Whether it came as a cassette, vinyl, mp3s, eight-track or compact disc, and whether you purchased it because your sister had it, because you had your first allowance to spend or because you were simply tired of only being able to hear that one song on that one radio station, the first collection of recordings you ever purchased was surely a fundamental part of your musical-listening career—for better or worse.
We asked 14 musicians to recall the first record they ever remember purchasing and how they see its influenced their own music.
1. Matt Helders
The Arctic Monkeys
Artist: It was a CD, probably Oasis
Album: Be Here Now
Why did you purchase this record? I probably bought Be Here Now because I had an older brother and he’d already bought everything else. So I just used to listen to his CDs. So actually, it was probably quite later on so it was probably the third record. I obviously had the first two records of Oasis as well, but like I said, I was sharing in those days.
2. Merrill Garbus
Album: Cassingle of Can’t Help Falling in Love
Why did you purchase this record? I remember having a lot of records before 1993 when this came out, but I think this may have been the first one I purchased. I must have been hearing it on the radio a lot and when I grew tired of missing the first 12 seconds dubbing it from Z100 I went to Gramophone Records in New Canaan, Conn., and spent my middle-school allowance on it.
How has it affected your own music? Why did I love this song so much? It’s when the beat drops, good god... with a sentimental opening line and then a breath of silence before that hip ‘90s beat comes in with a crash. It’s still so good. Also, this was the time in middle school when all the kids had discovered dirty dancing, i.e. dancing with one knee between the other person’s legs and this was the song the kids were doing that do. Totally hot. (For other, more popular kids of course—there was no knee between my legs until well into college.) I totally use that, “ohhhh, SHIT!” moment when the beat drops in a song… all the time. I think the horns in that song also affected me. They definitely bring it over the edge to a new level of drama and high-intensity. I suppose my middle-school self is still wanting to have these mysterious, sensual, powerful experiences through music, especially when real life isn’t always as forthcoming with such bliss.
3. Albert Hammond Sr.
Artist: Buddy Holly
Album: The “Chirping” Crickets
Why did you purchase this record? Buddy Holly was my idol. That was my influence at the time, in 1956. I dreamed of coming into the music industry. Buddy Holly was a pre-artist on his own. I believe I was 12 years old when I purchased the album. Buddy Holly was an artist who didn’t complicate chords on a song. It was so easy. I asked my barber who then taught me how to play… A-D-E.
How has it affected your own music? That was my influence in my career.
4. Ian O’Neil
Artist: Green Day
Why did you purchase this record? Probably because they had a reputation I’d heard from friends and cousins. The cover also made a statement of its own.
How has it affected your own music? The album linked punk with pop. A very useful tool.
5. Chris Chu
POP ETC (The Morning Benders)
Artist: BOYZ II MEN
Album: II (on cassette at a Blockbuster music.)
Why did you purchase this record? I remember hearing it at the listening station. It was at #1 and about 30 seconds into “Thank You” the first song on the album. I bought it, went home and listened to it nonstop. I bought it because it made me feel good. I loved their voices. I loved the melodies. I loved the heart they put into it.
How has it affected your own music? It’s difficult to answer this third part since there were so many ways…. but I think II has impacted the way I make music in a pretty profound way, mainly in the way that the voice is used. They all had such amazing voices—the main melody/hooks were always important and performed beautifully, but the harmonies and background vocals were just as important—using voices to create different textures. Harmonizing the same melody in different ways over the course of a song to bring out different colors, etc.
6. Beth Tacular
Artist: Milli Vanilli
Album: Girl You Know It’s True
Why did you purchase this record? I was devastated to find out my first album purchase was a fake.
How has it affected your own music? This impacted my future life and music in no way whatsoever.
7. Phil Moore
Artist: Jesus Jones
How has it affected your own music? It was a pretty great first album and set the tone for the rest of my music-listening times.
