The Music That Made Me, Part I

The Early Years

My tastes in music are wide and varied. I enjoy well-written piano alt rock as well as a crunchy metal song. At times I can go for high-voiced emo and other days some hard rock with a few screams thrown in for good measure. Then there are days when I just want to hear some weird shoegazing or electronic music.

I have always been this way. When I was a kid in Eastman, GA there was a radio station called 99WAYS that broadcasted out of Macon. Years later the station switched to an oldies format. But back when I remember it, they played modern rock and pop hits. My mom always had the station on when we were in the car. In most cases we lived in the country and so a trip to town would give us a lot of time to hear songs on the radio. Also Eastman had a public manmade lake and on days when we would go swimming my mother would either bring a radio or play the radio from her car. This must have been where I heard most of the music of that era because sometimes I will hear an old song and think of swimming.

Since it was the late 80’s the station played plenty of hair band ballads as well as pop and new wave. It was during this time on 99WAYS that I discovered music by Huey Lewis, John Mellancamp (known then as John Cougar), Flock of Seagulls, Men At Work, Tears for Fears, Mr. Mister, and the Police. I also heard songs by rock bands such as Whitesnake, Slaughter, the Scorpions, and Def Leppard. Usually 99WAYS played their ballads.

Around the time I was in the fifth grade (circa 1990), thanks to a friend of mine, I became interested in rap music. Now there was no gangsta rap. Rap music was still playful and fun. I enjoyed the Fresh Prince, MC Hammer, Young MC, Tone Loc, and yes, Vanilla Ice.

This was a short-lived phase for me because by this time 99WAYS had switched to their oldies format and my mother had changed over to listening to another Macon station, Q106. Q106 was pure rock all the way. Classic, contemporary, hard rock, pop rock, blues, everything. From Q106 I discovered Rush, Lynard Skynard, the Allman Brothers, REO Speedwagon, more Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, Van Halen and some foreign group called Led Zepplin. I literally remember thinking “jeez, every other song they play on here is by this Led Zepplin.” Little did I know that they were rock pioneers. The first time I finally heard Stairway to Heaven my first utterance was “wow.”

We never had cable that often growing up. But at one point we did and that meant MTV. How many remember the image of the astronaut on the moon planting an MTV flag? You’re humming the guitar riff that went with it now aren’t you? Remember MTV News? Downtown Julie Brown? Remote Control?

With MTV it was as if I went from drinking from a musical fountain to a musical firehose. I discovered all types of new music and, better yet, I could see them in action! That’s when I saw a video that would change the direction of my life. The video was for the song called “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns n’ Roses. “Whoa! What’s with the guitar player with the top hat and all the hair? Man, he can really play!”

It was not long before Guns n’ Roses took the hallowed position of “Josh’s Favorite Band.” I wanted to be just like Slash. I wanted to play like him, I wanted a guitar like him, and I wanted to write music like him. About the time of G n’ R’s double album release, Use Your Illusion I and II, I decided to learn to play the guitar.

It also helped that my stepfather at the time was a guitar player. He knew many of the classic riffs that I had been hearing on Q106 and a few of the newer ones that I had heard on MTV. He helped my mother buy a guitar for me and began teaching me the licks he knew. The very first riff I could play on guitar smoothly was “Smoke on the Water.” After learning a few chords I could play “Sweet Home Alabama.” I was hooked. I loved playing guitar.

The Alternative Years

By the time I was in high school grunge and alternative music had taken over. Tough womanizing lead singers were replaced by guys singing about being sad. What they were sad about never seemed to be answered. The guys in the bands were no longer pretty poster boys but were, frankly, kind of ugly. They dressed slouchy and wrote songs that were real and transparent.

I, along with the rest of the rock-loving community, was swept away with the 90’s musical revolution and the Seattle sound. Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, Van Halen, and even Guns n’ Roses no longer mattered to me. Instead I was hooked on Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and of course the Smashing Pumpkins. I first heard the Smashing Pumpkins late one night when I fell asleep with the television on. I woke up to an eerie sound. Realizing it was the music coming from the TV I looked up. The video was for the song “Cherub Rock.” The vocal melody was haunting and the riff (though now it seems simple) was different than anything I had heard. Before long I gave a listen to the entire Pumpkins album. The album “Siamese Dream” caused Gn’R to topple and fall from their pedastal. The Smashing Pumpkins took their place. At one time I knew how to play most, if not all, of Smashing Pumpkins’ songs.

Throughout high school and my first two years of college I listened to alternative and grunge almost exclusively. I also dabbled in metal being a fan of Tool, Helmet, Megadeth, and of course Metallica.

From new wave to hard rock, grunge to metal, the foundations of my musical tastes and musical personality were indeednwide and varied. In Part II I will explain how these artists have affected my current tastes and playing style and also how adding Jesus to the mix brought another revolution in my life.


6 Responses to “The Music That Made Me, Part I”

  1. 1 Matt
    April 2, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Oh man 99ways…..I remember that station! It was awesome!! Can’t wait to read the rest of your musical journey…though I feel like I know it already!

  2. April 2, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    “Get the Led out”…

    Ahh yes, Q106. Seemed like they only played Metallica songs. And Ozzy.

  3. April 3, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Sorry, guys about the embedding on the video being disabled. It was the video for “I Win” by Starflyer 59 if you’re interested in seeing it on YouTube.

    @Matt: ha! Yeah, you pretty much do.

    @Clay: I know! Metallica became the new Led Zepplin for Q106.

  4. April 10, 2009 at 6:32 am

    I told David he needs to read this post–it’d be a walk down memory lane. Minus 99WAYS, you guys have quite a similar music history. I asked him who his favorite band was growing up? Guns and Roses. What song? Sweet Child of Mine, cause it was the best. What about Alternative? At first, he said he wasn’t much into alternative, until I mentioned Smashing Pumpkins and he was like Smashing Pumpkins, Definitely–he really liked them. So after talking about all this, David looked on Youtube and found his favorite songs by Slaughter and Skid Row. I think I liked Slaughter better. Funny. For me, until now, all these names were just pictures on Tshirts that I saw at Six Flags every summer.

  5. April 10, 2009 at 6:40 am

    That’s cool, Saige. Yeah David and I definitely have a lot in common when it comes to music. He always recognizes those songs from the 90s that I mention from time to time.

    And I promise, part II is on the way.

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