As someone who likes to write it can be helpful – although sometimes it just fades away as I get carried off by whatever I am working on.
However if we slip back through the passage of time, I was very limited in what I listened to – read that as a number of soundtrack albums (Star Wars for example) and a couple of Eurhythmics vinyl’s. Nothing wrong with that at all but in comparison to a lot of my friends my musical outlook was severely stunted.
This changed when at the tender age of 16, as our exams were coming to a close and we had time to kill; rather than go to a lesson (we had finished the exam, but the teacher seemed to think we were going to want to go for extra lessons!) we slipped out of school and headed for a friend’s house.
We slipped up to his bedroom, there were three of us, and he started to play us various tunes. Him being a metal head we were subjected to Iron Maiden, this was in the mid eighties, so they were in their heyday, but it just seemed like noise to me.
Then, he picked up an album, slid the 12” out and said that it was something for me to listen to. Why he singled me out I don’t know, as I say my musical tastes were so narrow that even I did not know what they were – or maybe that was the reason.
It was something that his stepdad had left lying around and he had appropriated, and he slipped it on, telling us to listen to the words.
What came out of the speakers was something haunting, weird and different to anything I had ever heard before. The song was called ‘Steven’ and I was in love with it before the track had finished. He followed that up with a rockier number, telling us to listen. The song was quite catchy until you realised that the subject matter was necrophilia, but it was softened with a sense of humour, that musical wink to the listener. It was called ‘Cold Ethyl.’ My friend did not let up there though, he then played another track, or rather two, as they merged into one, ‘Devil’s Food’ and ‘Black Widow’ linked by a superb monologue provided in the style of Vincent Price. In the first but smaller of two faux pas I still cringe when I remember commenting that the singer had got an almost perfect impersonation of the legendary actor. A clip around the ear later I realised it really was Price.
The name of the album was ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ and the artist Alice Cooper. The other and most stunning comment of the afternoon was, “Wow, for a woman she has an awfully deep voice, I’d say it was a man if you had not told me her name....”
As far as music goes it was probably a defining moment: I can remember asking for a copy of the album a few days later. It was recorded onto tape and I listened to it none stop for days on end. I knew nothing of Alice Cooper - it was 1986 so no real internet. By blind luck I discovered he had a new album out (Constrictor), and managed to get a genuine copy of that. It was heavier than Nightmare, but I still enjoyed it.
Trips to the library allowed me to find out more about the artist and not comfortable with the whole piracy thing - especially on an album I loved so much, I managed to get an original cassette. A year later on a family holiday to America I bought a vinyl 12" A couple of years later as CD's became more and more prevalent I bought it on CD - it became, and remains the only album that I have bought on all three formats and still have.
I have always maintained that there are four albums that remain, for me, the cornerstones of all bands and artists that I have liked, loved or just listened to. And 'Welcome to My Nightmare' is the first and foremost of these.
It was not just an album that struck me as great, it did not just open me up to some new genre or something different, it opened me up to music as a whole so that everything that followed was born from that.
It introduced me to an artist who almost instantly became my favourite artist, and remains so to this day, it led me into all sorts of different areas of my life, some fun, some good, none really bad.
As far as something like music goes this was a key moment, a key album.
What were the other three in my corners, well that will be something for another time.