My Texan Childhood

Last week, I wrote a long-winded rant about context being more important than content, which concluded with a storytelling playlist revealing the first songs to shape my musical DNA.

Those early years introduced me to some of the greatest music of all time (#immaletyoufinish) and some horrific 80s pop (s)hits. I didn’t really think anything of this at the time, they were just ‘sounds’ – or where they?

Looking back, I realise that they were important. Had I not heard these songs, I would be a completely different person today. I’m a ‘Marmite kinda guy’ and you have my parents (or Rick Astley) to blame or thank for that.

Anyway, I write this on August 1st 2016. It was on this day 26 years ago that my musical life took a huge detour. At the time, my dad worked for Texas Instruments (remember Speak n’ Spell?) and we moved across the pond from the UK to Dallas, Texas.

This was much more significant back then. Yesterdays world was much bigger in comparison to the digitally connected world of today. We didn’t have SMS. We didn’t have email. We certainly didn’t have Facebook. We had to write letters to our friends and family (by hand!) and send them off knowing that we’d not hear back from anyone for at least two weeks. We were 20,000 light years away from home (or 5,000 miles to be precise).

On the day we moved, I don’t remember how I felt but I don’t recall it being upsetting. I didn’t have any meaningful relationships at that age so, if anything, I was excited about the new chapter.

To this day, I can still picture myself reclining in a first class seat (sure), drinking British Airways’ finest orange juice and watching Pretty Woman. I didn’t really ‘get’ the film but I knew it must have been good as my mother was crying (champagne tears) with laughter. Pretty Woman is one of my favourite films for this memory alone.

When we arrived at DF-Dubya, I remember thinking “fucking hell, it’s cold!” not realising that the airport had air conditioning (I didn’t even know what air conditioning was).

As we walked out of the airport toward our Texan future, I was hit by the August heat as the automatic doors opened and realised at that moment that my life had changed forever. I was mesmerised by everything around me and wanted to discover more. This included music.

FUN FACT: On the day we moved into our house, my dad (who smoked at the time) told us he was “dying for a fag” – making three (very) Texan removal men empty a van full of furniture at lightning speed.

In the four years that I spent in Texas, I was exposed to a wealth of musical styles and I was at an age where my mind was a sponge (not literally) soaking up every note and melody I heard.

The polished 80s pop that I left behind in the UK was quickly forgotten when I saw the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica and Guns N Roses on MTV. I’d never heard anything like it before and it sent me down a deep rabbit hole of early 90s rock – Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Faith No More, Pantera, White Zombie, Soundgarden, Melvins… I now had music that I could call my own. It was music that annoyed my parents. It was the start of my rebellious youth.

I’ll be honest though, I wasn’t just listening to rock music back then…

  • I wore my clothes backwards because of Kris Kross.
  • I rode my bicycle through the streets of Plano pretending to be a gangster because of Boyz N The Hood.
  • I wore a cowboy hat because of Achy Breaky Heart (it was Texas, give me a break).
  • I performed U Can’t Touch This in front of my bedroom mirror on a DAILY basis.
  • I played sports!

In recent years, I’ve had the pleasure of going back to Texas several times for SXSW and it always feels like home. If I could only live in one place for the rest of my life, it would be Texas.

The playlist below is a soundtrack to those four years. It may not be cool, but neither am I…

Have a nice day.