I was about 12, and the year was '98 B.P. (before punk). The locale: Atascadero, CA.
My first guitar teacher was a sweet, soft-spoken long-haired guy who climbed our winding, rural driveway in a van each week. He had claw-like fingernails to better pluck with, and this fascinated me. I learned scales, picking rhythms, and your standard hippie tunes. Before long, I was singing lyrics peppered with loosely-disguised pot references and following The Adventures of Bob Dylan. My comprehension? Hilariously low.
By 7th grade, I had "discovered" rock radio, and with it, the searing, explosive sensuality of Led Zeppelin (go ahead and laugh at me. I am laughing at me too). My "boyfriend" at the time was also obsessed with classic rock (he also played guitar—a big reason why I liked him). My adorably naive teacher taught me how to play “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “Ramble On” on my classical nylon string guitar with a real excitement in his eyes.
He had no idea that I would soon be handing him burned, skipping CDs of too-fast-too-simple Screeching Weasel, the Ramones, and Operation Ivy. I demanded that he provide me with hand-written tabs to every three-chord song.
Let this serve as a formal apology to him. Things could have turned out so differently.
Before I discovered punk rock, I was pretty into the radio, with all of its wacky call-in contests, jingles for mattresses, and love anthems dedicated to so-and-so. As a kid, it was all about the oldies station. But something flipped in junior high, when everything and everyone just felt "weird." Suddenly Leslie Gore singing "You Don't Own Me" had lost it's tingle.
If I stayed up late enough, I would listen to Love Line, marveling at the very idea of such freakish adult human interactions. But usually, I just listened to the rock music of the day and closed my eyes in the dark. I listened as quietly as possible, so my parents wouldn't know I was up late...but they knew. I just wanted to feel covert.
There's a strange, quiet time of the night when you can truly believe that every song is written for you. It takes about three months--the summer between 12 and 13 to be specific--to realize they're not. So you need to write your own songs. Or whatevs.