Produced by

Formative Year: Age 14

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The age of 14 is kind of a suspension. You’re not a kid anymore…but teenage growing pains are still a growth spurt or two away. Music critic David Hajdu says, that makes it the most important year in a music fan’s life. Hajdu is joined by musician and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin to explain why so many artists, performers and listeners are shaped by their teenage musical tastes.

Listeners: What music did you listen to at age 14? And how did it shape you? Are you a 14 year old who can tell us about the music that you’re listening to and why? Leave a comment below.


David Hajdu and Daniel J. Levitin

Comments [55]

CM from Brooklyn

I am 14 and right now I'm listening to older rock and hip hop because it makes me feel different from other people my age and I want that. Most of my friends listen to z100 and stuff, and just makes me feel depressed about my generation.
The Stones, the Beatles, and Paul Simon's Graceland among other things is the music I constantly play and it gives me a feeling of hope, which I think is important at this age.

Jun. 02 2011 10:43 PM
Felix from New York City

i want to weigh in on the girls vs. boys debate, i am a fifteen year old girl and in highschool no one seems to care what boys listen to, but girls will be totally in LOVE with a band, and that intense fandom can even go as far as making or ruining friendships.

Jun. 02 2011 10:38 PM
louis from UWS

I happen to be 14 and i find myself listening to older and older music. Besties, Kraftwerk, even some classical. I just cant deal with pop music nowadays it makes me sick

Jun. 02 2011 10:30 PM
a g from n j

i think the point being missed by some,is that it's not about the esthetic choices so much, being influenced by the music heard at fourteen, as it is, about the effect that the general sonic palatte has,good and bad, on one's musical and personal identification. as usual,there are going to be people who just like to disagree,for sport, whithout really giving a new notion a chance. and boy is that a guy sort of thing.

Jun. 02 2011 09:08 PM
Mr. Allerdice from Chelsea

Your guest is SPOT ON for me. I was 14 in 1979, right on the line between the 'classic' orchestral disco (Donna Summer at her height) and those after the oh-so-masculine "disco sucks" movement, like funkytown as it morphed to 'new wave' to 'house' to 'techno', and so on. The 4/4 dance beat goes on to this day, and even ballads are released as remixes suitable for dance clubs. I've collected ALL I had to keep secret or "missed out on" once I got to NYC and still collect dance music -- no longer in secret -- to today! "Rock" music of high school and 'alternative rock' during college no longer smother me! My database today includes over 11,000 songs, from the '70s to today.

BTW, the guest's "This is Your Brain on Music" is fascinating, I've read it twice.

Jun. 02 2011 04:01 PM
Mike Gaughan from Brooklyn

I will be 55 at the end of June, At 14,I was listening to folk/rock Crosby-Stills-Nash & Young James Taylor 16 thru 18 it was Yes,Jethro Tull, and The Who. but uncommonly maybe, in College and thru to the present day, I listen mostly to traditional folk both American and Irish and music growing out of those traditions such as The Horse Flies Clannad and Capercaille. As an adult II became an Irish speaker in part inspired by my musical taste. I rarely if ever listen to my CSNY collection even though I have a turntable.

Jun. 02 2011 03:04 PM
a g from n j

everything we hear from the perspective of the "hormonal bath", leaves an imprint in a specific way, that has its own life. nothing heard before of after, is going to have quite the same effect on our emotional formation.

Jun. 02 2011 03:03 PM
Alan from West Orange, NJ

I am 70 and I still enjoy/love the music of my 12-16 yr. old days - 1952 to 1956. I grew up listening to Allen Fried and Murray Kaufman, watching American Bandstand and it all resonates: Brings back fond memories and grabs me musically. I am also a big Beatles and music of the '60s/early 70s fan including folk - Baez, Taylor...., love Simon and Garfunkle. I'm a bottomless pit for the pop music of those days. Don't really know how it shaped me excepted that I guess that one could call my musical tastes pedestrian. I have come to enjoy some classical music later in life but generally not like the pop music of my youth.

