Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Love Affair With Music

I love music.  You can obsess over it, collect it, and organize it.  All without duct tape and a restraining order.  You can find redeeming qualities in a complete asshole and invite them into your room, into your ears, and into your heart.  You might even imagine being that musician.  More than anything, it makes you realize that you are not alone and in some small way we are all damaged.  But how did I get into this love affair with music?  I have never asked myself that question.

On the outside I had a normal child hood.  I played sports. I had friends.  I went fishing and rode my bike.  On the inside I was an emotional mess.  My parents were much older and were from the old school.  Neither had graduated from high school and they both had grown up in a hard life.  They were conspiracy theorists.  Not the type of conspiracies like NASA never landed on the moon, but conspiracies like the mailman is going through our mail and our plants are dying because someone is poisoning them.  So when the 4th of July would come around and the neighbors would try to light off fireworks my mother would hose the street and roof down because they weren't lighting fireworks off to have fun, they were trying to light our house on fire.

We didn't have people over to our house. We didn't go to parties.  We didn't go on vacations.  My father's terms of endearments were calling you by something you were socially self conscious about.  My nickname was "Nose".  This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with social anxiety. 

When I was 8, I received my  first turntable at Christmas along with my first two albums.  Dedication by the Bay City Rollers and Double Platinum by Kiss.

I liked The Bay City Rollers because my sisters liked them but I Loved Kiss.  My next door neighbor was a year or two older than me.  Besides the fact that I was jealous that he did not have any  brothers and sisters so the spare bedroom was a play room, I was jealous of the fact that he had a Kiss album collection.  Especially Destroyer.  I would go to his house just to listen to it.  Specifically 'Detroit Rock City'.  I loved the car crash at the end.  How fucked up is that?

So when when I got Double Platinum, which is the double album greatest hits, I thought I was the tits.  I cued up 'Detroit Rock City' only to find they omitted the car crash. Those Fuckers!  I now hated 'Double Platinum'.  I was a music snob at only 8 years old.

I have two much older sisters that were already in love with music when I was a kid. They had already found the escape that I was too young to realize existed.  They loved music so much their walls were plastered with photos and they had pen pals strictly for getting their hands on hard to find imports. Although they loved The Bay City Rollers (they even had clothes adorned with tartan), Styx, Angel, and Cheap Trick they were hitting club age and was starting to mix in The Cure, Ministry, and Heaven 17.  To me, sneaking in their room while they were at work and discovering the forbidden music that I wasn't allowed to touch was much like finding your parents stash of porn without the emotional trauma. 

I had to have my own collection.  I started buying my own records at an early age.  The first album I ever bought with my own money was Styx Paradise Theater.

Two years earlier, I bought the 45's of "Urgent" by Foreigner, "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" by Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks, and my favorite, "Our Lips are Sealed" by The Go-Go's.  I had just seen The Go-Go's perform that song on Solid Gold and would walk around the house singing it so that I wouldn't forget the lyrics. Thank you Dionne Warwick.

I would sneak into my sister's room and 'borrow' their albums to make tapes.  I would hide in my room just listening and soaking it in. This music was my savior.  It even played in my headphones to help drown out the sound of my parents having sex.  Music made me realize that there were others with my pain.  I was not alone.  They became my friends.  Until Jr. High.  That is where I met others like me and my craving for musical knowledge started to grow.

When I hit seventh grade I was still very much into garden variety pop, early hip hop and heavy metal.  There were two brothers in my development that liked hip hop.  We would sit in their room on Sunday afternoons and listen to Lady B's "The Street Beat' on Power 99 FM.  She introduced us to Jekyll and Hyde and The Beastie Boys.

It felt underground, like we were part of a secret club.   I bought my first hip-hop album in 1984, Whodini's 'Escape'

My sister took me to my first concert in 8th grade.  Billy Joel.  I was the default guest as my other sister was sick.  Our seats were where they set up the mixing board so they moved us up front in the sold out Philadelphia Spectrum.  It was mind blowing.  Every concert experience is still the same way for me.

I would save my money and buy Hit Parader and Creem Magazine.  I read everything I could get my hands on about metal bands.  I had heard "Breaking The Law' by Judas Priest on a compilation album that my sister had called Exposed and that started me on my path into heavy metal.

