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What Music Means to Me

Music is something that I found out early on is important to me. I love the patterns and rhythms, the range of talents and the various styles of music. I have listened to many styles and found things I like (and dislike) about all of them. Early on, it was what are now considered oldies. Music from the fifties and sixties, big band, swing and things like that. My parents and grandparents listened to different styles within the above categories.

There was also some popular music, like disco and Motown that was added in. Then, there was the new stuff (at the time). I liked a lot of the disco and Motown, still have an admiration for some of it. But my brother and uncle were into this newer stuff, and it was fascinating. My mother was into the Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond, my uncle had The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen and my brother had Journey and Van Halen.

There were a lot more than just those, but you get the picture. Life was pretty easy going at that point. This was from some of my earliest memories (as related to music) until about 10 years old. Somewhere around here, I turned into a latchkey kid during the school year, as did most of the kids my age in that era. I had started requesting records for birthdays and Christmas or borrowing from my brother when he was around. He moved to California for a while and came back with a love of New Wave (think Duran Duran and Adam Ant).

By now, I owned some Journey, Foreigner, Loverboy, Rush and Scorpions. I would get home form school and immediately put a record on. I’d play air guitar or sing. Sometimes I’d even act like I was on stage performing. I started learning the lyrics and really getting into the act. This was a time of power ballads, love songs and fantasy worlds (Rush was a favorite…). As I hit my teenage years, I found concerts and girls and angst. Not that I really had anything to be upset about, I was just a teen looking to rebel.

This is when I found the hard stuff. Motley Crue was one of the first heavy bands I got into. There was also the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon. Then came the glam/hair stuff, like Dokken and Kix and Great White. This led to some late-night radio listening no Friday nights where I heard something that just blew me away. It was thrash metal. Metallica had one song that would be played every week, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

This was it!! I found something that sounded like I felt. Full disclosure, there was a burgeoning alcohol problem at this point. I started early and took a few quick turns for the worse. Again, the music sounded like I felt, angry and out of control. I ventured into the world of thrash and fell in love. Metallica, Megadeth, Metal Church and Anthrax were my favorites. There was other stuff as well. Venom and Accept, Helloween and Grim Reaper made a lot of appearances. WASP became a favorite.

Concerts were a must. I went to any I could. I usually went with a friend or two. We often met others who shared the same tastes. Sometimes we became friends, others we would just see each other at shows and give a head nod. I began to love the storytelling behind the songs. I really liked conceptual records like Rush, King Diamond and Pink Floyd. Darker tales and heavier music were preferred, though I did like some progressive rock/metal as well.

I was a metal elitist at this point. Well, I was sure I had the best taste in music and was willing to argue that pint with you. As life went on, I began to fall apart faster. I tried to sober up, but just wasn’t going to get there yet (though I do eventually get there!). I was collecting some interesting records by this time. I had a number of alternate color vinyl (much rarer back then) and picture discs. I had some fairly decent collectors’ items at the time.

Many of those were stolen by someone with a grudge. Others were sold or lost in various moves around the city of Dallas or when I left Texas for Arkansas. I still have a few, though… I went to Arkansas to go through a treatment center and stayed in the state to try and get my life back together. Music still played a significant role in my life. Often, the lyrics expressed what I couldn’t Feelings and emotions were tough for me. I had number them for too long and was trying to re-learn how to interpret what I was feeling. Music helped with that.

This is part of the reason that I now get really excited when I can use a few lines from a song to explain something, whether it is how I feel or what I want to say in a more eloquent fashion. I quote lyrics a lot more than a man in his 50s should, but I find it fun. I don’t spend as much time with the lyrics as I used to, but I still love a good line from a killer song. They still get stuck in my head, just like the old days.

I’ve now been sober for a really long time. Not as long as some of the old rockers, but that’s okay. It’s not a race. After sobering up, I went through a country phase. Partly because I spent a lot of time feeling kind of sad, partly because of a woman I really liked at the time. Rap and hip-hop got popular and I drifted over there a little. Ultimately, I came back to metal and really broadened my horizons.

I still love thrash, but now I listen to a lot of different types of metal and have found tons of incredible bands to listen to. I still love the thrash, progressive and power metals, but have added nu, symphonic and black metals into the mix. A few bands even blend a wild combination of those into some of the most epic metal I have had the pleasure of headbanging to on an almost daily basis. Stand still too long and I will spout off all the reasons Seven Spires is the greatest band in my personal history.

I also still like the classics. I recently ordered the 40th anniversary box set for Moving Pictures, the Rush album that really launched my love for progressive rock and metal. I’m trying to catch some of the old bands that I missed all those years ago in concert now. Music is still very important in my life. Whether I need something relaxing to take my mind off the chaos of life or something fast and frantic to get motivated, music is still there for me, even after all these years.

REO Speedwagon

A long time ago, I was already pretty into music, but had yet to experience something that I did not even know I was missing. The year is 1982 and I am in Middle School. I am fascinated with a number of things, including music and those Heavenly beings known as girls. I’m about to turn 13 and life is getting interesting. School is still a priority and everything is going pretty well. The school year has started and I have plans on going to my first concert. My brother, Kurt, is going to take me. I’m pretty sure my parents talked him into this as the show was more in line with his music than theirs.

A long time ago, I was already pretty into music, but had yet to experience something that I did not even know I was missing. The year is 1982 and I am in Middle School. I am fascinated with a number of things, including music and those Heavenly beings known as girls. I’m about to turn 13 and life is getting interesting. School is still a priority and everything is going pretty well. The school year has started and I have plans on going to my first concert. My brother, Kurt, is going to take me. I’m pretty sure my parents talked him into this as the show was more in line with his music than theirs.

