[Abby’s Road] Introduction: A Trip Down Memory Lane


Editor’s Note: We’re proud to announce a new feature here on Knox Road, aptly titled “Abby’s Road”. Abby will be a continual contributor to the blog, but will be writing about something very different than what you’re used to from KR. She has an extensive depth (and breadth) of musical knowledge (as well as a music-writing background) and will impart on us her experiences with indie music and beyond. This first piece is an introduction to the music fan she came to be. Go ahead, indulge in her stories.

Where do I start, how do I begin? When did the Music Nerd caption under my image appear? When I discovered my father’s record collection? In the late-70s as I watched my mother dust the furniture like a dancer to the sounds of Tomita on the hi-fi?

I’m not a musician, but my grandfather was a big band man – a percussionist for the Ray Pearl Orchestra in his younger days. I was toddling when he handed me mallets and I banged out a tune on the xylophones in his home. It wasn’t then.

The REAL beginning of my passion for music, the true start was 1986. I was 13 and ultra-envious of friends who, unlike me, had older brothers and sisters.  Depending upon their social status, an older sibling meant having the inside scoop, hip(per) clothes and being a skip away from a cooler scene than the awkward one any garden variety, middle-schooler was used to. If cards were played correctly, it also meant a highly coveted lift to school. When my schoolmate invited me along to the cinema with her and her licensed older sister, I jumped at the chance without asking what film we were going to see.

It was early springtime. The ACT II theatre in suburban western Pennsylvania was buzzing with Saturday afternoon activity. A handful of trailers and previews were shown. The Psychedelic Furs rang out. Pretty In Pink.

I was absolutely mesmerized.

The sappy storyline was riveting. In retrospect, I know this is ridiculous (13 years old, mind you). I had never heard such lovely music…on the radio, anyway. Returning home that afternoon I decided that purchasing the soundtrack the following day was my purpose for living. I did exactly that. Full tracks by the bands whose musical snippets served as background to the doppy, misunderstood teenage misanthropes I strangely admired on the screen. Echo and the Bunnymen. New Order. The Smiths. Suzanne Vega. Joe Jackson.

I was drunk with the possibilities of what to purchase in the future. My next visit to the National Record Mart led me to Ocean Rain and Power, Corruption and Lies. The more I listened to, the more I asked for. The twenty-something Ticketmaster salesperson at the record shop provided many a suggestion. I learned who Ian Curtis was and that Ian McCullough sounded like Jim Morrison with better lyrics and cooler hair.  I discovered a radio station that played UK singles (this was a big deal in Pre-Internet America, ladies and gentlemen).

I hunted and gathered information I would utilize years later when a crap television program like Charmed had a familiar theme song, “How Soon Is Now?” in the mainstream.  I could smile to myself, knowing in an instant it was (*deep breath*) the voice of Richard Butler from The Psychedelic Furs in his newer band, Love Spit Love, singing a cover of The Smiths song written by Steven Patrick Morrissey and Johnny Marr, of Smiths fame, and (Marr) who was once in a band called Electronic with Bernard Sumner from New Order, who was once in Joy Division with Ian Curtis, who I learned about from the burnout Ticketmaster dude at NRM back in the day.

1986. The year I continued to ride the bus to school and received a foundation of musical knowledge that continues to grow, even now, and will continue to evolve until I am six feet under. Maybe longer.

10 comments to [Abby’s Road] Introduction: A Trip Down Memory Lane

  • Oh my, 13 in 1986, I think we are the same age. Something tells me Abby’s Road and Tsuru’s Road are going to criss-cross a little bit too much in the on-going series….

    For me, after a slightly embarrassing, yet later completely accepted Duran Duran phase, it was the Violent Femmes which would change everything for good.

    It has been a long road, I’m just glad I didn’t get stuck in the “music of my time” like so many people of our age did.

    Looking forward to wandering the road with you, Abby, and welcome!

    Aaron (aka Tsuru)

  • Welcome Abby!

    There is not self respecting 30-something that doesn’t relate a John Hughes moment to stirring something deep in them in response to his soundtracks. It was definitely reflected in the ripple of blog posts after his recent departure.

    Well, in true form, if we are not all “Duckie” the alternative nerd from Pretty in Pink we are all nobody. Today Duckie is considered the cool indie kid…that is how I rationalize it at least. Oh, and if you didn’t listen to UK music in the 80’s you just didn’t “get it”.

    Again, welcome to the blogger crew at Knox Road – somebody has to whip these 20-somethings into shape! Oh, no he didn’t… 😉


  • Hi Abby! SUCH great writing. I already can’t wait for more.

