I was raised on oldies and classic rock. That’s what my dad listened to. Those were the mixtapes he made for me growing up. That’s what I listened to. Incidentally, he also facilitated me discovering my own tastes when he introduced me to Weird Al Yankovic. I started reading the liner notes on Yankovic albums, figured out what songs he was parodying, and my interests spun out from there. But the Weird Al story is a song for another time. This is a story about me furthering my musical interests with weird shit. Weird shit like Daft Punk.
I was 11 when Around the World hit. It was summer of ’97, there I was, watching music videos on MTV, which is a thing you used to be able to do. And then “Around the World” came on:
It was this wild, weird sound and visual that was completely unlike anything I had ever heard or seen before. Like I said, I was raised on classic rock and oldies. That directed me to stick close to pop and rock in discovering my own music. I had picked up on hip-hop here and there, but I hadn’t gone too far past Will Smith at this point in my life. Again, I was only 11. But that was my lane. Rock and pop. Daft Punk was this whole new world of musical experiences for me.
I could not get enough. The town we lived in at the time had a record store right next to the movie theatre, and my mom would drop me off at the movie theatre, I’d go see a movie, and then I’d usually pop over to the record store till she came to pick me up. They had those listening stations where you could sample the CDs by scanning the barcode. The next time I was there, I searched all over for Daft Punk, no knowing what it was or whatever, finally asking the clerk where Daft Punk was.
And that’s the game changing moment. I listened to more Daft Punk. I had to hear more. I had to hear more of this sound. And over the next few years, that led me to Fatboy Slim, the Chemical Brothers, Paul Oakenfeld. There was this whole world of music that was completely new and foreign to me, and it was some of the most fascinating music I had heard in my entire life. Entirely because it was weird and new.
It wasn’t a “I have to be weird and edgy for the sake of being weird and edgy” type of thing. It was a “I didn’t know this is what music could be, and it’s fantastic,” type of thing. That’s what Daft Punk was for me. I mean, you could point to other game changers in genres, especially of the era. I had been listening to Pearl Jam and REM and Oasis, and had tried Radiohead. I liked what they were doing, but it wasn’t until later in life that I appreciated for more than just “rock that was newer than what my dad listened to.” Daft Punk was this abruptly new and different thing. It wasn’t rock, it wasn’t pop, it wasn’t my admittedly limited interaction with hip-hop and country. It wasn’t blues or disco or R&B or whatever the hell Enya was. It was this beautiful new experience that opened the doors to so many new types of music. If this exists and is out there and I haven’t heard it, what else is out there that I haven’t heard or experienced?
Unfortunately my parents never let me sign up for the Columbia Record Club, so I had to wait until birthdays or Christmas to get new CDs, but I never stopped my hunt for new, weird music. Still haven’t stopped my hunt, now 24 years later. But that wasn’t hte last time Daft Punk blew my mind. Their score for Tron: Legacy is one of the great movie scores of the 21st century, if not all time, and they just happened to have the misfortune to go toe-to-toe with one of the other great movie scores of the 21st century, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ score for The Social Network, both from 2010.
The news they were breaking up hit me in that way normally a death does. When a beloved celebrity dies, we aren’t mourning a close friend we personally knew. We’re mourning those memories they’re tied to. The times I spent jamming to Tom Petty, David Bowie or Prince with my dad. The Cloris Leachman or Sean Connery movies I’d watch with my mom. The decades I’ve been watching Jeopardy! I have deep, formative memories tied to those artists and their work. And now those artists are gone. I’ll only have those memories of them going forward.
Daft Punk breaking up hit that same way. Their music is so formative to me, that it’s a shock to the system for them to not be here anymore. I still have my memories and we still have their music, and that’s all we need. I’ll live content with that. But there’s that twinge of forlorn “Never again” that just hits hard.
So farewell Daft Punk. Thanks for the music. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for guiding me towards new and interesting music.