A brief history of my favorite musicians

I thought it might be fun to track the history of my favorite bands or musical acts of all-time.  Perhaps you could share yours as well. Here goes:

My first favorite band was The Rolling Stones. My evil stepfather had a collection of records that included a bunch of Stones albums, and though I didn’t know or understand everything that I was listening to, those records were the foundation of my introduction to the world of music. I especially loved Beggar’s Banquet, which included Sympathy for the Devil and Let it Bleed, which featured my all-time favorite Stones’ song, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. From the age of eight up until middle school, I would play these albums for hours.

In 1984, I finally bought a radio of my own and was thus able to unchain myself from my stepfather’s stereo and his record collection. I was twelve years old at the time, we had just gotten cable television in the house, MTV was in its prime video-playing days, and The Cars’ Heartbeat City had just hit the airwaves. Instantly I had a new favorite band. I loved the entire album, and thanks to MTV and my discovery of Strawberries Records in Milford, Massachusetts, I was able to find their earlier albums as well. You Might Think won Video of the Year at the first MTV Video Music Awards that same year.

God I loved that video.

Looking at it today, it’s clear that the director was on acid.

Other hit singles from Heartbeat City included Magic, Hello Again, and Why Can’t I Have You, though Shake It Up remains my favorite Cars song of all-time. Though I would grow to despise the synthetic sound of 1980’s bands like The Cars, I never stopped liking their music.

The Car’s number one standing did not last for long. Bruce Springsteen released Born in the USA in 1984, and though it took me almost a year to finally purchase the album, I was instantly in love with the Boss. I remember running out and buying Born to Run the next day, and a week later, I bought the only vinyl album of my entire life, Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park.

Through the years, other bands have taken the number one spot from Springsteen from time to time, but I inevitably return to him again and again.

One of these bands was Telsa. In 1986 I attended my first concert: Poison at the Worcester Centrum. While I liked Poison, I became infatuated with their opening act, Tesla, a band that I had never heard before. Within a week, they were my new favorite. Their album, Mechanical Resonance, was a metal album that did not scream like the heavier bands of the day, making it perfect for my borderline glam-metal taste. It featured their seminal hit, Little Suzi, as well as my personal favorite, Gettin’ Better, which I would lip sync to later that year, taking third prize in the contest. Tesla followed this album up with The Great Radio Controversy (1989) and Psychotic Supper (1991), as well as an acoustical album that gained widespread popularity. I saw Tesla play about five years ago at the Webster, and they were still going strong, and while I still love their music, their position at the number one spot on my list didn’t last long.

Def Leppard released Hysteria in 1987 and poured out hit after hit onto the radio, charting a total of seven songs (one of only three bands to ever do this). I was already a fan of the band after its previous release, Pyromania, but Hysteria sent this band rocketing to the top of my list. Songs like Animal, Hysteria, Pour Some Sugar on Me, Rocket, and Love Bites could be heard blasting from the windows of cars repeatedly during my junior and senior year of high school, mine included. When I think back upon that final summer vacation before my senior year of high school, the soundtrack of those memorable days and nights was Def Leppard.

At some point shortly after the summer of 1997, perhaps in late 1988 or early 1989, I went to my first Bon Jovi concert and my allegiances quickly shifted. I had attended at least two Def Leppard concerts prior to this, and while they put on a great show, with their trademark 360 degree stage and one armed drummer, Bon Jovi put on a show like I had never seen before. Def Lepprd seemed to be playing for themselves, and the audience was fortunate enough to be present to watch the performance. But Bon Jovi was playing for his audience, and somehow it seemed as if he was playing just for me. The albums Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi’s best ever, followed by New Jersey gave me plenty to listen to as they assumed my number one spot until well after high school graduation. Livin’ on a Prayer remains one of my favorite songs of all-time.

The music scene went to hell in 1991 as Kurt Cobain appeared, convincing the world that everyone should be depressed, dirty, and flannelled. The music that the grunge movement produced was awful, and more importantly, it drove bands like Guns and Roses, Bon Jovi, and Tesla off the radio. Bon Jovi would not release another album until 1992, so in search of new music, I found Meatloaf (thanks to my visits to the midnight performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Harvard Square), and specifically his 1977 release Bat Out of Hell. I loved it. Within a few months, I had scoured all of the independent record stores in the area and had managed to gather his 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1986 albums, some of which are still not available on CD or MP3 today.

I have yet to find his first album, Stoney and Meatloaf.

Admittedly Meatloaf can be a bit over the top, with the average song running more than five minutes and many of them sounding more like rock operas than rock music, but I loved almost every song from those albums, and in 1993 would fall in love all over again with Bat Out of Hell II, the second time Meatloaf would team up with Jim Steinman. For the period of 1991through 1999, Bruce Springsteen and Meatloaf alternated as my favorite musical acts.

In 1999, I began teaching elementary school, and in search of music that I could play in the classroom, I began listening to Simon and Garfunkel and then Paul Simon, and for about two years, these two musical acts, indistinguishable for the purposes of my list, assumed the top spot. Tired of hard rock and metal, I found their folky, under-produced, lyrically interesting music appealing, and this led the way for my appreciation of many other bands with similar sounds. I Am a Rock became my personal theme song for quite some time, only replaced in the last couple years by Cat Steven’s Can’t Keep It In, another artist of a similar vein.

In 2002, Bruce Springsteen released The Rising, reminding me once again why he belonged at the top of my list. Though Born to Run remains my favorite Springsteen album, The Rising is a close second, filled with music that meant something in our post 9/11 world. This album helped to cement Springsteen at the top of my list, and in 2005, I attended my first Springsteen concert of my life.

During the past seven years, I’ve had brief flirtations with Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash, CCR, Van Morrison, and The Beatles. Each made a run at the number one spot, and perhaps for a period of about six months in 2004, Bowling for Soup managed to briefly achieve number one status, but ever since 2002, Bruce Springsteen has essentially been my favorite.

It’s difficult to imagine that anyone could come along and take his place.