My Music Influence

First and foremost, all my wide range of taste in music started from The Bangles when I was 13 years old. It was a late night in May. I had to study for an upcoming mid-term exam at my junior high school in Japan, but I couldn’t concentrate, simply because I didn’t like to study! I was bored and sneaked out of my bedroom while my parents were sleeping. When I just turned on the TV in living room…it was one of my life change experiences. The beautiful melody I never heard, the beautiful harmonic chorus by multiple foreign females I had never seen, the lyric I couldn’t understand at all, and the world I had never seen. That music video strongly caught all my senses, and I was stoned. My consciousness was back when the video was ended, and I was like, “what was it?”, “what song was it?”, “who were them?”, “what world was it?”, “what language was it?”, “what TV channel and the program was it?”. So many fresh questions were in my head with excitement. Then I was back to reality by freaking out to see half-naked, hairy man dancing like a snake on “Kiss” by Prince. I LOVE Prince a lot now, and he is one of the most talented musicians all the time. But the video was too adult and too strong to a naive and innocent 13 years old boy who even didn’t know about Prince at all! I had to turn off TV.
I couldn’t forget the female band I saw on TV. But I didn’t know both band’s and song’s names. The only thing I knew was they weren’t Japanese. Hell, there was no internet, smartphone, YouTube, even computer in the era. There was no way to search. The only info I could find was the music TV program I accidentally watched was “American Top 20”, and aired once a week at 11:00 p.m. So exactly after one week, I sneaked out of my bedroom again while my parents were sleeping (lol), that time at 11:00 p.m. sharp, and watched “American Top 20” from beginning to find out who they were and what song it was. Then there they came at #2. It was “Manic Monday” by The Bangles.

I was so impressed with the beautiful song once again. Not only the melody and vocal harmony were beautiful, I could feel more passion and technique than Japanese pop songs I had listened. Compared with “Manic Monday” and other songs I listened on Top 20, most Japanese pop songs were all same, flat, and no emotion. That was the moment I graduated from Japanese music scene.

I saved small token of my little monthly allowance, and I finally bought “Manic Monday” EP. It was the first record I had ever bought. Then I saved more money again, and I bought The Bangle’s “Different Light” album. I am very sure my mother was so surprised about her son, who out of nowhere started collecting American music! My family wasn’t a musical family, and we didn’t have many talks about music before. Many later years I found out my mother actually liked classic Rod Stewart as well. I might inherit her DNA.

Therefore, The Bangles is my never-ending idol. I was so shocked about their broke up before even having a chance to see their concert when I was in high school. I was glad about their reunion, and now I’m in the same country with them. I’ve been to all of their tours in and around NYC, and I have all of their albums. In 2014, I finally made my dream come true to get autograph directly from Vicki and Debbi Peterson, photograph together, and brief chat after their concert in Philadelphia (Susanna left early, unfortunately). I was so nervous by the long-awaited chance and words didn’t come out much!

I gained information about “foreign” rock scene by finding classmates who had similar taste. They taught me about Madonna, and I liked her songs. I still love Madonna.

Stryper changed my taste to hard rock/heavy metal on the following year. I listened to their “Calling On You” at another music channel, that time at early evening around 5:00 p.m., haha.

My high school best friend liked Bon Jovi and Guns N’ Roses, and I was eventually influenced. My taste was escalated to much heavier music, passing through Anthrax, Megadeth, and Dream Theater, and I went all the way to death and doom metal like Carcass and Paradise Lost when I was in college.

That high school friend also taught me about Rancid while I was at college, and I was hooked up with them. That was my first punk experience.

When I was at a college in upstate New York, my roommate from The Bronx taught me about hip-hop. The song was “Buck Em Down” by Black Moon. For him, it was funny to teach an Asian student a black music and culture. He even let me rap the verse! For me, it was an unforgettable moment. I even have their album on my iPhone and iPad now! This is the song my roommate taught me. Although it’s a different remix with their album, still underground.

Grunge became popular around my junior year in college, but I didn’t like grunge much, as I wrote on “Prologue: Long Way To Seattle”. For me, most of the grunge bands seemed like they didn’t value the soul, technique, and their own identity, and put importance more on how much they were depressive. Most of the grunge sounded same for me, but the music was serious. That music movement killed most of the heavy metal and hard rock band, or made them change their music style to grunge! Those bands kept their faith in metal were eventually buried down under the grunge bands.

So I started to look at other music and was interested in R&B and hip-hop. I also like blues and blues-rock without specific reason even before. I feel comfortable by listening blues melody and husky, emotional vocal.

One of my recent music sources is actually Jimmy Kimmel Live. Not only I like Jimmy Kimmel’s talk a lot, I feel he put more value and respect on music than any other talk shows. He brings many talented artists in any style to his stage, no matter they’re popular, unpopular, or start-ups. Those I bought music by watching good performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live were Andra Day, B.o.B., Ben Rector, Little Big Town, Lady GaGa soon after debuted, Sky Ferreira, etc. He even started “Mash-up Monday” and showed viewers interested chemistry of two different artists or bands. Good live performances definitely catch my attention and make me buy their music. That’s my way of respect to musicians.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much talent on playing music and singing even though I have a guitar. However, those my wide range music experiences greatly help me to enjoy any kind of good music. I don’t stick to a specific music. I don’t discriminate music. Good music is good music! Music can make us happier. Music can give us guts on life. Music can heal our pains and anger. Music makes our life richer. I would like to keep open minded to wonderful music. And I’d like to pay respect to music on this blog as well.

As a music fan, I love to go to concerts. If musicians do the better jobs on stage than albums, they’re really talented artists because they have the ability to send their emotion and skill to audiences directly. I am fortunate to be able to see many wonderful lives, but the best concerts I’ve ever been are as follows. Sorry, I can’t pick up one because both were really spectacular.

  1. The Black Crows at Fox Theater, Atlanta: Whole floors were shaking at their homecoming live for their second and my very favorite “The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion” album! Despite their quiet image, the band was entertaining all audiences with minimum stage setting. They also gave us signatures to the fans who waited outside after the concert even at the height of their career.
  2. Roberta Flack at The Blue Note, New York City: Her charisma totally knocked us out from the beginning with “Angelitos Negros” from her first album, “First Take”, at her rare appearance at New York’s legendary jazz club, The Blue Note. Then she literary killed us softly with those her songs…and let me tell you, I am not making a stupid joke. A guy respectfully shouted her “we wanna spend with you all night long” as reaching climax, and we all agreed. It was the second set of Wednesday show during her one-week concert series. The venue was half empty, but it didn’t matter. Her voice, performance, her song list, and the series of her funny talks and jokes were all perfect and ultimately down-to-earth. The venue and its atmosphere were elegant. And all of the dressed up audiences were her hardcore fans with great quality. That was the total package of a great show. It’s impossible to forget that night.