The show? REO Speedwagon. Survivor is the opening act and we all want to hear Eye Of The Tiger. And for REO? Man, they’ve got a ton of hits and I’m hoping to hear them all! Riding The Storm Out, Don’t Let Him Go, Keep On Loving You… the list goes on!

September 24, 1982 at Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas was the night I found the next true great love for me. Live music. It was so loud. And there was a cool light show. The energy of the crowd was infectious. I knew I wanted to go to more concerts. I started listening more to the radio for bands coming to town. I had two concert jerseys (bought one for each band). I needed more. Those went into heavy rotation in my weekly apparel choices.

Today, I don’t really remember the set list, or any of the details of the show. I do remember how it felt. The feeling of the bass pounding in my chest. The smell of smoke in the air (in 1982, people still smoked indoors). Yes, I know some of that was marijuana, but I didn’t care. I was too engrossed in the magic on stage to be bothered by something like that. I remember the next day that my throat hurt from yelling so much and my ears were ringing for the next three days. I did not see that as a problem, then. Now, I try to protect what is left of my hearing…

Since that fateful night in 1982, I have been to a ton of shows. I don’t even know how many. I do know it is A LOT. I’ve seen hundreds of bands, some of them multiple times. I’ve seen Sevendust and TSO/Savatage 10 times, Queensryche, Iron Maiden and Metallica 6 each, but the record is a local Dallas band called Prodigy that a couple of my friends were in. I saw them at least 20 times, maybe as many as 30. I have seen some incredible shows by some of the top acts of those days and some of the newer greats (in my opinion).

I have missed some though, especially from the old days. I have been trying to make up for lost time in that respect. After Tom Petty died before I got to see him, always thinking I’d catch him on some future tour, I decided I need to catch some that I have yet to see. In the past few years, I’ve caught Fleetwood Mac and Bob Seger, Flotsam & Jetsam (a few times), and others that I did not see in the 80’s. I did catch Heart and Joan Jett, but still have not seen Pat Benatar.

What is the point of writing this, you might ask? I have recently purchased a ticket to a show in Mansfield, Massachusetts that will check two more off that list, plus bring this love of live music full circle almost exactly 40 years later. August 19, 2022, circumstances allowing, I will see Styx and Loverboy for the first time. Somehow, I never saw either of them live back in the day. Touring with them is none other than REO Speedwagon!! One month and five days short of the 40th anniversary of my first live show. How cool is that???

How I Started on this Journey

I have been into music for as long as I can remember. At times, I fancied myself a poet, even thought about a career in journalism at one point in High School, but that did not pan out. As it turns out, that requires motivation, and I had none at the time. That might have been a missed opportunity, but I doubt I would have made the most of it. Sad to admit, but it’s the truth.

That didn’t keep me from listening to tons of music though. I got involved with one band that did not make it. They were a local Dallas, TX band that had a couple of childhood friends in it. I was their “honorary” roadie. Unpaid, but I did not care about that. I ran lights for them one night at a tiny club somewhere. I don’t even remember where it was. Again, for the best that I didn’t stick that out. My addiction was getting bad at this point and I would not have been very reliable. Fortunately, I managed to find recovery not too long after this.

I moved to a state that was mostly devoid of my music. There was not a lot of Heavy Metal going through Arkansas. I could not have afforded many shows anyway. I made some, but the choices were limited. I saw Sevendust a bunch as they always came around. Caught a couple of smaller (single day) festivals and a few major touring acts. Never thought about putting my thoughts on paper. Life changed and I ended up going joining the military. That led to overseas work and a need to finish a degree, so I started working on that.

Next thing I know, I’m in Massachusetts. I graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree and I’m working full time for a contracting company. Massachusetts has a lot of concerts and I get way into them. I remember how much I missed the choices of living in Dallas, where tons of bands go through. Massachusetts is great for this. I’m back to live music and loving it. I catch a few bands that I had not seen in a long time and few I never saw. One is Flotsam & Jetsam. They have a band open for them called Dead By Wednesday.

I got pretty hooked on them and had a bunch of their CDs. I wrote them a review for fun. I don’t know if they ever posted that anywhere, but I was just glad to do it. It was not a well written review, but it was fun to do. A couple of years later, this damn pandemic hits. One day, I’m on Facebook and this lady posts a “Help Wanted” for metal review writers for a site called Metal Temple. She connected me with an editor. He took a sample of my writing and decided to take a chance on me.

Next thing I know, I’m a staff writer for Metal Temple. That started in May of 2020. Since then., I have written about 200 reviews for them, plus done a small number of interviews and a few concert reviews. I’ve also done a little for myself, but that was all older stuff that was part of my roots. Lots of 80s and 90s stuff. I still love Metal Temple and will continue to write for them, but I also want more choices. There are some records I want to review that I just do not get the chance to through them. This is not their fault. Sometimes I just don’t see the record available and someone else gets to write on it.

I still write for them and will continue to do so, because they started me on this journey and I want to honor them for that. What I write for me will be just that. Bands that I see live that need some free press, bands I discover on my own or that I buy CDs for, I will write for me. This way I get the best of both worlds. Metal Temple is my certified writing source. Metal-Zenith is my “writing for fun” place. Will it ever get to be more? I hope so one day, but for now, it is just me and my thoughts having a lot of fun talking about my favorite thing, HEAVY FREAKING METAL!!!!!

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