Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s in East Oakland, I did not hear or know of much music outside of R&B, Rap, Motown, and Gospel. I knew other music existed. It was a genre called, “White Music”, and I heard very little if ever any. The most Rock I came close to was Run-DMC's and Aerosmith's “Walk this Way”.
For me the soundtrack of the late 80's to early 90's was composed of artists and groups like NWA, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B & Rakim, Prince, MC Lyte, Too Short, Slick Rick, Das EFX, TLC, EPMD, Kid n Play, Heavy D, Keith Sweat, Jodeci, En Vogue, and Boys 2 Men.
This is not to claim I lived in a complete genre-depervation tank of some sort. Sometimes, while flipping through the channels with my older siblings, we would occasionally pause at MTV (when Yo MTV Raps were not playing) or VH1. Back then those rock, alternative and grunge performers/bands all seemed all at once curious and alien. It was much like catching glimpses into an entirely different world that seemed so far, far away from my own.
There are three rock videos I still remember having a really vivid impression on me the first time I saw them by coincidence. The first was, “You Could Be Mine” by Gun & Roses, had clips of the Terminator 2 film in it. I recall thinking it was pretty cool and humorous that the Terminator actually encountered the band at the end of the concert just as they were leaving the stadium.
The second was “Creep” by Stone Temple Pilots. My second-oldest brother and I sitting on the couch one afternoon. Somehow we caught the song as it was beginning and decided not to change the channel. I recall feeling it sounded like an extremely sad song. When we heard the line, “Everybody run! Bobby's got a gun”, my brother started laughing as he said, “Yeah. That's a damned good reason to start running.”
The third that left the most lasting, and powerful impression was “Sober” by Tool. I was 12 or 13, sitting on the floor in the living room with both my older brothers. They were waiting for “Yo MTV Raps” to begin, so they begrudgingly left the channel there because it was about 10 minutes to go. The video, with its bizarre, stop animation, and dark, seething music began, instantly catching our attention.
“What in hell is this?” My oldest brother inquired curiously.
“I don't know.” The second-oldest replied. “But it looks pretty fuckin crazy.”
I remember instantly being both fascinated and puzzled by “Sober”. I loved the imagery, that raw sound, and just the power it seemed to have. I use to draw monsters all the time so the actual video ignited my imagination to no end. I wanted to know who the faceless man was, what sort of world he lived in, why was there flesh moving through a pipe in the wall, and perhaps most of all, what the hell was in that box he kept peaking into? I occasionally checked MTV from time to time in hopes of seeing that video again, but I would not see such again until years later.
Once, while walking home from my 5th grade class, I came across CD lying on the sidewalk. Cassettes were still mostly my realm of experiences back then, so finding a random CD was strange in itself. So, I picked it up, of course, and if I recall correctly, it read “Whitesnake”. What a strange name. Was there a rapper or R&B group named “Whitesnake”?
I was so puzzled by the title and CD, that I brought it home to my second-oldest brother with all the urgency of an archeologist accidentally discovering alien technology. I found him in his bedroom, and handed the album to him while explaining where I found it.
“I think its rock...or metal...or some shit.” He said while casually looking it over. “Want to see what's on it?” He asked with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation.
I eagerly agreed as he placed the CD on the tray, and then pushed play. Almost immediately such a terrible, unfamiliar noise came from those speakers. To this day I am not completely certain if the CD was perhaps scratched, or if that particular band was just that horrible. Either way we threw it in the trash.