When I think about the various signposts that made me into the music fan I am today, I always gloss over the importance of my local library growing up, for some reason. I’m not entirely sure why, given just how central that place probably was for some of my more outré choices of listening; while it didn’t play the same kind of role that certain friends did in shaping my musical identity — I can still think about people specifically recommending or lending me particular albums or CDs or tapes, and how big that felt in the immediate aftermath, even if that particular band isn’t a cornerstone of what I listen to — it was, nonetheless, an introduction to all kinds of things that I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered, and a cheap way to explore some of my stranger curiosities when it came to sounds and tunes.
I was helped, greatly, by the fact that the local library’s music collection was seemingly curated by someone with extremely eclectic taste. To this day, I can remember being a nervous teenager leafing through the bins of vinyl — all in protective plastic sleeves, because of course — and just stunned by the number of things I’d never heard of, and didn’t know what to make of. I remember, years after the fact, in the mid-90s when the Divine Comedy broke through to the mainstream, realizing that somehow my local library had the obscure early albums all along, and I’d never stopped to check them out. (Literally.) The same with all of the many jazz albums they had that I, in my youth, flipped through with an internal jazz, ugh, only to wish years later that I’d had the common sense and good luck to listen to and get my little teenaged mind blown.
Nonetheless, the library was responsible for my love of Jellyfish, of Randy Newman, of the Guys and Dolls soundtrack, of discovering Jeff Lynne and ELO through the War of the Worlds double album; I listened to so many movie soundtracks, and developed a strange appreciation for orchestral scores. I’d take all of these albums home, obsessively listen to them. In their own way, they paved the way for some of the odder things I love now, even if I didn’t recognize that at the time.