8. Mike Kitson
Y La Bamba
Artist: The Grateful Dead
Album: Workingman’s Dead
Why did you purchase this record? This was my first ever CD purchase after I’d saved allowance for a long time to buy my own player. I bought it because a friend of mine’s older brother had played it for us, and I really liked it. But at the time I couldn’t just burn it, and I wasn’t about to make an old-fashioned cassette copy. As a slightly rebellious 11-year-old, I also liked the cocaine reference in “Casey Jones.”
How has it affected your own music? The album is a real contrast from what people think of when they think of The Dead. It is short—only about 35 minutes and only eight songs. I recognized the power of a short, simple song with a nice story and melody. The harmonies on “High Time” are epic and so beautiful. I still shush the room and get chills during the “come in when it’s raining” climax of the song. I just realized the irony.
9. Robbie Crowell
Artist: Mad Season
Why did you purchase this record? I was a huge Alice In Chains fan, so I was curious about another band with Layne Staley on it.
How has it affected your own music? This album was great because it showed that side projects/supergroups didn’t have to be less than the sum of their parts.
10. Chris Rienne
Artist: Green Day
Why did you purchase this record? The lyrics on that album are mostly stories about messed-up people.
How has it affected your own music? It proved to me that you could write about anything you want as long as it sounds good.
11. Devin Gallagher
Artist: The Temptations
Album: The Temptations: Greatest Hits
Why did you purchase this record?
When I was four I told my mom that my favorite band was the California Raisins. My mom being the music fan that she is quickly informed me that if I liked the California Raisins, my real favorite band was The Temptations. She bought me a cassette tape of their greatest hits (this collection was all David Ruffins-era stuff), and I became obsessed. The beats made me want to dance and the songs made me feel things my four-year-old brain wasn’t yet familiar with.
How has it affected your own music? Hearing Ruffin scream and croon on “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” I pretty quickly decided I wanted to be a musician.
12. Jon Philpot
Bear In Heaven
Why did you purchase this record? Because my sister said it was cool.
How has it affected your own music? Prince is a badass. He’s a prolific songwriter, he can shred and he can dance. He invented a bar that few musicians will ever reach. It’s something to strive for.
13. Tim Oxford
Album: MTV Unplugged in New York
Why did you purchase this record? To be honest, being a younger sibling and always craving approval from my brother and his friends, I knew Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York was one he had wanted and therefore I could leverage some hangout time in exchange for a couple of spins. I ended up falling in love with this record in the process, but my brother ended up buying the album within a few weeks, and my young masterminded plan was foiled.
How has it affected your own music? Well Dave Grohl is certainly not a bad choice to be listening to at a young age for any drummer. This record sprouted my interest in Nirvana which then grew immensely and quickly. I really wanted to play like those guys. As I continued to seek approval from my older brother—who was a guitarist already—I decided that if I could play drums better than any of his friends he would inevitably have to ask me to join his band. Like many other young musicians of my generation, Dave Grohl is one of my greatest and earliest influences as a drummer, and I credit him with so much of my approach to the instrument.
14. Justin Ringle
Album: In Utero
Why did you purchase this record? I remember buying a cassette or something when I was in third grade or whatever, but in junior high I distinctly remember buying Nirvana In Utero from a kid in one of my classes, and I didn’t have any of their records at the time. You know I think he sold it to me for like $4, so I guess it was a financial concern at the time. This had to have been in 1993… that was a big deal. I thought that was really awesome. Being in the Northwest at the time, that was such a huge deal. We actually covered a song by Nirvana a few years ago which was pretty fun.
How has it affected your own music? That’s cool in this regard. That was kind of the beginning of it for me, really starting to get into music. It kind of led me to being interested in more music in the Northwest, which is all the stuff I have the most accessibility to. In a way, being interested in that got me interested in Sub Pop Records and that got me interested in K Records and Up Records and all these things that were happening in the Northwest. There used to be a weekly magazine that came out of Seattle called The Rocket and for some reason there was a record store next to my junior high school and I used to get that and read it all the time. I felt really special that I could learn about all this cool stuff going on in Seattle at the time and it certainly was the departure point for that.