Musical Tastes Over Time – The Formative Years

As I approach my 50th birthday I thought it would be a good time to take a retrospective look at my musical tastes through my lifetime.

As I get to know my teammates at work too it’s been interesting to see what trends they have noticed. Of course, my real friends perspective is fascinating too though I have been part of these trends for years & in most cases our tastes have been very similar to begin with.

So let’s start at the beginning or at least the prequel to my main musical preferences – the 1980s.

The 1970s

Towards the end of the 70s I was starting to take a more active interest in music. My father liked classical music & my mother played in orchestras so upbringing had an obvious influence on my preferences.

My grandfather was also musical though his preferences were more in the direction of jazz compared to the classical music that he played.

The diversity in his tastes & my mother’s, she liked many different bands ranging from The Beatles, Bowie to the Rolling Stones & Queen, helped me appreciate musicians and musicianship. This has stayed with me to this day as I feel often that even though I don’t particularly like the music itself I can recognize the craft.

Queen & latterly Simple Minds in the late 1970s were among my favorite bands of the era. At this point, I hadn’t really discovered the delights of Rush, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Van Halen et al.

Rainbow were in the picture, but it wasn’t until the 80s that things really kicked off when I got my first record player & started to go to a few concerts.

The 1980s

I cannot remember my first album I ever bought. I romantically would like to think that it was the 1981 release – No Sleep ’til Hammersmith by Mötörhead.

Great track listing from Motörhead circa 1981

I was listening to a ton of music on the radio, listening to the likes of Tommy Vance on Radio 1 on a Friday night or even Radio Luxembourg as it played less mainstream music.

The first real turning point was at Royal Highland Exhibition Hall, Edinburgh in June 1982. I cannot remember which night it was as they apparently played 2 nights there, but my first real gig was Queen.

That is when my real obsession with music started. Seeing Freddy & the boys live was incredible. I was even shorter than I am now since I was only 13 so I was on my friends dad’s shoulders for a lot of the concert (you were allowed to do that kind of thing in those days).

Now I’m Here was probably the stand out track for me, but it was the first time I’d really seen head-banging – the crowd was nuts.

1984 was my KISS induction year. The gig was in October and I’d known for a long time prior the event that we were going so I tried to familiarize myself with their music.

Thankfully we had a very good second hand record shop in neighboring town Perth & I was able to get up to date quite easily & relatively cheaply – even by that time they had over 20 albums.

The gig was for their Animalize album – their second unmasked record. I did get to see them again 20 years later with their full make-up and stage show.

The gig was a really fun day out for 3×15 year old countryside boys in the big city. It was also memorable for the support band: Bon Jovi!

By the mid 80s my musical taste was all rock / heavy metal. I have quite a hard time distinguishing the rock genres, but I listened to Dio, Rainbow, Judas Priest, Mötörhead.

The popularity of MTV made rock music more accessible and I remember 1984 with great fondness – Jump by Van Halen may not have been their first “hit” but I felt that it really made rock music acceptable to my peers at least.

Although I listened to the classic rock bands such as Deep Purple & Black Sabbath I was susceptible to pop rock too. In 1986 I got a double tape deck and with it was born my self-made mix tapes. My first cassette purchase was Constrictor by Alice Cooper.

Another example my musical diversity was during a music lesson at school. We are allowed to bring in our own music to play to the class. My choice? She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult. It actually went down quite well – even the teacher liked it.

In my final years at school, I remember doing a record exchange with another student. Our 5th & 6th form years merged with another school so this was a good way to get to know others. He gave me London Calling by The Clash. I gave him a greatest hits album (perhaps a cheat) by Hanoi Rocks. Ironic since I now live in the country of origin of Mike Monroe & co.

1987 & The 1990s

Moving to Edinburgh to study was when I think my tastes settled to form my current listening habits. Guns n’ Roses was in my record collecting and Metallica by this time hit major commercial success with their “black” album. There was no going back for me.

Hair metal became a thing, so Poison & Mötley Crüe were in heavy rotation. Retrospectively it’s interesting to see which bands are still on the go today, escpecially as many since to be riding off the success of only one or two albums.

For more sophisticated listening, Aerosmith were my go-to band. Of course they became very successful for a second time with Love in an Elevator and the many ballads their albums of the time spawned. But going back albums like Toys in the Attic are still very fond to me.

Towards the end of the 90s, one of the most iconic albums of all time (IMHO) was released. Queensrÿche released Operation: Mindcrime in 1998. This brought huge commercial success though I didn’t get to see them until much later.

I think by this point, my taste in music was well and truly molded and although I somehow wished I could be more sophisticated in my musical palate I did at least appreciate good musicianship so I was not pigeon-holed into one genre.

Would this palate become more refined over time? That’s the topic of the next post. Stay tuned.