The first record you purchase is a pivotal moment in anybody’s life. It is a moment and a choice that will shape the person you’ll grow to be as a lifelong love affair with music kickstarts into gear.
That moment sticks with you for the rest of your life as you hand over change to pay for your first record. For me, it was Arctic Monkeys’ single ‘Leave Before The Lights Come On’ in my local Woolworths, which sounds like it’s made up for credibility, but I promise you it is God’s honest truth.
I plead innocence because, unfortunately, it is a common trope for people to pretend that the first record they ever bought was a seminal masterpiece like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, or Hunky Dory. Thankfully, some artists are prepared to reveal the embarrassing record that marked the first time they exchanged money for music.
Meanwhile, some musicians came out of the womb with a music taste carved from the heavens, and their eye for a timeless album is something that they had from the moment they stumbled into a record store for the first time. Even though cover art was their only indicator, these musicians unearthed a gem that hooked them on music.
Not every artist has been as lucky as that. For many, it takes a while before finding the music that truly gets your pulses running. Nevertheless, it’s always fascinating to discover the opening chapter of their obsession with music — even if their career has differed completely from the record they first bought as a child.
Let’s get into it.
The first record bought by Brian Wilson:
The Beach Boys lead singer Brian Wilson opened up about the first record he ever bought during a conversation with The Guardian. However, there may be a few blurry lines around that stone-cold fact: “I was at high school one day when I heard this on the radio, between class, I guess, and I went straight out and bought it. Maybe it was the first record I ever bought.”
‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and The Comets will go down in history as one of the most influential songs of all time. When scouring the creative crucible of the swinging sixties, you will find a quite obvious connection to the rock and roll that emanated from the Delta blues and beyond. But for many, Bill Haley was their first real introduction to the genre.
“I had been making music all my life but hearing that taught me to write with more energy and precision,” recalled Wilson. “All my friends were into it. My brothers liked it too. Anyone who heard that record would like it.”
The first record bought by Paul Weller
Paul Weller’s music taste has always been faultless. Even as a child, he knew what was right and wrong, musically speaking. During an interview with BBC 6 Music, Weller revealed: “The first single that was actually mine, that I bought with my own saved-up money was ‘Wonderboy’ by The Kinks, that was in 1968 when I was 10. I was a huge, huge Kinks fan – I still am – and that was the first single of theirs I could afford.”
Weller reiterates, “I was a huge, huge Kinks fan, I’d have saved up pocket money or got it off my mum and dad,” he continued. “My mum used to have singles too and I’d play her stuff. She had a few early Beatles singles, she loved stuff like that. And on the radiogram – which for the younger folk was a big bit of furniture with a drinks cabinet in one side and a lid you could lift up and under that was a deck – you could stack records on that so they’d play one after each other. So I would do that with the A-sides, then the B-Sides, then I’d borrow singles off my mum’s friends for a few days to listen to. I’ve always loved records from the earliest time I can remember.”
The first record bought by David Gilmour
Pink Floyd’s guitarist and vocalist, David Gilmour, has been heralded as one of the true greats of the rock genre. Perhaps fittingly, then, the first record he can truly remember buying, the one that ‘turned him around’, is equally esteemed in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, and like Brian Wilson, it’s Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’.
The singer was only ten years old when he first trundled down to the record shops to pick up his first single, which was a life-affirming moment. “The first record I bought and which turned me around a bit was ‘Rock Around The Clock’ by Bill Haley, when I was ten,” the guitarist told BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt. Prior to that moment, the songs on the radio had all sounded the same but there was something different about Haley’s tune.
“That was the first moment to me when I thought ‘this is something new and original!” effused Gilmour.
The first record bought by Noel Gallagher
“The first single I was bought was ‘The Show Must Go On’ by Leo Sayer because I’d seen him on Top Of The Pops dressed as a clown,” the former Oasis man Noel Gallagher told the BBC. “I remember my dad buying it for me. The label on the record was something to do with Alice In Wonderland. It might have had the hare in a top hat.”
Gallagher continued: “The first single I was bought was by Leo Sayer because I’d seen him on Top Of The Pops dressed as a clown. Ironically, I would end up living on the same street as Leo Sayer for a while, but I never saw him. I know he was on that street because my tour manager at the time also did a bit for him and would say, ‘You know Leo Sayer lives over there?’”
In fairness to Gallagher, this wasn’t the first record that he bought with his own money, and in an attempt to redeem some credibility, he added: “The first single I bought myself would be a punk single, probably the Sex Pistols. I bought a lot of Jam singles, and I remember buying ‘Stand And Deliver’ by Adam And The Ants. It came wrapped in a free poster, and on the side, it said ‘limited edition first 750,000 with free poster’. How many 750,000s were they selling? You couldn’t sell 750,000 of anything now on vinyl!”
