I was thinking about the Ten Albums that Defined Your Teen Years thread that’s going around.
I am going to be a sad-ass and admit I don’t have a roster of ten albums. I listened to a lot of different music, depending on my mood. I was, to the largest extent, a pretty basic metalhead. I listened to a lot of Iron Maiden (I liked them because of all the literary references) and Metallica (I liked them because their lyrics were sharp and clever, and their frenzied “thrash” style sounded good turned up loud and was fairly likely to annoy any passing adults). I also listened to a lot of older hard rock: AC/DC, Nazareth, Slade, Black Sabbath, Motörhead. Also a lot of the classic rock that had sounded the clarion for the coming of Metal: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Cream, all of that busy, swirly, noisy, feedbacky, assertive psychedelia.
So, the record that TURNED MY WORLD UPSIDE DOWN ON ITS GODDAMN HEAD was the compilation-and-live-recording album “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death,” by American punk band “The Dead Kennedys.” I’m not sure exactly who it was, but it likely had been eitherLevi Bradis, Eric Savala, or Eli Criffield who turned me on to that album, but it struck me hard and struck me dead on. The songs resonated with the way I saw the world. The aggression in the vocals exhilarated me and energised my fighting spirit in a way that nothing else had before.
Dead Kennedys arrived in western Nebraska on a wave of interest in the music coming out of the Northwest at the time – we all got pretty heavy into The Meat Puppets around then, too, and Nirvana was a ubiquitous presence on the radio and on our subconscious.
And to be fair, I liked the Meat Puppets a lot. I loved the squawky, yowling vocals, the weird bluegrassy influences, and the absurdity of a lot of the lyrics. The Meat Puppets were a regular on the tape deck in my 1959 VW. Meat Puppets II was playing the day I literally got blown off the road. My sister and I found ourselves looking out over the trunk of my car, buried up to the emblem in a snow bank, while Curt Kirkwood howled, “….got bit by a dog with a rabid tooth/ went to her grave just a little too soon/flew away howling on the yellow moooooooon.”
Nirvana…well, they were there, a hand on the wet clay of many a vessel of my vintage. I suppose Nevermind legitimized my depression, made it feel like less of a burden, less of a freak-attack, and even like a potential for creativity. All the artistic types were mad, weren’t they. And of course Nirvana and their “grunge” compatriots represented a stylistic turning point for rock music; you can tell in a chord or two if a popular album was pressed before or after 1992.
But “Give Me Convenience” was the album that changed my tastes, energized me, gave voice to the demons of dissent that fluttered and whizzed around my subconscious. They validated my viewpoint; I felt less alone knowing this band had written and recorded and performed those songs, that other people bought the album, went to the shows, and presumably held sympathetic thoughts. I’d been political and mouthy since middle school, but DK gave me a sticking pin and a tether.