What First Turned You On...To Music?
I can still remember when I was very young, I must have been maybe 4 years old, it was a stinking hot day in Australia during the 1970's, we didn't have an air conditioner, so I was laying on the floor in front of our old Radio/Record player under the cool breeze of the pedestal fan. The radio was one of those one's from the 70's, you may remember them, they were big, bulky and brown, essentially a piece of furniture. As I was looking at the needles bounce back and forth to the music on the display, a song came on that I had never heard before...it was (I found out many years later), a song called "Mr Sandman". It had a haunting, hypnotic feel to it and from that day on I have had a love for music, always looking for that new and exciting experience that only music can bring.
As I grew older the main music I had to listen to was the radio, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, Madness etc. My parents weren't that big into music, so we didn't have a huge collection in the house. I used to love sitting in the back of the car, an old green Valiant that seemed as big as a bus to me, and hearing all the new songs, or songs that may not have been new, but were new to me. Living in the country we had no choice but to do a lot of travelling in the car, and once again...no air conditioning!
I can distinctly remember when the song "I Was Made For Loving You" by KISS came out, and I remember thinking wow, these guys are cool, and kind of frightening! Spitting out blood, eating fire, and that make up! Crazy! I got my older and younger brothers to help me put on a "concert" for our parents and we "played" that song...I was on drums, they were on guitars, I was singing. Mum loved it, but my father was not overly impressed...he never really was when it came to music.
It was 1982 I think, and the hottest song around was "Thriller" by Michael Jackson. I loved that song. But I think I was more attracted to the song for the epic video that was made for it, Zombies dancing! That was just out there for me. I can still remember walking down to the corner store, they had a small selection of BETA videos on the shelf, and there was the new Thriller video. I was surprised that they let me borrow it, it looked so scary...and to a little bloke, it was a bit. I had to buy the whole album, I needed to see what else was on there that could be as good as this. So I made my mother drive to the next town to the bigger record store because we couldn't find it in my home town, they had all sold out. When we got there, I was in luck! There was only one tape remaining and I quickly snatched it up. That tape, now a long lost item like lots of my old tapes, was played over and over.
Then in 1984, I was 11 years old, and my musical journey was about to take a sharp turn, one I would have never thought it could, and man was I taken by surprise!
My older brother came home from the local "Blue Light" Disco, an event held by the police for young people, and was raving about a song that had been played earlier that night...It was called "T.N.T" by a band called "AC/DC". He went on and on about how the guitar was so loud and the crowd was shouting out the chorus "T.N.T- Oi, Oi, Oi" and raising their fists in the air as they did so. He said how he and his mates had their heads right next to the speakers banging them back and forth. It sounded so weird. I tried to imagine a crowd of people abruptly stop dancing and start to jump up and down, fists in the air and heads being thrown around...but I was intrigued. So the next day we combined our pocket money and rode our bikes down to the local record store and bought our very first LP. AC/DC - T.N.T.
I can still remember my excitement, opening the sleeve and pulling out a shiny black disc, something that many of today's kids will never know and enjoy with all the digital downloads. To this day I still prefer to hold something tangible in my hands, see the artwork, read the lyrics and smell that new smell of a record, tape or now, a CD.
The minute the needle hit that special piece of vinyl the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. This was a sound that I had not heard on the radio at all! It was hard, it was raw, the sound of drums, bass and guitar and the unmistakable voice of Bon Scott was surely something to behold. It was right in your face sort of stuff. We must have played that album 10 times that day. That was when I knew I had found the type of music that made me feel good inside. It sent a thundering rhythm through me unlike any of the other music I had listened to over the years...and it still excites me more than ever today, some 27 odd years later.
After that came Iron Maiden (I had no idea what that name meant, but it sounded cool), an album bought purely for the cover, and turned out to be one of my favourites for a long time, even to this day. It was a live album, "Live After Death" and it always gave me goosebumps when I played it. I still find it today, one of the best live recordings out there. The timing and precision of these guys was awesome. I found myself marveling at the guitar work, and that voice, boy could he sing! The way those drums were played was totally different to AC/DC as well, they seemed to roll across the speakers with peaks and troughs and then came thundering right down the middle, almost right inside me. I never thought I would ever get to see them perform as a live act, but my wish came true earlier this year when they toured Australia for the Soundwave festival. My 26 year wait was finally over...and they did not disappoint, playing for 2 hours, all the old hits and some newer ones too.
A friend of my brother's came over one day and put a tape on telling us we just had to hear this! "Freewheel Burning" by a band named Judas Priest (I had no Idea what that meant again either), came screeching out, and the sheer speed and power that came from my speakers astounded me, and the sound of this guys voice was amazing...and so another favourite was soon being played on high rotation in our bedroom. Motörhead was the next in line, "Ace of Spades".. and that was pretty much it for me when I was younger. AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motörhead were the four bands that got played non stop, over and over, to the sheer delight of my parents, not!
