In September, 1980, I began my freshman year at Newport Catholic High School. The Internet was over a decade away and cable wouldn't come until the following spring.
You found out about cool music by word of mouth, and my Zep-loving friends were no help. Only the Jazz I discovered on WNOP and the early Prince my best friend Ernie found on WCIN saved me from a musical wasteland. But still, kids wanna rock. Enter Mark Bennison, the older brother of a friend. With record crates lining the walls and a sophisticated stereo, Mark's bedroom was a musical shrine. Mark was a cool Jockey Club veteran, and I was too intimidated to say much for fear of sounding stupid. But he was gracious about sharing music and over repeated trips to the shrine, I learned about Punk and New Wave. Never Mind The Bollocks... blew open my sheltered life like a car bomb. Its snarling mix of class politics, turbocharged fury and brutal power chords was unlike anything I'd ever heard; even the cut-and-paste cover art was exciting. I didn't have much spending money, but I bought my own copy and spent many nights with my headphones cranked, gazing at the album jacket and fantasizing I was Johnny Rotten. Other artists from that time -- The Clash and Elvis Costello -- had a more lasting effect on how I listened to, wrote and played music, but none had the immediate, visceral impact of Bollocks. Nearly 25 years later, it's still the record that changed my life.
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