I think it must have been September 1992 when a school friend of mine handed me a beat-up C90 tape. He had borrowed some albums from his older brother and dubbed them on to the cassette. On the A side was Nevermind, by Nirvana. I don’t remember ever listening to whatever he put on the B side.
Listening to Nevermind was as close to an epiphany as anything I can recall. I’d never heard anything like it. I loved it. I played it to death. I made my own copy and played that to death. The deterioration in quality from over-played cassette to over-played cassette seemed to make no difference to me. It still sounded fantastic, vital. I still think the production is suited to radios and cassettes. The ‘sound’ as much as the songs still takes me back to that autumn.
Christmas Eve 1992, presents bought and wrapped, and we headed down the road that evening to get a Chinese takeaway. We always seemed to have Chinese takeaways on Christmas Eve. I popped in to the newsagents, just before it closed up for the holiday. I saw the front cover of Melody Maker, the weekly music newspaper. I’d never read it before, but there on the cover was Kurt Cobain. I had to buy it.
Over the next week I pored over the paper. I recognised some of the bands, R.E.M., The Cure. But most of the bands I’d never heard, didn’t know. The writing made them sound incredible. Some of them looked impossibly cool, others completely other-worldly.
1993 and I carried on buying Melody Maker, discovering new bands. Those bands would talk about other bands, or books or films or politics. It feels like 1993 was my formative year for developing my tastes and attitudes about the world, guided by a weekly music paper and the people within it.
Essentially, for better or worse, a lot of who I am can be traced back to that old C90 cassette and that first copy of Melody Maker.
20 years on and not only does 1993 still feel like a really significant year for me, but it also still feels like a great year for music. However, I can’t tell how much that year was genuinely good for music and how much that belief is rooted in nostalgia, or at least my first proper musical experiences being the most important ones.
I was on a schoolboy’s budget in 1993, so purchases that year were relatively few and far between. I relied on radio and the odd TV appearance for much of my listening. I read far more about music than I actually listened to it. As I got older and had more disposal income I did fill in some of the gaps from that year. Some are yet to be filled.
Which is suppose where this post, and potentially future posts, comes in. Across the year I plan on revisiting my favourite albums and singles from 1993 and perhaps exploring other releases I may have read about but have never actually got to hear. And, time and motivation willing, I plan on writing about some of that music, so that hopefully by the end of 2013 I’ll be in a place to properly reflect on that first year of me listening to consistently amazing music. Watch this space…