The Wayback Machine

by Greg Call

Inspired partially by this meme, and partially by this thread, I am curious: What albums did you listen to before high school (say, age 15 or younger) that you still listen to today?

I started buying my own music at about age 10. My first few records (tapes, really) were Thompson Twins, Into the Gap; Tears For Fears, Songs From the Big Chair; and Bryan Adams, Reckless.

You may or may not be surprised to hear that I don’t listen to these albums anymore. But some of the albums I acquired as a kid are still on heavy rotation in my home or iPod. Here they are:

Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced. Around age 13, I had a good friend whose older brother had a nice record collection, and he made a tape for me with this classic on one side. Soon after, my own older brother took me to a showing of Jimi Plays Monterey in some tiny independent movie house, and I was hooked. Jimi has probably been the biggest constant in my music tastes.

Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon: Same age, same friend as Hendrix. This was on the other side of the tape. Like any adolescent that encounters this album, I used to turn off the lights, put on the headphones, and zone out to this one for hours. I don’t love it as much as I did as a kid, but it’s a classic album that I still pop in from time to time.

Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A.: This was huge in 1984, and I drank it up. Nowadays I prefer The River, Nebraska, Darkness on the Edge of Town. But I still listen to BITUSA. I can’t say that "Dancing in the Dark" or the title track does much for me anymore, but there are a lot of great songs there.

Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back: I don’t know how I ended up with this at age 14. I was into Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, and must have seen this in the record store and figured it was more of the same. It certainly wasn’t, and sounded totally foreign at first listen, but I liked it and have been listening to it ever since.  At the next Kulturblog karaoke party I’ll rap "Night of the Living Baseheads" for you.

That’s all I could come up with. I listened to a lot of AC/DC and Van Halen at age 13-14, and still own a bunch of those albums, but I can’t say I listen to them much anymore. You would think that the Beatles would be the ideal candidate for this kind of list, but I didn’t listen to the post-1965 Beatles until college. As I kid, all I knew was the early stuff.

But enough about me. What did you listen to as a kid that still holds up today?


33 thoughts on “The Wayback Machine

  1. When I was in 6th grade I owned Falco 3, Invisible Touch by Genesis, and Dancing on the Ceiling. Uggh. I later bought all of Simon and Garfunkle’s record.

  2. arJ: I would have loved to own those albums when I was in sixth grade. I used to pray that “Vienna Calling” would come on the radio so I could record it. That and some strange pseudo-rap song about Vietnam.

  3. All the pop records I bought as a teenager are still the ones I listen to today: from Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, The Beatles, The Who, and Linda Ronstadt. Additionally, I own many other 60s and 70s records which I primarily listen to (over anything from the 80s or 90s and on). From the 80s, only The Police and Bruce Springsteen continue to interest me.

    The first pop record I ever bought was Joni Mitchell, Blue.

  4. Can New Order be considered to have held up?

    Otherwise, I had a strange exposure to Kool Moe Dee in 1987, for which I remain grateful. Likewise with the Sugar Hill Gang. For the life of me I can’t recall how I got a hold on that stuff.

  5. Until my junior year of high school I owned a grand total of 4 albums (all cassette tapes) [I did tape songs off the radio, but that doesn’t really count]:

    1. Thriller, Michael Jackson [around age 9 — I found it on the playground]
    2. Whitney, Whitney Houston [around age 12]
    3. Top Gun soundtrack [taped off a friend around age 13]
    4. Substance, Joy Division [age 16]

  6. Right, so obviously my musical tastes developed late — and have held up (or rather I haven’t developed them much since then). Thinking back to the music I listened to (but didn’t own), I’d have to say that Depeche Mode and early ’90s REM haven’t held up well (and even back then I made fun of people who were die-hard Depeche Mode fans [while still listening religiously to the version of “Somebody” I had taped off Live 105)

  7. I was way into rap in Jr. High. I had some classics: LL Cool J, Run DMC, Beastie Boys. I also had a couple Kool Moe Dee albums, Biz Markee, Digital Underground, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Naughy By Nature, and Sir Mix-A-Lot. The only ones I still enjoy are the Beasties and occasionally LL Cool J (older stuff) and Run DMC.

    Otherwise I listened to all U2 pre-Achtung Baby albums. Mostly Joshua Tree and Rattle & Hum. That stuff still holds up IMO. 15 is the age that I started listening to classic rock, which opened up all the other music I listen to now.

  8. I’m kind of embarrassed about my juvenile listening habits, by and large. I cringe when I think I bought Duran Duran and Madonna, for instance. (Although the occasional listen of songs off of Rio isn’t too bad – but Madonna? Gag me with a spoon.) I even owned a Michael Jackson album. Still there are some I still listen to.

    Bruce Springsteen: Born in the USA
    U2: War
    The Police: everything!
    The Eagles: everything!

