My Musical Journey – Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Metal

Music is extremely important to me and has been as far back as I can remember.

My first musical love was the “Sesame Jamboree” cassette (remember cassettes?) that didn’t leave the tape deck in my mother’s car for years. When I was four or five, my parents were so sick of it they desperately tried playing anything and everything to see if I would respond to something else. What I found was Eric Clapton.

I still remember hearing Layla for the first time. I don’t remember the first half of the song, but I remember when the instrumental kicked in. I didn’t know anything about music, I just knew that that was the prettiest thing I had ever heard in my life. I’ve been a diehard Clapton fan ever since.

After finding Clapton, the rest of the classic rock catalogue just kind fell into place. Billy Joel, Elton John, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, the Allman Brother, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, Pink Floyd (especially Pink Floyd), the list can go on and on.

That’s what I listened to until I went to college and discovered the blues – a natural offshoot of my love of Clapton and his brand of electric blues-rock. BB King, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Robert Johnson, Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, (early) Fleetwood Mac, and so many obscure or local performers found their way into my ears. The soulfulness of blues just hit me in the heart and spoke to me on a level that after years of trying, I still cannot articulate.

That’s when I decided it was time to learn to play guitar. I needed to find a more intimate way to interact with music. Listening wasn’t enough anymore.

I realized that there was a world full of music that I was missing. I found jazz, indie rock, and all manner of international acts with the help of some friends.

Somewhere along the way I found metal. As a genre I loathed it for so many years. It was angry, aggressive, distorted, and mechanical. Classical music set to lyrics and pumped full of technology and rage. I saw nothing redeemable about it at all. Then a friend introduced me to a band called Dream Theater. These guys are arguably the pound-for-pound most talented collection of musicians to ever work consistently in a single band.

Their progressive metal spanned everything from ultra heavy thrash songs to slow, undistorted or barely distorted ballads. Their music is so complicated, but it still has so much soul. I listened to them on occasion, until the night I saw them live. During the show they played the song “The Spirit Carrie On.” I had never heard it before that night, but it hit me the same way Layla did when I was a little kid – I could barely breath. That was the moment that I realized what I was missing.

I started listening to Iron Maiden, Dragon Force, and Metallica and found a whole new world of music that spoke to me. This music spoke in a different way than previous genres. If blues speaks to my heart and soul, metal speaks to my mind. The complexity and anger doesn’t make me angry, it makes me think – hard.

I’m not sure if this post has a real purpose… I’ve just been in a very introspective mood.

If I’m going to make a point, I guess it’s listen to more music. I mean really listen to it. You never know what you will find in a genre that you thought you couldn’t stand. You may still dislike it – I’m still unable to find anything I enjoy in disco and techno, but I found some decent country music (which I never thought I would be able to do).

I think the other point here is to just say “thank you” to everyone who has brought new music into my life. There are so many of you out there and I think you should know how profoundly you have affected me. 

… And “thank you” to anyone who has read through this bit of reflective writing. I tomorrow I will be back to more “normal” Geek Whisperer content. 

2 thoughts on “My Musical Journey – Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Metal

  1. Excellent post that I jut found via a random Google Search.

    It’s interesting – for me, it is (sort of) the other way around: I found Metal first, and then went on to include Prog (mostly Floyd, early Genesis and Marillion) in my daily mixes. Of course there is the occasional super band (hello, Iron Maiden) that spans both genres. And I only lilsten to Music if it speaks to BOTH my heart (or more precisely, my limbic system) and my cortical system. Take that, Professor Kahnemann ;).

    I guess what I really want to say: Wonderful reflection, and you might think about this in the context of being a geek. Wasn’t it Wil Wheaton who said that being a geek is really about loving something SO MUCH that no amount of social shaming can keep you from it? Do that with all the music you listen to.

    And if you want a new genre to expand heart and mind into: Try the Ambient Electronica of FSOL (The Future Sound of London). They are both brainy and emotional, too.

    1. Thanks Markus.

      I wrote this so long ago that I forgot about it.

      I have since found some electronic music that I really enjoy. Most notably The Orb (On a slightly related note, I got vomited on by a stranger seeing Tiesto a couple years ago). I’ll have to give FSOL a try.

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