Music was becoming my girlfriend.  It had no choice.  My mother made be break up with my first real girlfriend in 8th grade because she thought I was too young.  I never told the poor girl why I dumped her.  Instead of girls I started hanging centerfolds of bands on my walls and writing band names on the covers of my school books.  I noticed that my lab partner in science did the same thing although he had different band names.  Ones that I had never heard of.  Bands like Rainbow and Metallica.  We quickly became friends.  Musical friends.  We performed lip-synced rock concerts in his room with trash can drums and tennis racket guitars. Each of us would take turns air playing in the spotlight from his desk.  We made mix tapes for each other.  We argued over which album was Pink Floyd's best.  We stayed up late to see who would be the musical guest on Letterman and then listened to Metal Shop on WYSP at midnight.  He ended up going to a different High School and we lost touch but when we hit 18 we reconnected and bought fake ideas together so that we could see bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain and Nine Inch Nails before losing touch again.

High School was a particularly hard time for me.  My better friends moved onto other schools.  My parents were constantly fighting so I couldn't have anyone to my house.   My parents refused to let me get my driver's license so I couldn't get away.  It made it impossible to have a girlfriend.  I kept to myself.  To the point that my 11th grade History teacher thought I was suicidal.  I locked my self away in my room with my music.  To add to the gloominess, while on a class trip in 11th grade I just happened to hear Catching Up With by Depeche Mode playing in a Wall to Wall sound at the Gallery in Philadelphia.  Once you find music like that others will find you.  I wore black, I listened to The Cure, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, The Smiths and New Order.  The collections continued, just the content had changed.  Hit Parader became Star Hits.  Genesis concerts became Depeche Mode concerts, which was the first concert I paid for with my own money.  I started taking the train to Philly and NYC on a pilgrimages for import 12" singles and rare B sides.  I found a new group of music that understood how I felt and a new group of friends to share in my misery.  I found it more comforting to listen to The Smiths in my Walkman than have actual contact with other human beings.

Just like anything else, misery never lasts.  School was over, I got a job, a car, money, and a way to escape.  I had money to go to concerts, and buy CD's and go to clubs.  Throughout the years I've owned hundreds of albums and cassettes and had tossed them.  I've owned thousands of cd's and sold them.  I have organized and displayed them every way possible.  I have a collection of over 25,000 mp3's.  I have been to over 50 concerts.  I've collected magazines, pins, postcards, ticket stubs and concert shirts.  I've discovered punk, thrash, grunge, ska, reggae and hardcore.  I have met the bands, I have gotten their autographs, and I have collected their music yet that glass never gets full.  I still feel the same way about music today as I did when I was a kid.  It is my secret place where I am safe.

Music has always been the soundtrack to my life.  It has been for you too. That's why you're reading this, isn't it?  We are kindred spirits of sorts with music as a common thread. I have connected every song that I have listened to to a moment in my life.  I can still tell you who I was dancing with at the junior high dance when I first heard 'Heaven' by Bryan Adams or where I was driving when they first played 'Posion' by Bell Biv Devoe.  They become the songs that you dance to at your wedding or a scene that you love in a movie. Certain songs understand you when you are going through a breakup and there are songs that feel your happiness on a sunny day.  Some songs just get you when no one else does.  They do not ask for anything in return.  They do not refuse to perform for you.  They don't leave you.  They are always there for you.  At any time or any in mood.  They will always just play.

See you when the needle drops!



  1. Yep...this is exactly why we're friends. Thank you for sharing so much. It's difficult opening up and exposing yourself to others (figuratively, not literally, of course :) which is why all of us got wrapped up in music in the first place...as you said, we could hide there. It's also the same reason some of us are so self-conscious about sharing our writing—it's a very personal thing. And there isn't anything better than honest, heartfelt writing. Good stuff, Fran!

    1. Thank you Hap! I have more of a fear of not telling these stories and what people might think about them. Sometimes it is harder to admit these things to yourself than to admit them to other people.

  2. This is amazing. Yep, when everything else fails, there's music and it will always be our best friend.
    Awesome writing!!!

  3. You ARE the tits, Fran. You are the tits.

  4. I've known you through our various internet musical haunts for a number of years, but now, I feel I really know you. My wife could really relate to your isolation as a kid and I can relate to your father's endearing ways. It's fascinating how we all became music obsessives- and I can see by your ticket wall and your story, that you are that. I like being in that club too. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    1. Thanks RX. Sometimes it takes age to really know yourself. The nice thing about our addiction is getting to meet others like ourselves. It is a good club to be a member.


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