There’s this scene in the TV-show Freaks and Geeks where Daniel, the thoroughly charismatic high-school outcast, has one of those days in which everything seems to go wrong. After getting into fights with both his mother and his girlfriend he arrives home with his newly-acquired Damaged LP. He sits on the bedroom floor with headphones on, Black Flag’s menacing punk blasting into his ears. A zoom-in on his face reveals astonishment and excitement, like he’s finally discovered something to connect to. Something to be part of, something that he had been searching for his whole life.
The idea of rock ‘n’ roll offering escapism and comfort in one’s darkest and loneliest moments in in no way new. Some might say that’s what it’s always been about. Yet I can’t help but empathize every time I see this happen to someone – be it a famous person, a total stranger, or even a fictional character. Because it makes me instantly think of my 13-year old self going through the exact same. Now look, I’ve never considered myself to be “damaged” or an outcast – I’ve always been lucky to have a loving family and supportive friends. But at the same time, I’ve always felt like something was missing. I needed something to have on my own, to give my life a purpose.
And this is exactly where Aerosmith’s drugs-‘n’-booze-soaked arrow hit me. I remember having just moved out of the town I was attending school in and getting home taking me over an hour daily. I didn’t know anybody in this new neighborhood and I wasn’t exactly Mr. Sociable either. Music became my rescue from the insufferable boredom – in the span of a few months I had moved from listening to just contemporary hits to a whole new world of Metallicas, Guns N’ Roses and AC/DCs. Mind you I was still only familiar with their hits, but my tastes began to slowly form: I gravitated towards that rocking sound, the guitars, the attitudes, the energy. Then Aerosmith came into my life and seemed to take all of those elements to a whole new, insane level.
I wish I could properly put into words exactly what made me connect so much, but I don’t think that’s possible. Using phrases such as “guitar riffs” or “musicianship” to describe their music feels like cheating because I did not think like that back then. Hell, I didn’t even know the members’ names or the albums each song belonged to. But every track I could find on the internet I would listen to obsessively until it nearly became part of me. There was not a single one that I couldn’t find something to like in. Some would make me emotional. Others would make me want to become a rockstar. All of them were there with me every single day, no matter what kind of day it had been. There was nothing I loved more than just putting the headphones on and letting everything else drown out. It felt like the whole world around me would suddenly come to life once I pressed that play button. I felt both safe and alive.
I remember one day going on YouTube to see if I can find any new songs and stumbling over a “Top 50 Aerosmith Songs” kind of thing. Not knowing anybody who was even remotely as big of a fan as I was in real life, this blew my mind. I watched the top over and over again and then proceeded to do my own. I got so obsessive with these lists that I would go back to modify them daily, whenever a new song grew on me (Nobody’s Fault was almost always #1 in case you’re wondering. And it still is.) After a while I started adding short descriptions to my choices. This evolved into longer descriptions about what their music means to me. Basically, Aerosmith were not only my gateway to music, but also to writing.
To this day, I find it hard to be objective about their songs and albums. They’re such a vital part of who I am as a person and mean so much to me after all these years that it’s nearly impossible to distance myself from that. Not that I would want to – those are still some of the memories I’m most fond of. It’s a cliché to say that one never forgets their first love, but I would say the same goes for the first band you fell in love with. Aerosmith was the one for me, but what’s your story?