Monday, September 1, 2014

About My Older Brother

The irony of the name of my site is that I don't actually have an older brother.

The name plays off the idea of your older brother who is in high school or college and been around a little, and who introduces their younger siblings to cool new music. Whether through direct excitement: "You gotta listen to this! This is the best!"; or through indirect osmosis - it's just what music he's playing all the time. You see band posters tacked to his wall. You sneak into his room and slip on his headphones while he's taking out the trash. That song he played that you couldn't stand last fall is now your favorite song. However it happens, you are exposed to different genres and come to certain styles of music organically, not because some radio station or cable channel tells you what you should be listening to.

The older brother nom de blog is just an idea, though. A personification of an abstraction. From what I've heard in comedian Marc Maron's podcast, the role of older brother in his life seems to be played by the record store guy.

High Fidelity (Touchstone Pictures/Working Title Films)
And I know at least a few people who have older sisters who were influential in their music upbringing (Maddie from Your Older Sister's Secret Stash and Kayley from BritPopTart & Vanyaland, for starters). Whoever your real or metaphoric older brother is, they've influenced and inspired your taste in music.

I have a couple of specific "older brothers" that I can point to in my life. One is my older sister. The other is the absent older brother of my friend Pete.

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I have so many musical memories connected to my sister from when we were young that it's sort of difficult for me to spot where our musical interests started to diverge. Up to a point, anyway. When we lived in California in the 70's, my sister would play Donny Osmond records ("Go Away Little Girl," "Puppy Love," "I Knew You When") and we would listen to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 on her little red teardrop-shaped AM radio.
Photo credit: ObjectPlastic.com
Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" was a HUGE hit back then. The Bay City Rollers were also a favorite band of hers from that period, and I love certain songs of theirs to this day.


When we moved to Colorado, my memories switched to us listening to my dad's 45's & LPs on our living room stereo set, an old Magnavox Astro-Sonic that looked something like this:

Photo credit: Americanlisted.com
I most recall listening to my dad's Beach Boys and Clarence "Frogman" Henry records during those times. We lived in a small mountain town on the west side of a hill, which meant that radio & TV signals from Denver couldn't make it to our house and the records we had on hand were all we had to listen to.

Soon my sister received her own stereo for her bedroom and the listening parties in the living room stopped, but new wave was just starting and her tastes shifted to include The Go-Go's, Flock of Seagulls, The B-52's and Soft Cell. And as went her tastes, so did mine. From the pop innocence of "Our Lips Are Sealed" to the frantic dance energy of "Rock Lobster"to the new-wave funk croon of "Seedy Films," I absorbed what her and her friends were into and that became the base for me to jump off of when I was then exposed to other new music.

Now that I think about it some more, I also recall picking up some music from our next-door neighbor Kenny who was the same age as my sister. Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz," "Super Freak" by Rick James and "We're A Happy Family" by the Ramones - and he may have gotten some of those from his older sister. See? Just a link within a chain.

On top of all that, I remember my sister hosting a student council exchange student who arrived from New York with a tape of excellent music I'd never heard before - UB40's "If It Happens Again," Eurogliders' "Heaven (Must Be There)," Lou Reed's "I Love You Suzanne." Pretty sure INXS' "Burn For You" was on there as well. I wish I could remember them all.

It was around that time that I started finding music on my own, thanks to the new installation of cable TV in our area (See URGH! A Music War), and also thanks to Dan, the older brother of one of my new friends I had met in my junior high english class.

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I think Dan lived in Arizona - I forget the details, he might have been in college by that time. Actually, I'm sure he lived in AZ because one of the records Pete had was Romance by Phantom Limbs (previously mentioned in my Juicy Tapes Vol 3 post). Pete had been exposed to and liked the Athens, Georgia band The B-52's - specifically their records Wild Planet and Whammy! - and also owned a copy of the Vandals' Peace Through Vandalism that he got from Dan as well.

The main thing my friend's brother did for me in absentia was to introduce me to The Replacements. Pete had a copy of STINK EP, and how could a teenager ignore a punk rock record that begins with a doofy-sounding cop saying "This is the Minneapolis police, the party is over…" and contains songs like "God Damn Job" and "Fuck School"? The answer is: a teenager can't ignore that, and will, in fact, play those songs over and over and over.

It's funny, though - since it wasn't my album, I kind of forgot about The Replacements until later in high school. When I rediscovered The Replacements, I was hooked, and they remain atop my favorite band list.

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I started this blog in 2011 to pay homage to the idea of being introduced to music by your cool older brother. I don't actually see myself as that cool older brother, I just wanted a place to talk about music and hopefully engage other people so that I could learn about new & old bands as well. Hopefully I will play the older brother sometimes, and sometimes that mantle will fall on you. But the joy of finding and sharing music is always the goal.

So, in the end, Your Older Brother isn't about a person of a specific gender or age, it's about the discovery of music. It's a place to discuss and discover music from all over the world, whether it was released last week or last century. It's what we all make of it.

Thanks to my older sister, and Dan, and you. It's because of you all that I'm here.

Now it's your turn. Tell me about your older brother, sister, neighbor, friend, parent - where did you get your love of and taste in music?

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5 comments:

  1. A very interesting & entertaining read. As child number four (of six), with two older brothers & two older sisters with wildly divergent tastes in music, my influences began early and covered wide ranges. You capture something of the experience in your musings....very nice

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    1. Thank you for reading! What were some of the bands or songs that you recall picking up from them?

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  2. Biggest memory of music for me: going to my uncles house when i was a spotty teen, he sticks on this 8-track clash bootleg, we listen to it, then he loans me a talking heads lp and Ry cooder - consider me hooked!

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    1. What a great memory! 8-track Clash bootleg - I never would have thought such a thing existed. :D

      Such small gestures can have a ripple effect on how we see and experience music. In addition to the above stories, I can also point to listening to cassettes in my dad's red Datsun 240Z and receiving a box of tapes from my uncle who was a promo guy for record labels as influential music moments in my life. It's usually not just one person, or it wasn't for me, anyway. :)

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  3. See, it's like this...

    I absorbed music growing up. From anyplace I could, it seemed. Radio was a free for all in the early 70s, and I was hooked. I liked some of what my mother liked, some of what my father liked, some they didn't care for and whatever sang in my ears, I was ready to hear at least once.

    I was behind the curve by the time I got to High School, due to the lack of an FM radio. I didn't know the music the other kids were talking about, so I spent hours tuned to the radio, listening and trying hard to catch up. I'm still at it. To the tune of 1,800 or so CD's and music playing a major role in my life.

    It lead me to time in radio, writing a few reviews, and doing an iPod Countdown series on my blog (which I need to finish one of these days). It's lead to a wide variety of fun and games over the years, but there was no single "older brother" sort, but a succession. Most of them came and went fairly quickly, leaving little bits of their taste with me. For them, I'm grateful...

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