Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What was your first favorite band?

I always like finding out who was someone's first favorite band. It doesn't tell me anything about them, really, and I don't use it as some sort of indie yardstick or whatever. I just like hearing how people have awakened to being a music fan, as opposed to someone who just hears music.

I have memories of a lot of different bands before my first favorite band. I recall hearing songs like "Wig-Wam Bam" and "Little Willy" by Sweet on FM radio in the Los Angeles area as a kid, but I never knew who sang the songs, just that they were catchy. Same with "Roxanne" by The Police (who I discovered with zeal as the 80's waxed).

1977 was kind of a watershed year for me, developmentally. I mean, I only turned 7 that year, but that's the year that Star Wars (Ep. IV) came out. At some point that year, I received the soundtrack, and also Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, the climax of which was featured in the movie The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training. So I had a bit of an ear for classical, which is probably why the song "Livin' Thing" by Electric Light Orchestra resonated with me. Orchestral strings in a pop song? That just wasn't done! Well, it wasn't something my 7-year-old ears knew of, anyway. That sound was different and special. There were lots of strings being used in disco, I suppose, but this wasn't a dance beat, it was decidedly rock. So when ELO released Out of the Blue in October of '77, I was sold. This was my favorite band. They had spaceships on their album cover!



I mostly only listened to Side 1 ("Turn to Stone", "It's Over", "Sweet Talkin' Woman", "Across the Border"), "Jungle" off side 2, and "Mr. Blue Sky" at the end of side 3. (Little trivia - the vocoder voice at the end of "Mr. Blue Sky" is actually saying "Please Turn Me Over", signaling the end of that side of the record)

It was around that age anyway that you start laying claim to things being favorite. You had a best friend, a favorite glass to use for milk & cookies, a favorite shirt, probably favorite shoes. I had a favorite band, and so my passion for music deepened.

A couple of years later, ELO released a Greatest Hits record which, as I recall, I received for my 10th birthday. This record had a few songs from Out of the Blue, but most of the eleven tracks were from earlier albums. Funny, though, to this day, I still hear them as songs from 1980 even though most were from before 1977.

The memories I have of the songs on that record are varied, but I like them all. "Can't Get It Out of My Head" has somehow stayed with me as a love song, but I don't know that there's anything in the lyrics to support that. Maybe the "ocean's daughter" line and the "old world is gone for dead". I do know that in pining away for some girl I listened to this song and "Telephone Line" over and over and over again. The sadness conveyed in both songs - along with the vague lyrics - allowed me to mold them to my situation. I was fucking sad, man! Girls! Sadness! These guys understand me!

Note to self, though: Don't read any more ELO lyrics. Just read through "Strange Magic" and it's probably more ambiguous than "Can't Get It Out Of My Head".

I was excited when the next couple of ELO song was released - "Don't Bring Me Down". I remember my then next-door-neighbor taunting his dog - whose name was Snoose - when singing the "grrroooosss" part of the chorus. Big laughs, that. But it's big rock intros like this one & "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" and later on "Hold On Tight" that draw you in to the songs.

I suppose that I liked some of the Xanadu soundtrack as well, but didn't latch onto them like I did the earlier songs. I don't think it was any sort of "sellout" thing - I was 10, for crying out loud - but I did recognize that Xanadu was a very commercial effort for them.

"Hold On Tight" was their next big single, but it had a definite Jerry Lee Lewis boogie-piano throwback that didn't sound quite as fresh as some of their earlier songs did. I do also sort of remember "Rock and Roll Is King", which was pretty retro-sounding as well. "Calling America", their last US hit, is somewhat familiar as well and has the production value I would come to recognize as Jeff Lynne's stamp that's evident on a couple of Tom Petty albums from the late 80's, as well as the Traveling Wilburys first record.

I guess I had stopped paying attention to Electric Light Orchestra by the time "Rock and Roll Is King" hit radio, but I was intrigued by "Video!", Jeff Lynne's song from the movie Electric Dreams. The Police were my favorite band by that time, and I was also listening to Rush. Big Country's The Crossing came out the month after ELO's Secret Messages and I was captivated by the fresh sound of Stuart Adamson's guitar. There were other, more exotic sounds that were catching my ear.

ELO broke up in the mid-late 80's. I guess Jeff Lynne had moved on to other projects, too.

But you don't forget your first, do you? There's still a bit of a nostalgic rush when you hear the songs. You remember how you felt back then, how you felt every word in earnest. Your first favorite will always be special.

