The other day, in conversation with a friend about music, I opined that I was confident that my very eclectic taste in music was heavily influenced by my brother when we were growing up. While he was not the only contributor to my far-reaching musical preferences, I suspect he was the most significant contributor because he was one of the first influencers.
I grew up in a musical house, my parents both played instruments. My dad played guitar, my Mom played accordion and organ. My maternal grandfather had a polka band and could play by ear most anything, and his brother also had a polka band. Many of my uncles played string instruments, composed music, and performed live. We watched The Lawrence Welk Show on Saturdays as well as Austin City Limits. My parents both had record collections from Hank Williams to Barbara Mandrel, from The Beatles to Earth, Wind, and Fire.
Being born in 1976, I grew up at a time when Disco was still playing, and big hair bands were really coming into their own. Punk was shouting from the basements, and George Strait was always the soundtrack for many of my horse-related outings. All of this thinking about music, its influence, and the impact of those who were around me, got me wondering about all the opinions, tendencies, and habits I have as an adult that are rooted in my experiences as a child.
The Sound of Music
At five years my senior, my brother was ahead of me in cultural familiarity when it comes to many things, including music. While I feel like we were frequently in contention over some trivial issue growing up*, I do have fond memories of watching Solid Gold and the Solid Gold Dancers with him. He also listened to hard rock on WAPL and blasted AC/DC in his Chevy Monte Carlo with the T-tops. We wore a leather biker jacket and, in my opinion, oozed “cool” while still being one, damned cocky, son of a bitch.
And then, there was my middle- and high school band director. He was young, once drove the tiger truck for a circus, idolized Animal from The Muppets as a fellow drummer, and “forced” us kids to listen to Frank Zappa and Gustav Holst. As a student, I can tell you that we kids caused more than one baton to be broken over a music stand, but we also appreciated this man**. He made us see that even if we liked one particular style of music above all others, exposure to other styles would do us a world of good. It would probably also cause us to appreciate our preference more, or in some cases, realize that what we liked might not be all that great.
Today, what one probably will hear playing through my speakers – outside of an audiobook – will be straight out of my brother’s playbook: hard rock or heavy metal. But, you may hear classical or oldies, pop or rap, every day is different.
So much music today has been homogenized that there aren’t too many genres that can still stand apart, but hard rock and metal continue to do so. And, perhaps, that’s why I keep listening to them? The driving drum beats, the singing guitars, the insistent bass, the vocal ranges from deep to operatic falsetto? Or, maybe it’s because a part of me still remembers those few times when my brother allowed me to enter his room, posters of Samantha Foxx on the wall, and listen to music with him.
As long as I didn’t try to talk to him.
*My brother and I grew up and get along just fine now. I’m proud to report that his kids all like hard rock and heavy metal. Also, he is still a cool, cocky SOB, who sometimes is mistaken for a mobster in his sweet ride with the tinted windows and impeccable suit. FYI – he’s not a mobster.
**Facebook can be good for a lot of things, like staying in touch with people you like and appreciate, like your former band teacher. I, along with so many former band mates, are all friends on the Books of Faces with our former teacher. He’s good people.