A series exploring first musical experiences…
The First: Record I Ever Loved
Poison – Open Up and Say…Ahh!
1988 was a landmark year for hair metal. Def Leppard, Guns N Roses and Bon Jovi all released classic albums: Hysteria, Appetite for Destruction, and New Jersey respectively. It was also the year that, as an 8 year old, I discovered the first record I ever loved. I still have a vivid memory of going to the record store in Henderson Square, West Auckland, and finding it in the racks of vinyl. Of course I didn’t buy it on vinyl, I took that to the counter and asked for the cassette version to put in my walkman.
I was hooked from the moment “Love on the Rocks” came through my headphones and remained enthralled until the final screech of “Bad to Be Good”. I pored over the lyric sheet and understood very little of the sexual overtones, but that didn’t stop me memorising every word. The record features some of the band’s most recognisable tracks including “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”, “Fallen Angel”, and their biggest hit “Your Mama Don’t Dance”, which is, bizarrely, a Kenny Loggins cover. I listened to that tape until it was so stretched that everything played at least a third slower than it should have.
Even now, listening to it again to write this, I can see why I liked it. It had a sense of being otherworldly and outside of what I could imagine. My previous musical exposure was from the Tour of Duty soundtrack, a 60s compilation I listened to endlessly, but those songs sounded earthy and human. Poison were mind blowing for a preteen. Where Guns N Roses had a more sinister aura around them, Brett Michaels and co were hairsprayed and airbrushed into oblivion, which made them seem more like unicorns; beautiful, unattainable and incomprehensible.
Evanescence – Fallen
When I was twelve I didn’t need music that was good, I needed music that explained how I felt. Unfortunately for 24 year old me, that music happened to be Evanescence’s debut album Fallen. I have no difficulty admitting that their lyrics are simple and lame and their guitar riffs (if you can call them that) are amateur at best. But when I was twelve, these guys could do no wrong. Looking back on it, the real reason I adored this album was because it meant something to me.
At that age, having a best friend who is a few years older than you can be an awesome thing. I learnt about sneaking out, lying to parents about where you would be, got drunk at the tender age of about 14 (or younger… the details are hazy) and had someone to look up to. Naturally, there was also the bad. This friend was also my first point of contact with mental illness. When you’re young and you experience things like attempted suicide and depression, you don’t really know how to respond, act or feel.
When Fallen was released, I had almost lost my best friend and I had no idea how to feel. Ja Rule and Ashanti didn’t cut it and Blink 182 just felt like a joke. Evanescence managed to write simple lyrics and music that in the lamest way possible, captured my mood and emotions of the time. Listening to their album now makes me cringe, but all those memories are just as strong as ever. I fell in love with that album because for that 48 minutes, I had something that could put my tween emotions into some kind of cohesive explanation. This album managed to make sense of all the shitty things that were happening around me, so for a while heck yeah I was Evanescence’s biggest fan, just ask my mum.