Nothing Like Your First Time
Before I get started, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to thank Aaron for thinking of me when he was coming up with the idea for the Paper Crane Collective. Now, on with the show.
I can’t tell you if there will be a certain theme to the articles I’ll contribute here, thus the “Various and Sundry” column name. I hope that most of them will be original to Paper Crane Collective, although you may see some of my site’s content filter through from time-to-time.
With that being said, I think you’ll find that my relationship to music – that core connection – is a deeply personal one. There are other writers – many of whom you will find here – that are far better than I at breaking down the technical merits of an album or an artist. When I write reviews or conduct interviews, I’m at my best when I’m able to connect with an album or artist at a personal level. That is what I hope to bring to this site as well.
Speaking of personal connections, March 16, 2011 will mark the 5th Anniversary of DeadJournalist.com (DJdc). But unlike many of my colleagues who might celebrate such a milestone with a huge party or concert, I’ll be doing something a little more personal.
As luck would have it, the date of DJdc’s anniversary is exact same date that my first kid is due to be born. Not a bad way to celebrate, huh?
I’ve been struggling with what the future might hold for my site. Although it has been a labor of love for the last half-decade, it also has a significant number of stresses.
As DJdc grew from a one-man operation to one with dozens of contributors, it became more burden than creative outlet. Factor in a job that only gets more demanding each year, a marriage and now a newborn on the way, finding time to devote to DJdc has become an increasingly difficult proposition.
When I do have time to focus on the site, I tend to get caught-up in the day-to-day of trying to keep up with the Joneses of other sites. Then this whole deal loses it’s fun. It becomes a chore. And who among us relishes doing chores?
In the last few months I’ve heard from a number of other long-time music writers (I loathe the term “blogger” so you’ll not hear me use that term often) who have been struggling with the same questions about the future of their sites because of other demands on their time.
I knew I needed a break. So a few weeks ago, I stepped away from DJdc not knowing if it would be a permanent leave of absence.
I needed the time away from the site to try and figure out what exactly the future held for me. During this time, I started thinking about futurekid. The entire time my wife has been pregnant, I’ve wondered how I’m going to expose him to all the wonderful music that has come before him. I also wondered if I could continue publishing a Web site when my focus would obviously be elsewhere.
I spent a lot of time thinking about those questions with no real answers.
But then, last week, I started thinking about the joy of music. Not the bullshit of press releases, the irresponsible artists who blow off interviews, the self-created pressure of growing a site without a revue stream or time to push it ahead. No, I mean the reason why I started DJdc to begin with …
The overwhelming joy of the first time I experience new music. Not just now, but how important that has been to me my entire life. Good music. Great music. And sometimes, music so bad, it is awesome.
It’s about remembering the joy of hearing some shitty pop song come on the radio when you were nine. The joy of hearing your parents sing along with a song they remember as a kid that you’ve never heard before. The joy of buying your first album – with your own money. The excitement of sneaking off to buy an album by a band you weren’t allowed to listen to because of the content.
(Striking a nerve with you, yet?)
I have all those fantastic memories. I remember dancing in my room to The Jets. I remember listening to my dad sing-a-long with Ferlin Husky on a solid-gold Saturday night country radio program. I remember buying my first Alabama album (vinyl) with money I saved from my allowance.
Then a few years later, trying to decide between the Fat Boys or the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff for my first tape (Fat Boys won-out). I remember the joy of buying Garth Brooks’ No Fences CD after having had a CD player for two years with no CD to play in it because I was making money cutting grass in the summer.
I remember trading for Metallica’s Master of Puppets and 2 Live Crew’s Sport Weekend, Part 2 and being terrified of getting caught with them.
All those firsts that I remember just like they were yesterday. Or at least just a few years ago.
Along with the bad music, there was the good. Growing up I didn’t have cable or access to music out side of crappy commercial radio. But some how I developed a musical taste for the not-so-shitty: The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, etc.
Hell, I almost got my ass kicked in 8th grade for singing “Personal Jesus” out-loud in an art class.
I remember the feeling of rebellion and freedom the first time I bought and listened to Rage Against The Machine’s first album. As a teenager, music speaks a language unlike any other. Other peoples words and music express the passion that our still-evolving emotional development make it difficult for us to verbalize.
In high school and college, I used music as a way to work through my own issues with depression, heartbreak and frustration. As I got into my twenties, I dove into the more obscure, always looking for some band or artist that my peer group hadn’t yet discovered.
A few years later, I began deejaying for the same reasons. And because music was my catalyst for social interaction and acceptance.
As I approached 30, I started my own Web site as a way to stay in touch with the music I had been playing or writing about for others. I did this knowing full-and-well that I wouldn’t have the time to continue being out-and-about in the years to come. It was a way to stay connected.
I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t looking for my next, new musical first-time. Exploring new music is what kept me going … even when I didn’t want too.
Like Rob Gordon at the end of ‘High Fidelity’, I’m getting ready to begin writing a new chapter of my musical life. I’ll be making that metaphorical musical mixtape for someone else. I’ll be trying to fill his earliest memories with bands and artists that – I hope – he will look back on fondly.
This Summer I’ll turn 35 and my next, new musical first-time may not be about finding new music – but rather about trying to explain who I am through the artists that wrote my musical biography. And more importantly, it will be about watching futurekid have his experiences with music.
That’s what led me back to DJdc after only a week. As much as the site is about me and what I like, it’s about the communal relationship we music lovers have with each other. It’s why I find what other people are listening to and their opinions so interesting.
We all have those horrible first-time skeletons in our closets. But we also have those life-change songs in there, too. For the last five years, I’ve hoped that somewhere there’s been a kid finding out about a band or a song on DJdc that he or she hadn’t heard of before. And having that musical discovery play an important part in their life.
The next time you read a new post from me on Paper Crane Collective, I’m probably be a dad. And that kid whose taste I’ll be trying to influence?
He’ll be mine.
Chuck Norton, DeadJournalist.com