I was talking to someone yesterday about what he called “foundational music”, the music that you’re listening to at that point in your life where you start to figure out what music actually, is, and what it means to you (usually around 8th or 9th grade, I think – though maybe you’re one of those precocious kids with older siblings who was listening to the Clash, or Ministry, or the Strokes when you were six).
Then he asked me an interesting question – “What was the first song you learned the lyrics to?” – which led me into a full-on, time-traveling nostalgia attack.
When I was 5, my parents bought me a radio for Christmas, and every night after they put me to bed (and I was supposed to be sleeping), I’d switch it on and stay up ’til midnight listening to KFRC, which was San Francisco’s AM hits station at the time.
I remember that they played a lot of Heart, Foreigner, Fleetwood Mac, Gerry Rafferty and Jefferson Airplane, but the song I really liked, that I’d stay up waiting to hear, was “Rock’n Me”, by the Steve Miller Band.
Why? Well, the melody is pretty sing-songy and memorable – perfect for a five year-old – but what I really dug was the part where he started reeling off the names of cities: “…Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma / Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A…” (What he was probably actually doing was obliquely cursing his booking agent, but I didn’t know that).
And then when he ended with “Northern California”, where I was living – well, that was just the greatest! Every time it came on, I listened to make sure that I had all the cities right, and in the right order, and I gradually learned the rest of the lyrics too.
What about you? Any first lyrics-related memories? Don’t be shy. I mean, I think I just copped to loving Steve Miller – there’s nowhere to go but up.