Thanks, 2011, for bringing me back to classic rock.

2011 has given me a lot of cool things. These are two of them.

Spotify and Pandora

This year, I found classic rock. Again. Turns out it was right where I’d left it, tucked between my first and fourth years of undergrad, rocking out and rocking on in my absence.

Before I went to college, I had zero musical taste of my own. I picked up a little from my dad (ELO and the Eagles), added some Beatles and Ray Charles, and that was it. Then I went to uni in Pittsburgh, PA, home of the Steelers, Heinz ketchup, and WDVE: a hardcore, old school classic rock station. I don’t remember why I started listening to DVE, but I know what happened when I did: “Radar Love” by Golden Earring.

In those days, I walked around with a Walkman, always; I was porting music when it still needed tapes, man. I was tooling across this skybridge that led from the old part of the dorm to the new when “Radar Love” came on, and like wow, it changed the way I was walking, right then, the way I was feeling, and I was a fucking badass all the way down the hall, all the way to my room, and damn if that wasn’t it.

Four years of DVE: that was my musical education. The 20-minute version of “In A Gadda Da Vida.” The live version of “Life During Wartime.” Lots of the Steve Miller Band. Springsteen’s “Candy’s Room.” U2’s “Desire.” Kansas and Boston and Bad Company. Ozzie and Clapton. AC/DC and Journey. All of this stuff kind of sunk into my blood, dug its way into my ears and settled surreptitiously into my brain.

When I left school, I left DVE behind and slid over into ambient and electronica, not consciously rejecting the old white geezers but making a move towards something new. Maybe classic rock made me miss Pittsburgh, a place I mourned for for a long time. I still hang on shots of the city on Monday Night Football, lit up and lovely and full of Terrible Towels.

Whatever the reason, I stopped seeking out the rock, but it kept kicking around in my head, never really went away. Just kinda of waited like a hunter in a deer blind, waiting for me to wander back by.

Some 10+ years later, I started a PhD program and blew through six seasons of Supernatural in four months, a show that fucking revolves around classic rock, uses it as an invocation, a benediction, a punchline. So those songs, that sense of awesome that DVE left behind, shot back to life–punched me in the head and told me to come on home.

This is where two internet music services, Spotify and Pandora, come in: Spotify brought me a long playlist of music I still remembered, and Pandora reminded me of old friends or pushed new ones my way. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship with my brain happily snapped in the middle.

Music is my version of uppers and downers: I wake up to Pandora, sing along with Styx, move through the day with Spotify, terrifying passers-by with my lip-synching of “Feel Like Makin’ Love” or “Wanted: Dead of Alive,” and decompress with a Rolling Rock and the music turned up way too fucking loud, ringing in my ears, keeping all the stupid out.

So thanks, 2011, for bringing me back to the path of rock, back to awesome guitar licks and terrible lyrics and hooks that grab hold of me at 8 am and don’t let go until I try to sleep, to drift away drunk on hair metal and power ballads, on love and lust, on the 70s and 80s, on drug references and bad innuendo, until I say, for now, for then: good night.

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