Looking back I think everyone thinks the music of their teenage years is the best, its the soundtrack to growing up and every song lyric bores deeply into your soul because it sounds like your favourite bands are talking directly to you.
My musical awakening was Guns N' Roses and the song 'You Could be Mine', the official song to Terminator 2 the biggest movie of 1991 which my friends & I snuck into underage! Our after school club would have some music videos and we would keep replaying the video over and over again.
My friend John was into music before the rest of us and he made some cassette copies of Guns N' Roses for me and I was hooked, as a 13 year old they were the coolest band in the world. They were loud and they swore & that was all we needed as teenagers, I even didn't understand what most of the lyrics were about at that age. John continued to supply me with knock off tapes of bands such as W.A.S.P, Annhilator, Metallica, Sepultura & Testament to name but a few.
Skid Row's 'Slave to the Grind' (1991) was the first tape I bought myself and I had to buy it again as I wore it out. They were blatant 80's style cock rock but with a slightly harder edge and once again they were cool because they had songs like 'Get the fuck out' an anthem for disaffected teenagers everywhere.
In 1992 I bought my first CD which was Freak of Natures self titled self titled debut album, I can't even remember where I heard about the band it was either Kerrang magazine (the bible) or taping Headbangers Ball on MTV sunday nights.
1992 was also the year I was forced to go on a cavaran holiday to Devon with my parents while my friends went to Summerslam 92 at Wembley Stadium, to say I was a moody teenager would be an understatement and it was a long miserable drive to the coast. Thankfully in 1992 Radio 1 actually played rock music and the soundtrack for my terrible journey was a full 10+ plus live broadcast of the Donington Monsters of Rock festival live on Radio 1 while I read all about the bands in Kerrang!
It was a brilliant line up and I happily listened on my walkman the whole day until my parents made me go out for a meal and socialise with them right as Maiden were about to come, I was forced out but made sure I taped their set to listen to when I got back to caravan of doom.
Ashamedly (for my metal credentials at least) my first ever gig was pop rock band The Spin Doctors famous for the below earworm 'Two Princes'
My ears were ringing for 2 days later despite the band not being 'heavy' however if I had waited a few months my first 'real' gig would have been this.
Now 17 I'd persuaded my parents to let me go with some friends to my first festival, we got a coach from the bus station in Dover that would take us the to the festival and back again, the coach was cheap and the gig ticket was only £26!!! By 1997 I liked every band on the bill except Warrior Soul, who sucked so badly they played a shorter set than the first band the mighty Corrosion of Conformity. Every other band was at their peak right then, COC were Metallicas support band for their world tour and had just released one of the great all time southern metal albums in 'Deliverance'.
Machine Head were touring their first (5K ratin from Kerrang!) album 'Burn My Eyes' which is still revered as a classic of the metal genre.
White Zombie were touring their massively succesful 'Astro Creep:2000' album and they were great with Rob Zombies trademark guttral 'Yeahs' puncatuating every song.
Next were the already legendary Slayer but a 3pm slot on a sunny afternoon probably wasn't the best time for songs like 'Angel of Death' & 'Dead Skin Mask' and in the bright sunshine they lost a little of their mystique that day.
Slash had left Guns N Roses in the past few years and started his own bluesy rock band, nothing inherently wrong with them but as the sun and beer was taking its toll they were the perfect mid afteroon nap band while we recovered for the final 3 bands!
My friend Wai was probably an even bigger Skid Row fan than me at the time (before he entered his Will Smith phase!) and they didn't disappoint, they we could have done without any songs from their new 3rd album which we'd had to listen to 7 times on a loop on the coach's PA system.
2nd only to the mighty Metallica was Northern Irish alt rockers Therapy? whose 2nd album 'Troublegum' was one of the albums of the year in the UK and with classics like 'Knives', 'Screamager', 'Die Laughing', .Nowhere' & pretty much the whole album!
I'd slowly been becoming a Metallica fan ever since John gave me a shitty quality tape of 'Kill Em All' though at this point like everyone I was loving the Black album.
There is something transcendent about seeing Metallica live, the anticpation and the long wait before they come on stage then finally the crowd erupting as their iconic use of Sergio Leone's "Ecstasy of Gold' plays them onstage and straight into 'Enter Sandman' followed by 'Creeping Death'. To this day that performance is one of my all time favourite Metallica gigs and the crowd rightly went apeshit when we were the first to hear 2 new songs '2x4' which we loved & 'Devil Dance' which just got polite applause!
Donington was so good we all went the next year despite not really being fans of Kiss or Ozzy Osbourne, if I remeber rightly we were their for Korn's first ever UK festival appearance, Biohazard, Paradise Lost, Dog Eat Dog & Sepultura. This was also the first time Donington had two stages and we had a clash between Korn and Sepultura who unfortunately were missing lead vocalist Max Cavelera whose step son had passed away the day before.
Kiss were entertaining enough but we only really wanted to hear 'Crazy Nights' & 'God Gave Rock N Roll Too You Too' from Bill & Teds Bogus Journey, Ozzy on the other hand was pretty fucking terrrible that day.
1997 I somehow made it to two festivals a week apart and somehow survived first up was the 2 day 2nd Virgin V festival in Chlemsford
I stupidly didn't bring a tent and my friends had a tent but not a camping ticket so we ended up camping in some pubs back garden a few miles away, it was not pleasant! From the first day were were there mainly to see Ash who didn't disappoint, I also remember seeing Embrace, Symposium & Reef but the rest of the day was lost in a drunken haze. Ironically I love Pavement now and I can't remember if I even saw them!
