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Travel With Wes Nessman Through Music History

When I read David Lee Roth’s autobiography I found myself not just enjoying his stories, but remembering where I was when the stories happened.  This little expose of my musical journey might seem self-indulgent, but I think you might enjoy it from a similar perspective.

I can’t remember when I started liking music as a kid.  I can remember that I started buying singles (45’s) and playing them over and over and over.  Back in those days, the Top 40 was a mix of EVERYTHING. There would be songs from Gladys Knight and the Pips right next to Led Zeppelin.  I pretty much consumed it all.  Also, at the same time, my dad got a job as the white guy in an all black liquor distributorship (you read that right).  My dads co-workers really liked him and sent him home with bootleg Al Green eight tracks which I really enjoyed. They also sent home a LOT of Richard Pryor comedy and my dad let me listen to that as well

My jumping off point from Top 40 came when I received a really hefty allowance for one reason or another. I bought three albums “Elton John’s Greatest Hits”, “Three Dog Nights Greatest Hits” and “Alice Coopers Greatest Hits”.  I spent a little bit of time with the Three Dog Night, but it was really all Alice and Elton from there, and Alice led the charge.  Somewhere along the line someone gifted me a copy of “Abbey Road” by the Beatles and I thought it was “okay” (I was never much of a Beatles fan).  I also came across a copy of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and loved it.   I also started dabbling heavy into comedy albums from Cheech and Chong and George Carlin.  I then became a HUGE fan of Jim Croce.  Now, these days all you hear is the glossy left over singles legacy of Croce, but that was some rough and tough barrelhouse-rockin’- white-boy -shuffle -blues back in the day.  That infatuation went away when Croce’s private plane clipped a walnut tree near a runway and he was killed.

My cousin and I started listening to some odd stuff. We were really into Edgar Winters
“They Only Come Out At Night” (featuring the instrumental “Frankenstein” which is still around these days).  I also remember some Paul Simon in there and we balanced things out with some early Aerosmith.  Over at my friend Eric’s house, all we would listen to was Hendrix until ’74 when his stepdad brought us a demo copy of an album by a new group called “Bad Company”. My friend Bill and I really liked Jethro Tull and then “Kiss Alive” and Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” dropped in 1975 (along with Z.Z. Top’s “Fandango” that some weird kid down the street liked).  Let’s now move onto what I think may have been the single greatest year for rock every, 1976.  I don’t say this because it was just my favorite year, but think about all these albums coming out in one year.

In 1976 Boston’s debut came out.  Along with Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak”, Aerosmiths “Toys In The Attic”, Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive”, Bowies  “Changesone” and “Station To Station”, Bob Seger’s “Live Bullet”, Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle” , “The Best of BTO”, Skynyrds “Gimme Back My Bullets” and their live album, Ac/Dc’s “Dirty Deeds”, Ted Nugent’s “Free For All”, Kansas’s “Leftoverature”, Tom Petty’s debut, Kiss’s “Rock and Roll Over”, Jackson Brownes “The Pretender”, The Eagles “Hotel California”, Queens “A Day At The Races” (featuring Bohemian Rhapsody),  the debut from Blondie and Blue Oyster Cult’s “Agent’s of Fortune”.  There were also landmark albums that we didn’t know where landmark albums at the time like Styx “Crystal Ball”, Rush “2112”, “Wind And Wuthering” by Genesis and Judas Priest’s “Sad Wings Of Destiny”.  Now, to some of you these are just ‘names’ and they don’t mean much, but think of it this way-in Grunge, basically four  or five bands made it big.  Music could have died after 1976 and people would still be catching up (and some still are).

It’s kind of important to me to stop at this point and say that even with all of this epic music, we kept a little R & B in our diet.  These days it’s a game of who’s more metal than the last guy and blah, blah, blah. We listed to everything.  We listened to Earth Wind & Fire, The Commodores and a band that never really got too popular called “The Brass Construction”.

Shortly after the big explosion of ’76 what they called ‘corporate rock’ took over. It was all Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon and to a lesser degree Genesis and Steely Dan.  All of this may seem like a lot to take in, but keep in mind, at this point I’ve just turned 16 years old.  Tah-da!  Yep, I rocked YOUNG.

