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In which I wank about music a bit - Tactical Ninja

Oct. 21st, 2010

10:14 am - In which I wank about music a bit

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Hahaha being cranky and unreasonable and waving my Digital Bat around might actually have benefits! Mercury Energy got back to me within two hours and apologised again, having discovered that they had their 'mailing' of bills set to email them to my mother. They have fixed that now. They also suggested that I transfer the account to my name and included a list of things I'd have to do including giving details of the people living in my house and submitting to a credit check. To which I went "Um, no." The house is on the market and the power's only on so that we can charge the battery for the lawnmower till it sells. Also, don't wanna be a customer of theirs.

Oh, I read somewhere that the Swans are coming to New Zealand next March. I think there are people on here who might be interested in that. Me, not so much. Also, they look miserable in those pictures.


Whatever happened to Alternative Nation? (courtesy of thatgirljj who posted it this morning). It's part of a series and I'm bookmarking it, and will probably go back through the archive when I don't have to write an essay any more. It's long, but worth a read - it explores the explosion of grunge in the context of the time, and the 1991 one is an insightful compare/contrast between Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose.

The thing that struck me as I was reading it is the contextual nature of it - to me, Axl Rose had been around a really long time by the time Kurt Cobain came onto the scene so I found it hard to compare them. I don't see them as operating in the same field in that to me, GnR were pretty much over by the time Nirvana stepped up. I'd seen GnR live in 1988 and been disappointed - mostly because the 20 minute drum solo made up 1/3 of their show and it seemed to me that they just couldn't be arsed - maybe having no competition in the late 80s made them jaded? And I never really got interested in Nirvana - in the early 90s I was listening to Pink Floyd and Melissa Etheridge and Nirvana was what the smelly teenage boys (who I was close enough to in age to not want to be associated with) were into.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about when Axl Rose was up and coming, so I went and looked and was surprised to find that Appetite For Destruction wasn't released until 1987 when I was 17. For some reason I thought they'd been around longer than that. Sadly, they released two good albums one after the other (one in 87 and the other in 88), then their next offering, IMO, was overmastered, trite and wanky, at the same time that Nirvana released Nevermind. So I can kind of see how the rivalry was set up, but I think the comparison is a little unfair because the timing is a bit off.

I do wonder, though, if GnR had released Appetite For Destruction in 1991, what would have happened? I do believe that as about the only act that did anything rebellious in the late 80s (that actually got famous for it), GnR paved the way for grunge to be successful. And that got me thinking about my musical formative years, which were 1984-87. Who did what then? I thought about this and tried to come up with artists whose music had influence at that time, who had a big impact on music.

Confession time: I was into Duran Duran. They played bubblegum pop and were pretty and well marketed with minimal talent - they mastered the art of video earlier than a lot of other acts and thus wee teenage girls got to perv on them which took the edge off Simon LeBon's painfully nasal and vibrato-free screechings. They also didn't really influence music much, except to make those of us who were into them painfully embarrassed about 80s music for a really long time.

So, who was influential? Here's my list: Madonna, Michael Jackson, The Cure, New Order, U2. I'm sure other people can think of other bands of the 80s that were influential, but I'd just like to point out here that one of the factors I'm using for choosing is that I heard them a lot on the radio. I'm a girl from a small town (a locality, actually, a sheep-farming dot on the map) and did not have access to the magazines, record shops and cafes of city kids. What I heard was what got played on the radio. There was no internet. Radio With Pictures (local TV show about music) was NZ-indie focused and I found Karen Hay to be annoying and pretentious so I didn't watch it. So what I'm doing here isn't a retrospective, musically-knowledgeable account which acknowledges all factors, it's a one-eyed view of what music was from someone whose life was influenced by it at the time. So if you weren't alive when this stuff was going on, I won't pooh-pooh your opinion, but I would venture to suggest that your perspective of the context I'm talking about may not be complete, and may very well be influenced by the construction of information as it's filtered down at a later date.

