It would be too easy to wax nostalgic for nostalgic wax and just list the records that you heard first and will remember always coming out of your older brother's portable radio, the one in the perforated black pleather case. The thing had a handle and a bent antenna and ran on batteries, but around outlets, you could plug it in, and that was living. You remember it as it was, tuned to the same "underground" radio station for half a decade.
Only in hindsight can you claim critical distinctions between any of the tunes or the musicians on the playlists spun by the college DJs with the cool nicknames, and nasally, post-adolescent voices. The ones bunkered in some out of the way corner on the campus of Brown University.
As far as you cared, one tune was as laudable or as damnable as another, no matter who the performer. Perhaps with the advent of the rock press, an easily influenced adolescent (you!) started copping attitudes about geniuses and sellouts and all that nonsense, but in the halcyon days of first encounters with the underground, the song was the thing, whether it was the Beatles or Pearls Before Swine, the Byrds or Circus Maximus, Bob Dylan or Tim Buckley or Lord Buckley even.
Anybody remember the infamously snide take on the Velvet Underground? You know, everyone who bought their records must have started or joined a band, considering every other hipster band named them as a chief influence, yet no one really bought their records. (I guess the same thing could apply to the Replacements or the Pixies, except they weren’t quite so influential, and certainly not as consistently great.)
Of course a true rock snob like myself bought and devoured their five releases, ‘cept I started with 1970’s Loaded after hearing “Rock and Roll” on local college free form FM radio (Brown University’s WBRU to be exact) sometime during my teen daze, and once I spotted the first album (with the, gulp, banana cover) at the catalog-deep record shop I dug down enough into my coin and dust filled pockets to buy that, with the others soon following. (Yeah, yeah, yeah I bought backwards, but I still BOUGHT.)
Robert Hull was born in Memphis Tennessee and grew up in the 1960s a few miles from Graceland in the accurately named neighborhood of Whitehaven. He spent his adolescent days jamming with his infamous garage band, and his nights listening to Rufus Thomas on WDIA with the transistor radio pressed to his ear under his pillow.