(above: Born Against, Phoenix, 1991 or so. Photo by Thayer Johnson, one of the many people I've lost complete track of over the years. Taken from the back cover of "Bottom Line" 'zine #1 -- that's a post for another day, though.)
Most likely, when I discussed aborted plans for a list of every band I've ever called my favorite, my subconscious really wanted to do it -- it was just looking for an excuse. Brushback complied with encouragement, and here we go.
As time goes on, in the chronological order of things, this gets tougher. When I was in fourth grade and Uday Narahari and I would sit down and make lists of everything -- favorite bands, favorite songs, favorite football teams (this was a leisure activity -- in retrospect a bit weird) -- I had clearly-defined favorite bands. Later in life, though, I've become less-devoted and it's a bit tougher.
Anyway. Let the embarrassment commence:
Before I'd really started listening to bands on a regular basis, two artists stand out: Abba and the J. Geils Band. I loved one song off of my parents' copy of "Abba: the Album" -- "Hole In Your Soul." Diehard Abba fans I've encountered later in life don't even recall the song, but I would play it over and over. Same deal with "Freeze Frame" by the JGB -- that actually became the first album I ever owned, on my own. Everyone else on the internet seems to have a Kiss album as their first, but I'll lay it out straight. J. Geils Band. "Freeze Frame." It only gets worse.
A product of MTV -- my parents got it, I was in fourth grade or so, and the videos off of "Rio" and the first album were pretty freakin' exciting. Uh, there was "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Is There Something I Should Know"... I remember staying up for the World Premiere Video of "Save a Prayer." They could've become my first-ever concert (and oh, how differently things might have turned out), but I got the chicken pox before their Denver appearance. I began fifth grade and found out that Duran Duran's status had been changed to "gay" among my peers, and I wasn't too into "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" anyhow, so I moved on...
Maybe I was really into eye makeup as a kid? Unsure. "Looks That Kill" seemed fraught with excitement and danger, I bought "Shout at the Devil" (clandestinely -- I was afraid of getting into trouble because they might be devil-worshippers), and played the shit out of it. Discovering "Too Fast For Love" just increased my fandom. Read an interview with Nikki Sixx in "Hit Parader" or whatever in which he discussed how he got his hairstyle -- the ingredients were something like "lots of eggs and sleeping on my face." I considered emulating that. Eventually became my actual first concert, with Autograph opening at McNichols Arena. Started losing me as they got glammier.
Sort of a 1A to the Crüe's 1. A "Grace Under Pressure" t-shirt was my first band t-shirt. Had just about all their '70s/'80s albums and listened to them well into college, though anything after "Grace Under Pressure" held little appeal, and even that one was suspect. "2112," though? "A Farewell to Kings"? Oh yeeeeeeeeeeeah. Creem Magazine used to make fun of Geddy Lee a lot, which would move me to fury.
Goddamn MTV again -- the video for "Indians" was played over and over, a promo for some concert involving that big metalfest at Castle Donnington, and my friend Andy Seery and I embraced the Anthrax ethos wholeheartedly -- half a dozen t-shirts, goofy shorts, the band logo painstakingly traced onto the back of my denim jacket, and yes (this'll only make sense to anyone who saw that video), "INJUN" written on the brim of a baseball cap. I think "Persistence of Time" was the last album I bought.
It starts getting better here. Got some special "Thrash Metal" magazine due to my fascination with the previous band, and it had a bit on the recently-disbanded Flag. The cool (to a 14-year-old) name, the crazy-looking photos, and the Pettibon album covers in the SST ads just looked nuts to me, and I got my hands on the "Wasted...Again" compilation and "My War." Good thing too, if I'd started out with "Family Man," I probably wouldn't have revisited the band again until I turned 30. I still listen to "Damaged" a lot, and a few of the others have pride-of-place in the collection. They hold a space similar to the Rolling Stones in my heart -- a relatively-brief period of greatness, only four or five releases, but those four or five releases are some of my all-time favorites, whether I'm 16 or 33.
See, ok, everything's improving here. I was introduced to them shortly after moving to Tucson -- I'd yet to learn of straight-edge, and they (by this point, six or seven years gone) were pretty damn inspiring to me. Another band I can still listen to a lot today. Gorilla Biscuits probably get another 1A designation here.
We discovered politics! Probably about half our little Tucson crew (and these lines weren't clear until much later) embraced the smartassed Born Against/ABC No Rio thing (from afar), half embraced the whiny/Ebullition/Downcast thing. I guess that makes it clear where I fell. Ugly, pissed-off music, coming from a perspective that I could understand -- well-off suburban kid. They just seemed a lot more articulate, witty, and rational than most political punk bands. I still listen to BA occasionally, still follow the stuff Sam McPheeters does.
Drive Like Jehu/Rocket From the Crypt
And I started getting a little less hardcore. The San Diego scene replaced NY in my heart. As was so often the case, my little brother was way ahead of me, getting into these while I was still listening to the Up Front album over and over. Still listen to Jehu, lost some excitement over RFTC after they produced a string of marginal albums before breaking up.
One of the many bands I discovered too late -- I actually had the chance to see them about 1991, but passed (probably because they took drugs!). The aforementioned Thayer saw that concert and described them as "an even crazier Pittbull," which was what passed for praise in our circles. Again, finally saw them about the time of "Hard Times," well past their prime. "You Can't Pray A Lie" and "Life of Crime" remain two of the best things I've ever heard.
Hey, there's a shift. Moved to Boulder, discovered alt-country (to the eternal amusement of some friends). "No Depression" remains a favorite, even if it's less accomplished than their other albums... I guess 'cause it's the first I ever heard. Remain a fan of the various offshoots. Listened to the Old 97s a lot, too.
Combined the best elements of AC/DC and country. Lotsa songs about beer. Last album was kinda dull, but they put out some great stuff.
As you can probably guess at this point, I'm losing some enthusiasm for this project -- not just due to length, but because as I've grown older, it's become less important to pick favorites (and I'm a much more passive music fan now -- a few concerts a year as opposed to two or three a week). If I were to pick a band now for favorite? I probably have listened to the Hold Steady, Wilco, Steve Earle, and Entombed the most in the past year or so -- of those, the Hold Steady could lay claim to the top spot, perhaps.
Anyway. Kind of a fun trip down memory lane -- hope you get a kick from this exercise in self-indulgence!
Some honorable mentions over the years: the Rolling Stones, Hot Snakes, 411, Unsane (the band I asked about their recently-deceased drummer), Bruce Springsteen