Friday, November 04, 2016

Adventures in Rock: Part 1

Part 1: Opening Doors in High School

"There are things known, and things unknown, and in between are the doors" 
~ Ray Manzarek [1] 

Writing about something as subjective as music is a curious and precarious task.  So instead of attempting to create an objective list, let me talk about my personal journey and experiences in discovering rock, naive and sparse, and at times embarrassing, it may be.

Govinda is awesome and I will not apologize for it.
Born in a musically devoid home and educated in a missionary elementary school, by the time I went to high school, my knowledge, exposure, and understanding of music was accidental at best, and abysmally tasteless at worst.  My early years at Doon reverberates with the memory of the common room stereo blaring a combination of David Dhawan's Govinda "Number 1" soundtracks, some version of Now That's What I Call Music, and techno - which is what all the cool kids were listening. At one point, I could sing most of the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears discography.  Rarely did I hear anything else, particularly since we had no access to the internet or international radio stations in 1998.  MTV and Channel V, though available, had limited diversity and we did not get a TV in the dormitory till 2001, and probably only tuned in to MTV "Most Wanted" for Shenaz Treasurywala.

One of reasons 90s MTV was fun
All that changed in tenth grade.  My friends and I sneaked into the Oberoi House dormitory common room to play table tennis at 7 in the morning on a Sunday morning only to find a senior, Abhishek Singhania, listening to music at a near muted volume.  We spent the morning in quiet harmony, Singhania listening to Simon and Garfunkel and Metallica (an odd pair) and me playing table tennis.  What stayed with me from that morning was a realization of how little I knew about the world of music.
"Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters" ~ S&G
That summer I picked up a G3: Live in Concert audio cassette from the local Archies store in Dehra Dun on a whim.  I quite enjoyed listening to the distorted guitar sounds of John Petrucci (I didn't know Dream Theater then), Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani.  Admittedly, part of the appeal was hipster-ish.  Yes, I also see the irony.  Stemming from G3, I dabbled in picking up some random "rock" albums - Now That's What I Call Progressive, which had no Genesis, King Crimson, Rush, or Yes; Best of Alternative - which introduced me to Puddle of Mudd, Five For Fighting, and POD, Linkin Park, and Limp Bizkit - dark days...

Not pictured: Steve Morse (Deep Purple), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Yngwie Malmsteen,
Robert Fripp (King Crimson)...
My eleventh grade exchange program to Wanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand was the first time I found a music mentor.  Harvey, who was the house captain of my dorm aptly also named Harvey, was one of the most charismatic people I have met, and quite the ladies man (as much as a high school senior can be).  Harvey literally opened the doors to his music (he had a nice CD cabinet) and for the first time I was introduced to The Doors (again, I had not seen the Oliver Stone film at this point).  Surrounding The Doors were assorted windows to newer scenes like Incubus, Weezer, Pennywise, and the Dave Matthews Band.  But "The Doors"... man.  The extended jam  on "Light My Fire", "Soul Kitchen", "Peace Frog", and of course, "Roadhouse Blues"... I did not smoke weed but Morrison et al made me feel like I understood what it must be like.  Their 1967 eponymous debut album The Doors would be a good gateway drug.

"People are strange when you're a stranger."
Somewhere in between, my English teacher Salim Yusufji brought out Prince and the Revolution.  I was thirteen, in an all boys boarding school.  I would not be caught dead listening to a short effeminate man in frills.  My naive prejudice meant it would be several years before I would re-discover the prodigy of The Artist Formerly Known As Prince - but more on that later.

A seminal experience for me upon my return from New Zealand was getting a copy of Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  By the time I reached "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)", the last song on the album, I felt I was living on the wrong side of 1968.  This moment sparked my exploration of the 60s - 70s rock scene, what we colloquially call "classic rock" - the subject of Part 2 in this series.

"Excuse me while I kiss the sky."
Quick Fact [2]
"Rock n Roll: The Alan Freed Story": "Rock and Roll" was coined by DJ Alan Freed sometime in the late 60s.  While most people in the music industry in the US would like to forget him after the outbreak of the Payola scandal, Freed's influence and audacity brought R&B to the mainstream at a time when it was considered "black music" and shunned by the bourgeoisie, remains pivotal in the development of modern rock music.
The Father of Rock and Roll
[1] This quote is often attributed to Jim Morrison, but was actually first used by The Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek.  It is likely that the quote is influenced by a line in William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite", or Aldous Huxley's "The Doors of Perception".

[2] I will include one quick fact at the end of each part.

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