Like many others before me, my musical taste was shaped by my parents. Well, initially, at least. While my father would turn up the radio every time the introductory riff of a Led Zeppelin song would start, my mother would do her best to sing along (poorly), to any number of songs, the kitschier the better. In fact, one of my earliest memories of music was sitting on the floor of my grandmother’s house in the early ‘90s, watching the film clip to Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Needless to say, as I grew up, I had a lot of catching up to do when it came to music.
Sure, as the years went on I would listen to more ‘current’ songs, thanks to whatever Triple M in Adelaide was playing at the time (to this day, I can’t hear Pearl Jam’s ‘Daughter’ without it evoking memories of a car ride into the city), but I was still behind in my musical education. I even vividly remember the first time I consciously heard Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ at age 11, and it took me over to the point where I annoyed all of my classmates by humming it incessantly the next day at school.
By the time my teenage years were almost coming around, I seemed to be doomed to listen to the then-current radio hits that the rest of my peers were listening to. (Keep in mind, these are not the rantings of a beleaguered curmudgeon, complaining that kids these days never listened to ‘real music’, but rather a grateful reminiscence on how my introduction to music occurred.) For some reason, my parents decided it was time for us to get pay TV. So of course, in between hours and hours of watching countless marathons of The Simpsons, I would switch over to the music channels and attempt to expand my musical horizons somewhat.
Somewhere along the line, I stumbled upon one of the ‘nostalgia’ programs that one of the handful of music channels were broadcasting. For a couple of hours each week, usually once I’d returned home from school and was pretending to do my homework, I would listen to these programs, discovering hours upon hours of music I had missed out on. I still recall riding my bike home from school extra fast one day, hoping that they might have shown the MTV unplugged version of Nirvana’s ‘About A Girl’. Keep in mind, YouTube was still a few years away, and I didn’t exactly have enough money to invest in a no longer current CD I had only heard one song from, so this was my best bet.
On one of these Beavis & Butthead-esque musical binges, I happened upon a track that not only made be sit up and take notice, but also introduced me to the alternative of the alternative genre; ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’, by The Flaming Lips. From the opening riff, to the nonsensical lyrics sung in Wayne Coyne’s somewhat fragile voice, I felt validated. See, years prior, I had begun to learn to play guitar, but under the strict guidelines of my teachers, anything somewhat ‘experimental’ was disallowed, and instead, classic, ‘safe’ tracks by The Shadows were played repeatedly. I would experiment daily while playing my guitar, but everything I made was completely different to the music I grew up hearing. Why would anyone want to listen to my half-hearted attempts at music when they could listen to a perfectly cromulent rock song that spouts the word ‘baby’ 50 times?
‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ changed all of that for me. No longer were my views on music black and white, no longer did a song have to sound ‘neat’, and no longer did the lyrics have to make sense. After all, if Wayne Coyne could sing a song about a guy who blows his nose using magazines, or a girl who dyes her hair using tangerines, and have it played within the same programming block as ‘Linger’, by The Cranberries, then there was hope for me yet. Still, to this day, whenever I hear this song, I’m transported back to those heady days of my early teens and my confusion about my personal approach to music. To me, ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ remains the soundtrack to my own validation.
Unbeknownst to me, I would later meet and fall in love with a girl from The Flaming Lips’ home state of Oklahoma. Strangely enough, we met as penpals who first bonded over our mutual fondness for the band. Who knows exactly where my life would be, or what my musical taste would be like if it weren’t for The Flaming Lips?