Music has always been an important part of my life. I'm just amazed at how things have changed over the course of my life in terms of the sources of where I get music as well as the format. Back in grade school I learned about music by listening to AM radio. In high school I graduated to the FM band. I started to buy a lot of records to keep up with the hip, trendy kids. In college there was that great thing known as college radio where even more eclectic tastes were introduced. Also at this time there was a new thing called MTV which largely played junk, but there were also flashes of brilliance. Yes! They actually played music videos back in the day!
After college I fell into a wasteland of small town radio. When I lived in Yakima, WA, the station played the same artists over and over even though there was a vibrant music scene exploding in Seattle only a hundred miles away. My main outlet was MTV's "120 Minutes" which aired Sunday nights from midnight to 2 am. Things didn't get much better down in Yuma, AZ, but there was a glimmer of hope when a station from Mexico started playing unedited alternative rock. I would see a cool video on MTV with edited lyrics and then get the REAL version on the Mexican station. By the time I moved to ABQ, there were a few decent stations here. Corporate radio crept in, however, and soon everyone was playing the same junk. Fortunately there was a glimmer of hope in Santa Fe. I found a station that played a wonderful mix of indie rock mixed in with blues and folk. Unfortunately they also were eaten and digested by corporate radio. A small remnant remained, but no longer reached the 60 miles to the south. Just when things looked bleak, XM came along to provide me with yet another outlet. In terms of music formats, cd's were my main source of owning the music. I bought my first cd in 1988 and just recently made the switch over to digital downloads exclusively.
I was thinking about the change in music because I am in the process of recreating my life in the 90's through music. As I had mentioned, MTV was a major factor during this timeframe. I made many a mix tape using the audio track from the VHS recordings of 120 Minutes. Those tapes were my companions on all of the road trips I took during that time. I listened to them over and over on my many adventures. They became the soundtrack for my late 20's/early 30's. I have been having a lot of fun lately finding digital versions of those songs from that time. Many later became pop hits by groups like Nirvana or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but some were very obscure, maybe seen on MTV one or 2 times. I've even gone so far as to create a database of all of the songs on the tapes so I can keep track of what I have found and what is still missing. It's like a musical scavenger hunt.
This whole exercise has also taught me that there has been no set time that I could say had been my definitive era of music. I became aware of music with disco which then lead to new wave which then lead to alt rock. Groups that I thought sucked in high school now may have a nostalgic place in my heart. Likewise I might think, "why the heck did I like these guys so much back then?!?" It has been an interesting sonic journey. I'm still finding new stuff to listen to, which I have enjoyed. I don't pine for the old days. It will also be interesting to see what happens over the next 10-20 years. What will be the new format? Where will be the best place to hear the latest and greatest? My soundtrack will continue to evolve.