Jun. 02 2011 02:48 PM
Mary Alice

I was 14 during the heyday of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. It surely instilled in me an urgency for being independent and arts-driven. I'm currently an arts & culture writer, so I absolutely see the influence in my current lifestyle!

Jun. 02 2011 02:48 PM

I was 14 in '68 and honestly don't listen to music at all anymore, so I was a little surprised that I was drawn to Amy Winehouse's sound. Having read a bit about how our brains are wired I realized that duh, I was simply responding to that 60s sound.

Jun. 02 2011 02:45 PM
Julia from Bay Shore, NY

I always say that I hit a great time for music when I was a teenager. I was 14 in 1994, and had an abundance of spectacular music to discover and explore- Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Pavement, Tori Amos, Jane's Addiction, Radiohead, Liz Phair... I upgraded from tapes (sometimes mix tapes) to CDs, and now they're all in my iPod. Don't know how I got so lucky with timing! Sometimes I feel bad for teenagers today.

Jun. 02 2011 02:43 PM
Mary Alice

I was 14 during the heyday of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. It surely instilled in me an urgency for being independent and arts-driven. I'm currently an arts & culture writer, so I absolutely see the influence in my current lifestyle!

Jun. 02 2011 02:41 PM
Betsy from Brooklyn

To Ali,

That was the last year I was bigger than my brother. He soon outgrew me!

Jun. 02 2011 02:41 PM
JFreely from New York City

More from me...At age 14 (1979) was not pivotal for me in taste except that I started really listening to fm radio then--in a quest for music and the beginings in the late 70s like Genesis but I don't identify with it because I didn't find any good stuff like Bowie, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Devo, Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson until a couple years later...

Jun. 02 2011 02:40 PM
G. Rech

My first two albums were Monkee's albums, quickly followed by "Sunshine of Your Love", The JIMI Hendrix Experience, and the Blues Project Live At the Cafe au Gogo" This was pivotal - Hendrix et al led me to blues and rock which I still listen to today. I would also point out the proximity of the Filmore which made it possible to hear anything and expend one's musical experience. My second epiphany came ther when I first heard Zepplin. Blew me away.

Jun. 02 2011 02:40 PM

I was 14 in 1996 and i'm forever indebted to my high school boyfriend for forming my musical tastes. He was one of those kids who is obsessed with music - he had hundreds (possibly thousands) of CDs and was always making me mix tapes and later mix CDs. I was exposed to everything from old timey country music from the 30s to Bob Dylan to punk to contemporary music. It inspired a life-long love of musical exploration.

Jun. 02 2011 02:39 PM
ali from inwood

Betsy, I hope you won those fights!

Jun. 02 2011 02:38 PM
jenn from manhattan

At 14 I was obsessed with Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, Smiths, Jam and of course, the Beatles. From that age on, music has been central to my life, the soundtrack, if you will.

Jun. 02 2011 02:37 PM
Brian from Weehawken, NJ

When i was 14 my brother brought me a Pink Floyd concert as a birthday present. It was my first concert and it changed my life - the music, the spectacle, the energy of the crowd. I realized then that this is what i wanted to do with my life; work in live entertainment. That's what it did for the next 18 years and counting!
And i still love Pink Floyd!

Jun. 02 2011 02:37 PM
eric from NYC

I think the guest needs to operationally define what he means by pivotal year or most influential time. Meaning what? That you are stuck listening to the music you loved most when you were 14? Or is it, for some of us, that we revisit this music in a kind of mid-life crisis? Or could there be a confounding variable, that the psychosocial circumstances of life at that time, independent of musical taste, is the poignant variable. I thank this guest and this show for exploring this probing idea.

Jun. 02 2011 02:37 PM

As to the caller who discussed taste ending when you finish school, that's radio programming 101. Chuck Klosterman nailed it when he said your taste is formed between 9th grade and the end of college.

Jun. 02 2011 02:36 PM
Emily from NYC

I was 14 in 1992, and I always thought it was strange that I was really one of the only people listening to Nirvana and grunge in my suburban high school. But now, living a vastly different life from most who graduated my year from my school, maybe it was an early sign?

