. . . at Ricochet, contributor Casey marked the passing of Adam Yauch by noting that “Licensed to Ill” was the first cassette tape he ever owned and solicited answers from readers as to what their first album/cassette/CD was. I thought it was an interesting question so I figured I’d give my answers — at least to the best of my ability to do so.
I’m absolutely certain of the first album I ever owned, and think it was absolutely crucial in the formation of my musical tastes, making me a hard rock/heavy metal fanatic for many years thereafter. I was somewhere around eight or nine years old when a cousin of mine gave me an old, scratchy copy of an album that he had replaced with one in better condition and I’ll never forget the first sound to come across the speakers upon dropping the needle onto the first groove.
Master of Reality had such a dark, foreboding sound that I was endlessly fascinated with it. Before then, I’d always been a KISS fan — even though I didn’t personally own any of their records. The friends I grew up with, though, did own them and I became a rabid fan of the band and stayed that way for several years.
But, Black Sabbath introduced me to a whole different level of “heavy” that I can remember leaving me a little mystified and trepidatious at first. There was something about the macabre, gloom-laden sound that made me feel almost as though I was doing something thrillingly wrong in listening to it. I just had the sense at that moment, as a young boy whose teens were still years away, that this music was not supposed to be for someone my age. And that proved to be the catalyst for an obsession that still marks my musical tastes to this day.
As for my first cassette tape, that’s a tougher call. I went through so many in the years when they dominated the medium of audio recordings that it’s impossible to put my finger on the first one I ever purchased. Though, in all likelihood, the very first cassette I ever owned was a blank Maxell that I recorded various songs from my brother’s album collection onto — much of the material likely being similar to that found on the soundtrack to film FM. I would have had to have done it on the sly, since my brother wasn’t crazy about me messing with his stereo, but being young and not having a whole lot of cash to spend on music, I didn’t have many options beyond making mix tapes out of my brother’s vinyl collection.
As for my first CD, I’ve narrowed it down to one of two — and think I may have actually bought them both at the same time. I’d owned each one on cassette multiple times, having either lost or worn out previous copies — or loaned them out for someone to “dub”, never to be seen again. I had different reasons for choosing each CD — the first one being that it was my favorite album put out by my favorite band at the time: Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind.
My other “first CD” was chosen because I loved the actual sound on the cassette so much that I couldn’t wait to hear it in glorious digital audio. It remains one of my favorites to this day, though my copy of it disappeared years ago and I’ve never replaced it: Queensrÿche’s Rage for Order.
There you can see how the darkness of Black Sabbath made such an impact on me that it carried all the way through my pre-teen years and into the present day. Having grown up in a household that was very much a haven of country music, it was jarring to hear something so wildly different from my every previous auditory experience. Little did I know at the time just how that initial jolt would completely reshape the way I listened to music.
I guess you could say I’ve come full circle in the intervening years, as most of the metal I hear these days sounds so completely uninspired that I rarely hear anything beyond the first five chords of a song before seeking out something like the Tom T. Hall 8-track that seemed permanently affixed to the slot in the family car’s tape player.