.