The 2nd day we saw Veruca Salt who started the day for us on the 2nd stage and the rest of the day was spent at the main stage watchung Placebo, Foo Fighters (1st time seeing them & 'The Colour & Shape' had just been released), Beck (who was brilliant but everyone seemed to hate that day) & finally 'The Prodigy' who were one of the biggest bands in the world at that time having crossed genres to appeal to fans of rock, dance and mainstream audiences.
A week later I went from a 2 day festival to 3 days, and most of my first day was spent at the Vans warped tour stage where I must have seen Blink 182 but they made no impression on that day! Limp Bizkit were also supposed to be on the bill and we were all gutted when we they didn't turn up on the day. However seeing Millencolin, Down by Law & Pennywise back to back was awesome especially when Pennywises singer ended their set by saying 'lets get naked and kill Suede'.
Bar The Eels most of my second day was spent at the main stage, slowly waking up to the Stereophonics who had just released their first (and best) album 'Word Gets Around' But it was the Manic Street Preachers who were on their 'Everything Must Go' tour who were easily the best band of the second day.
Sunday was rock/metal day at Reading and I was pleasantly surprised by Feeder whose 'Polythene' album had just come out and then it was perennial favourites Dog Eat Dog who were always better as a live experience than recorded. I shamefully cannot remember much about Dinosaue Jr, another band who I'm sure I watched but can't remember (who I love now!) so I'll blame the Bacardi tent for that one.
I took my place around the front of the crowd around 5pm and stayed their until the end of the night watching Marilyn Manson, Bush, Terrorvision & Metallica back to back. Reading 97 was an awesome festival that easily trounced the previous weeks V festival and even as a teenager I still needed a few days to recover!
Reading 98 as my next big festival and the first day was spent at the main stage with Deftones & Ash being highlights, but everyone was there for Page & Plant and hoping to hear some classic Led Zeppelin and we were not disappointed with the following set
The encore of Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog & Rock N Roll and any misconceptions the younger crowd might have had about hearing Page & Plant just play their new album quickly faded and the crowd got larger the longer they played.
The next days highlights were one of the best punk bands on the planet Rancid, the always amazing Foo Fighters before we had the double whammy of The Prodigy & The Beastie Boys back to back!
I had liked the Beastie Boys but live they were something else and still in my top 3 live bands of all time. I thought they would be live rapping to back tracks and I had no idea that they actually played the instruments live and rapped at the same time! The last 3 songs of the encore were amazing and seeing a festival crowd lose their shit to Sabotage is still a treasured memory.
The next day was largely garbage and headlined by the band of the same name! It was mainly shoe gazing indie brit pop and we suffered through Gene, Shed 7, The Bluetones & New Order, looking back we should have definitely gone to the small stage and watched stoner rock legends Fu Manchu instead.
Rounding out the decade and my last time going to all 3 days of the festival was Reading 99, the first wasn't too impressive and bar Reef and the Chemical Brothers I spent the day at a smaller stage headlined by Nashville Pussy. The next day was better with Atari Teenage Riot rousing us from our drunken stupour before midday with their repeated yelling of the words 'Revolution & Hardcore'.
Again I probably saw two great bands I love now that I cannot remember seeing at all on the day in Sleater Kinney & Pavement. The Fun Lovin Criminals were really heavy live and a great early evening band, but that was it for the main stage as I wasn't really a fan of Blur at the time and news had leaked that Three Colours Red would be splitting up after their 2nd stage headline slot and they did not disappoint.
The last day of Reading was an amazing day with loads of bands I wanted to see, unfortunately this coincided with my 21st birthday which meant I was being fed copious amounts of alcohol all day. I remember spending some time at the Warped stage and I definitely saw the amazing Vandals and might have seen some of Less Than Jake.
As always it was about the main stage with Feeder, Silverchair & Terrorvision back to back before two of my favourite bands that I still hadn't seen live, Offspring & The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Offspring were great and this was probably at their peak as they were no way near as good when I saw them a few years later.
The Chili Peppers were coming off an incendiary performance at the panned Woodstock 99 festival where a cover of Jimi Hendrix's 'Fire' inspired the crowd to try and burn down the whole arena. By this point I was so drunk that I struggle to remember much from their set except how much my legs hurt and I needed to sit down, but I gathered my strength and survived the rest of the set. Luckily we were not twisted firestarters as much as the Americans and bar a few burning chemical toliets (Sweet jesus the smell!!!!) the camp site was left standing.
Within a few years the Reading bill had been sadly diluted by 'diversity' and not in a postive way, it was always a rock/indie/metal festival and the promoters began to add R&B and Rap bands to the bill. This was also due to the fact that rock music had peaked in the 90s for the mainstream anyway.
However the 90s gave us Grunge, Pop Punk, Ska Punk, Alternative, Alternative Rock, Brit Pop, Brit Rock and many more slight variations that I would simply call rock music. Whats sad is that in the intervening years there have been very few new rock bands coming through that have had success to the level of being able to headline a Reading Festival or a Donington Monsters of Rock which has evolved into the Download Festival. Over 20 years later many of those bands I've mentioned above are still trotted out to headline 'classic' rock festivals.
They say you stop listening to new music at a certain age and while that is true to a point, I think the older you get the more you look back with rose tinted glasses on the experiences of youth and for most of us the present can't compare to our teenage heydays when we could drink all day and night and felt indestructible.