Great Musicians on the Concerts That Inspired Them to Make Music


If you aren’t already, it’s time to follow The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle on Tumblr — his blog is as witty and entertaining as one might expect, and he updates it fairly frequently. In particular, it was interesting to see him recently post a photo of a very young version of himself at a Nick Cave show. It turns out he’s quite the Cave fan, and that seeing The Bad Seeds play on the tour in question was quite the formative experience on both Darnielle himself and on his nascent musical project. He’s not the first musician to be inspired to form a band after seeing a hero play live, of course — so here are some other recollections of great musical revelations.

John Darnielle: Nick Cave

“Nick Cave released his first solo album shortly after [my friends and I] had gotten into [The Birthday Party], and we all drove out to Pasadena to see him live. I got major religion about it.” [via]

The Clash: The Sex Pistols

Mick Jones: “You knew straight away that was it, and this was what it was going to be like from now on. It was a new scene, new values — so different from what had happened before. A bit dangerous.” Other bands formed after seeing the Pistols include X-Ray Spex, Joy Division, and, er, Simply Red. [via]

Iggy Pop: Chicago bluesmen

“They had a rhythm, and they had a childishness; they had a childishness and they had a timelessness in their music, they had a sense, they weren’t… I found the whites to be stiff and pedantic, and boring and disgusting and fat-assed and yeahhck! You know what I mean, [they] made me just want to retch. Whereas the blacks were like wow, everything was happy, you know what I mean, and boy, when things weren’t happy… oooh-la-la-la! Were things unhappy. And it was great! Things were exciting and they didn’t care about, you know what I mean, they didn’t look at you and ask you like… I don’t know, they weren’t all business. I was in heaven [in Chicago.] Sometimes I slept in this little crack… in the sewage treatment plant, across from the Marina Towers. Nobody knew I was there. Nobody ever found out, it was like outdoors. Sometimes I slept in the basement of a record store called Delmark Records on West Grande.” [via]

The Beastie Boys: Black Flag

Mike D: “Adam [Yauch] taught me the ropes – how to make my own [punk-band] badges, how to fake [hand] stamps to get into shows. And after he, [original Beastie Boys guitarist] John Barry and I saw Black Flag at the Peppermint Lounge, Yauch said, ‘We’re starting a band, and you two guys are in it.'” [via]

Matmos: The Rolling Stones

Drew Daniel: “I do remember Mick Jagger’s constant vamping and clowning, and I remember liking how exaggerated and theatrical he was. In one memorable moment he donned the shoulderpads of an American football player and jogged in place, then grabbed a purse and swung it around and around in an extremely camp, ultra-queeny manner, deliberately fucking with us hicks. The crowd loved it, and that really got my attention.”

Dave Grohl: Robert Plant

“I was probably about 15 years old, and it was really foreign to me because up until then I’d only ever seen local bands in clubs and halls. Everything was so much bigger, and I noticed straight away that it wasn’t loud as watching, say, Bad Brains in tiny little room in Washington DC. It was incredible, though. He did a load of Zeppelin songs as well as a bunch of solo stuff. At the time I was a total Zeppelin freak, so that was pretty much as close as I could get to the real deal.” [via]

Kurt Cobain: The Melvins (and Sammy Hagar)

Cobain often cited The Melvins as his first show, but it turns out that the first gig he attended was by Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar: “I went to see Sammy Hagar when I was in seventh grade. Everyone was passing around pot, and I got really high and I lit myself on fire. I had a Bic lighter in my sweatshirt pocket and I was watching Sammy, swinging upside-down from the rafters, mocking everyone else who was holding their lighters above their heads. I looked down, and petrol had spilt out everywhere, and my shirt was on fire. It went well with the piss-stained pants… [which] I got before the show when we drank a case of beer and got stuck in a traffic jam. There was nowhere to go, so I peed my pants in the back of the car.” [via]

Lemmy from Motörhead: Cliff Richard (on TV)

“I got my first record in 1958. I was pretty young then, and I saw this English singer, Cliff Richard, who is still going but is very different now from what he was then. He was on TV, surrounded by chicks trying to pull his clothes off. I said, ‘That’s for me. It doesn’t even look like work.’ I found out later that it was, but it does have its advantages over working at the washing-machine factory.” [via]

Suzi Quatro: The Beatles

Quatro went to see the Beatles in Detroit when she was 14: “All I could hear was noise. I didn’t have a favorite Beatle. I met Paul a few times [later] and had dinner with him and Heather. I met Ringo. I didn’t meet George or John. Apparently, and this is from Kiki Dee (of ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ fame with Elton John), she did a show with John Lennon and afterwards he pulled her aside and told her ‘You have to be more like Suzi Quatro!’ What he meant, I will never know.” [via]

Kim Gordon: no wave

“When I came to New York, I’d go and see bands downtown playing no-wave music. It was expressionistic and it was also nihilistic. Punk rock was tongue-in-cheek, saying, ‘Yeah, we’re destroying rock.’ No-wave music is more like, ‘No, we’re really destroying rock.’ It was very dissonant. I just felt like, Wow, this is really free. I could do that.” [via]