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1996 and My Musical Coming-of-Age

September 7, 2012

Growing up, I was not exposed to a wide variety of music. The local radio stations played country, except for one that played Top 40 hits (Casey Kasem’s countdown aired every Sunday evening). My parents listened to Bobby Brown and Richard Marx (my mom) and Def Leppard and Journey (my dad). Other than this one young high school teacher who made me a copy of Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes, I had no guidance, no road map for what was cool musically. I was hopelessly lost. And then… 

January 1996. I had just turned 16. I was out of school for Christmas break and stayed up late one Sunday night watching MTV. A show called 120 Minutes came on, and my life changed forever.

Matt Pinfield120 Minutes, in case you missed out, was a weekly music show that aired Sunday nights on MTV, starting at 10:00 pm. It was two hours of alternative rock videos, hosted by Matt Pinfield. Occasionally, he would have bands on the show and would interview them between videos. This ugly, gravelly-voiced guy seemed to know everything about music, and introduced me to bands that I still love to this day.

Smashing Pumpkins, Stabbing Westward, The Refreshments, Goldfinger, Veruca Salt, Belly, Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Gravity Kills, Girls Against Boys, The Verve Pipe, Blur, Cracker, Local H, Ash, Sponge, Tonic, Fiona Apple, Sneaker Pimps, Sebadoh, Fatboy Slim, Fountains of Wayne, Republica, Marilyn Manson, Leah Andreone… I had never heard music like this before. I didn’t know what to think. It all felt so grown-up, so sophisticated. No one in my school was listening to this stuff. Hell, no one in my school even knew these bands existed!

1996 was the year I fell in love with music. It was the year I started paying attention. My life has never been the same since. I still listen to all that alt-rock stuff from the mid-90s, though my palette has expanded greatly since then. But every time I queue up “6 Underground” or “What Do I Have to Do?” on my iPod, I’m instantly transported back. I’m 16, I’m wearing an oversized Tool t-shirt (because they didn’t make band shirts in girl sizes back then), and I’m feeling like someone out there understands me. The people who wrote those lyrics. The people who made that music. They understood what it was like to be 16 and trapped and frustrated with the world. They pulled me out of myself. And I owe it all to Matt Pinfield.

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