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Fa La La La La: Favorite Records Rocks Off Got for Christmas

No matter what year it is or how old you are, if you love music, there is nothing like finding some new music tucked under the tree or crammed into your stocking. iTunes gift cards are easy. So are gift cards to Tiffany's, but we bet your girl would be a lot more receptive to the blue box. That's how music fans feel about music at Christmas. Despite the ability to download songs on a whim, we love the hard copies.

Here at Rocks Off, we've all gotten music over the years, some better than others. We asked our writers to offer up their memories when it came to music from Christmases gone by. As we suspected, our peeps have some interesting stories.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

In 1978, my mother and I were at the mall and we stopped into the record store -- probably a Sam Goody. I was all of nine years old and my mom was being sneaky. She approached me and asked what a cousin of mine, who was a teenager, would like for Christmas. I said I didn't know, but she asked, "What record would you want?" I picked out a couple of records and, lo and behold, the cassettes ended up in my stocking.

Those two albums, Boston's Don't Look Back, the follow up to their mega successful self-titled debut, and Foreigner's Double Vision, got a ton of spins from me for the coming months, particularly Double Vision. I got lots of music over the years for Christmas like that time my best friend in high school -- the private, religious high school -- got me Shout at the Devil, God bless him, but I'll always remember my first fondly -- isn't that always the way? My interest in Boston wore off quickly and was replaced by Van Halen, but I've always had a fondness for that Foreigner tape (yeah, tape) and I'd like that was because of my mom. Thanks, mom and Merry Christmas! -- Jeff Balke

There is a photo of my older brother and me on Christmas morning, taken around 1987 or so, in which he is showing off his brand new Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill cassette-tape, and I'm juggling Madonna's Like a Virgin and New Kids on the Block tapes. While we all know how my New Kids liking developed, I vividly recall putting Like a Virgin on repeat, naive to its songs' risque subject matters, strapping on my roller-skates, and skating around my family's tile-floor kitchen, singing along to Madonna's every word. (I was a weird loner child.)

That is my earliest memory of receiving music for Christmas, but CDs remained my number one gift request while growing up. I always purchased albums of my favorite bands on the very day they came out (Smashing Pumpkins, mostly), but specifically remember receiving albums like Tripping Daisy's I Am an Elastic Firecracker, Radiohead's The Bends, Lush's Lovelife, and Sonic Youth's Washing Machine for Christmas, all around the same year or two (1995-1996).

I still most enjoy the gift of music; both giving and receiving. While we now have the ability to access any music we want at any moment, right at our fingertips, making and receiving mixes (preferably actual CDs, not Spotify playlists) remains a favorite Christmas gift of mine; there's something so intimate about gifting music, because it requires a certain amount of thought and personal consideration. -- Neph Basedow

I've been given plenty of albums for Christmas, but my all-time favorite: In 1998, my grandmother -- my glorious, gorgeous, perfect grandmother -- gave me DMX's It's Dark And Hell Is Hot (it had come out right before that year's summer). She didn't know what It was or why It was so Dark or how it related to the general temperature of Hell, but she bought it anyway. I never told her I wanted it and I certainly never played DMX around her. She just looked at it and said, "He might enjoy this." And I loved her that much more. -- Shea Serrano

For Christmas in 1996, I got a new Sony Discman, this one, and a few compact disc from my mother. Blues Traveler's Live From The Fall, and Four. I was super into jammy stuff at the time, thanks to MTV, the Dave Matthews Band's Crash which came out that summer, and the fact that it wasn't as duh-duh stupid as the stuff that was geared towards 13-year olds at the time. Plus, Blues Traveler sounded like the dusty, worn vinyl my dad was bringing home to me from garage sales, but they were modern.

It didn't hurt that I was big boy, and BT's John Popper was a bigger guy, so we had a connection. I can still listen to Live From The Fall, with it's two-disc expanse, but Four is a trial now. I stick with 1997's Straight On Til Morning as far as their studio albums go. If I need to hear "Hook" or "Run Around" I can pop on a greatest hits. -- Craig Hlavaty

I remember 1990 being a really tough year for me. My grandfather died; I started fifth grade, where I had a teacher who made it her mission to ruin me; and most terrifyingly my family moved to a new house. If it hadn't been for the copy of Faith No More's The Real Thing that I received for the Christmas of '89, I might not have made it.

I remember marveling at how the tape had a blue label with the songs printed in white and since blue was my favorite color I thought it was so cool. I folded and unfolded the insert until its perforated creases began to give up and tear. I would ride in the backseat of my grandmother's Park Avenue, the racket of an alien world on my Walkman drowning out the grown-up chatter from the front of the car. My mother and grandmother would take me with them to Handy Dan to pick out things for the new house. I would wander off, collecting Formica samples, thinking I understood what it meant to be "somewhere in between". When I got home I would line the samples up; first according to size and then according to color and then according to texture. Then I would separate them into groups according to how well they complemented each other. "Droplets of 'yes' and 'no' in an ocean of maybe." I was happy that "Edge of the World" was at the end of the tape, I hated that song and I could just fast forward and start it all over again. It was so satisfying to feel my thumb click the play button into place.

I liked a boy at school, but not as much as I liked Mike Patton. My mom got me an issue of Circus that had a full page picture of him. I put it up in my locker at school. I had the same bully from Kindergarten through Senior Year, and I remember her shoving my locker door closed as she passed, her binder covered with cut-out pictures of Luke Perry tucked under her arm. I grew up and Mike Patton got to be a little much, and she grew up and realized she was more into Jenny Garth than Luke Perry, but the tape stayed exactly the same. -- April Brem Patrick


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