Hey, so listen to this…

One of the seminal music experiences in your whole life happens when you’re just a kid – when someone you look up to plays you something you’ve never heard before. Normally, this person is both a bit older and related to you (but can, of course, be someone from a different family tree), and you take what they say very seriously. Your parents can’t be included, because music you get from them is a whole other seminal music experience on its own.

Take, for example, the eleven-year-old in Almost Famous. His older sister happened to be Zooey Deschanel, and she introduced him to all kinds of great music. The next thing he knows, he’s writing for Rolling Stone. This happens all the time in real life, as long as your name is Cameron Crowe.

Speaking of real life examples, one day, a young and impressionable Chuck Klosterman was given a Mötley Crüe tape by his older brother. The next thing we know, there’s an apologist for  that entire genre called Hair Metal, writing for, well, at least Spin anyways.

At that very impressionable age, I had someone introduce me to a lot of music I hadn’t heard before. If it wasn’t for him, I may have been stuck in a whirlpool of classic rock and mid-90s California punk forever…

…Or at least I wouldn’t remember the time I heard these three numbers. All these songs were introduced to me by my slightly older cousin Chad, and oddly enough, it was while we were driving around in automobiles.

The first song, he played me when our families were on a summer trip out to one of those “time share” opportunity things. My parents and my aunts and uncles all had to sit through a presentation about buying into property investment, and then us kids got ourselves a holiday. Chad was old enough to drive on his own, and for some reason we were in the car instead of in the swimming pool, or going for a hike. Maybe we were driving to a swimming pool or a hiking trail, but probably not. Anyways, he played me this:

I remember wondering what it would be like to have to leave your best girl until November like Wyclef did, and what it would be like to be going steady with someone who would wait that long for you to get back. I guessed that was what being grown up was like: you learned patience. When we got home from our trip, I ordered Wyclef’s The Carnival by mail from the BMG music club. 4-6 weeks later, powered by eight D batteries, I was listening to the whole album on my CD player.

Then one Saturday, Chad invited me to hang out with him and his friends. His one buddy had a muscle car with a powerful stereo system, so hanging out involved driving around our hometown and listening to really loud music, with the occasional stop for nachos from 7-11. One song blasted was this one:

This song taught me that lyrics in German are a lot scarier than they are in English. It also taught me that a dude (or dudette) can feel pretty darn cool, riding around in a car on a sunny day with the windows rolled down and the music blasting. I try to recreate that feeling every time I drive, which can become a tad problematic when it’s the middle of winter.

The third song I remember Chad playing, around this time of year, was while we were driving to his high school graduation dinner. We’d just attended the ceremony where the graduates wear those cool hats they throw at the end, but instead of just a few family members getting to go to the official banquet, he opted to have a dinner at a local restaurant where everyone could come. Or at least that’s what I remember. And the food, that was good too.

I also remember him driving me there, and playing John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” That’s not the song that blew me away, although I was surprised to realize I had a few things in common with Mr. Denver. Nope, this was the song:

Not the original, of course, but the cover by The Headstones, a band I would later get to see lots in Central Alberta. Once they were playing at the student pub in Red Deer College, the Far Side. My friends and I got talking to the drummer (the other band members had already got on their tour bus with some friendly strippers), and we were talking about the song. He said it’d been his idea to cover it, so he could play that cool drum part in the intro. I told him how when my cousin Chad first played it for me, it had really knocked me out. Especially that cool drum part.

Likely as not, if Chad hadn’t played me that song, on that drive, I wouldn’t have gone to the show. And all these years later, I still remember where I first heard it.

That happens to everybody – it’s one of the best things about listening to music – recalling the first time you heard something you’ve listened to a thousand times since, but it had such an impact on you, it feels like you were only introduced to it yesterday. These songs are the signposts showing you the directions on your road in life.

So next time you see that slighty older friend, sibling, cousin, or whatever, raise your glass and say much obliged. Using a Clint Eastwood accent is optional.

Thanks, Chad. And can you give me a lift again sometime?

FYI, Chad’s the guy on the right.

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One Comment on “Hey, so listen to this…”

  1. William A. Gilgan Says:

    I love thinking about the days when finding new music was like mining for gold and the people who put me onto the good veins. Tony King, Lionel Rault, Baba and all the rest at CKUA still occasionally present tunes that shine for me… Thanks for this post.


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