I first heard the Velvet Underground, the day after I graduated from high school. I was with Bob, and we were driving to the beach to meet up with everyone else and go on an 8 day drinking bender. Instead of weighing the car down with too many CDs, Bob and I decided to select two albums to take on the trip. I chose the first G. Love & Special Sauce album because at the time that was my jam. Bob brought along The Velvet Underground & Nico. The second track off that record is "I'm Waiting for the Man", and immediately I was struck by how groovy it was but not in a corny way, but rather it was more than music. It was an attitude. It was oozing with swagger, and this was years before I even knew what swagger was. After the song ended, Bob told me what it was about. Now, not only did I love the sound but I also loved the subject matter. To further reinforce his point, Bob then played "Heroin" for me. Eight and a half minutes of excited frailty. It runs up and down this imaginary line, and on first listen you can't tell whether it's going to keel over and die or gain momentum and dazzle with guitar clatter. It does both, and it never gets old. As that summer continued, "White Light/White Heat", "Run Run Run", "I Can't Stand It", "Sweet Jane", "Rock and Roll", and "I'm Set Free" all became close personal favorites. As I've gotten older, "Sunday Morning", "All Tomorrow's Parties", and "What Goes On" have become obsessive favorites.
Another time we were in the car, Bob played "The Gift" and that turned into an intense ride. As a story it's kind of bizarre, and the music in the song is used to soundtrack the story so all the focus is on this story about a guy who mails himself to his lady lover because he's worried that she's been sleeping around, and she has, and then one day a box arrives at her house, and the guy is inside the box, and the lady can't get the box open, so she goes and gets a sharp object, and she jams it into the side of the box, and it goes right through the guy's neck. If you think about it, it could be weirder. "The Gift" is off of the album, White Light/White Heat, which is the all time greatest road trip album. It doesn't even have to be a road trip. If you have a 50 minute drive ahead of you, then you would still be wise to put White Light on. In short, the Velvet Underground are king. They are to this writer what the Beatles are to many. Yeah, it's like that.
Months later and right before I left for college, I heard Radiohead. I actually heard them. I sat down and put the CD on. Technically, I had heard Radiohead before since radio stations play "Creep" all the time, but growing up I became somewhat numb to that song and for awhile I actually thought it was Silverchair or some other vaguely familiar early '90s alt rock band. I started listening to Radiohead because I worked with a guy named Matt, and at the time he used to say that Radiohead was his favorite band. I also had a friend named Mike who would vehemently swear that he hated Radiohead more than anything in the world, and knowing two people with such different stances made me curious and one day I finally asked Matt if I could borrow a Radiohead album. He lent me OK Computer, and that night after work I went home an listened to it. Long story short, I stayed up all night listening to the record. Over and over again it played. The next day, I told Matt what happened and asked him for more. He asked me what my favorite song on the album was, and said that my answer would dictate what album I would hear next. I told him "Airbag" because I'm a sucker for opening tracks. He said "Ok", and that night lent me The Bends. While it didn't leave a mark like OK Computer, it was still awesome to hear. The next time I saw Matt, I asked him what was next. He said that I needed to go to the store and buy Kid A and Amnesiac together. They were recorded around the same time, and Matt said that they played off of one another. He said to keep listening to them until I fully digested them. This took several months to accomplish as Kid A is one of the most spectacular pieces of recorded music in existence. No words by me could do it justice, but it's like one really long song. There are so many nuanced parts to it, and it's all so different but it still comes across as one cohesive block. I remember the day when this album first clicked. I was sitting in my room at school, and all of the sudden the light switch went up. I realized that I liked this more than anything else. This obsession last for many months after this, and the whole thing was consummated when I saw the band at Bonnaroo. Sadly, this obsession did not stand the test of time. Several factors were involved in the unravelling. First, I lost my copy of OK Computer. Seriously, I don't have a fucking clue where it is. This has always been my favorite Radiohead album, and as time passed without having it I turned my attention to other bands. I also had a pretty sweet live album, but that and a book by Hunter S. Thompson were taken a long time ago. Secondly, I can't listen to In Rainbows. I was living in this house when it came out, and my room shared a wall with another guy's room. Without getting into too much detail, this guy started dating this girl, and they spent their nights engaging in butt naked bongo sex, and being somewhat conscious of the other people in the house they would play music to counteract the noise, but this didn't really work, and at any rate what ended up happening was that every night I heard In Rainbows the fucking remix, and this was hard to swallow because to me Radiohead has never been a band synonymous with sex. With all the songs about disenfranchisement, paranoia, and robots it just wouldn't make sense. But then In Rainbows came out, and there's that one song where Thom says "you" and it's obvious that he is talking about another person and not an alien or a politician who is failing the people. So between that and losing other albums, my fervor for Radiohead has diminished considerably but I would still contend that they are the best band on the planet, in the sense that if the universe were to hold a battle of the bands competition and there were going to be bands from every planet then Earth would have to send Radiohead as our representative.
In the spring of my first year of college, I was inside of a Best Buy. I was walking aimlessly through the aisles picking up random CDs. This had been going on for the better part of an hour, but then one album caught my eye. It had been shelved improperly, and was sticking out above all the other CDs. I picked it up, and looked closely. It had one of those stickers on it that feature praise from various music outlets. Spin said this was one album that you had to own before death. The two other quotes said it was an instant classic and one of the top ten records of the '90s. I was intrigued, nonetheless. I spent the afternoon listening to it. It blew me away. I had never heard anything like it, but at the same time it was everything I had ever wanted to hear. It made everything else seem irrelevant. I loved this record, and I played it constantly until the semester ended. When I got home for the summer, I went to the store and bought the album that came out before the one I already owned. The two albums sounded kind of different, but that wasn't a bad thing. The debut album was more loose and frantic. The second album wasn't mellow or anything like that, but it seemed slightly more focused. I noticed more song lyrics on the second album, but I unwound more with the first one. At this juncture, I owned two albums by this band and I adored both of them and that was kind of it. About a year and a half later, I got the band's third album. This one was all over the place, and I listened to it with a feverish intensity. I was working as a delivery driver at the time, and every night I listened to the cassette on repeat. For five and six hours a night, it was the only thing I heard. With a paycheck one day, I bought the band's fourth album and later on, down the road I bought their final album. To this day, these albums still get played every day.
The band in question is Pavement, and to me, they are the greatest. They're not terribly well-known in lots of circles, but that doesn't change the fact that they are my favorite band. Since when did the majority know what's right, anyway? It would be lazy on my part if I let MTV, Rolling Stone, and bar jukeboxes dictate my musical preferences. Just because you get drunk at a bar, and hear a song does not mean it is the best song ever. Maybe to you, but not to me. Don't try to shove some shit down my throat. I don't ask you to listen to Pavement. I don't need you to listen to Pavement. Your validation is not necessary. I mean, if you like Pavement then awesome we could be great friends and if not then, alright. I'm not one to say what is right and what is wrong, but don't tell me I'm wrong. I'll manage just fine. I know very little, but one thing I know for damn certain is who my favorite band is. I also know that it would be mildly fruitless to try and articulate why I dig them so this will have to be ok for now. Besides, I have to save something for the book.