When I was 15 all I wanted to do, like countless other teenagers, was be in a band. So growing up, albums like Hole’s Pretty on the Inside, Rancid’s …And Out Come the Wolves, and of course the classic Nevermind by Nirvana raged on my stereo. As I got a little older, I started to be more interested in lyrics. My favourite song to this day is probably “One Week” by The Barenaked Ladies just because the lyrics are crazy mad fun. “Chickity China the Chinese chicken / you have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin” is possibly more subversive than anything Marilyn Manson ever came up with…
The rest of my music (and this is embarrassing) still revolves around the things I listened to as a teenager. Weezer, Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes, and Ozma are always on my iTunes. I probably also like Jimmy Eat World a bit more than I should. My favourite band has been Death Cab for Cutie since I first saw them live when I was 15. Although they get branded as “emo” a little too often, I’ve always liked their poetic lyrics, and the lead singer Ben Gibbard’s former side project The Postal Service also have an amazing album called Let Go which I’ll listen to obsessively for a few weeks every year.
I’ve always liked pop music and although it doesn’t make good conversation when you’re at a party with the cool kids who like obscure music, Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster is probably the most played album on my Spotify (you’ll also find Katy Perry, David Guetta and 3OH!3 on there). The one song that I never get bored of and will probably always listen to though is “Aurora” by The Foo Fighters. It’s absolutely beautiful, and if you haven’t done so already, I recommend you give it a try.
I was about ten years old when I emigrated from Sri Lanka to the UK. Even to a child with little experience of the outside world the journey seemed an endless one. And even though my memories of the long voyage west have now become clouded, the one thing that I’ll always remember is the music that I listened to along the way. I had three CDs to play on an old Sony Discman that I’d bought a few months before we left, so they ended up being played seemingly hundreds of times over – on buses, on trains, on boats and in cars.
They were all “best of” albums – cheap bootlegs bought back in my home city of Nuwara Eliya. Although the transferral of western pop music was fairly quick to Sri Lanka by this time, CDs of modern bands like Oasis and Radiohead were harder to find and much more expensive. Instead I had to make do with Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys and Johnny Cash – some of America’s great musical exports who are popular all over the world but who belong to a different generation. The back covers of the CDs often had incorrectly listed songs such as “Like Rolling Stone”, “Give Me Love To Rose” (possibly the Liverpudlian version of the song) and “Would It Be Nice?”. I learnt to love them, possibly through aural bombardment rather than actual fondness, and remember the annoyance of continually running out of batteries and having to wait until we could get some new ones.
Now if I hear any of those thirty or so songs I find it odd – it’s almost as if they’re in the wrong context or have been taken out of their proper situation and have a different meaning. They’re my songs, and to hear them in a shop, in a bar or a café, even in somebody’s room – is uncomfortable for me. Sometimes though it’s good to listen to them, good to relive the journey that took me to a new home and made me who I am today.
Arjuna de Silva
Squashed in a darkened room with a couple of thousand hyperventilating, black-clad French people, I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell I was doing. I’d just happily ordered tickets for Girls Aloud. I’d only agreed to accompany my friend to this gig in Paris because I’d been promised a trip to Disneyland the day after. I grudgingly admitted that I’d probably appreciate the ethereal melodies of Nightwish, the main band. But their support act? All I’d been told was that they were Swedish and loud. Very loud… and cheerfully named “Pain”. I was not expecting to enjoy myself.
All of a sudden the stage was bathed in eerie shades of green and blue – and two thousand French people were screaming in my ears. Some rather hairy men clutching instruments were sauntering onto the stage.
Then the music began.
My ears had never been assaulted with such noise. The drummer started pounding on his drumkit as if it had personally insulted his mother, while the three guitarists were already thrashing away, headbanging in perfect unison. Within seconds, one of the guitarists was growling into a microphone, the words absolutely incomprehensible.
And I was loving it.
In those opening seconds of Pain’s set, I was transformed. “Girls Aloud can suck it”, I remember thinking, propelled forwards by the crush of the moshpit behind me, screaming away happily with my metal horns held aloft.
I later found out Pain’s frontman had been singing “I’m Going In”. I certainly did that. Two years after that first heavy metal experience, and I have been to countless metal gigs all over Europe, becoming devoted enough to camp outside a Finnish arena for 28 hours on one occasion. I’ve gone into the world of heavy metal, and I can’t see myself coming out any time soon.
As a teenager I was, like many of my age, into those bands who are now so fervently maligned like Coldplay and Razorlight, The Killers and Franz Ferdinand. That was what we listened to. We didn’t think about being seen to be different, or listening to music that was deemed as having “cult” status. Of course they’ve all since been faced with the reactionary criticism that all successful groups face after their popularity has reached its peak. Just as we rejected Boyzone and Spice Girls, the old order inevitably gets abandoned for a decade or two. Maybe these bands that we loved were only average, and maybe they were overly concerned with record sales. But the same complaints of mediocrity and commercialism were levelled at another band that left an indelible mark on me as a teenager – The Beatles – a group now seen as an integral part of our national musical heritage.
Nevertheless, the three artists I listened to the most throughout my formative years were probably Stereophonics, U2 and Marvin Gaye, particularly his early duets with the likes of Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell. Certain periods are closely associated in my mind with particular musicians, too. The summer of 2006 was dominated by Jack Johnson and Seu Jorge, whilst “When The Night Feels My Song” by Bedouin Soundclash is practically synonymous with my last few months at school.
There are also those albums that hit you at certain moments in your life and take on a new level of meaning, becoming endowed with specific memories and emotions. For me, this is certainly the case for Befriended by The Innocence Mission and Goldfrapp’s Seventh Tree. As a whole though, these bands and individuals from my more formative years have shaped my current preferences for folk, soul and British Invasion, and will stick with me as these tastes evolve and are forgotten.