I grew up listening to music - mostly really great music - all around me. Now, I don't claim to have the parents who listened to classic jazz albums and shit like that. But I'm the youngest of five. I got all the influences. The first album that I ever learned the lyrics to - both sides - was "What's Going On" from Marvin Gaye. I'll take that. I'm almost as proud of that as making sure my daughter's first concert was Wilco - a band she loves (at age 6). And my brothers and sisters were Beatles fans, which is beyond a cliche (but helpful in the musical evolution).
Anyway, despite all of that, the first album that I ever bought with my own money - a key distinction - was the soundtrack to "American Graffiti." And I loved it. I bought it in the Bay Area while visiting my sisters on a visit from SoCal. I played it all the time. Over and over again (a listening pattern that remains today). I learned most of the songs. Even the ones I didn't like. I took it home with me on the plane. I was home for maybe five minutes when I raced across the street with it to show my best friend, Eric. I was going to play him all the great tracks.
He was in his room, with our other good friend, Pat. They had just discovered a new band and a new album, which they were cranking: Aerosmith "Rocks."
I had just become, instantly, the uncoolest of the three. I mean, you only have to hear "Back In the Saddle" once to realize you shouldn't put on "Maybe Baby" right after it. But I had the album. And though all was immediately lost as soon as I walked in, I still - mistakenly - made a play for how great it was. They didn't care. We listened to Aerosmith for an hour at least. Then I played a track or two of "American Grafitti" and suffered the unhip indignity of it all. Maybe that's why I went on to become a music critic - to always be out front, to never follow.
Anyway, here's my question: What was the first album you ever bought for yourself? And how did it affect/change you - or not?