For example, U2 are generally not well liked in the circles I move in today, it's a bit of an embarrassing admission to say you like them, and most people agree that Bono is a bit of a dick. Consequently, their music and its influence has been kind of swept under the carpet. However, before U2 became So Last Decade, before Bono tried to tell Africa that he knew what was best for them better than they did, before Live Aid (yes, such a time existed), when War, October and Boy were released, that stuff hadn't happened yet. At that time they were a raw-sounding Christian band who sung about stuff we could all relate to (or wished we could) without ramming God down our throats, and their music spoke to the whole post-punk new romantic, proto-goth desire to be tragic. And when The Unforgettable Fire was released, two things happened: their mastering got good enough to get radio airtime and the world realised that Bono was hot (yes he was - you 25-year-old now-men don't get to tell me what 14-year-old 80s girls thought). Presto! Success. International Sex Symbol!

And later on, when LIVE came out as another Christian band, they used exactly the same formula of god-angst juxtaposition combined with raw passion and it still worked.

This is not that different from what happened with Nirvana and GnR, sans the god, you know?

In mid-80s New Zealand, Dave Dobbyn (then known as DDSmash) and Herbs wrested musical influence away from the whiny white-boy indie sound of Flying Nun and put politically-minded Pacific reggae at the forefront of what was considered to be the 'Kiwi music sound'. Later bands like Salmonella Dub, Katchafire, Rhombus, Fat Freddy's Drop, all have a sound influenced by these guys, even if they don't realise it. They have horn sections. I rest my case.

Anyway, this is getting long and I don't really really know where I'm going with it. I guess I'm not embarrassed to admit I formed my musical identity in the 80s any more. And, to make this interactive, I'd like to hear what bands you feel were influential at the time when you were forming your musical identity. TELLL MEEEEE!

[edit] I'm also interested in what you liked about these bands, how they fit with the context of who you were at the time and how you think they've influenced what you listen to today.


Meanwhile, I think I'm getting better at essays. This time round, with a 1500 word cap, I only wrote 1850 for the first draft. I may have cheated by condensing about 500 words' worth into a table but hey, there's nothing in the rules says I can't do that. But yeah, cutting 350 words is heaps easier than cutting 1500 as I used to. I'm not sure if I'm writing better quality in the first draft or if I'm just getting lazy. I like to think the former...

PS Joel, can I have my prize now? x

Comments:

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From:rivet
Date:October 20th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
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I was listening to:
Duran Duran
Depeche Mode
Joy Division
New Order
Bauhaus
Love & Rockets
Souixie and the Banshees
The Cure
Pink Floyd
U2
REM
New Model Army
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
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We have significant crossover, but it seems a lot of people in my current social circle spent more time listening to the new romantic/goth/synth end of things than I did.

I could not name anything by the Bauhaus. I understand this means some people will probably never speak to me again.
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From:t_c_da
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
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I guess the formative music for me is ancient dust to you young puppies...
Frank Sinatra
Duke Ellington
Acker Bilk
Doris Day
various Trad Jazz bands...
Buddy Holly
Elvis Presley
Jacques Loussier
The Beatles (I was at Uni when they hit the scene)

You may recognise some influences on one of my offspring in that lot...
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
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My Dad really liked Acker Bilk! ;-)

most of the artists you've listed are ones that fell between my Dad's era and my Mum's - consequently while I've heard of them, they didn't get a lot of airplay in our house, kind of like 90s music doesn't in my family because I'm too old and Tommy's too young to appreciate it.
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From:t_c_da
Date:October 21st, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)
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I went off Acker Bilk after paying good money to go to a concert at the Adelaide Festival of the Arts (I lived there then) and the first half was so so, and the second half most of the band were drunk, and played like it. And by drunk, I mean 'they had trouble standing up' drunk.

His music was OK on vinyl, presumably when the band was sober...
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From:megapope
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)
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Stuff I listened to during my late teens:

Nine Inch Nails
Switch Blade Symphony*
Collide
Enigma*
U2
Faith No More
Queen

*I won't admit to these publicly even if you take a screencap of this comment. Clearly I was hacked by someone looking to defame me.

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From:syn_abounds
Date:October 21st, 2010 05:19 am (UTC)
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HAHAHA ENIGMA.
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From:megapope
Date:October 21st, 2010 05:20 am (UTC)
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NOOOOOOO WHAT IS THIS SOMEBODY HAXXORED MY LJ ACCOUNT I SWEAR YOU GUYS
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From:tatjna
Date:October 21st, 2010 05:32 am (UTC)
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You have been invaded by the Enigma virus. You must reinstall your operating system to free yourself of this scourge.

Or you could just admit to it: "Mea Culpa"

bwuahahahaha i kill me
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From:megapope
Date:October 21st, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)
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*GROAN* ;-D
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC)
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You win! The prize is in the mail, please allow 6-10 business days for delivery.

