There have been many songs in my life that have meant a great deal to me. Three standouts that come to mind are songs that changed the way I thought about music in some way.
The first song is “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan. I think I heard this for the first time when I was about 10. The one thought that popped into my head when I first heard it and is also always what comes to mind when I look back is, “Am I really supposed to be listening to this?” I remember not wanting my parents to hear me listening to the song and I suppose the reason was the lines about “everybody must get stoned.” Looking back I ask myself why did I think this? How did I even know what getting stoned was? I had certainly never gotten stoned. I suppose that it brought about a turning point in what I thought music could be like because of the blatant lyrics and the raucous style of the arrangement.
This easily leads me to my next milestone song, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones. Never in my life was there music that I was more ready for someone to event and start playing and recording than the Ramones brand of irreverent punk. For years I had been asking the question to myself, “Why doesn’t someone just record some mindless, loud, fast guitar playing and just use chords with no lead playing?” Okay, well the question was something to that effect – sure you get the idea. Then one day I was over at my friend Warren’s house and he said, “You’ve got to hear this, man.” I picked up the album and looked at those four troublemakers on the cover and was hooked even before I heard the first mis-timed count off or buzz saw chords. There it was. The world was changing. Music was changing. I had changed.
Not too many years later, something from another part of the world caught my ear and would end up playing just as important a part as those first two. It was “Awungilobolele” by Udokotela Shange Namajaha from an album called “The Indestructible Beat of Soweto.” The rhythms and instrumentation of this song and the others on the album changed what I thought about the concept of popular music forever. The realism and sincerity and earthiness of the songs suddenly made almost everything I had ever heard on the radio become meaningless and took my on a journey of musical discovery that I continue to this day.