This is the first of a series of articles first published on LiveJournal in 2006
Playing guitar changes the man...
...Not by choice but maybe by a freudian slip, I came out with something in conversation yesterday that was quite profound, but, in hindsight, rather obvious at the same time:
"playing a musical instrument really changes your perspective on music."
I've never thought about that before, but it really does. Along with that, and in tandem with my music studies throughout school and elsewhere, I have tended to become highly analytical and critical of music. So much so that my analysis of certain styles and artists has led me to hate them passionately on the basis that they talentless and creatively redundant (this is probably the only occasion whereby Doof Doof music and Nickelback can be grouped in the same category).
I was explaining to someone yesterday the process in which the change in my tastes occurred. I started playing guitar when I was 13, and up to that point I followed the top 40 religiously, but mainly delighting in the music that was less "pure-pop". By that I mean I avoided the Kylie Minogues and the Debbie Gibsons that plagued the charts back then (Debbie Gibson was so talented that we have all but forgotten her all these years later, thank God!)
But by 1990 (within 12 months of me starting on the instrument), I was almost totally weaned off top 40 music and began hating local commercial radio. There was no Triple J at the time but when I got wind that Triple J was going national, I was all for it coming to Newcastle. We needed something new to listen to. It turned out that we were the first regional pocket in the country to receive the transmission, and I listened intently for about a fortnight after it started but then turned again back to the local commercials channels, and when the weather was right, the Sydney commercials like Triple M, which at the time I thought was far superior to NEW-FM and NX-FM. On those stations I picked up a few things that were outside the regular mainstream. If I look at the singles I purchased around 1992, by bands like The Smithereens, Matthew Sweet, Pearl Jam and local band Killing Time, because they were lucky enough to have a lower chart placement they made it onto the commercials. But then they were only played in select time slots, like after 7pm on weeknights. If I had have listened to JJJ, these bands were being played all day every day as part of their playlist. Go figure!
But in 1990, at the ripe old age of 14, I was tired of the charts. There was nothing really that floated my boat musically and that made me want to play guitar. I'd spent the last 12 months thrashing to death albums like "Appetite for Destruction", "Dr Feelgood", "Trash", "New Jersey" and "Pump" and really needed something different.
And it came from a very unusual source - my mates and their parents records. My dad didn't have anything of worth to me besides "Bat Out Of Hell", but through my mates I found Suzi Quatro, Slade, The Sweet, Alice Cooper, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Who, Creedence Clearwater and heaps of others that were simple and easy to play, and direct enough in their energy to make you excited about your music again. I kept my musical outlook retro for a while until 1991 when Guns and Roses released Use Your Illusions 1 and 2 and the self titled Metallica LP came along, and then the grunge explosion in early 1992. I learnt to play songs hand over fist because they were simple, but I was hopelessly out of step with current music and trends, thus making my life in rock bands quite tedious.
Then I got a car that didn't have a tape or CD player in it in 1995...only a radio. Welcome back Triple J! Alternative rock here we come and I'm so glad I did.
The point is it is so easy now for young kids to check out new music. You have the Js on the Radio, they're also now on TV too. You have the internet and you still have word of mouth, but the latter is less and less powerful than it used to be. I wonder if the kids of today have the same sense of excitement I had when I discovered new music, retro or current, after a fair bit of unearthing.
It is also true that kids of today are gaining a broader view of music too. Look at their iPod lists and you may be surprised to see amongst the Ludacris and Snoop Dog tracks to find a track from Bowie's Ziggy Stardust LP in there. That is what's really cool, but it isn't always the case....
...what a strange world we live in, and how it has changed since 1990....