The boy I lost my virginity to was the one who first introduced me to My Bloody Valentine. I was seventeen at the time. It was the end of summer before senior year of high school and I had spent the last few months learning about two of my favorite things: sex and music. It was pretty spectacular.
To be fair, I’ve actually always had a pretty extensive knowledge of music. I spent most of my childhood discovering new bands (which was no small feat in the pre-Internet age) and going to concerts. My first was the Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill tour. I must’ve been 10 years old at the time singing along to lyrics like “WERE YOU THINKING OF ME WHEN YOU FUCKED HER?”. Then there was Fiona Apple, Garbage, and Third Eye Blind. In middle school, I became obsessed with trip-hop and only listened to music like Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky. Even though I was just 12 or 13, I related to the melancholy that permeated the vocals of singers like Beth Gibbons. I would lie in my room blasting Dummy, which is a record that can be best described as sounding like sex and heroin, and my mom would peek in and be like, “Uh, Ryan, why are you listening to this witchy music? Go put on some Christina Aguilera or something.”
“I like it,” I would reply back. “It’s sad.”
In high school, I started listening to bands that could be classified as shoegaze, although at the time I didn’t realize it. I found out about artists like Ride, Sway, and Slowdive — music that was hazy and swirled like puffy clouds — and fell madly in love with it all. This is it. This was the kind of music I was really into. It had to be fuzzy and loud and ethereal. It had to transport me somewhere else. I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to only listen to music that had the ability to take me anywhere but here.
Then the summer before senior year happened. I came out of the closet and palled around with some boys. I spent most of my time laying in bed with someone and blasting music from my shitty CD player. My mom was never home. My brother was always out with his friends. I practically had the house to myself. Looking back, I can see how strange that was — a 17-year-old gay boy turning his bedroom into a den of sex and shoegaze — but the beauty (and tragedy) of that age is that you have no reference point for anything. The strange will always feel pretty normal to you.
This one boy introduced me to Loveless and I pretended to hate it at first. I’d feel obligated to dismiss everything he showed me out of some weird insecurity. Only when he left would I take the time to fall in love with it on my own. And that’s what I did with this. The second the boy exited my front door, I played Loveless from start to finish and by the end of it, my ears were buzzing and I felt stoned. I couldn’t believe music could be that all-consuming and powerful.
I think that’s what I miss most about being a teenager. You legitimately don’t know about most things. You don’t know what music can do for you. You don’t know how a movie can stick to you like glue for days afterwards. It’s like you’ve been asleep for fifteen years and now that you’ve finally woken up, you want to consume everything. You want to make up for lost time. You want to only experience the things that will completely change your life.
Even after the polish of sex and youth faded, I still listened to Loveless quite a bit. In college, I would play it while writing papers. And when I graduated, became depressed and began taking lots of drugs and never left my apartment, I would cuddle up to this album like it was an old friend. I’d lie in my bed and watch the days go in and out from my window, this record playing always at full-blast. It made everything worse because it reminded me of where I was when I first heard the record: in the throes of teenage lust, my life crackling with energy and promise. Now here I was, years later, all alone with nothing but these familiar sounds beside me. All I had was this relic of a happier time filling me with some comfort but also reminding me how off-track I had gotten in my life.
My Bloody Valentine just released a new record (their first in 22 years!) and it’s as weird and dreamlike as you’d expect. I listened to it over the weekend and was flooded with all sorts of sexy teenage feelings again. (And, of course, drugged-out 20-something ones as well.) As elated as I was to hear new music from them though, part of me didn’t need to. Loveless had such an impact on me that it was enough. I could’ve stopped there because I knew their music was going to follow me around forever. They had done what so many bands hope for but rarely succeed in doing; they had completely changed my life.