In praise of gateway albums, works that change our worlds

by DGO Web Administrator

Music fans have all had their gateway albums: Those records that have moved you in a direction to dig more into a particular scene or genre, a record with such impact you couldn’t sit still until you found more of whatever was moving you at that exact moment of auditory satisfaction. Gateway records: The discovery of a new band or musicians that come from some musical Sherlocking that gets you to something new, something undiscovered and wonderful, a catalyst for change in what you listen to.

Punk rockers have had the soundtrack to the film “Repo Man” as their gateway into punk rock. It has the staples of Iggy Pop, Suicidal Tendencies, and Black Flag, right alongside Burning Sensations covering the Modern Lovers which should have sent you into a Jonathan Richman study, and the Plugz, which hopefully opened the door to the ’80s era L.A.-based Latino punkers.

I’ve stumbled among some great musical minds in Durango, people with the taste that gave way to the pursuit of left-of-the-dial radio, perhaps leading to becoming a college radio DJ, and eventually graduating into musician or music writer. These are the people who can acknowledge the gateway albums that will forever remain noteworthy.

Jon Lynch, KDUR Program Director and DGO writer“The one that really sticks out is Ween, ‘GodWeenSatan.’ As an impressionable 13-year-old it really stuck. For many reasons. It was hilarious, certainly adolescent, jumped around more or less stylistically from track to track. It swore a lot and sounded like it was recorded by the band themselves. It totally blew me away. It felt totally mine, like I had unearthed a secret.”

Chris Aaland, KSUT DJ“The Beat Farmers ‘Tales of the New West’ was my first gateway album in 1984. It opened the door to country, blues, and other roots music. In the late 1980s, the Alligator Records ‘20th Anniversary Collection’ and ‘Old and in the Way’ sent me full-bore into bluegrass. In the early ’90s, it was Robert Earl Keen’s ‘West Textures’ that got me hooked on Texas singer-songwriters.”

Pat Dressen, local bluegrass picker, drummer for Lawn Chair Kings“In 1980, I walked into a record store in Grand Junction and said ‘I want to buy a bluegrass record. What should I buy?’ The guy said, ‘This is cool,’ and pulled out the first David Grisman Quintet eponymous record. It was later dubbed “F5” because Kaleidoscope gave it serial number F5 after the famous top-of-the-line Gibson Mandolin. This record was my gateway to a yet unnamed, and still not agreed-upon named/genre. Dawg grass, jazz grass, new acoustic; now its part of Americana.”

Erik Nordstrom, Lawn Chair Kings and Farmington Hill“My best buddy in high school had a brother who was music director at KJHK in Lawrence (Kansas) and was in a Topeka punk band, Third Force. I remember listening to countless albums. Butthole Surfers, old school Pink Floyd, The Replacements. I saw The Descendents live at the Outhouse, which was a transformative moment for me, and my classic rock worldview was altered, leading me to The Clash, Pavement, Camper Van Beethoven, and Uncle Tupelo.” Another moment was going to the Winfield Bluegrass Festival with little background in the genre.”

Dan Groth, KDUR DJ and local artist“My problem is I don’t have any one album that got me into various genres. The closest thing I can think of is ‘Moving Pictures’ by Rush getting me into prog music, but mostly it only got me into buying more Rush albums, which in turn led me to seek out similarly epic/adventurous tunes, which led me to get into Yes.”

This is a textual recognition of a musical path taken by music fans. It’s a rich study of history, a noteworthy document of musical time capsules that have sent many down the rabbit hole of musical discovery.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].


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