As I mentioned earlier, most of my new music was coming from Vh1 at this point in my life. I wasn't allowed to watch MTV, I didn't have any older siblings or friends, and the radio stations in town weren't worth much. So when my tastes started to venture beyond these adult contemporary rock bounds, I had to go far.
Like...120 miles far.
I'm kind of amazed it was possible, but due to the complete void of humanity between Baker City and Boise, ID, I was able to get a radio with a long antenna positioned juuuuuuuust right to pull in a pretty static-y version of the top 40 station Magic 93.1. I think we only owned one radio that was able to pull it, which I kept on my headboard and spent evenings (when I should have been asleep) trying to make out the songs on the top 9 at 9.
There were two major musical "wins" that came as a result of this new setup.
1. The thrill of the surprise of hearing a song you love come on the radio
2. My first mix tapes, which I created by taping songs off of this weak radio station
I'll talk about the first point a bit later, but the mix tape thing was huge. All of a sudden I had complete and instant access to whatever song I wanted at any time. I wasn't buying a lot of cds (or tapes), as I didn't have much of a budget and never had the confidence that a good single meant a good album (which it usually didn't), so these tapes were a great way to get new music without all that hassle.
It was a lot of trial and error- sometimes there wouldn't be much warning before the song came on, so the recording would start 20 seconds in. Often the dj would talk over the first 20 seconds as it was being announced, or fade out the end in order to stick to a schedule. Sometimes it was certain a song would be in the top 9, so I'd have to stay up until they got to it in order to get the best chance at a clean tape.
The end result was worn out tapes with multiple versions of the same songs on them, stopping and starting in weird places and taped on top of each other. I can't imagine it was tolerable to anyone else, and I know on more than one occasion I had my parents play them in the car on a long drive.
I also distinctly remember a lot of time spent in the cd section of Barnes and Noble, where I would wander around thumbing through the rows of cds in a way not unlike I wander through record stores now. I also spent a LOT of time at that sames Barnes and Noble "previewing" the song "Peaches" by The Presidents of the United States of America. I never had the album for myself, but it was usually the first thing I did whenever I got into a store.
This was the first year where I remember my friends around me getting into music that had an influence on me. There were a couple of years where my birthday present to Kyle was a tape or cd, and this year I got him one of the hottest albums of the year- Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill".
"Hand in my pocket" was sweeping the nation, and I'll admit that this was one of a couple of times where my gift to Kyle was a premeditated copying gift for myself, especially in the case of an "explicit" album.
So I was making radio tapes, and stealing from Kyle, but I also picked up two CD's all for myself this year- both based on singles that I heard on Magic 93.1 that were just too good not to own for myself.
The first and most important was the album "Home" by "Deep Blue Something". "Breakfast at Tiffanys" was one of those songs that had me from day 1. I remember hearing a small snippet of it on a trip to Boise, but having no way of knowing who it was or what the name of the song was. This was before the internet, so the song was kind of my white whale- a hook or a lyric floating around in my head until I should chance upon it again. This definitely added to the allure and mystery, and I bought the CD the next chance I got.
Here's a video of them playing the song live in 1996. This is what I really consider to be the first real album that I picked out and bought for myself. Since it wasn't something that happened often, it had a lot of meaning. And even though these guys were a one-hit wonder, I really did listen to the full album frequently, and found more songs that I definitely enjoyed. Standing out in my head is this song, Kandinsky Prince:
Deep Blue Something may not have really made it out of 1995, but I picked up another CD later that year, from everyone's favorite Orange County pop -ska outfit, No Doubt.
You've all heard this one, so I won't bore you with the details, but it was sort of a precursor to some of the music I would get into over the next 5 years.
And finally, because I know most of the people reading this are just doing it to make fun of an 11 year old boy's taste in music, this song came out this year, and I think it stands up as one of the all time jams to this day.
Up next: The last year before I go "alternative", guilty pleasures, and the end of an era.