Joey’s Musical Autobiography: Welcome to the Jungle
By: Joey Gruszecki
(Originally posted April 10, 2012 at Flashfact.org)
Music is one of the most important things in my life. I love playing it, listening to it, talking about it etc. I am the sort of person who has music playing almost 24 hours a day, in the car, at my desk at work, at home, while I’m reading, in bed while I’m going to sleep, in the shower, in the kitchen when I’m eating… EVERYWHERE. I was the kid in high-school with headphones constantly around my neck while I complained to anyone who’d listen that the fucking 160 GB iPod wasn’t big enough, damn it! I think one of the most interesting ways to learn about someone is by what sort of music they like and when they liked it. So today begins the first installment of a continuing series all about my favorite topics: ME. I’ll be jumping around throughout my life and talking about songs, albums, bands, concerts, instruments etc. that were important to me, or have special significance to me.
So, just to annoy my dear brother Ghost Factory, I’ll be starting with an album that actually was pretty important to me now that I look back, but wouldn’t have considered it so for many years.
I think I was 9 or 10 when I first heard Guns & Roses’ debut album “Appetite for Destruction”. I remember buying it on cassette tape and laying on my stomach in the guest bedroom of my grandparents house with an old tape recorder listening to it and staring at the case. That’s something I really miss in the era of mp3s. It’s great to have the convenience of having all the music ever recorded available at any given moment, but there’s something to be said for laying in front of a shitty sound system clutching a cassette case (or record sleeve or CD case or whatever). Hundreds of people have expressed that sentiment countless times before me so I know I’m not saying anything revolutionary but it makes a bit sad that whole generations will miss out on those sorts of memories relating to listening to music. But, I digress…
I bought the Guns and Roses tape because I was just starting to get into rock music and had heard “Welcome to the Jungle” on Rock 97 (which I remember being a great station, but it was probably just another generic classic rock station, but at the time those songs were NEW to me) and loved the sound of the guitar. At this point my exposure to rock n roll music was fairly limited to 50′s and early 60′s pop and doo wop that was played on my mom’s golden oldies station (for some reason both my mother and I have always felt tremendously nostalgic for eras we weren’t alive in. What the hell is that about?) and the catalogue of “Weird Al” Yankovic. Also, just prior to the aquisition of AFD I had bought “Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC. Oddly, I don’t recall much about listening to that tape, I remember liking the title track, but I don’t think I could tell you what other songs are on it (though I bet they have something to do with rocking.) So, AFD was probably the first album I ever bought that truly rocked and I was blown away.
I remember the guitar sounding so heavy and Axl Rose said fuck a lot… FUCK, YOU GUYS! (Before you get mad, note the position of the comma.) To 10 year old Joey this was HUGE. It made the music even BETTER because I knew I’d get in trouble if I was caught listening to it. My parents were never too strict about things like swearing and violence, especially in movies (when I was 12 my mom stopped “pre-watching” movies to ensure their appropriateness for me and started requesting I watch things and tell her if she’d like them) but neither were they so relaxed that they would be ok with their 10 year old son listening to such filth. Today I’m not really sure if mom would have cared that much after all, but at the time I was sure that my dangerous contraband cassette tape would be confiscated and I would be punished severely, so I was careful to enjoy my tape surreptitiously. I remember going to school the following week and bragging to my friends how I was into Heavy Metal now. If you ask 10 year old Joey what are some heavy metal bands the list would probably look like this: Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Van Halen, Boston (I WAS TEN!) and Kiss. The point is, I was hip.
The weird thing is my infatuation with this tape was fairly short-lived. A few months later I discovered the band Yes. From then until probably the end of high school the vastmajority of the music I listened to was 1970s progressive rock. Bands like Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter Gabriel, Rush and The Moody Blues. I still listened to my classic rock radio (because that’s all there was and the rock and pop of my own generation never interested me much) and so ended up with a fairly decent knowledge of the big groups, I even started to love bands like Kiss, Aerosmith, Zeppelin, The Who, The Beatles, The Stones, Allman Bros., Skynrd, AC/DC, Tom Petty etc., but for some reason I also decided that Guns & Roses sucked. As much as prog-rock made me want to be a musician and have an appreciation for technical, complicated music it also sort of made me snobby. Anything simple and catchy and fun like GnR had to be shite. After high school I stopped being such a twat and started to listen to more variety. (Rush IS variety). Now, there are very few styles of music that I don’t enjoy.
I’m the sort of person who doesn’t just sort of into something. When I get into something I need to learn as much as possible about it and even then I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what there is to know. Then I get depressed that I’ll probably never know everything about it and so I’ll move onto the next thing so that the cycle can begin anew. So once I started to listen to more variety I learned a ton about a ton of different bands and styles of music, but for some reason I never went back to Axl and the boys to revisit Appetite for Destruction, in the back of my mind my snobbiness was still hanging on trying to convince me that GnR had to be a joke.
Today, I decided to listen to Appetite for Destruction again for the first time in probably at least 10 or 12 years… and it’s fucking awesome. These are some seriously fun, ballsy, swaggering rock tunes. I’m so glad that I got over my musical snobbery so that I can enjoy Axl Rose shrieking for someone to please take him home as much as Jon Anderson singing about being Close to the Edge and Down by the River. Musical snobbery is one of the weirdest forms of snobbery because it boils down to the concept that the sounds that are going into your ears are the incorrect ones. I’m glad I’m not like that anymore and can be that little 10 year old dork again, in awe of the singer saying fuck and the guitar rocking so fucking hard.