When I was going into my sophomore year I remember that we spent that whole summer listening to the Stones “Some Girls”. Some people were into the Eagles “The Long Run”. Then the first Van Halen album dropped and we pretty much crapped ourselves.  Right after it dropped, I was uprooted from sunny southern California to Texas.

My brother and I skated around Brownfield Texas listening to Journey’s “Escape” and ramping things up with the previously mentioned Van Halen along with a little AC/DC “Highway To Hell”.  Things were pretty chill until around 1980 when a friend of mine and I took a road trip back to California and bought every punk rock record we could fine.  My ‘big ones” were The Dead Kennedy’s , Adam & The Ants, The Boomtown Rats and probably my favorite album(s) of all time The Clash’s “London Calling”. I was along really fond of a band called “Oingo Boingo” (the band Danny Elfman came from, he scores all the Tim Burton movies as well as the early Batman movies, Pee Wee’s movies and so on).  Just a little later we all got into the Go-Go’s.  At the time we didn’t think they were a ‘chick band’, we thought they were a band with chicks in it (we thought that was a pretty good idea).

FMX launched in January of 1981.  In L.A. I grew up with two album rock stations  but around here it was like a bomb going off.  I convinced the program director to give me a shot and soon I was exposed to a ton of great music that was off my radar.  It wasn’t long before the New Wave hit the radio in the form of Missing Persons, Thomas Dolby and others. What a lot of people don’t remember  is that metal hit the radio simultaneously and eventually consumed New Wave.  When this happened I had graduated to the night jock position of FMX and hosted the “Midnight Metal Shop”.  I was able to play Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Queensryche and others while they were still underground.  Of course, we played the Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot, Ozzy, Dio and Priest in regular rotation, but I had the bleeding edge of metal on every night.  Now some strains of New Wave DNA were still about because MTV was poppin’ and we were hittin’ the Dire Straits, ZZ Top’s “Eliminator”, Bryan Adams tracks.   Eventually Springsteen and Van Halen with Sammy Hagar came along and took it all over.  Somewhere during this time frame I had moved up to mornings and eventually onto Austin Texas.

Austin Texas was a matter of ‘just in time’ and ‘total boredom’.  For the “just in time part’, I was missing the latter stages of hair metal ( I think the only good thing to come out of that period at all was “Guns ‘n Roses”).  This was the one time of my life I did not consume much new music at all.  I couldn’t  stand Poison, Warrant and whichever douche had their hair puffed up that week.  At the same time,  I had developed an enormous appetite for music and was stuck playing “classic rock’ on the air.  I was in Austin for 2 ½ years followed by Spokane Washington for a year.  I was then given the opportunity to come back to Lubbock as the Program Director of KFMX again.  This was right when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was poppin’.  This was when music was exciting and good again.  We tore through Pearl Jam, Green Day  and Stone Temple Pilots albums.  We cranked up the Soundgarden and Alice In Chains on the radio and it was all going well until Kurt killed himself.

After the grunge scene cooled, we kind of drifted for a while.  I still loved some of the post grunge like Bush.  Metallica came on strong and took things back over (and that is definitely not a bad thing).  I dove into anything and everything from “The Offspring”.  I really loved Rob Zombie and Manson (even thought I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a Manson album front to back). Godsmack and Staind were good company. I have been a Giant Red Hot Chili Peppers fan since “Californication”. Korn started playing a major part in my life after an EPIC Lubbock show.  Slipknot spoke to me in a way I haven’t been spoken to ever before.  I love Stone Sour and caught them twice on their last tour.  Probably the only ‘weird’ thing about my listening would be my fixation Monster Magnet, I never let that band go after Powertrip and still buy every new release they come out with.  I know  this last part seems a little rushed, but chances are if you’re reading this, you definitely lived this part alongside me.  I’m just a fan of new music. I consume music the way I eat—I slam it down and get ready for the next meal.  I have very little use for leftovers when it comes to food or music. I want something hot and fresh.

So there you are, the briefest of overviews of my listening history.  There are of course a ton of things left out. I know I spent a lot of time listening to UFO, The Ramones and Cheap Trick and they weren’t listed above, so I’m certain there are other omissions as well.  I also had/have a great love for a few rockabilly acts that doesn’t fit into the timeline.I hope a paragraph or two brought back some memories for you and more importantly I hope you will continue to make new ones with us.  Remember the ‘greatest music ever’ is whatever you’re listening to right now.

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