    I’ll be honest, I was 3 yrs old in ’86 so I feel like I fell into the aftermath of listening to some of these groups and have never ‘really gotten them’.

    But how are artists from the early 80’s any different than groups that I grew up on who were around decades before the 80’s? I GET Pet Sounds. I GET Smokey Robinson lyrics. I GET Duke Ellington and the brilliant help of Billy Strayhorn.

    So why do I struggle with groups that you have grown up on? I look forward to more answers and suggestions that may help me find out why :)


    @Calmstock Reply:

    I wonder if the meteoric rise of pop culture through the media in the 80s ties the music of that period TO that decade in a way unlike any other. In other words, it’s kinda the ultimate “you had to be there” music.

    The music, the movies, the malls, MTV, etc we’re all part of one big (haired) experience. That said, stuff like Joy Division and Talking Heads has proven to be pretty timeless IMO..

  • 3lended 7wice

    hells yeah! new member!! i cant believe i even found this blog, i mean i live in bal’mor with many friends down at CP, but i think it was a link to MGMT members college supervalcano song that brought me here, and i read like ten reviews and bookmarked it. now its getting mad props.

  • Great post. I think that’s the ultimate combo: instruments around the house to peak your curiosity as a child, and an older sibling to blow your mind when you’re a bit older. In my case, I was banging away on our upright piano and my sister’s acoustic by the time I could crawl. Probably struck my first power chord while in Kindergarten! And then I’ll never forget the day my older sister asked if I would turn off the TV so she could play her new records: Van Halen I and Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. Mind blown? Check. I’ve since stolen both LPs and they sit on my shelf not 5 feet from where I write this. Thanks sis! (and thanks for making me the first kid on my block to know the Grateful Dead were NOT a heavy metal band).

  • I loved reading this! I was one of the kids fortunate enough to have an older sister in the 1980s. I think it was ’82 or ’83 (I was 4) when I first remember being drawn to music and (at least in hindsight) realizing my taste was a little different than what was popular. My sister was very into the music of the time…Olivia Newton John, Madonna, Culture Club, etc. All of which I liked, but there was one song I asked her to play over and over…”Don’t Fear The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, which was on some “’70s Gold” compilation vinyl LP my sis had (as I recall, the LP oddly had it before a John Denver tune). That’s the song that set me apart from my generation, the song that I was the only student to recognize when my 7th grade music teacher attempted to introduce the class to classic rock. And like you with the Charmed theme, I knew it the song long before SNL’s “More Cowbell” skit put back into the public consciousness. A word of advice, though, it’s not a good ringtone to have when attending a funeral. I learned that the hard way!

  • Wow! I’m just now getting over here to welcome you, Abby. Apologies for my tardiness! Yes, whip these boys into shape, thanks, I’ve tried some from afar. I’m sure you can work some magic being closer to the scene of the crimes, ha!

    I’m, per usual, the old woman in the crowd (feeling younger than most of you, I’ll have you know!) and I was 22 in 1986. So Pretty in Pink was a cute movie about highschool kids that caused our gang to reminisce a bit, but the MUSIC!, fuck yeah… we bought the records, we danced to it all in the clubs, we soaked that up. As in every Hollywood production, the story is all prettied up (pun intended) but the music is raw and sordid and you just can’t always take it away from it’s source so completely.

    So, for me, 1986 was all about The Smiths, “The Queen Is Dead” and Talking Heads, and lots of growth in goth and the beginning of rap really hitting the mainstream (The Beastie Boys debuted “Licensed to Ill” the end of that year). We heard all that in the clubs here in Chicago, they played a mix of everything back then.

    Funnily enough, I think my 13 year old moment was about the Beatles (go ahead and laugh, I’m blushing here) it was 1977 and yeah, they were still a band. But I clearly remember when I turned that corner and could pick out which songs were predominately sung by John and which by Paul or the few by George or Ringo. It got much worse even… who helped produce artists like James Taylor or Badfinger? Of course I knew it was the Beatles, … I was such a smug little 13 year old.

    Keep this up, I wanna hear more! xox

  • Brody

    Hell Ya Abby…..NRM…the mall! the age of hair, JOhn Hughes moments….love it…..can’t wait to see what comes next….

  • Nice article Abby! A lot of your background sounds familiar…downright Eerie and I don’t mean Erie P.A. I had an ex father in law who was a big band aficianado and HE had a music room containing a marimba and trap set! In fact, one of my ex wife’s neices was named Abby. Her family came to Boston to visit us once. Small world, or as Mr. Lynch might say: parallel universe. BTW – I still love the Smiths and EandTBM although I’m mostly listening to Clairevoyant, Peter Murphy, and Cranes these days.