Jun. 02 2011 02:36 PM
Celia from east village

My 14th summer was 1970. My peers and I were obsessed with Laura Nyro's first album, Phil Och's "All the New that's Fit to Sing", all things Beatle, Tommy by The Who, "Ladies of the Canyon" by Joni Mitchell. Pretty good taste for 14 year olds!

Jun. 02 2011 02:36 PM
Oscar from Brooklyn, NY

Totally spot on, and I was thinking about this the other day. I was 14 years old in 1994 and was studying guitar and piano and learning the songs of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones as well as bands of the day like Nirvana and Pixies. And though I studied jazz in college, it's all come full circle as my original band Ghost Robot Ninja Bear plays post-hardcore punk in the style of those 90s alt-rock bands but for my "day job" with the wedding band Dexter Lake Club Band I'm playing all those classic rock songs I learned as a 14 year old.

Jun. 02 2011 02:35 PM

1982. Jackson Browne's "Lawyers in Love" and the Doors. I am ashamed.

Jun. 02 2011 02:34 PM
Betsy from Brooklyn

Ah, Alistair! Apparently a girl from a farming community has something in common with boys from the suburbs. I listened to Led Zeppelin IV every morning in 9th grade. I had to fight my brother over our shared stereo. He wanted to listen to Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill. He was 10 at the time.

Jun. 02 2011 02:34 PM
Dylan from Brooklyn

Mr. Leventon mentioned how a teenager feels like a "moving target" at 14, which I think makes sense.

In my case, the now universally-derided 3rd wave of ska hit Orange County, CA hard when I was 14. What this meant for me and my other friends was the need to once revere and revile the music, leading, in my case, to mining the music as best I could, reaching back to the Jamaica Ska of the early 60's, avoiding, as such, the 'trendiness' of the 3rd of the genre. The degree to which we held to this difference of course embarrasses me today.

How's that affected me probably has something to do returning to the 'primary' -- to the original influence of whatever genre or art form. Or, maybe I've just learned to relax about relying on music for an identity.

Jun. 02 2011 02:33 PM
Jim from Somerville, NJ

How about pondering how the War Babies (born during WW II) became the rock stars for the Baby Boomers? That would also help explain how "14 year olds" in 1955-56 (the War Babies) were taken up by rock 'n' roll and then became very famous when they performed for the huge population of "14 year old" in the late 60s (the Baby Boomers).

It's partly the age and partly the era, and birth rates play a role in this!

Jun. 02 2011 02:33 PM
N.N. from Easton, CT

I was looking for music to listen too when I was 14 and found it challenging to find things I liked that I thought would represent me. I enjoyed some of the music of my friends. I found that I listened to the music of my one or two of my friends; Pink Floyd, Yes, Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones to name a few. Though later I discovered the Pretenders, Devo, Talking Heads, Squeeze... and I found that I'm a bit of a late bloomer it was harder to find things one liked when one was a teen before in my era. I would also always listened to classical music as well particularly the Baroque period. I loved the coolness and order. In college I was thrilled w. new wave music going to college in NY and later living in London for short stint the music was more to my taste. Looking back some of my taste was terrible like Adam Ant. It took me a while to discover what I really liked.

Jun. 02 2011 02:33 PM

Am I the exception that prooves the rule? For the me the year would've been 1974. I was a big Elton John fan; had just gone to my first concert the year before.. I listened to "older" music from the late sixties... there was a group called "Renaissance". I haven't listened to any of this stuff in decades!

On the other hand, I think that I might have become interested in the kind of blues music that I think influenced EJ.

Jun. 02 2011 02:32 PM
Maude from Park SLope

Doesn't every 14 yr think they are the first to discover classic rock?
oh zeppelin and Bowie, Queen.
Joan Jett.
still adore all classic rock.

95x in Syracuse!!
2fer tuesdays...

