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Rock and Racehorses: Confessions of a Rock Dork

January 22, 2009
Rock and Racehorses

Rock and Racehorses

I’ve seen over 213 bands perform in my lifetime. The apartment walls are filled with compact disc towers. Nine crates of records line the floors of my little apartment. Music plays on the iPod player in the bedroom. Music plays on the computer in the living room. Rock albums and posters decorate the walls. Bumper stickers smother my car. I’ve been surrounded by music all my life.

My friend Cindy calls me The Steel Trap because I remember so many little pieces of my childhood. Music is no exception, and it’s astonishing how many songs equal memories for me. I don’t have the greatest memory in the world but for music, I do.

My father grew up on the Jersey Shore and was playing in bands by the time he was 14 years old. He cut his teeth on The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. He played bass in the Asbury Park music scene in the late 60s and early 70s. Another Jersey Boy by the name of Bruce Springsteen was a part of that very same scene. While my mom did not play an instrument, she is also a music lover and faithfully attended Dad’s shows and rode in many a gear-filled van to see him play all over the Tri State Area.

My brother inherited the family music gene and became a skilled guitar player. He played a few instruments in bands but does not play much anymore. I played piano for a few months before I had the (mis?)fortune of getting bitten by a Polish Arabian horse named Concord. Concord managed to break my finger, remove the fingernail, and mangle the finger enough to warrant a few stitches, thus ending my illustrious piano career. My finger still bears the scars of this fateful chomp.

While I was in high school and college, Dad got together with some old bandmates and played local bars and coffee shops for a few years. They were cool enough that my little grunge rocker buddies would come see them play. Dad and his friends did a great cover of “In the Pines- Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” and my high school friends thought their taste in Nirvana covers was impeccable; in reality, they were playing the song as homage to Lead Belly. Dad purchased an upright bass a few years ago and I still hear him play every once in a while. Every few Christmas Eves, Dad plays bass and my husband plays guitar and Mom and I are treated to a little concert. The songs are not your standard Christmas fare- the guys normally play Neil Young and old Bee Gees tunes with a few Christmas songs thrown into the mix.

As a child, I remember loving certain songs I heard on the radio and on my parents’ turntable. They played a lot of Tom Petty, Joe Jackson, and The Police. On the radio, anything by Duran Duran was awesome. It’s amazing to browse through lists of popular songs in the 80s and see how many songs I remember from my childhood. Music filled my childhood- from the Ghostbusters theme song to “When Doves Cry”.

Grade school was about finding my musical identity. Adolescence is a time of confusion- to add to the confusion, my brother was a bit of metalhead for a few years in the 80s. He was a pretty big fan of Dokken. I tried to listen to his music, but the only band of the time that made sense to my little brain was Judas Priest. In the midst of my wandering, I found Bananarama– my first ever cassette tape of my very own was their 1986 classic, True Confessions. Then, the grade school girls got to me. At first, I played along. I danced along to Fine Young Cannibals and sang along to The Bangles. At a slumber party, we pretended to be Jersey band Bon Jovi and air-guitared our way through songs. I was Tico Torres, the drummer. We rode the dance and hip hop trends through 7th grade, memorizing “It Takes Two” and dancing to the remixes of “Wiggle It”. But the music of the grade school girls grew old. I longed for something more… then I discovered classic and alternative rock.

I cut my teeth on the easy stuff like The Beatles. Then I dug deeper into the classic rock pool and raided my parents’ record collection. Then I found college radio. Then the world opened up. By the time I entered high school, I was free of the Top 40 shackles. No more Timmy T, no more Stacey Q, no more Paula Abdul, no more Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. I had located my local alternative rock station and was enjoying Lush, The Stone Roses, Sugar, Suede, The Pixies, Peter Murphy, and so many more. Then I discovered punk. By this time, my brother was in college and the music he listened to was impossibly cool- no matter how hard I tried, he was always way ahead of me with the cool music. He ditched the metal bands years ago and was listening to the edgiest college music in existence.

The beginning of my concert-going history is an amusing hodge-podge of acts. The first concert I ever saw was at the Garden State Arts Center (now called the PNC Bank Arts Center) in 1987. Weird Al Yancovic was the opening act for The Monkees, sans Mike Nesmith. I was ten years old and I was pretty sure it was the coolest concert I’d ever see. Shortly after that concert-going experience, I saw The Beach Boys with John Stamos on drums. I was off to a running start, wasn’t I???

