I’ve always loved music. I honestly can’t remember a time I wasn’t aware of what was playing around me.
My life may have sucked in places, but it’s got a cracking soundtrack!
Since I was a tiny little girl, I knew which songs I loved. The ones which made me want to get up and strut my Small Child Stuff!
One of my earliest memories is music-related. I was aged 3, and twirling round and round in that way toddlers thrive on and adults get dizzy just watching. Mum was bathing my almost-newborn brother and we were listening to John Lennon.
As I twirled, I was singing/yelling
Over and over again at the top of my voice. Laughing at her firstborn’s tuneless antics, Mum looked over and said
I chose to remain blissfully uncorrected, singing louder and twirling faster.
This may well be where my volunteering as one of life’s contrary bitches began…!
As with everyone, early tastes were shaped by what was played around me. I was little in the amazing era of early 80s…Ska, 2Tone, Mod Revival, New Wave, Punk and New Romantics were all out there somewhere. I remember a few shady-looking characters simultaneously scaring and fascinating me around town. Whilst never particularly alternative, Mum is amazingly diverse and I like to think I’ve inherited that. There will certainly be a blog documenting our shared taste in music in the future! I remember us boogying around the living room to Hot Love by T-Rex, pogo-ing to A Town Called Malice by The Jam and listening to Barbara Dixon in the same day! Dad had his legendary car tapes, containing everything from Benny Hill to The Stranglers. All genres were covered, no musical stone left unturned. Nan introduced me to the delights of Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and Englebert Humperdinck…And dressed me up as Adam Ant, by the wonders of strategically tied scarves and stripes of vintage lipstick across my cheeks!
When I hit puberty, I made the predictable mad dash away from parental tastes. I grew up in the South Wales Valleys…Pre-Internet. In those days, your taste in music was governed by older friends, pub jukeboxes and whatever you could get in Woolworths.
Woolies was not a happy place for me…I was stung by a wasp there when I was a kid. Worse still, it was where I heard the news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. My best mate broke the news as we gloomily perused the Rock and Pop section!
If you weren’t into Rugby club discos and learning set dances to Whigfield and Redknex, you were considered a card-carrying weirdo. I once listened to and recorded the charts in a bid to be “normal”…And ended up discovering the music of Sonic Youth. Mission not exactly accomplished, but I never looked back.
Aged 13, I caught my first glimpse of the dark side…In the slightly tubby form of Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison in Oliver Stones’ The Doors. I didn’t watch the movie until 2 years later, but the black and white image of him beaded and shirtless captured my imagination (And possibly accelerated my puberty!)
I asked my Mum
“Who was Jim Morrison?”
Her reply came
“Not a very nice man, Em”
The seed had been planted! I saved my pocket money and I purchased The Doors’ Greatest Hits. After more listens than I used to admit to, I was hooked!
I quickly became a Teen Who Wore Black (Huge jumpers and nail varnish a must) I championed jeans with no knees in or floor length skirts. Lived and died in stripy tights & Big Stompy Kick Arse Boots, my cherry red DMs being favourite. Dyed my hair any colour you like, as long as it was red or black. I wrote terrible poetry, inspired if not downright plagiarised from J.D Morrison. Only read horror novels or rock biographies, with the exception of my failed attempt at Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception.
I still love The Doors to this day and cite them as the first credible band I got into.
Rows between Mum and I became frequent – what I was playing, the volume I was playing it at. Mum’s arm often appeared round my bedroom door, turning the volume dial down to a dull roar! It felt like a personal attack at the time, but I look back with a smile. When music from my misspent youth comes on TV or radio, my Dad will often ask whether he’d first heard it through the floorboards in the 90s.
The Velvet Underground (and Lou Reed solo) caught my attention after seeing them represented in The Doors film. I briefly renamed myself Severine, as a tribute to the song Venus In Furs. My phase of wearing tie dye and dousing myself in Patchouli oil lasted slightly longer! I started listening to Jimi Hendrix, then Janis Joplin after one of our French exchange student teachers gave me a tape of Big Brother and The Holding Company. I furthered my interest in The 27 Club when Nirvana became my favourite band. The drama which followed Kurt and Courtney absolutely captivated me, and I started to listen to Hole. Smashing Pumpkins followed, mainly because I couldn’t decide if I fancied Billy Corgan or Darcy. I had no such worries after being introduced to Manic Street Preachers by my first “proper” boyfriend…I’m still friends with said ex, but Nicky Wire will always occupy a small corner of my heart!
Free cassettes accompanying the music press also proved educational. I purchased my first copy of VOX in 1992…The May edition with Radio Dayze attached to the cover. Peel sessions with The Cure, Buzzcocks, Happy Mondays, The Fall, PJ Harvey, Syd Barratt, The Birthday Party…It was my favourite tape for almost 2 years. It snapped no less than 4 times and was carefully repaired with sellotape. It finally gave up the ghost in early 1994, but will always be remembered fondly! Almost – but not quite – as loved was Parlophone offering The Phone Box. Here I first encountered Radiohead, Television and Tomorrow. I learned the opinionated rants of music journalists word for word, and took them as gospel. I sprinkled them liberally into conversations with those I wanted to impress.
I’m now 35, still happily on the alternative side but less uptight. If my met my teenage self in the pub and we chatted about music, I think I’d piss myself afterwards!
I absolutely detested dance music and all things “towny” until starting to listen to The Prodigy. Along with other crossover bands like Primal Scream, Leftfield, Faithless and Underworld… I probably have them to thank for over a decade of clubbing and attending the occasional rave! Pink Floyd and triphop made for chilled listening afterwards. My tastes started to diversify. I became more open-minded and eclectic towards the end of my teens.
For your delection, delight and debate, I present the mix tape of my teenage years.
I think my tastes triumphed over adversity, but will let you judge for yourself!