Jun. 02 2011 02:31 PM
JFreely from New York City

Now in mid-40s I'm going through a midlife crisis (?!?) and getting into Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and even Selena Gomez ?!? I was a lifelong Bowie fan and still am but don't need to hear his music these days as I like finding new stuff. In my 30s I was into EMO stuff like Keane and Coldplay and techno dance. I am an enigma, no?!? Go figure! (or figure me out!)

Jun. 02 2011 02:31 PM
Alistair Wallace from inwood

Every 14 year old suburban boy since 1970 has listened to the same thing- Led Zeppelin.

Jun. 02 2011 02:31 PM
Steve from Flatbush

KMFDM, the Beatles, Guns 'n' Roses, The Beach Boys, Metallica, Del Shannon, The Cars, the Kinks, AC/DC, Pop Will Eat Itself, Garth Brooks, Frank Sinatra ... and a whole assortment of '60s pop. Also, Def Leppard, Poison and all the popular bands at the time. Also Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, '70s era classic rock. I listened to pretty much everything but rap. Not even the Beastie Boys. Just didn't have the tolerance for it, then. I'd say my musical appreciation has only grown as I've gotten older.

Jun. 02 2011 02:30 PM
Art from Union City, NJ

Did your guest, David, ever think the Beatles were thinking Hey Jude about him?

Jun. 02 2011 02:30 PM

1990 I was 14 and I was listening to Heavy/Death Metal ( Slayer,Metallica, Sepultura) ...and now at 36 I got into Depeche Mode and the smiths...go figure! I have 3 kids (20, 18,13) and they all have similar tastes as I some like metal, rock, video game music, jazz...we listen to everything as a family! Music has always been in our lives and will continue to be an important part of our lives...btw I still listen to death/heavy metal ^_^ and I cant wait to hear the interview with David Gahan!!

Jun. 02 2011 02:29 PM
Suzanne from NJ

I was 14 in 1986 and I listened to Pat Benetar, Madonna and the Go-Gos. Women who made me realize that one can be feminine and strong at the same time.

Jun. 02 2011 02:28 PM
John from Manhattan

My 14th year was 1968, generally a great year in music. I started playing guitar at the age of six and quit just before my 11th birthday. What happens to those 14-year-olds that live in eras that are particularly fallow? Nevertheless, my musical tastes have not only deepen but have grown more diverse, I embracing music I once eschewed as a teenager.

Jun. 02 2011 02:25 PM
Betsy from Brooklyn

In 1992, I discovered the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr and they're still two of my favorite bands. I also really liked Nirvana and Concrete Blonde.

Jun. 02 2011 02:21 PM
Frank from Rockaway NJ

Alan Freed ruled the air waves in NY in 1954 when I was 14.

I am same age as Dylan and Van Ronk was a neighbor who played with Dylan at Folk City. I know Van Ronk (and maybe Dylan) listened to the old blues singers Leadbelly and others. We were very into folk in those days and early Rock and Roll.

Jun. 02 2011 02:20 PM
don from Middlesex County

I'll always love the Moby Grape,Rascals,4Seasons,Joe Tex,Steve Winwood/Traffic,Buddy Holly,Little Richard -which I did at 14-but what was a more pleasant surprise was to grow up to love much of the music I would have shunned at 14 (be it Rosemary Clooney, much (then) jazz,classical,Lefty Frizell just as much.
As a rule Boomers tend to grip too tightly to this theory and have forced their tastes on later generations ad nauseum.

Jun. 02 2011 02:19 PM
Matt from Brooklyn

As a 14-year old in the late 1990s, I was listening to a lot of angry and/or moody music that went rather well with my incorrigible, adolescent mood swings (see: Tool, Rage Against the Machine). It wasn't an extreme departure from my prior years spent listening to bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana, but I had definitely formed the foundation that would lead to my love for punk and indie rock a few years later that, and that I still carry with me today. Of course I'm considerably more open minded today.

Jun. 02 2011 02:16 PM
Matthew from Weehawken

I disagree with your premise, I've always believed that for most people their musical exploration happens when they conclude their final year of schooling. I've always felt that once a person has a full time job, a family, a mortgage is the time that music takes a back seat.

