If you’re here, chances are you love music more than most people. But when did that love affair begin? That’s the question the Popdose staff asked itself not long ago, and the answers range from Air Supply to Iron Maiden. Walk down memory lane with us — and tell us what your first album was in the comments!
For some reason, my first record-shopping experiences are the ones I remember best. Maybe that’s because of the huge variety of places you could pick up a record when I was a tween during the mid-’70s, even in a one-horse town like the one where I grew up. Even the department stores (both five-and-dime and upscale) had selections of at least the top 50 singles of the week. I remember buying ”Rhinestone Cowboy” at a Sears store, only to trade it away a few months later in a fit of moralist pique because Glen Campbell had stolen Mac Davis’ wife. Hey, I was a 10-year-old in southwestern Virginia — what do you want from me?
At Christmastime in 1971, when I turned six, my brother and I had jointly received one single and two albums from our parents — a double-sided re-release of the Carpenters’ ”We’ve Only Just Begun” and ”For All We Know,” plus the Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits and the Partridge Family’s Up to Date. Those albums remain among my favorites to this day, but by spring 1975 I finally decided it was time to use my allowance to expand the collection (instead of buying one more Captain America comic book). So one Saturday my friend Stuart and I walked to the local mall and the National Record Mart, and for the first time I plunked down 79 cents of my own cash … for Elton John’s ”Philadelphia Freedom.” (Stuart came home with an ”oldies” 45 of the year-old ”Band on the Run,” with ”Helen Wheels” on the flip.) After playing the A-side a few times, I turned Elton’s single over — and heard a live version of ”I Saw Her Standing There” by some guy I’d never heard of. Who’s John Lennon? And does that ”Paul” guy he mentions — Lennon’s complete intro to the song was, ”Here’s a song by an old estranged fiancÁ© of mine named Paul” — have anything to do with that single Stuart bought?
All in all, a fairly auspicious first single purchase, I think — even if the next single I went looking for was Barry Manilow’s ”It’s a Miracle,” which I couldn’t locate anywhere (”Are you sure this isn’t what you’re looking for?” said the dolt at the local Globe Records, holding out a copy of the Jefferson Starship’s ”Miracles”). It would be a few more months before I gathered up the funds to buy a full LP, inspired by my brother’s purchase of the Bee Gees’ Main Course. My choice? Grand Funk Hits. I regret nothing! –Jon Cummings
One of the problems with being a person of a certain age is that a lot of your “firsts” happened a long time ago, and it becomes difficult to remember specific things about them. I do know that “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley was the first record that I ever bought. Yes, it was a record, a 7″ vinyl 45 rpm record, with an RCA label on it. Where I bought it, and under what circumstances, I cannot recall. What I can tell you is that the song was adapted from a song called “Plaisir d’amour” by John Paul Egide Martini (thank you, Wikipedia), and that Elvis sang it in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. The single reached #1 on the U.S. and U.K. charts, and has been certified platinum. –Ken Shane
I don’t remember anything about the movie, but I remember the music playing in the background before the movie started as if it were yesterday. It sounded so good through what in my mind had to be state-of-the-art speakers — no doubt a bit too heavy on treble and bass, but absolutely perfect nonetheless. The smooth Fender Rhodes, the muted guitars, the gentle bass slaps and those divinely synthetic chime sounds drenched in reverb descending from the sky like light snow on a deep blue afternoon in December — I remember taking it all in to the smell of freshly laid carpets and a cornucopia of exotic ’80s cologne in the movie theater. I had no idea who the artist was, but it felt like I was home in some kind of gentle and luxurious Palm Springs-like musical heaven. My young and impressionable mind wandered off into thoughts of beauty, and the movie theater turned into a felt-upholstered music studio with plastic palm trees and daiquiris, and I knew right then and there that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in that movie theater. As it turned out, the artist was Lionel Richie and the album was Can’t Slow Down (1983.) I went right out and bought the LP, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been hooked ever since.
Also, I’m still dreaming of living my life in a felt-upholstered music studio with plastic palm trees and daiquiris slapping my bass, all night long (all night). –Terje Fjelde
I’ve always been into music, and therefore everyone knew what to get me for birthdays, Christmas, or whenever my whining was too much to bear. With that in my pocket, it’s no shock that the first album I actually bought with my own money was Supertramp’s Breakfast in America. I don’t know if it’s possible to express how huge the album was, that before it was a Simpsons punchline it spawned a raft of pop and rock radio hits. You had the title track, “Goodbye Stranger,” “Take The long Way Home” and the monolithic “The Logical Song,” the “Poker Face” of its day, and completely inescapable. –Dw. Dunphy
The first 45s I ever bought with my own money were during the same trip to Woolworth when I was about five years old. I had some money from Christmas and I really wanted to buy some records. I only had enough for 45s, though, so I picked “Maneater” by Hall & Oates and “Gloria” by Laura Branigan. I was so proud to own my own records and I played them until they were unplayable.
