Over the last week or two, NPR has been running a series within their music section and discussing, on a show of theirs called All Songs Considered, the songs and albums that constitute that part of growing up, and what was blaring out of their CD/record players or on the airwaves at the time. Reading some of the articles as of late, all of such things have really fascinating. That is, reading what people, of all generations, remember listening to, and clarifying why this was all memorable. Reading some more of such responses from listeners and readers this morning on the website, however, got me thinking through the better part of my shift and a lot of my morning. So now, I shall be writing about some of my summer music memories; namely, some that I think a lot of kids who have ever been in the Boy Scouts or gone to summer camp will recognize right away. The other one is one that sticks to me a lot more for a pretty big reason: it was the one that just about started to shape my musical tastes across all styles nowadays, but also ushered in one of my longest-running phases within my years of high school, most of college, and a part of my adulthood.
The first one, I clearly remember from being one of the things that most stuck in my mind when I went to one of my first Boy Scout Resident camps. This was either right after I finished the fifth grade or sixth grade, in the year 1997 or 98. Anyways, this was one of the first years of scouting, right after making the transition from the final rank of the Cub Scouts up to the "big leagues," so to speak. This was my first big summer camp, but not the first one that I was going to with my dad, who was a scoutmaster at the time. I remember this much since I was just getting to know some of the other boys in my troop, and I was sure they were all still getting a feel for me. Still, I was a bit of an offbeat, but a lot of the other boys, I quickly learned, also were really into the Animoprhs series, so we had quite a bit to talk about.
Anyways, I remember this summer also as the one where MTV's Total Request (Live) countdown show premiered, which counted down the most requested videos of the day. At the time, long before the Backstreet Boys and NSync were number one seemingly every day, one of the other videos that usually was at the top of the charts at the time was the Goo Goo Dolls' big radio hit, "Iris." By the time I went away for the week at camp, though, this song repeatedly was blaring out of most every counselor's boom boxes, and was seemingly on repeat on the little music system in the camp's trading post. In addition, this was also the summer that Godzilla was the big popcorn movie, so I also was hearing the Wallflowers' "Heroes" cover and Puff Daddy's "Come With Me" (the one with a sample of "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin) on seemingly infinite repeat as well.
Music every other summer up to my high school years wound up being quite a blur, especially considering that the next few breaks from school were chock full of two more scout camps, then nothing but watching a lot of MTV's summer programming, their fabulous show, "Undressed," then reading a hell of a lot. Between my first Boy Scout camp in junior high up to a certain point, I morphed into quite a die-hard metal head and Mansonite. Hell, I couldn't get enough of the stuff.
Then, here goes my biggest musical memory...I couldn't find anyone around the town we were living in who would offer me a summer job at sixteen years old. So, I would do a lot of odd jobs around the house; cleaning, other jobs inside the house, but also keeping the lawn mowed and edged while both my folks worked. Periodically, my mom would give me money or buy me CDs as a thank you for doing such things. I never was very good about saving it when I was growing up; this money I earned always seemed to be burning a hole in my pocket, and I most always seemed to have a plan for it.
On one day of this summer, which was one that came right after I finished my sophomore year of high school, I decided to take my hard-earned odd job money and find some way to spend it in the best way possible at the mall in town. So, I took the bus down there, first beginning in one of my favorite stores at the time, Hot Topic. Now, mind you, this was before emo became more prevalent, the word "Juggalo" was ever mentioned on the news, and classic rock enjoyed a well overdue revival in this generation. In other words, it was the time when a lot of kids at my school were either looking forward to going to Warped Tour or Ozzfest in the summer, and Marilyn Manson was still scaring the crap out of people.
Anyways, I poke around Hot Topic, bolstered mainly by the fact that they had a big sign trumpeting that all of their clearance items were an extra 50 percent off. Quickly, I was becoming disappointed by the limited amount of stuff in clothing, accessories, or other things that were left, let alone which weren't in my size. Just for giggles, though, I decided to thumb through their clearance music section. Nothing seemed really promising going through the first two of three rows; mainly just punk, metal, and some other compilations that seemingly didn't sell for crap when they were being sold up front at regular price. But right in the middle of the third one, selling on clearance price for $9 was a brand new, factory sealed copy of the Sisters of Mercy's first album, First and Last and Always. Doing the math, I realized that the price I would pay that day would only be $4.50 with the promotion.