So, good reader - who was your first favorite band? Please leave a comment and tell me the story. I'd love to hear it.


28 comments:

  1. My first favorite band was The Doobie Brothers. They still are one of my favorites, from Tom to Michael and back to Tom.

    Really they where the first band I have listened to. Sure there was other music around me at times, but they where the first band I could identify (save maybe some kids music groups I don't remember anymore), and the first tape I had (my dad gave me his copy of the Farewell Tour tape).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Queen. I was an early ELO fan as well (BTW have you dug into Lynne's earlier band The Move?), but I was all about Queen in the 70's. I had the Star Wars ST and the story-LP too, and wore 'em out. But I remember getting A Night at the Opera for Xmas in '76, and then the great News of the World in '77. I was 12, and I've been a fan ever since. Jazz was pretty good, and I think they weakened after that. But I got to dig into the earlier stuff, which paired nicely with ELO in terms of occasionally operatic prog-rock with kick-ass throwback elements.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very interesting question. Early on I was heavily influenced by my parents music so I grew up with The Beach Boys, Billy Joel, Electric Light Orchestra, Boston, and Bob Seger. Those are the bands I remember most, even though I listened to a lot of my dad's 45s and cassettes, basically I missed the hair bands of the 80's because I was listening to the music of the 50's and 60's.

    But the first band I think I would truly call my own would be R.E.M. I don't remember how I first came across them, but it was probably a combination of a friend who was a bit more into indie music and MTV, with Out of Time being the first cd I ever bought. Luckily my dad was a member of the old BMG music club and I very quickly picked up their back catalog at that time and just absorbed as much as I could. I listened to them so much that when I left for college my mom told me one of the things she missed the most was the sounds of R.E.M. coming through my bedroom door.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Going back to the 70s? I really liked the Grease soundtrack, and my friends and I even lip synced to Summer Nights for the school talent show. I spent many days watching The Monkees reruns. The first album I owned was the Peter Criss solo album. But the first band I really loved, that I remember just being ga-ga over, was Duran Duran, of course. And I still love them to this day.

    ~Leslie Wilson

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love ELO because of you. I can't hear it without thinking of you. I think my first favorite would have to be Jimmy Buffet-still a perennial fave, or Bay City Rollers. The Jackson 5 would be in there, too. Maybe Emmylou Harris? They all kind of mush together in the same time frame.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cool post, Sam! My first favorite band was definitely the Beatles. (and they were actually still together then too!) The first LP I bought was Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. You know how people remember where they were at pivotal moments in history? Well I remember where I was standing in my basement the first time I heard "A Day In The Life" I had to listen to it over and over again, carefully setting the needle down over and over, mesmerized by the haunting lyrics and how it all built to one final crescendo with that final chord ringing and ringing and ringing. I think that single song set me up for the rest of my life in terms of the music that I listened to and sought. Music became less of something to listen to and more of an experience to wrap myself up in. I think it's why I remain such a fan of groups like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Rush, Yes, Grateful Dead, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Dire Straits and more recently U2. They all speak to me at a far deeper level than simply listening to music.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love it! Alas, my first favorite band, and the band that released my first ever album, was Journey. No super significance, I just heard their songs on the radio a lot while driving around with my Mom and thought they were awesome. Yes, even "Don't Stop Believin'." It didn't last long, as a friend with cool older brothers slapped me around with Gary Numan and Adam & the Ants and I've never been the same.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hmmm... my first real introduction to music came in the late '70s, with various things my parents had; Queen, ELO ("Turn to stone" always stood out to me at that time), The Beatles, an album called "Classic rock" feature the London Symphony Orchestra performing classic rock songs on classical instruments (Zeppelin, Bowie, Moody Blues etc) and so on.

    But some time around early 1981, I started buying my own music in earnest. I'd bought occasional records before then, but that was the time I really became hooked on music. I was primarily interested in two genres around that time. Hard rock and heavy metal made an early appearance, with Slade's "We'll bring the house down", Rainbow's "I surrender" and Iron Maiden's "Run to the hills" all seeing many repeated plays. For reasons I don't really remember, I slipped away from the metal world in the mid '80s, but it would return later in the '80s, and has remained my preferred genre ever since.

