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The Long and Winding Road… To Musical Emancipation

Written by Beth Keating on July 22, 2009

My musical past is not impeccable nor untarnished. As much as I’ve wished at times to have been bestowed with unquestionable taste since exiting the womb, my childhood and adolescence tells a very different story.

Being involved in the rock and roll community, I’m often tempted to skip over those less-than-desirable past musical flings, focusing only on the more impressive; a vinyl collection which stretches back longer than most – in both tangible age and when I actually started listening to it; early adolescence harking an obsession with bands such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, when peers thought they were names of individuals – not legendary groups; the luck of having a father with good taste (hence my enviable vinyl collection); and of course, an enduring passion for music from an early age.

I’m willing to own up, if you are, to musical mistakes, embarrassing episodes and moments best described as youthful ignorance. Like it or not, our bad taste is as much a part of us as the good. And although I’d rather delete certain chapters of my auditory history, it’s done, dusted and forever part of my life.

I suppose most people my age would tell similar stories of youth spent listening to mainstream radio stations – I’m talking about at five or six years old here. Most of us at that age haven’t really acquired the discretionary ability to pick and choose music based on reasonable taste. I hold no contempt for the moments spent perched in front of a tape recorder or VCR, waiting for MC Hammer to come on so I could tape it. Likewise, I’m not so embarrassed of my first record being Age of Reason by John Farnham. Come on, my desperation for the album stemmed from my sister being given Whispering Jack as a present. She had John, therefore I needed John.

Actually, most of my bad childhood taste can be lumped on my older sister. East 17 in fourth grade, Boyz II Men in fifth, and Human Nature in sixth. This is where things start to get a bit murky…

By eleven years old, I started listening to Triple J – the most alternative of alternatives in my small, coastal town. Problem was, no-one else did, so while I wasn’t familiar with the Alanis Morrisette, No Doubt or Tracey Bonham phenomena of 1996, absolutely no-one I knew had any idea about the music I was being exposed to. I’ll admit, an obsession with Nirvana at an early age, and the possibility of hearing songs with swearing in them is what turned me onto Triple J in the first place. And of course, Michael Tunn (I still remember his inability to pronounce any word with ‘th’ in it. It was so cool).

Whilst from then on, I stayed mostly away from what I called ‘mainstream’ music, I actually shudder more at my adolescent musical obsessions than the three months I couldn’t stop listening to Informer by Snow in 1993. This is the point in the article where I skim past an over-extended drum and bass phase, and a quick – shameful – flirtation with rap-rock (ergh, the worst – Limp Bizkit. I gave my copy of Significant Other away in disgust two months after purchasing it… but not before learning the words to almost every song on it). My two last years of highschool were spent talking about Machine Gun Fellatio with friends as if we knew them personally, and the first two years of uni I wandered musically directionless in Canberra’s barren landscape.

And you? What musical bluffs and blunders have you foibled through in your lifetime? As embarrassing as our past playlists may be, there’s something liberating about being able to admit to our moments of weakness. I love the taste I possess at this very moment, but there’s no point pretending I was always here. A friend of a friend has a stock standard and see-through response when questioned about obscure or seminal bands they obviously aren’t familiar with, or whose material they aren’t in possession of. “I used to have their albums, but they were stolen,” is a phrase heard from their mouth on a regular basis.

There’s no shame in what you don’t know, or what you once liked. So ‘fess up, be proud and expose your awful music moments in the comments!

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