Love & Sex

15 Stories: The First Album I Ever Bought

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Our readers wax nostalgic about the 33s, CDs, and cassettes of our youth

My very first album was Peter Gabriel's So, which I bought on cassette (!) with money that I had won from an essay contest. I think the cassette might still be in my parents' basement, with billions of microscopic holes in the tape. Remember that, kids? Playing a piece of physical media till it actually wore out? — Premee


I think I bought M.C. Hammer's Too Legit To Quit and Bryan Adams' Waking Up The Neighbors at the same time. They were both on cassette, and I listened to them both constantly. I know I was always claiming to be doing the hammer-dance, but I'm not even sure I knew what it was, as we didn't own a TV and I'm pretty sure I had never seen any of his music videos. — Rachel


The first album I ever bought was Dookie by Green Day when I was twelve-years old. I still remember the day I bought it, from the mall music store that's still there. At the time, I decided that I would always like that kind of music  music which now sounds like a pretty boring succession of three chords. I listened to that album for years; I can still probably sing “Basketcase” from memory. Dookie was, and still is, one of my best CD purchases, because for many years it was the confirmation that life existed outside of dull suburban life in Pretoria, South Africa. It told me that somewhere in Oakland, there were people who felt the same apathetic way about life as I did. — Jenna


Milli Vanilli on cassette! I felt so betrayed when the truth came out. — Merrill


I was visiting relatives in China one summer with a goal in mind to start listening to pop music before high school started. There are CD and DVD stores everywhere in China, where, of course, everything is pirated. I went in one and decided upon The Marshall Mathers LP, either because he was one of few music artists I'd heard of or that this particular CD cover was the only that didn’t appear to be re-drawn using colored pencils. That night I used my dad’s old Walkman and started listening to the CD as I was going to sleep. — Gene


My older sister signed up for one of those mail-order record deals — the ones where they give you a bunch of cheap CDs, but then sell you a CD a month for all time. (Seriously, it’s been two decades and I’m not sure her credit has recovered). You had to pick twelve albums to start, but we were kids, and we didn’t know that many bands. So we grabbed a few extras at random, one of which was Wyclef Jean’s The Carnival — which I still love. That taught me that I could really love a record by someone I’d never heard of — and that it was actually a good thing to listen to music your friends didn’t know about. Good lessons for a ten-year old. — Ben


Weird Al Yankovic, Off The Deep End, at a K-Mart that is now a Target. It was the first of many Weird Al albums I would purchase; I had some idea that the "Smells Like Nirvana" song may have been a reference to something, but the rest I assumed were original. To this day I still discover random '80s songs that I know: "Wait, I know this! This is 'King Of Suede!' But the words are different…"  Tadge


I was twelve-years old and on a field trip at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. I snuck away from the group and went to the bookstore, where I purchased, with hard-earned money, Carole King's Tapestry and Rod Stewart's Sing It Again, Rod. I couldn't wait to get home and drop the needle on my new treasures. I wore them out, then replaced both, first on eight-track, then on cassette, and finally on CD. They've remained favorites over the years. I no longer have the vinyl, but my CDs sound as good as the day I first heard them. — Max


Duran Duran, Rio, on vinyl  not because I was a purist, but because that was the only format my Fisher Price turntable would play. I was five- or six-years old, shopping with my dad in the National Record Mart chain, and was torn between some Police album and Rio, so I asked these tween girls for advice. They recommended Rio with conviction, so I bought it. It took me a while to get around to buying anything by The Police. — Kenneth


Prince's Purple Rain on vinyl in 1984. I was in third grade and the only kid in school to have it. I didn't understand half the songs, but I was the coolest kid in school. I still have the album and the mini-poster that came with it to prove it. — Jamay


Rusted Root, When I Woke. Damn straight I still own it — and love it. It’s one of the few albums I can listen to all the way through. They were also the first concert I went to without my parents. It was the first time I saw people smoke marijuana, and the sheltered, white suburban kid in me freaked out a little. — Dave


I joined the Columbia Record Club with paper-route money, and I got to pick twelve cassettes for the price of one. Among the selections I remember ordering were: Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill , The Pretenders, Billy Squire, Duran Duran, The Police’s Synchronicity, Eddie Money, Paul Simon, Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, and U2. All cassettes. I’d still have them today, except years later, when I was in college, we had a massive party at our house, and the whole collection was stolen. — Timothy


I think it was Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet, LP followed by Def Leppard’s Hysteria on cassette. I still have both (and I also ended up owning Slippery on tape and CD). I think I beat the cassettes for both albums (and Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill) to death with my Walkman while mowing the lawn — I seriously think I can smell freshly cut grass anytime I hear a song from those three albums. I was able to buy tons more, after those three  with money raised from mowing lawns, of course. — Mike


It was either Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette or Pieces of You by Jewel, both of which I will freely admit to still enjoying. My brother once made fun of Pieces of You, saying that each song started with the same chord. I protested, but he did a demonstration and was basically right. I cried. — Morgan


The Breeders' Last Splash on cassette. I was twelve. Honestly, I have no idea how this happened, because I was not cool enough — then or now — to have that be my first album purchase. I've been riding high off of that unearned hipster cred for almost twenty years now. I still bring it up whenever anyone makes fun of me for liking Marilyn Manson in high school. — Graham