    But being the early '80s, I was also experimenting with the popular bands of the time. The Police, Adam And The Ants, XTC and various others all appealed. But it was new romantic and synthpop bands that really grabbed me. OMD, early Duran Duran, Soft Cell, early Human League, Visage, Depeche Mode, The Eurythmics, Tears For Fears and many others. But the single band that made the most impact were Ultravox, who were the first band I obsessed over. I bought all of the records. By which, I really do mean *all* of them. All of the albums, all of the singles, all of the limited edition gatefold sleeves, the clear and coloured vinyl versions etc. 30 years later, I still listen to them on a regular basis, and it's fair to say they were the soundtrack of my adolescence.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My earliest recollection of really liking a band would have to be SuperTramp, right after their Crime of the Century album was played for me.

    I also remember building, playing with, and subsequently destroying all of the space-ship cut-outs on that ELO album, but I never really hooked to their music.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had a great comment but the login process killed it.
    First band? Benny Goodman's . My dad played him and Glenn miller all the time.
    First I chose on my own? Dire Straights.
    But where I grew up we listened equally to War, Doobies, Parliament. Van Halen, Zeppelin, Ozzy, Los Lobos, Tierra, Cash, Waylon & Willie.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My first favorite band was my mother. She used to sing to me all the time when I was little. :)

    First tapes I bought were sir mix a lot. I also listened to Dr Dre, Easy E, sound track to cocktail, sound track to top gun, and then went on to bobby brown was my first cd. Loved my prerogative. Before mix a lot o listened to my parents music... Southern rock and some country.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great stories, everyone!

    @Kelly - That's cool that your dad gave you the tape. :)

    @Bill - Yes! Queen has that operatic feel at times, and I'd say that Styx' "Grand Illusion" does a bit as well. There was just something about ELO that hit the sweet spot - probably that they had more of a consistent pop song lean than either Queen or Styx.

    @Jason - I listened to a lot of my dad's music as well. I loved the Ink Spots version of "Sh-Boom" My uncle also sent lots of albums as he worked for MCA Records, so I had those to sort through.

    R.E.M. as a first band, though - you must be a bit younger than I am. :) Very cool - I have a similar story with the Replacements where I got into them through the song "Alex Chilton" which is from their "Pleased to Meet Me" record and I worked my way back, loving every second of it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Simon and Garfunkel was the first band that really made me want to own an album and hear it over and over again.

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Leslie - That's funny - my girlfriend when I was in 9th grade was WAY into Duran Duran and did *not* like the Police, which I didn't understand. She probably still hates the Police to this day because she associates them with me. :) Duran Duran was a pretty great band, actually. I still dig their music. I haven't listened to much they released after, say, 1990, though.

    @HeadlessMom - Really? I had no idea that me & ELO were linked in your brain. :) It's so funny the bands that we associate with one another. :) There's a post coming someday about all the music you turned me on to. My Older Sister. :)

    @Brian - Thanks! I'm sure there are some songs that I can tell you where I was when I first heard them, but I can't remember them right now. For me, it's overall memories - people, situations, etc. Like, for the Hold Steady's "Heaven Is Whenever" album, it reminds me of a trip I took to Richmond, Virginia in summer 2010 and writing about that trip in the airport in Houston, waiting on my flight to Denver: http://samthebutcher.blogspot.com/2010/06/richmond-in-june.html

    I know what you mean about bands talking to you on a deeper level. I still feel that way when listening to some of my favorite bands, and new bands more and more the past few years. Like the Hold Steady. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. @Dale - I loved Journey back then, too! Look for my Older Sister post - there's a story in there about their "Escape" record. But yes, they're great pop songs, and there's no shame in that. :) Oh, and thank goodness for cool Older Brothers, eh? ;)

    @Tet - such a cool story! Thanks for the detailed history. I've commented here about the movie URGH! A Music War and that had a lot of synth & new wave bands but for some reason I didn't really grab onto that music until around 1983, I think around the time I was in 9th grade. Regarding Ultravox, I didn't get into them until high school when my friend Scott was listening to The Collection and I really liked the way the music took itself seriously. It seemed to be about big things, big ideas. I knew of "The Thin Wall" from a local video tv show but had forgotten about it by then. I still really like Ultravox a lot. :) Thanks again for sharing.

    @Gary - I liked Supertramp as well, I started knowing them from the songs on "Breakfast In America". The version of "Dreamer" I remember best, though, is the live version from the "Paris" album that got released to radio in 1980. And I had *completely* forgotten about the spaceship model thing! :D

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think this is the best way for me to break it down:

    First record bought with my own money - Duran Duran, "Rio".

