We here at Heavy Blog like to ponder the big questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Do people even “own” music anymore? Did they ever own music? Can music ever actually be owned? You know, the big stuff (actually, that one is kinda big). In order to better address such pressing matters, we bring you Heavy Issues: a semi-regular column through which we plan to get to the bottom of things.
This week’s issue: What was the first album you ever owned?
Read our responses below and weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
Scott: Elvis Presley – ELV1S: 30 No. 1 Hits (2002) (Recorded 1956–1976)
Music has been one of my greatest passions for as long as I can remember. There was a time in my childhood when I felt mostly neutral about art in general, though what that position felt like is a total mystery to me at this point. What I recall with absolute certainty is the moment music “clicked” for me, and it was all thanks to a compilation from The King passed down from my mom’s collection.
Rewind to 9-year-old Scott, who at the time was still naive about the intricacies of music. Example: I wanted to pick Elvis for a school report on famous composers, only to have my music teacher tell me that he wrote very few (if any) of his own songs. Welcome to pop music, I suppose. Additionally, I had no real concept for the immense cultural and musical significance that Elvis had. That might have been a good thing, frankly, since I hardly listen to any music without context these days.
All this aside, what I did know was that I absolutely adored the tracks on this compilation. I would listen to them constantly, switching between my CD player on the school bus and stereo at home. Though my understanding of composition and genres was limited, the songwriting spoke to me in a way no other music had. There was something so alluring about the presence Elvis had on each track. From his unmistakable vocals to his backing band’s infectious rock ’n’ roll, I hung on every note and replayed every song.
I had some particular favorites (“Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “All Shook Up,” “Teddy Bear,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stuck On You,” “Good Luck Charm,” “Suspicious Minds,” etc.), but I spun the whole album so many times I could probably at least hum along to all the hits. Though I don’t return to his music often, Elvis is the single greatest catalyst for one of my greatest passions.
Further Considerations: I spun AC/DC’s AC/DC Live (1992) almost as often as my Elvis CDs. True story: my friend got the album as a gift but decided they were “too satanic” and gave it to me. The first album I actually purchased with my own money was Linkin Park’s Meteora (2003), which I still own to this day. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my frequent, early spins of Boston’s self-titled debut (1976) and Drama (1980) by Yes from my dad’s vintage vinyl collection, often while I was playing his old Super Nintendo. Did I mention my parents were children of the ’80s?
Pete: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Let’s Face It (1997)
Remember in the ’90s when ska bands were everywhere for absolutely no reason? It’s pretty much because of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the mega-hit album Let’s Face It. It’s probably not the best-selling punk record of all time (hello, Green Day and Blink-182), but there’s no question it’s one of the most important ska records ever. For a budding music hipster weirdo like me, at 10, it was music gold. I loved everything about the record and the mega single no one could escape in the late 90s, “The Impression That I Get”.
For me, this started a lifelong love affair with finding music outside the standard. Every band seems to be made up of vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. I viewed it as a challenge to find things that didn’t fit that template. It makes for more nuanced sounds and can expand your love of music to cover other kinds of sounds. This song started a trend for me. I will listen to any song with either an organ part or a horn section. So I became a bit of a ska kid and still regularly listen to the Bosstones along with bands like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish. Those bands led me to ska-influenced and -adjacent bands like Rancid, Sublime, and The Suicide Machines which only led to more punk and hardcore bands.
However, the Bosstones will always hold a special place in my heart, and “The Impression That I Get” always generates that wonderful feeling of nostalgia. Listening to Let’s Face It now reminds me of road trips in the late ’90s where musical teens and tweens would try to see how they could fit things in their suitcases around the giant CD books. This was one of the few CDs I was allowed to play in my parents’ cars without hearing complaints. After collecting a few other Bosstones records, I knew how I could get my way with the radio.
Let’s Face It was great for more than just “The Impression That I Get”. It had some throwback original ska tracks like “The Rascal King”, “Royal Oil”, and “Another Drinkin’ Song”. They could get more peppy with modern ska punk tracks like the opener “Noise Brigade”, the title track “Let’s Face It”, and “Numbered Days”. The Bosstones were also unique for taking a harder turn on some tracks with what they called “ska-core” on songs like “That Bug Bit Me”, “Break So Easily”, and “1-2-8”. Opening my mind up to something outside the standard when I was first starting to really listen to music and develop my own taste is probably what led me to finding music outside top 40 and popular alt-rock like what my local radio stations and MTV were spoon feeding me. I can see how this helped lead me into metal and punk and not worry about whether my friends would be into listening to jazz or jam bands or whatever uncommon music I was currently into. Thank you, Bosstones, for making me the insufferable music hipster I am today!