    There are lots of other great songs from the 80’s as well. Most of the alternative stuff I still listen to. (And if you love alternative music from the 80’s and 90’s I think Utah has the best radio stations) Far too many to list. Big Country deserves one cry though. As does INXS.

  9. luckily my sister had a cool boyfriend when i was about 13 who turned her onto some cool stuff, which in turn rubbed off on me. here’s some stuff i had from junior high that i still listen to:

    – new order: substance, and some joy division stuff
    – love and rockets: express, earth-sun-moon, seventh dream of teenage heaven
    – suicidal tendencies (the album w/ “institutionalized”)
    – ramones (i would check out some of their albums on vinyl from the boise public library)
    – replacements: tim
    – sonic youth: daydream nation (really one of the best albums of the 80’s)
    – husker du
    – some pixies, although i can’t remember which albums

    i’m sure that there’s other stuff but i can’t think of it now. but i really still love some of the stuff i liked back then.

    i would be an ungrateful servant if i didn’t get up here today and express my gratitude towards the good music in my life. i’m thankful i got a head start on good music, and would like to publicly thank my sister for dating trent. i pray that little kids today will be influenced to like good music instead of s**t that dominates the airwaves (not like that’s any different from when i grew up).

    i say these things in the name of cheesy rice amen.

  10. Ah yes, the Police. I had Synchronicity and Ghost in the Machine.

    I had Born in the USA too, but frankly, it’s a horrible album.

  11. Evidently I am younger than most and thus have the benefit of being able to include the early nineties. I still listen to most of it.

    Nirvana – Nevermind and In Utero
    Stone Temple Pilots – Core and Purple
    Pearl Jam – Ten and Vs.
    REM – Out of Time and Automatic for the People
    Counting Crows – August and Everything After
    Live – Throwing Copper
    Collective Soul – Hints…
    Aerosmith – Get a Grip

    Those were the days.

  12. My first four cassettes:

    Sting, The Dream of the Blue Turtles
    Phil Collins, No Jacket Required
    Bryan Adams, Reckless
    Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair

    I was a cheapskate in high school (still am), so my love of Elvis Costello and Jethro Tull stems partly from the fact that their stuff was always available at a steep discount.

  13. Ooops, didn’t see the question — as for what holds up today, I listened mostly to 60s/70s rock anyway, which held up in the 80s and still does today.

  14. Why do you think Born in the USA was horrible? I remember a few years ago listening to it the first time in at least 10 years. I was surprised at how good it really was. Got me back into Springsteen again.

  15. So, if the question is what albums from pre- to mid-teens do I still listen to, the answer is:

    (1) The Smiths-Any album they ever released
    (2) New Order-“Brotherhood”
    (3) Peter Gabriel-“Us”
    (4) U2-“The Joshua Tree”
    (5) Depeche Mode-“Some Great Reward,” “Black Celebration,” “Music for the Masses”
    (6) REM-“Green”

    and….with great reluctance…

    (7) Paul McCartney-“Pipes of Peace” (A HUGE guilty pleasure. This is the first album I ever owned (followed soon after by Bruce Springsteen and Billy Ocean). I mean, it has “Say Say Say” on it. How could I not go back to this secret shame every once in a while?)

  16. I’m not very good with the concept of time. Before high school? My high school was only 10th-12th grade, but you mean before 9th grade? 1985…

    U2 – War, October, Boy
    The Waterboys – ST, A Pagan Place, This is the Sea
    Psychedelic Furs – ST, Talk Talk Talk, Mirror Moves, Forever Now
    New Model Army – No Rest For the Wicked, etc
    Hoodoo Gurus – Mars Needs Guitars, Stoneage Romeos
    This Mortal Coil – It’ll End in Tears
    Tears For Fears – The Hurting
    Suicidal Tendencies – ST

    Probably others, and maybe not all of those–can’t remember what was junior high and what not.

  17. The mentions of Suicidal Tendencies reminds me that as a kid I had their “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today.” I don’t have it anymore, but I might listen to it if I did.

  18. My first purchases (around age 10) were 45 singles of Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen”, Men at Work’s “Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive”, and last but not least “Freakazoid.” I can’t remember the artist, I just remember the song starts out in a robotic voice, “All freakazoids, report to the dance floor.” Yeah, I was the coolest ten-year-old ever.

    I’ve really grown out of almost everything that I liked in Junior High: I was a huge fan of Midnight Oil, REM, INXS, Peter Gabriel, They Might Be Giants, Jesus Jones, and Violent Femmes. I still like the occasional Violent Femme song, but I can’t bear to listen to any of this music.

    The only ones that I still really like are Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode. My musical taste didn’t really blossom until my sophomore year of high school when I discovered The Smiths. It was a truly relevatory experience.

  19. Also, I wanted to agree with Clark, that Salt Lake had the best alternative radio in the country back in the 80s and early 90s. I don’t care if they did play Howard Jones every hour, I still miss KJQ, and to a lesser extent, X-96.