My influences in chronological order:
The Swingers (when I was like 4)
Queen (when I was like 7)
Nirvana (when I was like 11-13)
David Bowie
Rage Against the Machine
Nine Inch Nails
Depeche Mode
Massive Attack
VAST
Prodigy (when I was like 18)
LOTS OF DANCE MUSIC AND RAVING. (to present, although really things just go madly eclectic at this point)
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From:pombagira
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
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oh is that what that heavy package by the front door was that i found this morning addressed to wendy.. well golly.. wonder what is in it..

*grins*
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
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Instant Dr Wheel clone, just add water (or maybe coffee)..
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
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Muahahaha!

(I think it's more likely to be a rope light unfortunately, otherwise I'd be asking for your sources)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
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I don't think it'd be a good idea to cite my sources publically. ;-)
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:31 pm (UTC)
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I like the way you think! I've been having a lot of parallel thoughts about "Where was I? Why was my interpretation different?"

Honestly, when Nirvana hit the scene I was like "Oh look, another white rock dude. Big whoop. I'm supposed to be impressed that he has a flannel shirt and is 'sensitive'?" To me, he was significantly less revolutionary than Perry Farrell who was the only late 80's/early 90's rock god I found remotely appealing. But then I read all this stuff about other people's experiences of the music and I start to get it. I've realized how extremely rooted in Southern California I am, and that has deeply shaped my interpretation of popular music in ways I wasn't really aware of until recently.

IDK, like you, I'm rambling...
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
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Oh and for the fun of it, I'll give you my list.

The Smiths
The Cure
Siouxsie & the Banshees
U2 <- not ashamed of it either!
X
Oingo Boingo
Ministry
Depeche Mode
Bauhaus
Beck
The Pixies
Jane's Addiction
The Orb
Boards of Canada
A continuous mix of late 90's/early aughts hardcore/breakcore/noise electronic artists

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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
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Oh and Bjork/the Sugarcubes.

Damn... stop now... I could go on forever.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
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Oingo Boingo is one of those bands that I feel as if I should know if I am to have any musical integrity, but sadly I couldn't tell you anything they've done - I wasn't even aware of their existence until about 5 years ago.

It's interesting how many people are listing U2 - i guess they've been around long enough to hit 2 generations. Also, Siouxie is popping up in many places. I might have to add her.
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 21st, 2010 04:12 am (UTC)
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You shouldn't know them unless you're from LA/OC/San Diego.
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 21st, 2010 07:33 am (UTC)
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IDK... I think they're awesome, but I grew up in their particular time/moment and I've always been under the impression that they weren't all that seminal (except to folks who care about Danny Elfman's subsequent film career).

Venetian Snares is fucking awesome. As is pretty much everyone on Addict/Distort. And Ambush. And the entire Mark N/Bloody Fist crew. That right there is the soundtrack to 1998-2003 for me.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
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How can they be Radiohead clones if Nirvana had already released three albums before Radiohead's first? With Kurt dead before Radiohead could release anymore.

I personally think the mockery they made of "top of the pops" comes under the class "interesting" ;-p

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtehDIWrX5U

For those without youtube (Over the top operatic like singing, everyone pretending to play their instruments because it's all pre-recorded)

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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
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Weirdly, 1984 was when New Zealand music started to get good and bust out of its HerpDerpWe'reKiwis mould.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
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I tend to agree, actually. But there is a distinct difference between pre-mid-80s NZ music and post, and IMO it made some leaps (especially in origniality and movement away from the traditional roots of kiwi music) in that decade that paved the way for some of the better electronic (and non-electronic) music we have now.


And yes, the exceptions.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
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One day I should dig out my ramble about the connotations of Salmonella Dub for you.
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From:tyellas
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
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I heard them a lot on the radio. I'm a girl from a small town (a locality, actually, a sheep-farming dot on the map) and did not have access to the magazines, record shops and cafes of city kids. What I heard was what got played on the radio. There was no internet.

Can I quote you on this for a Nerdnite presentation I'm planning next year?

I remember, at that time, being curled up around my boom box, my finger poised over the "Record" button on the tape, when I knew one of my favorite songs was going to be on the air. My mix tapes from that era often have snippets of DJ announcements, which I find unbearably poignant now.