Further Considerations: Metallica – ReLoad (1997), Ben Folds Five – Whatever And Ever Amen (199&, Cake – Prolonging the Magic (1998), The Wallflowers – Bringing Down the Horse (1996), Creedence Clearwater Revival – Chronicle, Vol. 1 (1976)
*Josh’s note: not that I know anything about Ska, nor can I find any hard data on ska-punk album sales, but—depending on your definition—albums by Sublime, No Doubt and 311 appear to have outsold the Bosstones fairly significantly; and are probably a large part of the the reason why ska was suddenly everywhere around the time of Let’s Face It’s release. “The Impression that I Get” remains a total banger either way.
Eden: Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory (2000)
Imagine this: a small town, not too far from the center as to be “rural” but definitely not central. You’re 13 and ADSL just became a thing; Diablo II is your life.* You have a tight-knit group of friends you spend most of your time with; you play D&D and hang-out, normal stuff. Then, one day, one of you gets a CD from the “big city”, picking it up at a record store on a recommendation or gifted it by a relative. You put it into the disc player (yes, it’s own device, plugged into the shitty TV speakers you have in your room) and suddenly, you’re listening to “Papercut”. The appropriate reaction is “what the fuck” and that’s exactly what I/we felt like; it’s very hard to describe the rush of adrenaline that comes with being a pre-pubescent teen and hearing Linkin Park for the first time.
Of course, I don’t remember the actual first time I heard Hybrid Theory. What I do remember is countless sessions of air-guitaring/vocaling/drumming the entire album with my friends. What I do remember is screaming every single lyric on the way back/to school. What I do remember is how it helped ignite my passion for music. I had heard music before, naturally, and I even technically owned an album or two before this one (ssshhh, don’t tell Josh) but this was the first one that made me feel that music was my hope, that music made the world bigger, that it made me less alone. This was the first album that I both owned and memorized, engraved it on my mind so that it became a part of me.
I don’t really need to tell you why, right? There’s no need for me to extol the merits of Hybrid Theory. I’m well aware that it has its haters but I choose to ignore them; certainly, even the biggest critique of this album can see how it hit (and still hits) the minds and hearts of young people. Even if you don’t like the music, you have to agree that there’s some quality to Hybrid Theory that’s undeniable, that just causes an instant connection between the music and the heart of those who listen. For that, if nothing else (and make no mistake, I think it’s also a musically excellent album as well) makes it a true classic and the first album I ever truly owned.
Further Considerations: Metallica – Metallica, Stereophonics – Word Gets Around, Cake – Fashion Nugget, Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
*Josh’s note: This is some seriously relatable content.
Bill: Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)
It’s Fall of 1987. My mother had signed up for the Columbia House service that’s big hook was always some ludicrous sale of 12 albums for a nickel or something like that. Every few weeks a new collection of cassettes would roll into 10 year-old me’s household but, of course, they were the picks of my mom. There was a lot of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Marvin Gaye, Bruce Springsteen, Stray Cats, Huey Lewis, Motown, and a spate of random soundtracks (I still love the Stand By Me soundtrack (1986). fight me.), with very little that one could call “heavy” in the rotation. That lasted until Christmas of that year when my uncle found out I had taken to voraciously listening to music on my new walkman.
Once he heard that, he who had once had long hair and allegedly grew some strange plants on the windowsill of the family home but had long since given up any affectation of that lifestyle, decided that his nephew needed to hear some real rock music. Something heavy. And so it was that I found myself gifted with Led Zeppelin’s first three albums, maniacally devouring Jimmy Page guitar riffs and John Bonham drum-fills as if my life depended on it in the ensuing months. It felt like I was being let in on some secret. Then my mother let me pick one album from that Columbia House catalog. After hearing “Iron Man” on television (thanks, Road Warriors – the wrestlers, not the movie) I had to have it. Columbia House let me down, though, as Black Sabbath’s debut album was the only thing they had.
So I made do. However, as much as I want to say that any of the above was the first album I owned, it didn’t feel that way. They were both gifts from family. It wasn’t until late in the Spring of 1988 that I finally purchased my first album – Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. By that time my walkman and I were inseparable. Yet, for some unknown reason, I bought this one on vinyl which meant I could really only listen to it in the afternoons after school before my Mom got home on the living room turntable.
The secrecy of what was contained in the grooves of that slab of vinyl made it feel that much more “mine”. These measures were undertaken because it was so much more audacious than anything else I had listened to up to that point. It didn’t have the gifted stamp of familial approval. More than that, though, it just felt dangerous with its tales of the seedy underbelly of the rock n’ roll life. The lyrics haven’t necessarily aged well but songs like “It’s So Easy”, “Mr. Brownstone”, “You’re Crazy”, “Anything Goes”, and “Rocket Queen” were definitely not of the same world I knew. These weren’t songs about apparitions or cartoonishly sinister scenarios from B-movies but, rather, stories from the real world.
