I bought when I was sixteen, if I remember rightly. It may well be the first album I ever owned, but I’m not sure. It was on cassette tape and I must have played it about a hundred times. REM are the only band I can really say I have ever been anywhere near to being a fan of, although my fan-ship only extended to buying lots of their music, listening to it over and over again, and trying to learn the guitar riff for ‘Drive’ and the piano riff for ‘Nightswimming’.
Anyway, back to Automatic…I can’t even remember why I bought it. I wonder if it was because I heard some of the songs on the radio (in the days when I used to listen to late-night Radio 1), or if I’d heard someone play them at school? Maybe both. I suspect it also had something to do with me wanting to be like Bob (not his real name), who was a guitar fiend and liked REM and who I thought was cool, even though he thought I was stupid. Such is the way of things.
I hadn’t listened to the album for years until a few days ago, even though I bought it on CD a while back. I found the CD when I was going through our pile, trying to find stuff to get rid of, and downloaded it to my MP3 player to listen to on the train. As I listened to it I was taken back to my sixth form days – what strange powers music has – and of course I started thinking about myself as a sixteen-year-old.
My memories of this time of my life involve a lot of me shut away, sitting on my bedroom floor with headphones on, listening to music. I always had the headphones on, even though this meant that I had to sit on the floor so the headphones would reach the stereo, because I didn’t want anyone else to hear what I was listening to. Listening to music was, and is still sometimes, about blocking out everything else and having the music speak to me alone. It was my thing. Plus, I don’t think my parents would have appreciated the noise, and I don’t like getting into trouble.
I’ve lived another sixteen years since then, but some things haven’t changed. I still feel like an outsider, trying to fit in to the norm, trying to be like other people. As I said in another blog post, I am still not cool. I still like to shut myself away and listen to music, although the shutting-away is not always so literal these days. And, I have discovered, I still quite like REM.