One musical influence I had in the 80s, along with all the Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, was that a lot of the wierder/more romantic 70s balladeers, such as Renaissance and White Bird, were still being played, too.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)
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Haha, please go ahead and quote me! I'm honoured.

Also, yes I remember the early, tape-based days of pirating too, and how hard we tried to not get talking in our mixtapes (that were actually tapes), and how the radio DJs were instructed* to talk over all the intros because they knew we were doing it and thought it would deter us.

* At least, that's what we thought anyway.

Also, Will would be horrified at the sound quality we were happy with. ;-)
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
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the sound quality of my mixtapes included lots of big "Ka-CHUNK" as the record+play buttons came down: sometimes the pause button was unreliable, or some tape decks didn't HAVE pause buttons :D and the sound quality was also... as bad as the radio reception :-/

who cared? I was usually drunk or stoned when I was making AND listening to the tapes.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
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Negative five-year-old Will completely disapproved.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
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Negative-five-year-old-Will told me that he secretly listened to Bananarama.
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From:bekitty
Date:October 21st, 2010 03:14 am (UTC)
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Oh, that was supposed to be a secret? Whoops!
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From:t_c_da
Date:October 21st, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
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talk over all the intros because they knew we were doing it

In total contrast to the BBC in the 70s...

I remember the Saturday afternoon programme with John Peel (IIRC) where they advised you at the top of each hour what they were going to be playing that hour, and then gave nice long silent gaps between the announcement and the track so you had plenty of time to get your recorder going, and another gap before the back announcement so you had time to stop cleanly. But then it was the beeb who were a total law unto themselves (and I suspect told the record companies something like "you want airtime for your latest rec'd? STFU!")
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC)
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Awww... I remember doing that too. I can still feel the texture of the "record" buttons on my fingers.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
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I don't think it's an 'at the moment' thing. I think it's a 'leftover from the olden days' thing.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 20th, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
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When you say "used to" I go "When?"

Because in the olden days, you couldn't get credit at all before you turned 18. And for my entire life, there's been a credit check involved with getting an account for power and the like.

I think in the internet age things would get a bit simpler, and these days I scoff at the idea of some company thinking my $100 a month for internet might be a credit risk (especially when they could cut me off if I didn't pay). There was a time when $100 a month would have been really hard for me to come up with.
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From:dreadbeard
Date:October 21st, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
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In literature there is a kind of notoriety that comes from being talked about without being read. (eg The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.) We are left dealing with opinions about opinions of the work, not the work, or direct opinions of the work.

Avoiding the temptation to rant at length about music, art and creative process, what I will say for Guns n Roses is they are a fascinating band, and one easily distorted and misunderstood, as mostly people have an opinion about an opinion about them, rather than an opinion about the music; or an opinion about a very incomplete sampling of their material. (For instance, when the "greatest hits" was released some years back, I noted that the tracklisting omitted virtually everything that made them interesting, relevant or dangerous, instead representing them as a radio friendly ballads plus a couple of rock tracks band.)

So my offering is to say, if you don't intimately know the tracks Locomotive, Breakdown, Coma, Human Being, Garden of Eden (heh), and, hey, why not Rocket Queen too, you should go listen to them, and read the lyrics, and think a little.
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From:bekitty
Date:October 21st, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
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My main musical influence while growing up was Pink Floyd. Specifically, the album Dark Side of the Moon, which was released the year I was born. Other influences during my childhood included Queen; Alison Moyet; the soundtrack from China Beach TV series; the Beatles; the Carpenters; Peter, Paul & Mary; the Seekers; Bob Dylan; and anything played on what was then known as Radio Windy, which later switched to MOR-format and became the Breeze. It was cool when it was Radio Windy! At least, I thought so when I was eight. :)

Later influences were mainly Kate Bush, and artists who were inspired by her. Also, They Might Be Giants figured quite highly. And bands like Crowded House and Dave Dobbyn. And even though they're very "HerpDerpWe'reKiwis", I've got a bit of a soft spot for Dalvanius Prime and the Patea Maori Club. Poi E is wonderfully cheesy, especially the video.
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From:thirstygirl
Date:October 24th, 2010 08:10 am (UTC)
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They Might be Giants
New Model Army
Rage Against the Machine
Disposable Heroes of Hiphopresy
The Kinks
Kate Bush
DD Smash- my brother had all their albums
Prince- I had all his albums (up to Diamonds and Pearls)
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