I have to thank my parents for instilling in me great taste in music. Being from New Orleans it’d be easy to pretend that my dad sat me on his knee while he fingered a sassy bar piano and schooled me on the standards, or my mom danced around the house with dusty Lady Day records the soundtrack to her domestic tranquility. I always envy those who were passed down some musical tradition from their progenitors, bestowed a tradition of appreciation for all things euphonious. Me? Nope. I got some abominable hybrid of Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, and Phil Collins.
I’m still not sure if it was laziness, or apathy that let my step-dad to stop the radio dial at the station playing all the hits of the 80s. I can’t remember if it was popular radio, or like some KOST office jams type shit. I thought this is actually what people listened to back then. Why couldn’t my parents have loved that old soul shit, or shared their love of the Ramones, or Sex Pistols? Played Motown around the house? At least some blues! Can I get a little blues? I think they were too white, too utterly uncool, and too conservative to have ridden that train. Alas, what most people won’t tell you is that outside of the French Quarter’s artist enclave, New Orleans ain’t playing all that shit. Sure there are those tattooed gutter punks, all piercings, patches and body odor; sure there are jazz musicians still keeping the holiest of musical traditions thriving, but my step-dad received none of this. He thought the epitome of rock was REO Speedwagon, had the hots for Stevie Nicks, and sang Hall and Oates jams openly. He once said to me about the song “Man Eater,” “This song could be about your mom.” Even at the age of seven, I was overcome by the need to Fuck this dude up. I’d totally stopped believin’!
He even like to sing along. So, with vinyl sticking to my substantial prepubescent thighs, I rode out each trip home from school listening to him butcher this stuff from the back seat of his beat up Monte Carlo. The back of his bald head was like the little sing-a-long ball bouncing. I really feel sorry for myself in a way. But outside of making me pretty good at Trivial Pursuit 20th Century Edition, it was engrained in my brain, stamped in my subconscious, sewn in the very fabric of my soul to hate this music. It was from the moment I began buying my own music, I was attracted to the complete polar opposite: total head-banging, tongues-out, leather-on heavy metal. Yea dicks, Fuck your melodies, Fuck your harmonies, and most of all, Fuck your sentimental pining! You could have that shit! I wanted to light stuff on fire. The only arms I was interested in dying in was the cold embrace of Satan himself, and it’d be on MY mother fucking terms.
The other day I was having a conversation with my roommate about the various animals we tortured growing up, and the fact that this is a documented first step towards becoming a full blown serial killer. Turns out I was just really into Ozzy and thought it looked rad when the frogs I had sprayed with hair spray were lit and hopped away leaving a trail of flames! I was too stupid to even think of frog feelings. fucking frog feelings? But the jury’s still out on my roommate.
Soon the damage I inflicted on toys, and random woodland creatures, turned inward. Slayer and Megadeth evolved into The Misfits, The Dead Kennedys, and Circle Jerks. The rocks and bb guns evolved into pot and malt liquor. From there it’s been a journey to get as far from Journey as possible.
From punk there was some weird shifting as I navigated social circles and for once tried to fit in. I guess I have it to thank for my current involvement in hip hop, because, while the very first tape I bought was Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, I hadn’t listened to much of what was coming out of that era. I can’t even front. I knew it was there, even played the occasional De La, Tribe, Outkast, but didn’t flock to it. I was too busy expressing a hatred of myself AND you through power chords, double bass and “Fuck school” graffiti. Soon though I had educated myself, and I have 1994 to thank for bringing me to hip hop full force. Wu-Tang, Redman, Mobb Deep. I don’t even want to start listing. I once wrote an analysis of the poetic merits of “Survival of the Fittest” for a freshman English class at Northwestern State, Louisiana – class of never! Yea, I’m that guy!
So I had come to love all music not my step-dad’s. I didn’t need another hero after all. But I do have him to thank for making goddamned sure that I knew what not to like. I owe every “best of” list, every review of an obscure band, video of an ugly rapper, treatise on the shelf-life of music’s forefathers (Caution, inside joke - You guys hated that Old Yeller’d! Hahaha), I owe every one of them to him. He’s the very reason I would rather pen my grammatically correct-as Fuck suicide letter than spend another minute in my dentist’s office waiting room listening to your mom tell me how today’s music “just isn’t as good as it used to be.. you know, kids these days” while pining for the Michael Bolton-esque days of yore. So, I guess you could say I have developed a “Higher Love” for his non-instruction. (I couldn’t help myself!)
Music is an experience, it’s alive, it breathes - manifesting demons and angels, memories and prophecies, life and loss. It’s something I’ve clung to like belly button lint. Truthfully, I’ve even come to like a lot of those songs, but it was the pure, burning, and absolute hatred I had for them at the time that shoved me mercilessly into the deep end. And I learned to swim. I had to. We all did.