The first vinyl LP I bought was The Bangles’ Different Light, purchased with money I got for my eighth birthday. I was obsessed with “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Manic Monday” and I had asked for the album for my birthday. I didn’t get it, but I’m pretty sure my parents just gave me money to buy it so I would have the experience of buying a record with my own money. I remember the trip to the record store vividly — my mom took me to the Peaches record store across from the mall we frequented. I found the album right away, but still walked around and looked at other things, mentally taking note of what I wanted to buy next when I had the money. I think I made my mom stay in that store for over an hour because I didn’t want to leave. I still have that album and it’s still, miraculously, in great condition.
For the record, the first cassette I bought was Madonna’s True Blue and the first CD I bought was The Cranberries’ No Need to Argue. –Kelly Stitzel
I don’t recall what my first album was, but I always say it’s The Stranger because, as an eight-year old Long Islander in 1977, it might as well have been. It was all over the place, so much so that I still remember hearing a priest on the radio complaining about “Only The Good Die Young.” Years later, a girl from my synagogue’s youth group used to claim her mother knew the real life Brenda and Eddie (there actually is a Village Green in Levittown, near my hometown). I don’t know if she was lying or not, but “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” described those characters so perfectly. These days I can understand a little more why Billy Joel was hated by the critics, but I still maintain that he’s the ultimate gateway musician, and The Stranger is a perfect example of why. It’s got a little bit of everything from rock to Tin Pan Alley to blue-eyed soul to epics, all wrapped up in a perfect Phil Ramone sheen. –Dave Lifton
My first purchase is a real good indication why ’80s pop music really gets my mojo runnin’. I think it’s better explained in song, however — if you’d all care to join in the chorus of the biggest hit from this album:
“Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma Chameleon/You come and go, you come and go (oh oh)/Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams/Red, Gold and Green. Red, Gold and Green.”
The first piece of music my allowance bought was indeed, Colour by Numbers by Culture Club. –Dave Steed
Kiss’ Destroyer. I was in fourth grade, and had just switched schools. Didn’t know a soul, eager to fit in. All the boys in my class liked Kiss. So I did, too. It’s really that simple. Peer pressure — it’s a bitch. –David Medsker
I don’t actually remember the first record I bought with my own money, but I do recall the first albums my mother bought expressly for me. It was sometime in early 1985, and I was seven years old, sitting at the table and doing my homework before dinner. My mother was a little late coming home from work, and as she walked in, she had a thin brown bag under her arm with the words “RECORD WORLD” on the front. Even at seven, seeing a bag from Record World was, like, the most exciting thing in the world for me. “I bought you some new records,” she said. The first one she pulled out was Big Bam Boom. I smiled a polite, slightly clueless smile; we didn’t have any other Hall & Oates records in the house, but my older cousin had made me a cassette copy of H2O and I guess my mother had heard me listen to “Family Man” a few times. Still, I really wasn’t excited about a new Hall & Oates record. I mean, sure it was neat, but it wasn’t rocking my world or anything.
“Oh, and I also picked up this…”
And, very slowly and deliberately, she pulled this record out of the bag:
My jaw dropped and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. “Oh wow! I didn’t know they were coming out with a new album! They look so cool! And look at Russell! He got a haircut!! Put it on put it on put it on!” Not that this is a surprise to anybody reading this, but Mom and I were big fans, and we listened to all of their records repeatedly. This record was no different. We put it on during dinner and I listened to it again and again while carefully reading all the lyrics imprinted on the sleeve. The funny thing is that out of an album with 12 tracks, there are only three on here I remember: “Just As I Am,” which reached #26, “The Power of Love,” which was a Jennifer Rush cover and eventually became a huge hit for Celine Dion, and their cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Sandy,” which I’m sure is causing many a reader to throw up at this very notion. (A moment for further nausea: I’ve never heard the original, nor do I care to.)
The Hall & Oates eventually got thrown into heavy rotation at the Hare household, especially following The Liberty Concert, but for quite a few months, it was all about Air Supply’s self-titled release.
Coming up: the story of how I managed to get laid as a teenager, despite the above story holding a very important place in my psyche. –Jason Hare
Wanna talk about inescapable? In 1979, you couldn’t take a piss without hitting a Gibb brother at the bottom of the bowl. It’s hard to imagine a band being as ubiquitous as the Bee Gees, from Main Course in ’75, through Children of the World in ’76, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in ’78, and Spirits Having Flown a year later. I had grooved to the plastic funk and blue-eyed soul of Fever, just like everyone else, and I didn’t even know what plastic funk was. I was nine, fer Chrissakes.