That raw take on their reality, even if slightly exaggerated, created a potent image of the kind of life that seemed alien and yet all too real to me. The words were scandalous, the guitar riffs arrogant, and that kick drum was so simple yet enticing. It would still be a couple more years before I knew what Prince was singing about on “Darling Nikki” on Mom’s copy of Purple Rain so it was up to Appetite to corrupt my young mind. Between all of the ingredients that created the GNR recipe nothing seemed more controversial or primal to me at the time. But it also felt like mine.
Further Considerations: Led Zeppelin – I (1969), II (1969) and III (1970); Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A, Black Sabbath – s/t
Josh: Faith No More – King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime (1995)
My love of the Wayne’s World films led my parents to gift me some “best of” compilations of Alice Cooper and Aerosmith (The Beast of Alice Cooper (1993) and Big Ones (1994), respectively) for two early birthdays (the dates on those albums tell me I would have been around four or five), and my love of the Spice Girls led them to gift me both Spice (1996) and Spiceworld (1997) the two years after that. However, the first album I ever purchased of my own accord, with my own money, was the much cooler answer of Faith No More‘s King for a Day …Fool for a Lifetime.
I’m not sure when exactly it was, but it was somewhere in that formative ten-to-thirteen range (probably closer to the latter). There uses to be these things called CD stores, and one of these CD stores was called Leading Edge Music (apparently a few of them still exist), and Leading Edge Music used to have a pair of stands out the front that featured a rotating roster of album on sale that you could pick up for ten dollars each. Until then my dad’s extensive CD collection had been more than enough to fulfill my needs, as I assumed he would obviously already own anything of worth. One of my favourites from his collection, that I had recently discovered, was Faith No More’s The Real Thing (1989), which I still hold in incredibly high regard. The revelation that there were more Faith No More albums out there than what I had access to came as quite the shock—one which would curiously repeat itself as I discovered Angel Dust (1992), Album of the Year (1997) and We Care A Lot (1985) through the mp3 collection I mentioned in the mailbag post with Pete, and again when I discovered Introduce Yourself (1987) through my own research—and, after longingly coveting it for some weeks (“oh yes, it will be mine”), I saved up my pocket money, which had been previously allocated to such essentials as Lego and Animorph books, and made the first deliberate music acquisition of my life.
Taking the album home and sticking it in the player caused quite the shock. This was a very different Faith No More to the one on my beloved Real Thing. Not only, as I discovered later, because it was the first album they recorded sans guitarist Jim Martin (who, it occurs to me now, also had a cameo in my other cinematic childhood staple Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)), but because, well, musically it’s all over the damn place. I maintain that The Real Thing is a deceptively varied and experimental record, but King for a Day is Faith No More at their most eclectic. Heavy, even abrasive, tracks tracks like “Cuckoo for Caca”, “Digging the Grave” and “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” are contrasted with smooth lounge rock tunes like “Star A.D.”, “Evidence” and “Just a Man”; was this even the same band an nasally vocalist who won me over with such punk metal anthems as “Epic” and “From Out of Nowhere”? Yes, yes it was. In retrospect the contrast of different styles on King for a Day is absolutely masterful, and perhaps what even makes it the definitive Faith No More album but, at the time, it was incredibly jarring.
It took me some time to come to terms with King for a Day and, if forced to choose, I’d still go with The Real Thing as my favorite Faith No more record, with Album of the Year as a strong first alternate. Neverthelss, King for a Day is arguably their masterpiece. It’s the band at their boldest and most daring—at their most Faith No More if you will—and its execution remains staggering to this day, even after getting over the initial shock.
Further Considerations: Other albums I recall picking up for a tenner from the Leading Edge sale rack are a copy of Album of the Year, the first two Offspring albums, my own copy of Nirvana‘s Nevermind (1991) (there may have been many like it, but this one was mine). I also managed to snag an Alice in Chains best-of—which led to a lot of awkward questions about why this clearly greatest of all bands had not previously been brought to my attention—and I remember picking up a copy of Cradle of Filth‘s Damnation and a Day (2003), from in-store, being a big day for me because my fourteen-year-old selftotally got away with buying it, even though the sticker on its cover clearly stated that it was “Not to be sold to anyone under 18″ (emphasis added).
That’s it for us, but we want to know: what was the first album you ever owned? Whatever that means to you. Let us know in the comments, and if you have any questions or topics you’d like the Heavy Blog crew to cover, suggest away and we may use it in a future installment!