Since the internet came along a couple decades ago- there would be no reason to do this but back in the day I did this often- have any of you? What I am asking is have you just ‘heard’ of an artist/ band and without actually hearing any of their music went out and bought their album?

The first time I ever bought an album from an artist I hadn’t heard- was back in 1978. A friend of mine called Grant came to school one day and was raving about this guy named Elvis Costello. “This guy is great etc..” I can’t actually recall all he said- it was forty years ago but it was a grand recommendation. That evening when I got home I went to the mall and saw that this Elvis Costello character had two albums out and he kind of looked like say Buddy Holly on speed. My younger brother was with me. I was still in high school and had limited funds. I had enough for one album so I bought This Years Model-which I found out was his second album, and I talked my brother into buying My Aim Is True. We went home and listened to them and I was immediately taken. Forty years later I would still put Elvis on my personal Mount Rushmore of Favorite Artists. The Elvis albums from My Aim Is True to Imperial Bedroom are probably my most listened to albums outside of The Beatles. A couple months later in the steal of the century- I had a pizza and there was one last piece left and my brother offered me up his My Aim Is True for the piece of pizza. He still reminds me of that trade.

In those years I would read about artists in the music mags and occasionally experiment on buying stuff I’d never heard. The Pittsburgh area radio stations weren’t the most experimental- a lot of Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynard and of course the pop stations but you weren’t going to hear any punk or new wave or anything really cool. A few artists who come to mind that I bought without hearing- The Velvet Underground, The Clash[one of my top ten favorites} The Jam- those are the ones that come immediately to mind I know there were others. On a whole I think my batting average was pretty high. There were some clunker albums but it was always kind of fun trying to discover new stuff that my friends had never heard etc.

Note- One day my friend Dale walks in the house and we had both HEARD of The Jam but had never actually HEARD them. It was 1980 and I had the new Donna Summer album “The Wanderer”- I told Dale I had The Jam and put the needle on Donna’s great “Cold Love.” Now Dale hated anything that he thought was disco. The introduction to “Cold Love” is really rocking and Dale is smiling and going on about “This is great”–and then Donna’s singing starts. A look of confusion comes across Dale’s face. It was like I had told him Santa Claus was a fraud. Then I laughed and told him ‘You like a Donna Summer song.”.. and then he went on “Oh I hate this.” Sure. I finally did find an album by The Jam later that year.

Today if I read about a band/ artist their music is just a click away- so I guess in a way it is a good thing not to run out and buy something and maybe not like it but overall I think it was a lot more fun the old way- discovering on your own.

Have any of you in the past experimented on unheard music? What artists?


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  1. Many times but I sure remeber the first time I heard Lou Reed. I was 13 and was listening to prog but there was a vinyl store in my small town (vinyl is all that there was back then) and she suggested that I take a leap of faith and sold me Rock and Roll Animal. Fist song is Sweet Jane the way Lou Reed wanted it… Boy oh boy!!! from there everything started… The Velvets, Nico, John Cale, the Stooges… Today still my passion for the velvets hasn’t diminished. Just published 2 articles about a book about the Velvets so yeah… After that I did it more often… Providing the person who suggests it knows me a little… And Elvis Costello is right there on the top with my favorites… His warm, clear voice makes it a perfect companion when you are down and wanna be cheered up but not in a fake it to make it way but in a real constructive comprehensive way… Wow..Did that even make sense?? It does for me…

    • Love the Velvet Underground too- it was one of those bands I had heard about- they were legendary but it was hard where I lived to actually find one of their albums. When they were re-released finally I grabbed them all!

  2. I think the only album I bought without no one suggesting and not knowing at all what it sounded like was BUY, a studio album by James Chance and The Contortions. back then the album only said BUY and there was this punk girl in a punk bikini. Some sort of punky jazzish.. Really weird… Got lucky!

  3. I bought THIS YEARS MODEL back in 1978 or 79. It was the first ‘punk’ or ;new wave’ album I ever bought. I did hear one song on the radio first however — Pump it up. I still think this was ELVIS’ best album.

  4. I went to an Elvis Costello concert before ever hearing his music. It blew my mind. The venue held no more than 500 people, looking back it was one of the greatest concert experiences in my life.I bought lots of albums without knowing the artist but one that really sticks with me is Brian Eno, Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy.

    • Wow you know that is a question I had never thought of -seeing an artist before ever hearing his music. Do you remember what year / tour it was? It had to have been early in his career for such a small venue. .. I think the only time I went to a concert without ever hearing the artist beforehand was going with a friend to see Helmet. He was a fan and wanted me to go with him. Concert didn’t convert me to fandom.

    • No, that concert stands alone. Just remembered another sight unseen concert at the same venue. A friend took me to John Cale and blew my mind. To this day Paris 1919 remains on my top album list..

  5. As a teenager growing up in a small midwestern town in the 80’s, reggae was simply not something one heard (unless/until college). I kept coming across the name Bob Marley, mostly in Rolling Stone Magazine. Finally I broke down and bought “Legend” (LP) just to see what the deal was and was instantly hooked. Before long I had friends asking me to make them mixed tapes of Marley, Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Steel Pulse, UB40, etc.

    • I bet Legend- was the gateway drug for a lot of us midwestern boys on Marley and Reggae. I think the first reggae I actually bought those was the soundtrack to The Harder They Fall after reading glowing reviews of it. Legend was my first Bob.

    • I believe I was the same way with Leonard- I had read a lot of positive things about him- and I figured this sounds right up my alley- and it was! What a great songwriter!

  6. I tend to like New Age music that is often composed of unknown artists.
    I get hooked easily on albums that have the word serenity or peace in the title.

  7. In the court of the Crimson King by King Crimson. Also, piper at the gates of dawn by Pink Floyd. I had never heard of these bands at the time and pick them up basically because of their covers.

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