I gained a bit of teenaged hipster credibility with my next concert: Frank Black opened up for Brooklyn’s ambassadors of love, They Might Be Giants. And from there, I saw about 208 more artists and met my husband at one of these concerts. I also had the pleasure of meeting some of my favorite artists, including Kim Deal, Gene Ween, and Janet Weiss– I’ll unearth the photographic evidence one of these days.

The Steel Trap remembers music like it’s a soundtrack. I remember the Janet Jackson song that was playing on the radio the first time I ever jumped Alibar over a big jump. I remember the Nirvana and Ween songs I listened to the first time I borrowed my dad’s car to visit my high school boyfriend. I remember teaching my friends about the Violent Femmes. I remember making mix tapes. And more mix tapes. And more mix tapes.

Through college, I learned about national and local acts. I had aspirations of being some sort of zine girl (I still have the cutouts for the first edition). Or maybe I’d be in a band (I only learned two chords). I listened to all the music I could find. I made mix tapes. I listened to mix tapes. Rock turned indie and suddenly my friends’ bands sounded just like the big college radio bands. I gave my Surfer Rosa CD to my then boyfriend (now husband) and told him it was the greatest album of all time- he agreed.

After college, I was still surrounded by music: shows, radio, and my friends’ bands. I had to do a lot of driving for work and to visit my horse so I was always accompanied by music. As I became more involved in horse racing, the mix for the drive to the track became very important. The traffic-riddled drive to Delaware Park has a 2 CD volume consisting of poppy tunes that are great for car-singing. The wild-eyed, coffee-fueled 1am drive to Saratoga to catch the sunrise has an anthemic feel, with a little soul and a brand new radio single or two.

My maturity into adulthood has a soundtrack- it’s a patchwork of the strangest songs. Like a photo, a song can capture a moment in time and define a feeling. Starting tomorrow, I’m embarking on an exciting and fun journey with this blog: some of my favorite artists, writers, and friends will be sharing their musical experiences and ideas with me. We will learn how music has shaped us. I’ll still be posting my training with Wizard and anything else that’s happening, but be prepared for some fabulous guest bloggers :^)

Souls' Release at The Crossroads- Garwood, NJ

Souls' Release at The Crossroads

Love Cinema Volume 6 and sprayed beer

Souls' Release at The Crossroads

Shhhhhh! Recording at WPLJ

Ape Fight at the Loop Lounge

Hey Tiger at Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ

Souls' Release at Mexicali Blues. Teaneck, NJ

Bass Amp Head

Milwaukees @ Maxwell's

The National at the Troubadour

Arcade Fire @ TLA, Philadelphia

A List of 212 Bands I've Seen

Rebecca and I in our ill-advised Jersey Girl phase. Before I was a rock dork, I dabbled in hair-chickdom.

Rebecca and I in our ill-advised Jersey Girl phase. Before I was a rock dork, I dabbled in hair-chickdom.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2009 11:16 am

    Oooh, I saw Frank Black opening for TMBG! Early 90s, I think? That seriously brings back some memories. I’ve got the same song-memory you do, where hearing a song really brings back when I first started listening to it. 🙂

    My first concert (believe me, this is embarrassing) was…. MILLI VANILLI. Rather inauspicious, I know. I’d like to say my taste in music has improved since then, but it’s just expanded. I’ll listen to anything regardless of genre if it catches my attention.

  2. January 22, 2009 12:56 pm

    Milli Vanilli, eh???? That easily defeats my John Stamos/Beach Boys gig! My best friend’s first concert was Milli Vanilli as well- I’m still cracking jokes about it ;^)

  3. February 2, 2009 8:01 pm

    Excellent post.
    I was afraid you were just into ‘alternative rock’.
    Actually you’re surprisingly quite diversified.

    I’m wedded to old school rock so your dad sounds like a cool guy to me.
    Mostly I remember the hits by Neil Young, Bee Gees, The Police, Tom Petty, The Police, Joe Jackson.
    For that matter I remember Dokken and Judas Priest also.

    And yes I can relate to the sunroof-down treks to the tracks
    in the wee hours of the morning.
    Driving on the Turnpike never felt so good. 😀


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