The first record bought by Johnny Marr
Johnny Marr is a man of exquisite taste in all aspects of life, ranging from his fashion sense to just his generally positive outlook on life. With that in mind, it’s unsurprising that the first record he ever bought is one that stands the test of time. In a feature with Pitchfork, Marr, the acclaimed Smiths guitarist, went through how his music taste has changed throughout his life and talked in-depth about falling in love with T. Rex’s Jeepster — which he still fondly remembers paying for with his own money.
“The first 45 I ever bought with my own money was a T. Rex record, which, luckily, is very cool,” Marr admitted before self depreciatingly noting: “It was a fluke, though—it was in a bargain shoebox in a furniture store, and I didn’t know what it was. But I bought it because it had a picture of Marc Bolan on the B-side label, and I figured I was getting more bang for my buck! I fell in love with that image.”
Adding: “The song was ‘Jeepster’, and I didn’t have to learn to love it because those thunking guitar riffs were so great.”
The first record bought by Charlie Watts
When the sticksmith is not with The Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts lives an eclectic life. He is also the leader of a jazz band, a record producer, commercial artist, and horse breeder. His love of jazz was in place from an early age, a time when Watts’ parents gifted him with his first drum kit in 1955. Aged just 14-years-old, he would practice by drumming along with the jazz records that he collected.
The record that laid down the jazz groove and infused his music blood was the very first one that he bought. Watts told BBC Radio 6 Music, “The first record that was mine that I fell in love with was a thing called ‘Flamingo’ by a saxophone player called Earl Bostic.”
“I was into jazz straight away,” he added. “That was my uncle’s. Then, soon after that, I bought a record called Walkin’ Shoes by Gerry Mulligan.”
The first record bought by Thom Yorke
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has often spoken about his rich and varied inspirations and influences, whether it be the bizarre beauty of Björk or the raucous rhythms of Miles Davis, but his initial passion for music was stirred up by a rather more on-the-nose piece of stylistic sway.
“I never did singles,” the Radiohead frontman told the BBC. “I only started buying them when I began DJing at college, so the first record I bought was Queen’s Greatest Hits which I owned on cassette. I wore that out!”
He is not alone in that regard; Queen’s Greatest Hits compilation is the UK’s biggest selling records of all time, thus it only stands to reason that one of the millions of units sold was snapped up by a would-be musician. Admittedly, however, it is far from the coolest cassette in town.
The first record bought by Florence Welch
Florence Welch’s first-ever purchase is a world away from the music she’s forged out over the last decade with her machine, but just like everyone else her age, she went through an Eminem phase.
“The first single I remember buying myself on CD was Eminem, ‘I’m Slim Shady’ – My Name Is. I must have been 11,” she told 6 Music. “It sounded so different and it struck me as an 11-year-old as being brilliant.”
Welch continued: “As for albums, I had The Corrs and the Spice Girls’ albums on tape, I loved them, I used to stick The Corrs album cover on my wall, but then I listened to No Doubt and got into American skate punk so Dookie by Green Day was the first album I bought.”
The first record bought by James Murphy
James Murphy, from LCD Soundsystem, would go on to play the drums on David Bowie’s Blackstar, the singer’s final LP, which is romantic considering ‘Fame’ was the first record that he ever purchased as a child.
“There’s a couple,” he told 6 Music. “My first records ever were two seven inches. One was ‘Fame’ by David Bowie because my brother had the album David Live. My brother was a rock guy and a prog guy, he’s ten years older than me so whatever he listened to I thought was cool. I remember seeing that record in his bedroom when I was seven, and my brother went ‘this is the original punk rocker, this is the real deal’ which I think is kinda prescient of my suburban New Jersey brother.”
Adding: “So I bought David Bowie’s Fame and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Alone Again’ Naturally. I feel like my life has been dictated by those two very different concepts. The self-pitying new man invented in the ’70s and an alien singing about Fame with a pitch transposer. Somewhere between those two things lies my life.”
The first record bought by Karen O
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the most integral acts of the 21st Century, and Karen O’s music taste has always been a little bit left-field, even when she was a child. “I remember getting Queensrÿche’s ‘Silent Lucidity’. Do you know what? It’s totally metal, but that was their ballad,” she told 6 Music.
“I didn’t have great taste when I first started buying music for myself
I don’t know how I came upon it,” she added. “I didn’t have great taste when I first started buying music for myself. That came a little bit later on!”
Karen O also spoke about how her family affected her music taste, noting: “My dad was into doo-wop. He had all these best of compilations, so I got a bit of everything. There were a lot of girl groups on those compilations, which I loved. That seriously shaped how I write and think about music. The song that sticks is ‘I Will Follow Him’ by Peggy March.”