Houston Calling

Our Band Could Be Your Life

June 9th, 2003 · No Comments

Around 1984 or 1985, I was introduced to Black Flag’s In My Head album by a guy who moved to my high school from California. He was growing out his mohawk, I assume in an attempt to fit in a little better in suburban D/FW, Texas, and was pretty much the most interesting person at school that year. I think I got the tape from him for $5 and played it until it squeaked.

At the time, I was mostly listening to bands like Genesis, Phil Collins, Tears for Fears, Howard Jones, Depeche Mode, etc. But after hearing a few songs (and also having traded my tape of ‘Til Tuesday for a vinyl copy of R.E.M.’s Murmur to one of the”cool kids”), I quickly moved away from the popular music of the day and delved into this new music.

I have always had varied musical tastes so I didn’t find it strange that I liked Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, Husker Du, Minor Threat, and also bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, The Smiths, The Cure, The Mission UK, and Depeche Mode. I am sure some of that had to do with the skater crowd–not like Robert Smith was very conducive to skateboarding. Agent Orange was better for that. So I listened to pretty much anything that was different.

The Pretty in Pink movie soundtrack was where I discovered most of the British “new wave” bands that I still enjoy today, and I was introduced to even more new music once I went to college in 1988 and met a guy from Chicago who was into bands like Yo La Tengo, Blake Babies, and The Feelies, yet also liked Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. My eyes were opened even more.

Anyway, this weekend a friend gave me a book I had never heard of called Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 by Michael Azzerad.

I may be really behind on discovering this book, so forgive me if I am repeating things you’ve known about for a while. For those who haven’t heard of the book, it is a must-read for fans of independent or underground music. This book details the rise of bands like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, The Replacements, Beat Happening, Mudhoney, Husker Du, The Minutemen–basically all the big players from SST Records–and more.

I finished it in about a day–it’s that good of a read. Very interesting stuff.

The book stops the discussion of each band when/if they sign to a major label and also talks briefly about Nirvana and how these bands paved the way for the huge Seattle scene of the early to mid-90s.

This book is definitely a page-turner, and although at times I was disappointed to learn how shady most of the independent labels were/are and also how moronic some of the band members I respected were/are, I really enjoyed reading this book and finding out more about the U.S. music scenes that played an important part of my teenage years.

I highly recommend this book to any fan of independent music. The only bad thing about it is that it makes me want to go out and get more of the music from these bands, which I really can’t afford to do.

Click here for more information on the book.

Now Playing in My iPOD: Led Zeppelin: How The West Was Won (CD 1)

Tags: Music