It’s my birthday, so I’m not putting MediaMonkey on shuffle. Instead I’m picking some of the artists and songs that have either influenced my life or have given me fond memories. Artists and songs that changed everything in some cases.
When I first heard The Cure I was captivated and immediately hooked on Robert’s voice, the sound, etc. The Cure helped me transition from Nebraska to California. The Cure made me confident as I cut off my rat tail from Nebraska and felt comfortable with my spiked hair. The Cure were a major force in my life.
I remember when Disintegration came out and suddenly they were being played on Top 40 radio. I would hear locals calling into the station (I had to listen because Top 40 was 1) the only choice in Groton, CT, and 2) it was the channel that everyone, even grudgingly, could agree on) and ask, “Hey, can you play that song by that new band The Cure?” I would cringe. The Cure have been around since the late 70’s!!!!!
My all-time favorite album is Head On the Door followed closely by Pornography. I can listen all day long!
ARTIST: The Cure
SONG: A Night Like This
ALBUM: The Head On the Door
Like The Cure, Depeche Mode helped me transition from Nebraska to California. The synthesizers and back and forth of cheery to dreary songs created the almost perfect soundtrack to a teenager’s life in the 80’s. Having Depeche Mode reach Top 40 status with Violator was a bittersweet pill, sweet that they would finally get the recognition they deserved outside of Los Angeles and New York with an entirely new fan base, bitter in that it created the same problem as The Cure with Disintegration: people who thought they were a new band.
Depeche Mode was my driving music. Black Celebration and A Broken Frame were my companions as I drove from Los Angeles to Connecticut to start my school in the Navy. The songs of Depeche Mode droned out the sound of pneumatic chippers on the metal decks of Navy ships as I slept in my bunk.
But Not Tonight remains my all-time favorite song. I love everything by Depeche Mode, but BNT sticks hard. It’s a song about life and living and enjoying. It’s a life soundtrack song to be sure. And I will sing the fuck out if it at karaoke!
ARTIST: Depeche Mode
SONG: But Not Tonight
ALBUM: Black Celebration (UK Version)
Their connection to Depeche Mode helped me find them, but once I did they grew on me on their own. The upbeat songs and amazing stage outfits captivated me. Their songs are uplifting and joyous and are the perfect companion as you drive down the road of life. Yes, they have some sad songs, but even those songs have a hopeful message in them.
Throw in their love of ABBA and propensity to do ABBA covers and you’ve got the prefect recipe for awesome. (Yes, I’m an ABBA fan and I’m not apologizing for it.) Then add a pinch of social commentary in a few songs and they could easily be an anthem band for certain social movements.
My favorite albums remain The Innocents and Wild! It’s hard to pick just one song to represent those albums, so I’ll pick one at random.
SONG: Blue Savannah
I’ve met tons of people who know who Danny Elfman is thanks to his contributions to movie soundtracks, but they didn’t know he was the force behind Oingo Boingo. I still can remember bursting out with excitement as Oingo Boingo appeared at the dorm party in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School. The excitement of finding out they were doing the song for Weird Science.
I miss seeing their Halloween shows. At least their music lives on as Elfman does more for music outside Boingo. Seriously, look up his soundtracks, you’ll be surprised how many movies contain his music.
BOI-NGO was an album that got me through a year of oddness in my life. Looking back I still don’t know what happened or why I went through that stage. I suffered at school and even ended up at remedial high school for a ½ semester before the teachers at my regular school went to bat for me and got me back so I could graduate with my friends. BOI-NGO was my soundtrack as I got back to normal. It’s not my favorite album, but it’s the album that came out at the right time.
ARTIST: Oingo Boingo
SONG: Home Again
Don’t get me wrong here, I haven’t liked everything by NIN and there are albums in my collection that I know I’ll likely never listen to again. But NIN introduced themselves to the world with Pretty Hate Machine. You know, back when we had cassette players in cars!
My friends and I wore the shit out of that cassette. It was in the car every day, flipping over with that clankity clankity sound that cassette players made as they switched over the magnetic reader. We played it so much the cassette broke and the tape wound all the way on one side. So we bought another one. And broke it again. The best memory I have of this is my and my friends heading to Six Flags’ Magic Mountain in California while blasting Pretty Hate Machine and singing as loud as we could on the Interstate with the windows of my Geo Metro rolled all the way down in the dry California summer air. It was our last trip before I headed out to join the Navy.
When CDs finally really started to come into our lives, it was really hard to find Pretty Hate Machine. I ended up having to buy it imported at almost $50. Yeah, totally worth the money.
ARTIST: Nine Inch Nails
SONG: Head Like a Hole
ALBUM: Pretty Hate Machine
The first song I heard by And One still sticks with me. Dark and dreary and somehow cheery as well. Finding And One sent me down a path toward other great bands like Covenant, Assemblage 23, etc. Bands I had missed in their early years because I was in the Navy (I had no idea about the grunge scene and missed Nirvana as well, so hey, don’t give me no shit over it). I’ve played catch-up and now have EVERY album, EP, and CD Single by And One.
And One has so many amazing songs that I turned dozens of them into karaoke songs and annoyed my friends as I sang them at my karaoke parties. “How come you don’t sing songs everybody knows?” “Because I want to sing the songs I love, not the songs you love. But fine, I’ll sing I Ran by Flock of Seagulls or Tainted Love by Soft Cell right after this.”
While I have all their albums, the first one I heard is Nordhausen and it remains my favorite to this day. So here is the very first song I heard by them that started me down a road toward amazing bands:
ALBUM: And One
I have to admit that when I first heard XTC I didn’t like them. I have to give credit to an ex-girlfriend back in the 80’s for pushing them on me and making me listen to all of their songs. What I fell in love with first was their lyrics and jovial singing style. Then I fell in love with their sound. XTC has great skeptic songs as well and those stuck with me and became an anthem not just for me, but for an entire movement.
No, Andy Partridge is not related to the Partridge Family. That the rumor continues to this day astounds me. The Internet people: Google that shit!
SONG: Dear God
The last one I’ll do is Skinny Puppy.
Skinny Puppy is not for everyone. I fully admit that. Their earlier stuff is not as “harsh” as their later stuff. Skinny Puppy’s ‘Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse’ and VIVISect VI are what got me through A School in the Navy (that and Flood by They Might Be Giants, yeah, I know, weird combination). It annoyed my roommates and that made it even better. Laying in my bunk after a shitty balls to four watch listening to ‘Dig It’ was the perfect thing to fall asleep to and wash away the stress of the day.
Skinny Puppy was my stress relief as I was learning the ropes of the Navy. I would cheat on Perpetual Intercourse and VIVISect VI with Remission, Bites, Cleanse Fold and Manipulate, and Ain’t It Dead Yet and toward the end of A School Rabies came out and blew me away. Rabies might very well be my favorite Skinny Puppy album.
ARTIST: Skinny Puppy
SONG: One Time One Place
ALBUM: Mind:The Perpetual Intercourse