The first time I ever heard of the Sisters of Mercy was a pretty strange one. As a teenager, one of my favorite shows was Daria. For anyone who has seen more than five or six episodes of this show, you know that Jane's brother, Trent, plays in a band with his best friend Jesse called Mystik Spiral. In a few episodes, Daria and friends congregate in Trent's bedroom which, besides mountains of clutter, is adorned with multiple band posters on the walls. One of these was the Sisters of Mercy which, even in its animated version, looked relatively dark and moody. So, when I saw a CD for sale by this band I only knew from a setting on Daria, it made me curious; if they're cool enough for Trent Lane to like them, would they be a band that I'd dig, too? I figured that $4.50 was a damn good price for an album, and if it really sucked, then it wouldn't be that big of a loss.
Later that afternoon, I made it home and, as I was unloading the rest of my purchases, I first slipped in the CD and pressed play, absolutely not knowing what to expect. What followed for the next hour was quite different than anything else I had in my CD collection at the time, but it was pure, unadulterated, bliss to my ears. I listened to the album a couple more times that night, and also took it with me for play in my portable CD player on the bus bound for school when I began my next grade.
Not too long after that, I learned that SOM, an awesome band from England that is commonly credited with shaping what was ultimately the first wave of Goth rock (and the only "wave" I fancy nowadays), along with Bauhaus, The Cure, and the regulars at a small club called The Batcave in the 1980s, released two more albums entitled Floodland and Vision Thing. Upon downloading copies of each of these two albums, I also fell in love with them. I do, honestly, count Floodland as my favorite of the SOM's three studio albums, but for the reasons I am highlighting, First and Last and Always will always hold a special place in my heart.
Sisters of Mercy led me online to read more about them, then to look up information about the Goth scene (far beyond the dribble that was being spat while I was in junior high regarding the two black-clad boys who shot up Columbine). Knowing now about the goth scene led me to reading some short stories on sites like fiction press, etc, and meeting people such as solitarywoman_ . And then after I knew about the scene, was meeting up friends who dressed much differently than most everyone else that lived in the small town I grew up in, this led to two more avenues: I started getting not just into other bands of the kind, but I also started other things about me as well for a time.
My senior year of high school, I found a bottle of black nail polish in my stocking on Christmas morning. This was after I noticed that a lot of both gothic boys and girls painted their nails, predominately either black or blood red. My mom didn't want me to try anything too extreme, but she was cool with black. Through high school, over the summer, and for the next few years, this became a staple of my look. Then, in college, I bought and tried to apply eyeliner for the first time to much folly. Mom got a good laugh at this, as did my sister. If it weren't for these two, I would've never known how to apply such a cosmetic without walking around looking like either a raccoon or Robert Smith in his drug phase (I love Robert Smith, but some of his looks were God-awful back in the days of albums like Pornography).
When I heard the Sisters of Mercy for the first time, I was a sixteen year old high school student. Now, I'm 25, turning 26 in November, looking back at all of the phases I have brought myself into, gotten whole hog into, only to get right back out of within various timetables. Besides goth rock, I've fed myself, in the past on straight diets of nothing but metal, juggalo music, jazz and, possibly most notoriously, Christian Contemporary Music around the same time that I was going through my religious kick. All of these happened within the spans of junior high and the time that I was in college, as well as a couple of years after the fact.
I no longer listen to metal, I absolutely can't stand anything put out by or for the Juggalo camp, and most people who listen to nothing but Christian/Gospel music, nowadays have a tendency to make me sick to my stomach. And while, for a time, I got into jazz exclusively, I still love it, but I have realized that there's a lot more music I dig that has substance and musical merits. One thing I still love about the SOM albums are the instrumentation on display there, as well as the moodiness. Perhaps this is what attracted me to indie rock, folk rock, and emo; not the screamo stuff, but the stuff by awesome groups like Dashboard Confessional, Weezer, and Taking Back Sunday. All of this stuff I listen to today elicits some kind of mood for me, and isn't very known for it's poppy, catchy, hooks that litter the Top 40 formats of this or any generation.
And now, looking back, I can safely say that the Summer after Sophomore year, the Summer of 2002, was the summer that changed my life for the better.
Anyways, it's now way late here, and I've got another closer to work before two days off. Have a good day everyone.