The songs that shaped me

Season 1 Episode 14

Thanks to everyone who responded to last week’s poll! It seems that you generally favor more structure so I’ve decided to pick a lane each month and stick to it. First up in April, we’ve got the topic of music. Specifically this week I thought it would be fun to do a little inventory of the music that shaped my childhood.

As an adult, you can choose the songs and artists you want to listen to. As a kid, things are different. This is the type of music one has no control over; the kind often played by parents late at night or overheard on the car radio or at the bus stop. It’s the proverbial soundtrack to a kid’s life and any one of these songs or albums takes me back to the exact space in time when I first heard it. Music, like smell, has this amazing time-machine-like power over us.

For what it’s worth, I don’t want to censor this list. Some of this stuff will be considered classics. Others I am somewhat ashamed to list. Either way, these are the songs, artists, and albums that shaped me in my formative years.

The Early Years

The very first bit of music I can remember is being about three or four and dancing to Walk Like An Egyptian by the Bangles. I’m not sure why this song had such a spell on me. I had no idea what an Egyptian was or how they walked, but the driving rhythm and cheesy girl group sensibilities spoke to me. Still does.

The next album I remember is Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas which was played habitually at my grandpa’s house every holiday season. Grandpa has a great fondness for jazz piano (especially Thelonious Monk) and he was the first to introduce me to the genre. To this day, I still love Guaraldi’s jangly style and obtuse solos. My family can attest - I play this album way too much during December.

First Albums

Inspired by my dad, I wanted to start collecting my own music to listen to. I chose the albums like any kid would: based on the album art. I remember thinking I resembled the boy in U2’s War so I asked my dad for the album. Ended up being a great choice!

Still not sure whether I should be embarrassed or embrace this one but the first album I bought with my own money was Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory. I think I was eleven or twelve and heard it on the radio. It felt irresistible to my pre-teen brain: a perfect combination of edgy distorted guitars, random turntable scratching/rap, whiny choruses and just the right amount of angst. This also was probably the first music I listened to that was more concerned with how it would make me look to my peers (read: cool) than how much I actually enjoyed it.

Inspired to play music

One album, and really one song, made me want to play my own music. The song is Neil Young’s Harvest Moon off of Unplugged. My parent’s played this album a lot growing up. There’s a distinctive guitar riff that comes in between verses that completes the beautiful scene of love and serenity. This song inspired me to want to write music and that riff inspired me to play those songs on guitar.

Like many people, Jimi Hendrix’s re-inspired my love for guitar. Up to this point, I had been playing an acoustic guitar but after hearing Axis Bold As Love I begged for a Stratocaster to emulate the fuzzy, crunchy solos. Ironically it was while trying to learn to play these songs that I realized I that I was more of a rhythm guitarist than lead.

Outro

I could definitely write many more words about the songs that shaped me in high school, college, and adulthood but I’m running long. If you made it this far, please let me know what songs/artists/albums were important to your childhood. As always thanks for reading.