At 14, I was listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes and Jethro Tull but college 1982-1986 and law school 1986-1989 years were more significant to my long term listening of indie, garage, jazz and 6Ts soul and 5Ts R&B.

Jun. 02 2011 02:16 PM
Richard from New York

Instead of David Hajdu's repetitive dismissal of Teresa Brewer's talent - the more interesting topic is why rock/popular songwriters most often reach the apex of their abilities at a young age. It is in contradiction to other forms of writing, and most other artistic pursuits.

This notion of our formative musical tastes and impressions hitting us around our mid-teens is hardly revelatory.

Jun. 02 2011 02:16 PM
Henry from Brooklyn, NY

My wife was born in 1961. In 1975, when she was 14, the top billboard hit was Love will keep us together, by Captain and Tennille, and Fleetwood Max were hot.

Now I understand her taste in music!

Jun. 02 2011 02:15 PM
Kevin from Mamaroneck

The Smiths. I can't imagine my teen years without their music.

Jun. 02 2011 02:14 PM
Rich K from UC, NJ

At 14? The Top 40 of WABC, but it was also the year I discovered Mose Allison, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and jazz in general via WRVR, and underground rock courtesy of WNEW-FM, including those soon to be red hot unknowns like Led Zeppelin, Fairport Convention, Chicago, Joni Mitchell, etc. What I learned the most? To embrace the new and never forget the old, and keep my ears as wide open as possible.

Jun. 02 2011 02:12 PM
Kevin from Mamaroneck

The Smiths. I can't imagine my teen years without their music.

Jun. 02 2011 02:10 PM

At 14 i was into Black Sabbath (with Ozzy only of course) and they are still my favorite musical act. I was also into what would be termed "Thrash Metal" and am today still interested in the "Extreme Metal" genre. So i guess this is true.

I will say that i got into everything else i enjoy after 14 years old. lol.

Jun. 02 2011 02:10 PM
Kate from Brooklyn, NY

I listened to a lot of pop-punk, emo, and hardcore, like Saves the Day, the Promise Ring, Kid Dynamite... as well as teenage angst classics like the Smiths.
It gave me a deep appreciation for the art of the melancholy pop song and left me with an interest the presence of ontological misery/nostalgia throughout Western history (as melancholia, black bile, etc...)

Jun. 02 2011 02:08 PM
Jenny from Brooklyn

I don't think I had BAD musical taste at age 14; but I definitely needed my music to channel & sublimate all my pubescent angst, all tied up with the stress and energy of coming out of the closet, and I'm sure it's 100% obvious from my musical taste at the time: Indigo Girls, Ani, Tori Amos. When I wanted to mellow a little, I went for the comfort of my parents' vinyl (the dead, joni mitchell, the who). I still like all those things, but I don't listen to them regularly. They definitely shaped me tho!

Jun. 02 2011 12:08 PM
Michael from NYC

This is, in my case, totally spot on. At 14 I was spending hours in my local record store (grew up in the suburbs) talking with the older kids who worked there and getting recommendations from them. I still have some of the cassettes (!) I bought then -- others, like Louder Than Bombs by The Smiths and Power Corruption and Lies by New Order had to be replaced on CD and/or vinyl as the years passed. My tastes went all over the place as a teenager, but I came to my senses in my early twenties and returned to the bands I discovered at 14.

Jun. 02 2011 11:57 AM
mike from ny

ugh! fourteen year olds have terrible taste in music! i was no exception. I was fourteen in 1989 and was listening to what in retrospect can only be described as the worst of the hair bands; poison, warrant, bon jovi, slaughter etc.

So glad I've moved on to more sophisticated faire such as... well nevermind! (pun intended)

Jun. 02 2011 11:33 AM
Tessie from NYC

I was forced to listen to WNYC, classical, and jazz. Now I'm a highschool senior and gladly wear my eco-bag to all of my orchestra rehearsals.

Jun. 02 2011 10:33 AM
bernie from rialt ca

bob dylan's like a rollingstone was the song of the summer '65

Jun. 01 2011 10:13 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.