Life Truth #234: The music you listen to as a teenager is what you will always listen to.

I was reading an interview with Keiron Gillen, the writer of Phonogram* and something was mentioned that I thought about and realised was probably one of those things that is true for nearly everyone. A life truth as it were. So… I have stolen it and made a new category for just these.

Of course, I’m not numbering them sequentially. That would be ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the point.

Chris Arrant: On a great tangent, one thing I found particularly interesting that happens both in comics and music is how a majority of people’s music and comic tastes in their older years is latched into the music of their teenage years. As with comics where we see a majority of the audience still holding out for the superheroics of the comics of their younger days, in music a large percentage of the average consumer-base continues to follow the musical acts of their teenage years. While people might veer outside their particular genre choices for the biggest hits of the day, they still call the tastes of their teenage years as their evergreen stomping grounds.

Kieron Gillen: God, there’s a lot of that in Phonogram. One things which pleased me – as it wasn’t something I was actively trying to write, as I think comics-as-commentary-on-comics-culture is so painfully overdone now – was how the whole defining yourself by your teenage loves is something that’s just as true in music and comic circles. Which is absolutely true – in fact, of all the pop art-forms, they’re the two which are most strongly polarised in that way. Films, TV, Games… you may have some of your tastes defined in terms of genre or whatever, but there’s always a constant consumption for new things which you may not always get in some people in Music or Comics.

On the topic of films and tv – I have always been a fan of science fiction. I probably always will be. It’s something I got into when I was about 3 or 4 and it’s something that will be difficult to shake off. Even before I was born, my cousins were trying to convince my parents to name me “Princess Leia”.

Music, however, is a bit different. While I will watch pretty much ANY sci-fi, I will not listen (and enjoy) ANY rock music. Or indie. Or hardcore. Or pop. Or whatever. I liked Blur AND Oasis, but never really got into Pulp back in the day. I was probably too young to really appreciate Pulp as a commentary on life at the time of BritPop, so all I was left with was the sound of the songs and… I just didn’t get into Pulp.

Ben Folds Five, I loved, I still love and will love for years to come. I heard one song by them when I was about 12 on Capital Radio and loved it, but didn’t know who the band were. Three months later, I heard a different song by them but this time managed to catch the band’s name and then proceeded to buy their back-catalogue. (I have a weird memory for stuff like that.) I can remember all the times I have heard them on the radio. I remember the heady heights of them hitting somewhere in the region of the Top 20 in the UK singles chart and then their subsequent appearance on Top of the Pops. Ben Folds on his own though, has never inspired the same devotion as Ben Folds with the other two guys, even though it is essentially exactly the same music. There is just something missing.

AFI are a big big love of mine and it makes me glad to think that there are now legions of teenagers who love them too and that they’re finally getting some of the attention that I thought they deserved back when I first got into them. And it only took them 15 years to get somewhere. 🙂

Silverchair, Feeder and Idlewild are probably the other three bands who I will listen to anything by. I may not have sat down and listened to them purposely for a long long time, but I know that if I fancy going to a gig (like I did back in April and then bought tickets for last week’s Silverchair gig) I can go and see them and I will enjoy the music.

While all my friends were beavering away at their GCSE art exams and I had two days off (being a scientist of course :)), I listened to the Manics entire repetoire of the time – on cassettes lent to me by one of my art GCSE-studying friends. In fact, I listened to it all on repeat for the entire two days while I mostly played minesweeper and solitaire on our old PC and marvelled that I hadn’t really listened to them before.

That one Cure song on the soundtrack to The Crow infected me with a love for the darker side of The Cure. Their less upbeat-sounding (regardless of the mood of the lyrics) songs.

I have a soft spot for 80s/early 90s pop music. Mostly Kylie, Jason Donovan, Rick Astley…anything I remember from TV when I was in primary school, as I didn’t listen to the radio then.

And finally “Echo Beach” by Martha and the Muffins. From the first album I bought which was a Best Summer Hits compilation.

And now? I like the Editors, but only really because they sound like Idlewild at the REM end of their spectrum. I don’t get the Arctic Monkeys or Lily Allen or Amy Winehouse or Fall Out Boy or the Klaxons. I got into NIN late in the day from listening to AFI and the Cure and getting curious about AFI’s influences. I started dabbling in Soundgarden a bit from my listening to Silverchair.

Electric Six somehow combined the dark bits of AFI with a slightly seedy version of “Echo Beach”‘s otherwordliness. Or at least they did with “Switzerland”.

It’s all music that reminds me of when I didn’t worry about anything. Not that I worry about anything now, but now I know that there are things that I could be worrying about, responsibilities, the future, stuff. Life was just easier. I was younger. I didn’t get tired like I do now. Life was golden and peppered with blissful ignorance.

“But before all that, before I spoke the way I do, thought the way I do, before I had all my scars, I was a child too. Hard to believe, but true.

Do you remember that? Do you remember being a child?

The answer is no, I’m afraid. You may think you can. But you can’t. All you can remember of those dim intense days are the bits that have helped to make you what you are now. Your remember the times when you felt alive, a few snapshots of special days and chance impressions, but those are a part of you anyway. You can’t remember the rest. You can’t remember actually being a child, when that was all you knew.

Except in Jeamland.

In Jeamland you can remember what it was like to be stupidly happy, when happiness wasn’t something you had to search for, when it knew where to find you by itself. ”
Only Forward Michael Marshall Smith

That, in a way, is something of what the music from your early life and teenage years captures. The music you listened to then brings back the feeling of how easy it was to be happy then. And even if you were mopey and angsty and listened to the Smiths, listening to them again now gives the satisfying feeling that someone understands you on some level. In some way, it made you more content with life.

And memory brings back that feeling of contentment when you listen to that same music.

Of course now, I’m just waffling and babbling. Thinking about it, I doubt I’ve explained myself very well, but it’s late, I’ve had a busy weekend, training it around the country and I am exhausted, so that’s as good as it’s going to get.

*BTW. Phonogram is AWESOME. Magically deliciously awesome. I even yoinked some of the artwork for my “gone fishing” note on my other journal when I went on holiday in a bout of Manics nostalgia.

Phonogram artwork

Go and buy it. Do it now. The rest of the internet can wait.