At that tender age, I was a Top 40 addict, and nothing on the charts sounded as thrilling or urgent as “Tragedy” or “Love You Inside Out”; nothing sounded so tender as “Too Much Heaven.” I bought the record for $5.98 at K-Mart and marveled not only at the hits, but the album tracks, as well. At least three other songs on Spirits could have been radio hits—the heartbreaking “Reaching Out,” the insistent “Search, Find,” and the mid-tempo shrieker “I’m Satisfied” all got mad spins on my parents’ record player, to my delight and their eventual chagrin.
But I kinda dug this record-buying thing and began saving my meager allowance-based income to buy more. It became something of an obsession to me, one that remains, largely unabated, to this day. The Bee Gees, meanwhile, were all but done as hitmakers—the disco backlash saw to that. For them, Spirits Having Flown was the end of a long, satisfying ride; for me, though, it was just the beginning. –Rob Smith
I remember buying Michael Jackson’s Thriller with my sister, but really I think our parents paid for it. The first cassette I ever bought on my own was Iron Maiden’s Maiden Japan. It was a five-song EP (I remember thinking it was so strange that the second side was the same as the first) and was cheaper than a regular tape. I bought it at the Rainbow Records at the local mall. It must have been in the summer between third and fourth grade or possibly fourth and fifth. My friends Shane and Scott both had the Scorpion’s Love at First Sting and I originally planned on buying that, but it wasn’t there. Something about Maiden Japan — the garish cover featuring “Eddie,” the band’s zomboid mascot, wielding a samurai sword, was just too tempting.
I bought it, and somehow I became very afraid that my parents would find issue with it. They were extremely vocal critics of the state of popular music in the early 1980s. At my first utterance of the words “heavy metal,” my father snapped off the television, shouted “We’ve got heavy metal!” sat me down and made me listen to his ancient copies of Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum and the first Mountain album. Maiden Japan stayed well hidden at the bottom of my backpack and only made an appearance at friends’ houses and the schoolyard. I wasn’t even into Iron Maiden, but their t-shirts and album covers were full of monsters and ghouls so I figured it had to be pretty cool. Unfortunately Maiden Japan was taken away from me, not by mom and dad, but by my friend’s hessian older brother who “borrowed” it. –Ben Wiser
Back in ’82, my buddy Toby Cowgill and I were all about the little yellow mouth. We were the resident Pac-Man authorities of McFarland Elementary School, quite the distinction for a couple of fourth-graders just awakening to the mysteries of women. (Our first solved case: Women gave diddly about Pac-Man.) In fact, I’m quite certain the marketing department at the Midway Company held special sessions just to discuss what to sell us next. We both had Pac-Man hats, Pac-Man notebooks, Pac-Man shirts, Pac-Man lunchboxes, compact Pac-Man home games, Pac-Man cereal, and when ABC premiered the Pac-Man cartoon, we sniffed that it lacked the depth and passion of our multi-volume Pac-Man comic-book collaboration.
Man, I had the jones so bad I even scrubbed down with a Pac-Man shaped bar of soap that left me smelling like bananas. So naturally, my first-ever music purchase was Buckner & Garcia’s Pac-Man Fever, grabbed for eight of ten allowance bucks at the local Bi-Mart. It ruled the family car tape deck for quite some time, much to my parents’ horror. I still have fond memories of long rides home from Grandma’s house, head rested against a backseat window, filling with the earnest whirs and chirps of “Ode to a Centipede.” I could almost see the little bugger glow and skitter across the empty sky, dropping, dropping, dropping. Sigh. Allegedly, my palate is more refined now, but of all the records I’ve shed in this lifetime, I’d give anything to have back the Pac. –Cory Frye
My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles (even my father’s barroom- owning Vietnam vet friend) were all so frequent with giving me LPs and 45s that it’s hard for me to recall when I actually used my own money to buy a record for the first time. But I do know this: the first piece of recorded music I bought with my own allowance money was a cassette tape. One night, The Buddy Holly Story came on the TV, and my mother encouraged me to sit down and watch it with her. I became so transfixed by the movie — and especially the music — that I ended up writing a book report on a Buddy Holly biography in fourth grade.
Not even a couple years later, I found myself pulling out some of my limited dough for Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ 20 Golden Greats, a perfect collection that sadly never made it to CD. Every single song on that tape was perfect, alluring, and sounded clear as a bell — how could this music be as old as it was? And though you’ll rarely find me saying anything negative about the Beatles, I’ve always felt that it was pointless for them to cover “Words Of Love” — pleasant as the Fab Four’s version is, it lacks the magic that makes Holly’s original version with the Crickets so special. Though on the other hand, I had no qualms with Holly’s cover of Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.”
The bias exists today, almost a quarter century after I bought that tape — Holly could do no wrong, and the world is a better place for the short time he was here. Consequently, my love of Holly’s music and the tragedy of his story continued, throughout my life, to draw me to the music and life stories of other gifted, tragic figures, among them Dennis Wilson, Minnie Riperton and Jaco Pastorius. –Michael Fortes