It wasn't much longer after this when my parents split up and got a divorce. It was tough, as anyone who has gone through this knows. As a young child it's hard to understand, and you think maybe it's something you did, something you could fix somehow. But as I grew, I realised it was not me, or my brothers...adult life is just complicated sometimes, and as a child you don't see this, and why should you? The innocence of children is priceless.
I delved into music more than ever, it was a great escape for me, it took me on a ride that I just didn't want to get off.
My mother eventually found someone else (my football coach of all people...awkward!) and I soon found out he had a large collection of music too, which I loved, because it finally gave me something else to look through. The long drives around the country going to football games, horse race meets (he also part owned a race horse) or sight seeing, that old Valient was filled with tunes (and a large amount of Albany cigarette smoke) from Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdink, Creedence Clearwater Revival (I loved those the best when they got played), Elvis and Meatloaf.
It didn't last long...
A few years later in 1986 we moved from the country to the city. This opened up a whole new experience in music for me. There were so many more radio stations, record shops and so many more people I met that had different tastes in music.
For my fourteenth birthday, two friends pitched in and bought me an album by a band called "Metallica", an album called "Ride the Lightening". I had never heard of them before, and when I first put it on, I thought they were taking the mickey out of me. The into to the first song was just some classical sounding guitar, which is cool, but I liked my music a little harder than that these days. Then it hit me, a wall of sound that erupted in a way I had not heard a guitar played before...I was hooked! There was a radio show that was played once a week on one of the radio stations, "The Hour of Power" I think it was called. This gave me a great opening into the world of Heavy Metal music. One song I clearly remember hearing was "Welcome to the Jungle" by a band called "Guns n Roses"...that voice was something that made me turn my head and listen, I hadn't heard a voice so distinct sounding since hearing Rob Halford with Judas Priest.
My teenage years were filled with looking for bands that made the heaviest and non main stream music. Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, Venom, Bathory, Metallica, Massappeal, Pantera, Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, the list is too big to mention!
One day while "partying" with a friend of mine, he mentioned that he had something I may like to listen to. He went to the cupboard and produced an album, it was Led Zeppelins live album, "The Song Remains the Same". I traveled home on the bus and later that night I put the record on, and It was nothing short of brilliant! That album once again changed the way I was looking for music. I now own every Led Zep album and they would be my favourite of all time, such a broad range of styles that it's what I would choose to have on a deserted island if I could only take one band to listen to.
The Doors, now there's another band that blew me away when I first heard them. Dark, mysterious, mind bending. One of my all time favourite songs is "The End"...it is such an emotive song, always giving me a shiver down my spine when I hear it.
While in high school, I was walking past the music room at and saw someone playing the drums during lunch time. I popped my head in and asked if I could give it a try. I loved it! The feeling of creating sounds by hitting things, it awoke a primal feeling inside of me...something that had been there all along, since that first "concert" I put on for my parents in the backyard. I just had to get a drum kit! I payed and played until my fingers got blisters, my legs got cramps, and my neighbour literally jumping the back fence to get me to stop. I must have sounded terrible, but to me it was just awesome. I was in a world of my own. My friends and I started a band and we practiced every weekend, doing covers of our favourite Metallica songs.
We eventually became pretty good and started to work on our own material. It was hard and heavy, just like what we were listening to. We were young and ready to take on the world! It was the mid 90's by now, and the "Metal" scene in our town was not that big, so we were going to give them something they'd never seen before. We were first calling ourselves "Beyond Retrieval", but a few of us thought that sounded a little silly. One day the newspaper was laying on the kitchen table. We stopped jamming for a drink and a smoke, when I noticed the headline on the front page. It simply said PANDEMIC (I can't remember what it was about), and we all thought "That's it! What a great name!" It was what we wanted to do, take over the world! So from then on we were called, Pandemic. We recorded an album and got a pretty loyal following. We played pubs and clubs, parties and anywhere we could get a gig. I remember one gig we played, it was deep in the forest, in what appeared to be an abandoned hall. Just getting there was creepy, the night was so dark and there was so much fog we had to crawl along the dirt road at a snails pace. When we got closer you could see the bonfire. We played (with the use of a generator), they loved it, and we all partied in the middle of nowhere.
I was working in a factory by this time, and I think nearly everyone working there played in a band or knew someone who did. I met some really cool people and my music tastes were once again experiencing change. I was starting to take off my blinkers and realise that music, no matter who makes it can be enjoyable. Hanging out with a certain crew of people that only listened to metal was stifling my musical growth. A dear friend of mine Eddie, introduced me to Hip Hop, punk and alternative music. Bands and artists like Q Tip and A Tribe Called Quest, Sublime, Nirvana (it's funny, I started listening to the Foo Fighters before nirvana), Beck, The Breeders and De La Soul. My mind was expanding and my drumming style was trying to change with it...except I was stuck with a band that wouldn't accept change in any form. I would try and introduce these new bands and ideas to them only to be laughed at, and my ideas ignored. I just went along with it.
