The Albums That Flavorwire Staffers Heard Too Early

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Earlier this month, we surveyed Flavorwire central for a selection of the books we read too early. The responses we got were both informative and a whole lot of fun, so we decided we’d extend the concept into some of the other areas of culture that we enjoy here — starting with the world of music, and the albums that various staff members listened to at perilously tender ages. From the raunchy through the political to the mildly disconcerting, here are the albums that we listened to too early (including, curiously, not one but two Beatles records.) What are yours?

Salt-N-Pepa — Very Necessary

Judging by its October 1993 release date, I must have been in fourth grade when I bought Salt-N-Pepa’s Very Necessary. I remember being shocked, at the time, that my parents didn’t even try to stop me. (They may have said something about not wanting to censor art, a designation that, to my great dismay, did not seem to extend to MTV, which I wasn’t allowed to watch without parental supervision.) Although in general this smart, fun, sex-positive, feminist album was nothing but a good influence on me, I do recall being entirely unable to distinguish between legitimate slang terms (“skins”) and made-up words (er, “shoop”). — Judy Berman

Dead Can Dance — Dead Can Dance

My babysitter played Dead Can Dance’s title album in the car all the time, long before I had enough angst in me to be into dark wave. Also, I didn’t know what the leaf on The Chronic CD cover was until my dad found it in my older brother’s bedroom and asked for an explanation. Lastly, I realize this isn’t a reaction to a full album, but my babysitter also played the 10,000 Maniacs cover of the Patti Smith song “Because the Night” all the time. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if another kid in my grade hadn’t explained to me that “lovers” (as in “Because the night belongs to lovers”) referred to something sexual. It was too much for me at the time. — Reid Singer

Marilyn Manson — Antichrist Superstar

Two big albums of my childhood were Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar and Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. Growing up in a super-conservative Texas town, I was naturally drawn to the the two artists’ shock and provocation. Being that I was in the sixth grade, I didn’t understand the very adult subject matter until much later. — Garrett Traya

The Tubes — The Tubes

My parents were both radio DJs in the ’70s and early ’80s, so I grew up with awesome music constantly being played in my house. Of course, that doesn’t mean I had any idea what most of the songs meant. I looooved “Walk on the Wild Side” when I was very young (which my dad just reminded me was the first top ten hit to include the words “giving head”). My mom says I went crazy over Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” — especially the kazoo part. Socio-political commentary? Meh. Give the kid a kazoo solo, though, and she goes wild.

The Tubes’ first album got a lot of play. I still remember the album cover because I loved her nails and how their shine matched the lettering in the band’s name. But “White Punks on Dope” is kind of the polar opposite of “Baby Beluga.” And the last line in “What Do You Want From Life?” is “a baby’s arm holding an apple.” Aware at least that it was a metaphor of some kind, I asked, “What’s that mean?” — which my dad (thankfully) ignored. — Leah Taylor

PJ Harvey — Dry

When I was in seventh grade, I bought the soundtrack to Batman Forever, which is pretty amazing, considering that the likes of Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Sunny Day Real Estate, and The Flaming Lips are alongside Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.” (The album still holds up, btw.) It was my first foray into “alternative music,” and it led to me borrowing PJ Harvey’s Dry from the library. It really confused the hell out of me, particularly because I was not quite certain that PJ Harvey was a woman. — Tyler Coates

The Beatles — The Beatles (The White Album)

My first favorite song (that I can recall) was “Piggies” from the White Album. Partly because I liked George the best — but what I really liked was singing along to “what they need’s a damn good whacking!” without fear of parental admonition. Needless to say, the social commentary on corporate greed was rather lost on me. — Emily Temple

Elvis Costello — Armed Forces

I really couldn’t get my head around the Belfast troubles as a bookish eight-year-old, but it was the first record I ever owned, and it’s still one of my favorites. — Oliver Spall

Joy Division — Unknown Pleasures

I listened to Joy Division for the first time in high school because I think there was a dude at my school who was into them. I didn’t have a crush on him or anything — I admired him and his cool asymmetrical hair. But then I listened to a song and thought it sounded stupid and decided I liked New Order better and screw that guy with the asymmetrical hair! I can’t remember the album. Of course, they’re my faves now, but at 16, I couldn’t appreciate Ian Curtis’s voice. — Soma Roy

The Beatles — Yellow Submarine

I was a big fan of Yellow Submarine (the movie) and Rubber Soul when I was little. OK, OK the movie is animated, but it’s a little psychedelic for a five-year-old — especially when said five-year-old takes to singing “Nowhere Man.” — Danielle Brock

Radiohead — I Might Be Wrong

I was terrified the first time I heard Radiohead. While my mom drove my sister and I to school one morning, she played I Might Be Wrong, which starts with the live version of “The National Anthem.” If you’ve never heard it, it’s a lot more unsettling than the version on Kid A — faster, more urgent, and so much louder. My parents played a lot of weird, dark music when I was growing up, but I had never heard anyone sing like Thom Yorke, who seemed to have at least 50 marbles in his mouth. I was 11 or 12 and afraid of everything. I asked what she was playing. “Radio… head,” she said, like she wasn’t sure. I’d actually heard of them because they had this weird SmarterChild-type robot on AIM called GooglyMinotaur, this creepy horned doodle with googly eyes. I’d assumed they were a Satanic death-metal band, so I screamed at my mom to turn it off. I’d get used to Radiohead in a few months. — Sara Fonder

TLC — CrazySexyCool

Absolutely CrazySexyCool. They could be all three with a tomboy ‘tude, too. “Creep’s” beat struck an aural chord when I stayed up late to see TLC on SNL. I was always connected to my then-Walkman, tuned into the cherry-picked top 40 rap and R&B of JAMN 9.45 and couldn’t help but dig their smooth tunes, sick lyrics, and signature fly style, a style that defined ’90s street chic. Back then, even the word “sexy” seemed so bad I had to give it a listen on a cassette tape from Tower in Harvard. — Christina Walsh

Hole — Live Through This

My uncle’s girlfriend gave me Hole’s Live Through This for my ninth birthday and told me that I was the kind of kid who’d “get it.” It was 1995, she was a 20-year-old riot grrrl/Wiccan/coolest person of all time, so I didn’t question her assessment. This was also after I watched Courtney Love screech through “Violet” on the VMAs two months earlier, so I was already equal parts terrified and intrigued. In any case, I remember getting as far as “Asking For It” before shutting it off and walking to the kitchen to tell my mother that my soul was hurting (I was a dramatic child), to which she responded “Not your ears?” It’s been one of my all time favorite albums ever since. — Lillian Ruiz, Social Media Director

Green Day — Dookie

I was in fourth grade and went to my friend’s house after school — her brother was blasting this album from his room, and I remember asking if he was angry or something. Apparently he listened to it all the time, but the tone and lyrics were a total shock to me — they were so different to the rock ‘n’ roll my parents listened to. I didn’t know what to think of all the yelling, cursing and odd words. I’ll never forget asking my friend (a ninth grader) what masturbation was . . . my world was blown open. — Kathryn Dalke, Account Manager

Lou Reed — Transformer

I discovered this is my parents’ record collection as a young-ish and very innocent teen, and loved it to bits — even though I was blissfully unaware of what transvestites were, what S&M was, and that it was in fact Lou Reed wearing drag on the back cover. — Tom Hawking, Music Editor