  20. Bryce –
    Sadly enough, the first music I remember owning were dubbed copies of two of the albums you mentioned No Jacket Required and Tears for Fears, though I’m not ashamed to say I kind of like Tears for Fears. I think you also dubbed me some Dire Straits, which I didn’t really appreciate until I got to college. In fact, I didn’t appreciate most music until college.

    I also remember you playing a trick at Christmastime on me by loading up a boombox shaped box with books and making me think I might actually be getting a boombox. Those were the days.

  21. I also remember Danithew coming over once and playing “Money” by Pink Floyd and that I giggled at the line don’t give me that do-goody-good bull****. I must have been like 10 years old or something. He mentioned that his mom hated that song.

  22. The first contemporary album I remember listening to (i.e. not an old Beetles record or whatever) is Asia’s self-titled 1982 album. I was 10. My cousin came to stay with my grandparents for the summer. I listened to it with him and thought it was the coolest thing around. After that I started listening to Top 40 radio (esp. Dick Clark’s weekly countdown).

    I still like the Tears for Fears album “The Seeds of Love” — it’s a flawed album and the lyrics are rather hokey, but vocals really draw me in.

  23. Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms

    Rush, Power Windows and Moving Pictures. Got 2112 around the same time but i don’t listen to that much any more.

    Prince, Purple Rain

    John Fogerty, Centerfield. I got the LP when the last song was still Zanz Kant Danz, before he got sued by Mr. Zanz. By the time I got the CD a couple years later he’d had to reissue it as Vanz Kant Danz. (Or didn’t you ask)

    The John Lennon half of Double Fantasy

    Several Beatles albums

    Don Henley, Building the Perfect Beast

    Born in the U.S.A.

    As for whether they hold up today, Brothers in Arms, Born in the U.S.A. and Purple Rain I think have to be on the list of the best albums of the 80s. Centerfield would still be great if it came out today. Not sure about Don Henley. And I’m a Rush and Beatles fanboy, so I don’t know.

    I had forgotten completely about Pipes of Peace. I wore out Tug of War before that, but don’t listen to it today.

  24. In addition to the shameful (both for content and smallness) collection that I mentioned above, I also borrowed my cousin’s copy of Wham! Edge of Heaven and copied it, and I think that once I got a CD player I had Billy Joel’s Storm Front. The horror!

    Mostly my brothers and I were too cheap to buy anything so we recorded songs off the radio, which is a process so tedious in this day and age of instant access to music that if we had ever imagined free access to anything we wanted whenever we wanted I am sure that our heads would have exploded. We also would have listened to better music.

  25. I still have some of them. Although I seem to have lost my one tape of The Cure’s Unplugged concert.

    On the bright side, I have great (if a bit rough) live set that the string-playing genius from Camper Van Beethoven played on KZSU. He played one song an a mandolin that sounded like two people were playing. Amazing.

    I also have the horrible extended remix of Depeche Mode’s cover of Route 66.

  26. The very first piece of pop music I ever bought was a 45 record of the Spinners’ “I’m Working My Way Back to You.” I have no idea how the 10-year-old me managed to be captivated by a late-70s R&B tune, but I mostly certainly wish I still had that record today (or the cd equivalent…), because I would most definitely listen to it. The Jackson 5 (the Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson was perfectly respectable, Clark), Kool and the Gang, the Commodores–it doesn’t get much respect today, but too late I’ve come to appreciate how great a lot of that pop/funk was.

    Other early 45s I bought during my fifth, sixth, and seventh-grade years include stuff by Rick Springfield, Hall and Oates, Kim Carnes, ABBA, and Al Stewart. Most of it I could safely forget about today, though I have a soft spot for H&O.

  27. I owned almost no tapes or CDs as a kid–I think I got hold of a few U2 albums, and a Depeche Mode tape or two. But my revelatory music experience as a kid was LA’s alternative rock station KROQ, to which I listened devotedly. I started out in junior high surreptitiously listning to KIIS FM, but by about ninth grade I had graduate to my beloved KROQ. I’m not sure how well KROQ has held up over time—any current LA residents who can speak to the issue? Back in the day, though, there was nothing like it anywhere in the country (although how would I know? the loyalty of the fanatic).

  28. I remember a friend of mine taught me to play “Bastille Day” on the bass. I’ve been a raging Rush fanboy ever since. I’ve always liked the music of “Yes” as well. When I was in early high school, I also discovered Nazareth, and only recently did I d/l a bunch of my favorites of theirs. “Beggar’s Day”, “Hair of the Dog”, “This Flight Tonight”…

    Much of the music of my youth that I still love today is stuff that I discovered in my early college years, however, not 13-14.


  29. Ouch. More feeling old, thanks for that. That era for me was. . . BeeGees, Foreigner, bands like that. Even then I mostly listened to my mom’s stuff from the late sixties/early seventies.

    1983 was huge for me, music-wise, but I was 16 by then.

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