Ask any music lover "What’s the first record you ever bought?" and we’ll either turn red and look away, pretending we didn’t hear the question, or we’ll proudly tell you in an "I was cool even back then!" kind of voice.
Either way, we all remember the first record we ever bought.
When I was a kid I really loved this tune by John Denver (I’m turning red right now) and I decided to take my pittance of an allowance and drop it on the 45 rpm of "You Fill Up My Senses" at a local department store called Two Guys near Freehold, N.J., which carried a plethora of singles and albums.
On the big day, my mom drove me into Freehold and I promptly found the John Denver section, but couldn’t find "You Fill Up My Senses." I asked the dude behind the counter, a longhaired teenager with John Lennon granny glasses, where that John Denver song was and I remember he gave me a look that said, "Oh, little dude, you are headed down the wrong path, man!" but just shrugged his shoulders and told me he’d never heard of it. I left empty-handed.
When my dad, a folk guitarist who was himself into John Denver, got home from work I told him of my failed John Denver mission, and he chuckled and told me the tune was called "Annie’s Song," which Denver wrote for his then-wife.
The next day I bought my first wax, and the fact that I had to work so hard for it made it sound all the more sweet. And I still dig the tune.
This Christmas my folks bought me a turntable and gave me back all my records, which had languished in their house since the advent of CD technology. Going through the boxes, I found "Annie’s Song," and it got me thinking — what if I asked some noteworthy local musicians about their first record purchase? What insight into their souls could I glean from from the buy? Would they be proud? Embarrassed?
Here’s what some of them said.
Steve Larson, guitarist, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, solo artist: "It was Fleetwood Mac, ‘Rumours.’ I had a crush on Stevie Nicks. It was an eighttrack tape. I was 11 years old and loved every song on it. I still do."
Kevin Daly, singer-guitarist, Grave Danger: "Black Sabbath, ‘Paranoid.’ Despite owning some pop singles, this was the first purchase I made without input from older siblings. My ‘new’ friends, i.e., the local drug addicts, approved. Slumped in a dark basement, infused with ’Ludes and shoplifted wine, we played this LP until (guitarist Tony) Iommi’s inhuman licks imprinted themselves upon my DNA."
Greg Swanholm, singer-guitarist, Flathead: "I didn’t care about music enough to actually buy any records until 1981. This was shortly after I first saw the Varmints play at Ron’s Lounge in the middle of the desert at the foot of South Mountain. As a direct result of that experience, the next day I went to some record store and bought an Eddie Cochran double archive album, a Gene Vincent reissue record of his original Capitol tracks, and the Blasters’ first record on Slash. Still got ’em, still play ’em. Those records do now what they did then. They rock my ass off."
Shelby James, singer-guitarist, Shelby James and The Cryin’ Shames: "My parents took me to Toledo (Ohio) when I was 11 or 12, and I bought Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite for Destruction’ after I had heard the band on MTV. I loved it and can still sing every note verbatim. Though I don’t listen to it much anymore, I still think it is a great album."
Jim Swafford, singer-songwriter:
"The first single I ever bought was ‘Little Willy’ by the Sweet. I bought it at Smitty’s in the 45 rack for 79 cents. Pop music from the beginning, baby! My first album I think was either ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ or ‘Kiss Alive.’ "
Nicole Laurin, singer-keyboardist, Blue Fur: "The first album I ever bought was ‘Toto IV,’ by Toto. Remember ‘Rosanna’? It’s too embarrassing to think too much about today, but quite respectable back then. It went well with my Journey and Foreigner albums of the day."
Brodie Foster Hubbard, singer-songwriter: "The first album I ever bought was when I was 12 years old, a cassette of Nirvana, ‘Nevermind.’ While none of the music I support today is played on the radio, I still enjoy the music from this band and look back fondly on the memories their songs stir up."
Dan Scianna, singer-guitarist, The Sciannas: "‘Pretty Hate Machine,’ by Nine Inch Nails. I listened to that constantly in middle school. Great album."
Kim Dangerous, singer, The Sciannas: "My very first record purchase was Peter Frampton’s ‘Comes Alive’ album. I was 11 years old, and I thought it was awesome. Still holds true today."
Dan Jewell, guitarist, The Sciannas: "I bought the Beastie Boys’ ‘License to Ill’ and Run DMC’s ‘Raising Hell’ tapes when I was 6. I still listen to both and actually believe they are better hip-hop than anything coming out today."
Roy Valencia, bassist, Muddy Violets: "The first record I ever bought was in third grade, Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite for Destruction’ on vinyl. It’s all warped now, but I still have it. That was the record that made me want to play in a rock band. I still love it. I think it’s one of the best rock ’n’ roll records of all time."