While working in the factory, I had become good friends with a cute little girl named Elle, she was like a little fairy, and she worked in the store room. Knowing I played in a band, she invited me out to see her friends brother's band play. They were nothing like what my band played, but I never knock back a invite to a live show. It was that night that I met my now wife, Katie. In true rock 'n roll style, we met at a gig. And it turns out that all our lives we have crossed paths. When we were both young, our grandparents lived not far from each other and we played in the same park when on holidays, she lived down the street from the house I first started jamming in...and at the Big Day Out Festival one year while watching Silverchair, I noticed a gorgeous girl on someones shoulders taking photos of the band...I remembered this as I was thinking that is one large lens on that camera! Turned out it was her...and we finally met face to face years later. Funny how life works sometimes.
She played in a band as well, an alternative style band, our styles were like chalk and cheese, but it worked...we were like ying and yang together. I became (and are still to this day) great friends with their guitarist, Bruce. He was a little older than all of us, and I always loved to listen to his stories on life, literature and music. We would sit up all night drinking beer and coffee, talking music, exploring new bands, styles and sounds. He had no TV or computer, only one of the largest record and book collections I had ever seen...you name it, he had it! I was introduced to bands and artists like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Joy Division, Mazzy Star, Björk, The Velvet Underground, The Cure and Buzzcocks to name but a few. It was great times.
Then it all ended, I was replaced in my band. I came early to band practice that we had 3 times a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (cancelled if we played the night before) so I could work on a new song we were putting together. As I approached the door, I could hear the muffled sounds of drums, guitar and singing coming from the band room. It was one of our songs! But why are there drums playing? I sat on the porch and listened for half an hour as someone was playing my songs on my drum kit. They didn't know I was there, and I didn't tell them. When I went inside finally, it was like I had caught my partner cheating on me while the "dude" had snuck out the back door. They all had that face like they'd been busted. No one said anything for a while. Then we jammed. My heart was not in it, so I asked them straight out what was going on.
Long story short, they thought I wasn't pulling my weight, not writing enough songs, not practicing enough...they had everything I was supposedly not doing.
I was gobsmacked! Where had this come from? It had obviously been going on for a while as the guy knew my songs pretty well (not as good as me though). I practiced all the time, I wrote all my drum parts, wrote and helped with most of the lyrics, organised the majority of the gigs, radio spots, flyers...I was devastated. They never said it to me, but I don't think they liked the fact I had a life outside of the band, the people I was hanging out with. I think they thought I had been corrupted somehow. My music taste wasn't the same as their one sided view anymore. I had moved on musically, where as they all lived together in the same house that we practiced in and had not matured musically...well they couldn't see it anyway. Sure I loved the band, playing and writing music, but man, you gotta have a life too!
So, it has been well over ten years since my time playing in a band. I am now married to my dear wife who I met during those times, and I still see a lot of the people I met along the way too (albeit not as often as I'd like these days).
A few years ago, I was invited to a 10 year reunion for Pandemic. It was advertised on the radio, everyone knew about it. I was originally not going to attend. I felt that I didn't need it to be rubbed in my face once again, I was rejected once, and I didn't want everyone looking at me knowing I was the one who got kicked out. Then I got a phone call from Bruce (the guitarist of my wifes band) who said he would go with me, that it would be alright. So it was decided. My wife and I attended, picking Bruce up on the way...and you know what? It was alright. I hadn't followed the progress of the band for years, so I didn't really know what to expect. But when I got there everyone was happy to see me, we drank, talked about old times...and I even got on the drums to play one last time with them! This is where it get's ironic. It turns out that once I was not in the band anymore, they hadn't really done anything! Turns out they should have kept me there, it all fell apart and went downhill. They needed a new approach to things, it wasn't working anymore just doing the same stuff over and over.
Was it all a waste? Was it all in vain?
Not at all!
If not for all of these things happening in my life, I would not be the person who I am today. Now, these days I am a proud husband and father. I still love my music, my children love their music, and my wife, well we are still ying and yang together...our music tastes compliment each other in a way that makes us, as a family, very happy. There is nothing I love more than to put on some tunes, have a few drinks, and start to cook up a storm for my friends and family. I am looking forward to taking my wife to the Foo Fighters concert this December, and the Soundwave Festival in March 2012, where we will see bands like System of a Down, Slipknot, Machine Head, Coal Chamber, Hellyeah, Limp Bizkit and the shock rocker Marilyn Manson amongst others...and any other local gigs that may come about.
Like I recently said to Dez Fafara and his wife - "The family that rocks together, stays together!"
Thank you for reading my lifes experience with music, I hope it wasn't too long winded, but it felt good to get some stuff off my chest finally...and please, enjoy some of my recipes that I have also published, there will be many more to come. And remember, no matter what your musical preferences are, don't let anyone tell you they are wrong! What makes you feel good is all yours to own and love. There is nothing I hate more that someone who say's that they love and live for music, while putting everyone else down around them for their choices because they don't match theirs.
keep the musical fires burning, and do as I have done...use them to cook!