Growing up in a plaid flannel teenage wasteland

Plaid flannel grunge

Not a day went by where I wasn’t decked out in some plaid flannel

It took me almost 13 years to discover that I loved – that I lived for – music. Blame it on the fact that when I was a young child, my mom’s radio tendencies skewed toward classical music, Neil Diamond or Katrina and the Waves. Or perhaps my dad is to blame for my lack of interest in music as a child. He showed zero interest in music then, and to this day I have no idea if he prefers Dave Matthews or David Lee Roth. All I know about my father’s musical tastes is that he vomited during a Kenny G show many years ago, and for that, I am a proud daughter. 

Actually, you should more likely blame my brother for my music avoidance. As a teenager, you only knew he was in the vicinity because of The Who music that blared so loud it shook the house. Mike was obsessed. He worshipped Pete Townshend, and even though I never saw my brother doing windmills when he played guitar with his band, I’m sure his arm went full circle more than once when he practiced in the privacy of his own room.

Back then, Mike would babysit me every now and then to earn a few extra bucks. I remember one time he had people over to our house while he was supposed to be watching me. So he just locked me in the closet and blasted The Who’s You Better You Bet from his record player so his friends could hear it upstairs. I was probably only in the closet for all of 5 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Partly because of the lyrics “cut you like a knife” and partly because he’d told me the closet was infested with spiders. Ah, sibling fun. I didn’t listen to music for years.*

So, I spent my formative years developing an addiction to TV and movies, rather than music. But then something happened. I don’t know if it’s just a matter of turning 13 or if it was that my friends were talking about music more, or what. I’m pretty sure it had to do with this:

Singles movie

Once I got hooked, there was no going back. I loved it all: rap, rock, classic rock, alternative, you name it. I soaked up pretty much every musical sound I could, except for country and popular-Morning-Zoo-radio-type-R&B.

1992 was an amazing time for music. The charts featured gems like: Boys II Men’s End of the Road, Sir Mix a Lot’s Baby Got Back, Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Under the Bridge, and Guns ‘N Roses’ November Rain. Does it get any better than that?

MTV was nearing the height of its popularity; I’m fairly certain that I’ve lost more than one full day of my life to the Guns ‘N Roses November Rain video. Seriously.

And then that thing from Seattle started making its way to radio stations in Philly. Nirvana. I remember sitting in a mesmerized trance, watching the Smells Like Teen Spirit video. I remember my mom telling me to “Turn the TV off and get in the kitchen for dinner.” And then she said she “really liked those dirty looking guys and that song.” Huh. Maybe I shouldn’t have written her music tastes off quite so hastily.

The first three CD’s my dad bought me when I was a teenager were Pearl Jam’s Ten (yes!!), XTC’s Nonsuch (nice!), and the Boomerang soundtrack (um…?). Two for three isn’t bad when you’re coming of musical age, right? Whatever, I can’t lie. I still love that PM Dawn song – it’s awesome.

1992 started my love affair with Pearl Jam and all things plaid flannel. Pearl Jam is the band I’ve grown with for more than 20 years now. I’ve got tons of their albums on vinyl. I’ve bought bunches of their bootleg CD’s. I’m a member of the fan club. My Phillies and Eagles promotional gear is only rivaled by my PJ merch. I’ve gone to a lot of their concerts, and in multiple countries, no less. I can only reflect on how lucky I was to pick a band that has not only stayed intact, but has stood the test of time and continued to grow and experiment with new sounds along the way. I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t luck. Maybe my brother’s good taste and all that early exposure to The Who had a little something to do with it, too.

All I can say for certain: I’m really glad I picked Pearl Jam and not Ugly Kid Joe.

* A total exaggeration

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