I was five years old in 1980, and my musical tastes have evolved a lot since then. Let me preface by saying I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There wasn’t any subculture to speak of there, and if there was, it remained perfectly hidden from me until about 1994, and what I was introduced to then I was introduced to by people I played Dungeons and Dragons with.
If any subculture existed in the 80’s, it was unknown to me. Also, discovering music on your own in a place so devoid of any rich culture was a task. So, it was a road filled with super popular new wave stuff, then mainstream accessible rap and hip-hop. It is amazing I never got into hair rock, as that was super popular in the circles I hung around.
The first album I was really introduced to, that I remember, and I recall playing over, and over was the Genesis self-titled album. My mother had wanted this album, and my father had taken me to purchase it for her birthday. I was young and somewhat mesmerized by the cover art, which was adorned with an array of geometric shapes. That was interesting to me at the time. But, when my mother started listening to it, I became infatuated with the music, particularly the tracks “Mama” and “Home by the Sea”. They were haunting, passionate and beautiful. They don’t carry the same resonance for me today as they did when I was so young, but I more or less stole the record from my mother and played it to death.
My parents had a giant record collection of rock bands from the 70’s, mostly stuff in the same vein as Led Zeppelin that I could never get into at the time. My father was in a band covering songs from Black Sabbath, and then slowly moved into covering a lot of southern country rock like Hank Williams Jr. I never enjoyed this rock music stuff, but Genesis… I liked a lot. In hindsight, it is too bad I was never introduced to the Peter Gabriel stuff back then.This is right around the time MTV was new, and it opened up a lot of newer styles of music for me. I remember sitting around recording songs off the radio onto my cheap cassette deck, and listening to the same things repeatedly.
This was largely in elementary school, and most of this was over my head. I enjoyed it primarily because it was catchy, though I enjoyed the overall mood of the songs.
As I was going into the seventh grade, I was introduced to hip hop music. I ran track after school (I was very good, broke lasting records for my times in a mile run). I also went to a very integrated school and most of my friends were black. I was introduced first to Public Enemy, which was probably the band that had the largest impact on me in the 80’s. It was edgy, passionate, political… it had a real message I could identify and it moved me. I had not seen this in music before. Mind you, I lived in Indiana, and subculture was non-existent, so I was never exposed to punk, etc. Hip hop was my punk rock.
I also listened to a lot of Slick Rick, N.W.A., Dj Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, and a LOT of other stuff. This was the first counter culture I was introduced to, and the first style of music I dug into and pursued deeply. I had a large tape collection that accumulated over the few years.
By 1990, the people who were wearing hair metal band t-shirts in 1987 and knocking me for my tastes were starting to lose the mullets and starting to listen to shit like Vanilla Ice and Young MC. I hated that shit, and saw that as the death of hip hop, as far as I was concerned, and stopped listening to anything new. As a rebellious teenager, it was losing appeal because it was becoming popular. Granted, by 1989, I listened to hip hop that was a lot more hardcore than the Tone Loc type of stuff everyone else was starting to listen to (I was getting heavy into the west coast stuff by then), but I was just tired of it all.
I then went through a musical lull. Nothing was terribly inspiring to me. I did listen to a lot of Prince, though. I’ll write about the early 90’s later, maybe today if I can. That’s when I was introduced to Skinny Puppy, Joy Division, subculture and my whole world changed. For the better.