The evolution of my musical tastes – The 80’s

Daniel Tuttle
By Daniel Tuttle Owner Bottle Imp, photographer and chicken keeper. @DanielCTuttle

Last.fm is an interesting place to write about music I am listening to away from the livejournals and myspace, etc. It seems more relevent here, and while it certainly will not garner nearly as much attention, it is fun.

I may as well start writing about how my musical tastes evolved. This is hard to write because I am thirty years old, and have been a rather rabid music listener since my age was measured in single digits. That was in the early 80’s. I can’t recall precisely which year. 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 placed Dungeons and Dragons with. What I found, even then, wasn’t much. So, if anything 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. But then, I’ve never been a big fan of rock bands. We’ll get more into that when I discuss the 90’s.

The first album I was really introduced to, that I remember, and I recall playing over, and 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 think I sort of usurped 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. 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 M-TV was new, and I was listening to a lot of stuff from there. I remember sitting around recording songs of the radio onto my cheap tape player, and listening to the same things over and over. The songs that probably had the biggest influence on me at the time included:

Falco – “Rock Me Amadeus
The Fixx – “Are we ourselves”
Michael Jackson – “Thriller”
The Styx – “Mr. Roboto”

This was largely in elementary school, and most of this shit was over my head, and I enjoyed it primarily because it was catchy, and I enjoyed the overall mood of the songs. Other than that, most artistic gestures were over my head.

As I was going into the seventh grade, I was introduced to rap 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. So, this was new. 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 a persued deeply. I had a very large tape collection that accumulated over the few years. I was the only white boy at the MC Hammer show in 1988, the “Turn this Motha out” tour.

From 1987-1989, I was one of the only white boys listening to rap in the middle of Indiana. 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 rap, as far as I was concerned, and stopped listening to any new rap. The only albums I continued to listen to of my old collection was primarily the Public Enemy stuff, which I still think is brilliant.

A note about what rap and hip-hop I have listened to since: I enjoyed Ice Cube in the early 90’s, particularly “Predator”. Ten years later, I was introduced to The Roots which I think is great. Lately, the best thing I’ve discovered is Busdriver. Every once in a while a rap or hip-hop album will catch me, but it is extremely rare.

But, back to the 80’s. Around 1989 I quit listening to so much rap. It was now boring and stale to me. Plus, as a rebellious teenager, it was losing appeal because it was becoming popular. Granted, by 1989, I listened to shit that was a lot more hardcore than the Tone Loc type of shit everyone else was starting to listen to (I was getting heavy into the west coast stuff by then), but I was just tired of the boring, uninspired direction rap was going. Fifteen years later, it is apparent that I was right in predicting it was going to just keep getting worse. The crap out now is unspeakably terrible.

I then went through a musical lull. Nothing was terribly inspiring to me. I listened to a lot of bad music that I was introduced to via my high school girlfriend, and some of my D&D nerd buddies. I listened to a lot of Prince, which I still think is ok, but never listen to. I kind of dig on his new album, I have to admit.

Anyway, that’s what I was listening to in the 80’s. 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.

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