    First CD bought with my own money - Nitzer Ebb, "Lightning Man / Getting Closer / Fun to be Had" (green cd)

    First band I owned more than five albums by: the Eagles

    First band I owned more than ten albums by: the Cure

    First band I owned more than 10 singles by: New Order

    First band I owned the entire catalog: Nine Inch Nails

    Bands that have changed my life, in one way or another, in mostly chronological order: The Beatles, The Dead Milkmen, They Might Be Giants, The Cure, New Order, Joy Division, The Glove, the Velvet Underground, Primal Scream, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Suicide, Jawbox, Pigface, Blur, Fugazi, Screeching Weasel, Brian Eno, the Pixies, Elliot Smith, Squarepusher, the Beach Boys, LCD Soundsystem, Neutral Milk Hotel, Bloc Party, Q and not U, Cocorosie.

    And, to finally answer your question, but still following my own rules...

    First band I would ever have called "my favorite band" when, in hindsight, I was qualified to make such a statement: the Eagles.

    First band I ever loved with all my heart, and as much as I would ever love a band: the Cure.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I remember stealing my mom's records... Led Zepplin and The Clash were definitely my first favorites. But, the first band I found on my own and considered my favorite was Duran Duran. They were also the first concert I went to.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I remember several songs that I loved, before I actually fell in love with a band. The first song I remember loving completely was "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen which I first heard in the 6th grade. Then it was "Jukebox Hero" by Foreigner. Then I totally fell head-over-heels for Devo, and the rest is history. Also, I have a Hall and Oates fetish that I would prefer remain on the down-low. It ruins my carefully cultivated reputation as an edgy punk-lover. Haha! :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. @Bill - Also forgot to mention that I do know of The Move - Matthew Sweet had a cover of "Do Ya" on the Live From 6A CD and the first time I heard it I recognized it from my youth as well. Reading the liner notes I realized that it was a cover, and that it was Jeff Lynne and his earlier band. I don't know much else of their work, but I do know that!

    @HeadlessMom - I also meant to ask - No Donny Osmond? Or does he not qualify as a band? :)

    @Leon - Sorry about losing your first comment. I remember lots of Dire Straits from when I was young as well, songs like "Skateaway", "Lady Writer", "Industrial Disease" but most of all "Sultans of Swing". Those were my favorite songs from the pre-Brothers In Arms period. Good stuff. The most exposure I got to the other music you listed was probably from the older sister of one of our neighbors - she was a few years older and into the Van Halen/Zeppelin/Ozzy type stuff. I got Johnny Cash & Waylon & Willie from my dad. :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Kai - That's awesome that your mom used to sing to you. :)

    @Thatgirl - I never got into S&G until high school, I think, probably on the heels of Simon's Graceland. We did have the vinyl of Bridge Over Troubled Water and I recall listening to that.

    @Ian - I agree with your musical choices almost to a band. :) I recall digging the Eagles' early material for sure. "Life in the Fast Lane" is very Southern California to me.

    And the Cure is one of my very favorite bands of all time. How do you like their recent material from the '00s?

    @Traci - Duran Duran is a fine choice. :) I got into the Clash on my own, but not all at once, it seems I found pieces of their music over time. I did get Combat Rock for Christmas one year. I still think of Christmastime when I hear "Straight To Hell". :)

    @Anonymous - I think I liked lots of songs before I found ELO, too. The songs you listed are great ones, especially from that time. I liked Devo a lot but nobody really carried their records around where I lived, which was a small mountain town in Colorado. That was "weird music", but I eventually got their records. I wonder if my sister had one, as well....

    And Hall & Oates is always welcome in my house. :) It sounds like we could have a really fun trip down musical memory lane. :)

    Thanks again for the comments, everyone!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Pearl Jam...turning 18 around the time Ten was released, freed me from my regimen of bad hip hop and worse hair metal!

    Love the blog Sammy :-)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Not bands, strictly speaking, but my firsts were Mike Oldfield, Jean-Michel Jarre and Tomita. I got the electronica bug when I was still in short trousers! :D

    ReplyDelete
  23. Sam--
    Being a teenager who graduated in '78, ELO was my favorite band since my sophomore year. I was a hopeless romantic with all those hormonally charged emotions surging through every experience with girls.
    You hit the nail on the head with this paragraph:
    The memories I have of the songs on that record are varied, but I like them all. "Can't Get It Out of My Head" has somehow stayed with me as a love song, but I don't know that there's anything in the lyrics to support that. Maybe the "ocean's daughter" line and the "old world is gone for dead". I do know that in pining away for some girl I listened to this song and "Telephone Line" over and over and over again. The sadness conveyed in both songs - along with the vague lyrics - allowed me to mold them to my situation. I was fucking sad, man! Girls! Sadness! These guys understand me!

