I love to think back on how I got to know all the music that has been my ‘passenger’ through life. If I would have become a musician myself, I would have talked about these artists as my inspiration and perhaps role models. In my case they didn’t inspire a creative process but surely did inspire my life as such.
When you’re a kid you really have no idea about the size of the world, generally speaking. I will never forget the moment I understood that the small town I grew up in was not where my life was supposed to take place, that there was a big world waiting for me out there. It was in 1987 when I heard The Cure’s Why Can’t I Be You on the radio for the first time. I was 14 and in an instant understood that all I had to do was to grow up very fast and get the hell out of there. What a relief! It was the first song that changed my life.
It was friends that inspired my musical education and taste the most, particularly two male friends I spent the most of a year with when I was around 19. I shared a flat with one of them and the other friend was mostly around. My flatmate was an audiophile and lived for music and high-end HiFi. His record collection was massive. From this moment on music was mainly consumed sitting on the couch standing exactly 232 cm (my guess!) from the huge speakers worth more than ten grand. It sounds kind of high society but it wasn’t at all. It was simply a matter of priorities.
It was 1991 and Pearl Jam – Ten had just came out. Metallica’s Black Album as well. Followed by Nirvana – Nevermind and Guns’n’Roses – Use Your Illusion I and II. What a musical year – one of the best I ever had! In the daytime I went to school and my two buddies to work, in the nighttime our place came alive. Every night we sat in the living room with the music turned up loud. Our place attracted the local lost youth, most nights people dropped by. Party every night. Neverending booze and (soft) drugs. Paradise City for the young. We were fooled by the thrill of independence and felt so alive, but honestly I don’t remember many details from this time in my life.
(1991. One of many mornings after a wild night. To the right one of the badass speakers)
I haven’t touched any drugs for more than a decade now but have to admit that the music came alive inside me when I was high, I could physically feel it in my blood, in my organs, in my gut. It was sometimes painful and sometimes indescribably beautiful. Slash’s guitar solo on Estranged, Eddie Vedders vocals on Oceans or Alive. Kurt singing about Polly. Ray Manzarek’s Hammond on Riders on the Storm and so on.
The last year I lived in my hometown, I pretty much only hung out with my two buddies. We had a threesome without sex, and I felt such love for them. At some point they started dealing drugs in the flat and that drew even more odd people to our place. There was a guy around 45 or 50 who showed up quite often. He talked with a slow drugged voice and always brought a guitar along and some glas hash pipes. He had long straight hair and looked like he was right out of 1968. His stories about his youth as a hippie doing LSD trips and living in a Commune was fascinating for us three youngsters, all longing for the times of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, convinced that we had missed out on the most important moment in (music) history.
When I got fed up with all the mess and all the young men hanging around at our place, I made them clean up and do the dishes. Some kids we sent to the supermarket to shoplift food for the empty fridge. The neighbors were furious about all the running up and down the stairs and soon the police showed up. That ended the dealing business.
I have never met anyone again in my life that inspired my music taste as much as these two friends, to a certain extent we shared the same interests. Probably it was also just being young: we were all hungry and dying to get to know more about life. I remember how surprised I was when I realized that not living with my parents meant total freedom – for real. If I had an idea I would just check out how it went and not wait for anyone’s approval or declination. Once I didn’t wash my long, curly hair for 3 months because I was convinced that nature would supply me with what my hair needed. I guess I’d had a joint too much around that time…
When I moved away from my hometown in 1992 it was a goodbye forever and a crazy period of my life ended. I knew I was never going to come back and live there again. I don’t go there very often but have occasionally met my old friends again. Although we’re all grownup now and live serious lives, there is a feel to it like in the old days. At the same time the 20+ years between now and then make me feel estranged.
What I would never have thought earlier is how strongly the experiences you make when you are young influence you throughout life. I often go back through the music, listen to The Cure, The Smiths, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Afghan Whigs, Guns N’ Roses, PJ Harvey, Mark Lanegan…
This one goes out to T. and G. – I am thankful as ever for the music I got to experience together with and through you!