Punk O Rama Volume 1. That’s where it really started for me. I’ve been going back and trying to put my finger on what it was that got me so excited about music, so passionate about music, so hopeful about music and the Epitaph Records compilation – Punk O Rama Volume 1 is it.
The funny thing is, I don’t even own it. It was my best friend Mike who bought it from The Wall. Remember The Wall? That was the first record store that I went to on my own as a pre-teen. It was just into the next town, but we could walk there. Back then, we just wanted to be out of the house, on our own and even cold, blustery, wet weather wouldn’t stop us. We would run across Wantagh Parkway, hopping the divider and risking our lives to save ourselves a few minutes travel time. We couldn’t take the long way, it just took too long.
One of the things I loved about The Wall was that, if you were interested in buying a CD, they open it so you could listen to it and you didn’t have to buy it. I was always fascinated by that. It felt so wasteful and decadent. I remember buying some albums from there with “controversial” album art and hiding it from my parents. Looking back, I don’t think they would have really cared.
I’m not sure why Mike bought Punk O Rama Volume 1, maybe it was the word “punk” or the colors and album art. Although at that point, we might have recognized some bands on it. Maybe even listened to some of them. There is just something about this album that stands out to me as the moment where music seemed more important.
As soon as we played it, we were hooked. Quickly claiming our favorite bands as we poured over the liner notes. This fast, purposeful, energetic music came screaming out at us from what I remember as a small, grey, Casio radio and we were totally swept up in it. Mike, proudly stating Ten Foot Pole was his favorite band and mine was Pennywise. We were 12 or 13 years old and this music was dangerous, different and mind-blowing. I mean, think about it – finding out there was a whole world of underground music, stuff that wasn’t on the radio. That whole world opened up to us.
By the time I was in my early teens, punk, specifically bands from Epitaph Records and Fat Wreck Chords were my favorites. I had been playing the drums for a few years and really starting to hone my musical taste. The mid to late 90’s Punk music was really something special to me and to this day when I put on one of those records, it brings me right back. That is one of my favorite things about music, time travel.
Another record that really stands out to me from my youth is About Time by Pennywise. I put the album on for the first time and as the first song, “Peaceful Day”, played I felt a chill run through me and my heart ached along with the singer. I was reading every lyric as he sang and it was as if he was speaking directly to me. I sat alone in the “little room”, a small room off the side of our house, fill with books, a closet I never went in to and the house stereo. There, I kept turning up the volume on the stereo more and more with each song that played. As a new and inexperienced drummer, the machine gun snare hits on “I Won’t Have It”, had me declaring that song as my favorite, but really every song was a declaration and a revelation to my ears.
As I write this, I’m listening to both of these records right now and I hope you check them out or revisit them if you haven’t in a while. They still fill me with the same feeling of hope and excitement as they did 20 years ago.