    "Livin' Thing" was the one I listened to over and over. And it's still pretty powerful for me. I fell for ELO because that band stood for everything contrary to my upbringing in the redneck, twangy, country and western conservatism of the Texas panhandle. ELO was my escape from strangling small town ways of "The Last Picture Show" world.

    I only earned enough money as a senior to buy a flimsy turntable/8 track unit and I bought 2 albums of "Out of the Blue"--one to completely wear out and the other to save forever--which I still have to this day, probably played only a dozen times (with punch-outs still intact).

    "A New World Record" though is my favorite because each song has a special memory associated with it because it was always playing in my car while "draggin' Main Street" of my little hick hometown. --Michael Farris

    ReplyDelete
  24. 1976/1977 Jones Comes Alive..... this was the year I really got into music. At that time, my top bands were: ELO, KISS, Queen, Shynrd, Earth Wind and Fire, and Pablo Cruise.

    ReplyDelete
  25. @Sam - I wrote off 4:13 dream when it came out as too cookie-cutter. But for the past few weeks I've been just glued to "Underneath the stars" - the music shows the first real glimpse of evolution that i've seen from them since... wow, since disintegration. i think for too long the cure have been happy to just be what everyone expects the cure to be and make millions of dollars. But I'm hopeful for the future. I'm still waiting the hear the unreleased second half of 4:13 dream - it was supposed to be a double album.

    But "Underneath the stars" not only sounds like them breaking new ground and breaking the rules of what it means to be the Cure, it sounds like something I'd write (I know that sounds cocky, but I really mean it as a huge compliment. that probably sounds even cockier...)

    ReplyDelete
  26. my earliest memories of music involved the "my little golden 45" book/record series. also, my mom playing me her old beatles and monkees 45s. i think the first bands i got into were the beach boys who i bought 3 cassettes of from k-mart in 1983 at 6 or 7 years of age, and Duran Duran, whose "ARENA" LP i bought within the next year. i still have these items in my music collection.

    ReplyDelete
  27. @Blair - Glad you're liking it! It's funny, I was never a huge fan of Ten, but I started warming up to PJ after Vs. was released. I definitely have respect for them now, but Ten still isn't my favorite.

    @Alan - I don't think I knew much of electronic music until the 80's started. I made up for lost time, though! I'm not really familiar with the music of Jarre or Tomita, I'll have to check for that. Thanks!

    @Michael - Thank you so much for that comment. I would love to see that pristine copy of Out Of The Blue sometime! I know what you mean about each song from an album having a special meaning. I actually associate listening to the Cars' Panorama album with cruising with some distant cousins in Arkansas, I think. Or was it Texas? I was on a road trip with my Granny & aunt and we stopped at a relative's house & the kids took me out cruising in muscle cars with that record on. I don't remember much but being stuffed in the small back seat of a car, the loud music, and being happy. :)

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  28. @Jones - Pablo Cruise! I remember digging them, and looking them up now, I did not realise they're white! Ha! Maybe because "Whatcha Gonna Do?" is so funky. :)

    @Ian - I saw them at Red Rocks on the 4:13 Dream tour and they opened with "Underneath The Stars" and I knew I had to give that record a chance. There's not a ton on there that grabs me, but I was definitely intrigued by "Hungry Ghost", as that's imagery from Buddhist lore and it's what the song's about - never being satisfied or sated. Robert is restless, for sure, themes you can see going back to what, "End" off Wish? So I think there is some of him that's burnt and keeps writing the same thing. I wish he'd collaborate more.

    And I look forward to hearing more of your music! Would this be a Fornicorns tune? :)

    @Jason - I remember listening to the narrated "Peter & the Wolf" and other kid records like that. I don't recall when I bought my first record, though. I still have all my records, too, except for AC/DC's Back In Black. I was influenced at the time by people saying it was a bad or Satanic record. I think I scratched & broke it. I don't feel that way anymore - I actually think it's probably one of the top rock records of all time.

    ReplyDelete