My First Record is a music column where we ask musicians about the first record they remember listening to, bought with their own money or was passed down to them. Whether it was a CD, vinyl album, cassette tape or even an 8-track (we haven’t run into anyone yet whose first music was downloaded, but we won’t be surprised when we do) we’re curious about the first record a musician remembers listening to. This week we welcome a post from Abby Bernstein.
I was eight or nine at the time, so I’m guessing I bought the CD with birthday money. I remember going to the record store at the mall and was initially drawn to the album because of the artwork: the bleach blond Gwen Stefani in her red dress and sneakers holding the orange from the No Doubt video “Don’t Speak.”
Gwen Stefani was and remains the epitome of cool, and I think every girl growing up in the nineties wanted to be her. “Spiderwebs” is my favorite song from the album – it’s the first track, and it kicks off the album with an angsty energy that sets the tone for what’s to come. As a young girl, I had no idea what the song meant or that this was about her breakup with No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal. I had never experienced love or felt like I was caught in the web of an undeserving man—but I could still admire the songwriting and the attitude in every ad-lib.
Gwen Stefani is not faking anything, and the production for each song was likewise authentic and unlike anything I had ever heard before. Tragic Kingdom is also one of those albums in which every track is killer –“Excuse Me Mr.”, “Just a Girl,” “Sunday Morning,” “Happy Now,” and “Don’t Speak” are my favorite of the seven (yes seven!!) singles released, but “The Climb” and “End It On This” are equally enjoyable.
Listening back to “End It on This Now,” I really love how the hook is so repetitive –the melody becomes a word-painting of how breakups are: you think you’re done but sometimes you keep going back to the person who isn’t right. I love how the groove of the drums at the 3:00 mark changes to sound almost like punching because it’s like that final battle cry in the relationship. Gwen’s singing on this album is incredible, and I know I either consciously or subconsciously learned phrasing and dynamics by listening to No Doubt and Gwen Stefani.
Abby Bernstein is a twenty-four year old NYC singer-songwriter hailing originally from a tiny farm town in Western Massachusetts. The daughter of hippies, Abby Bernstein was named after The Beatles album “Abbey Road” and grew up listening to the best blues, folk, soul, and rock n roll had to offer: Joan Baez, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones … you name it! Music runs in Abby’s blood—her grandparents were classically trained pianists and her great-great grandmother was a singer who immigrated to America from Russia to find a doctor when she lost her voice. It was only a matter of time before Abby began putting on performances in the family living room.
In 2011, Abby toured as the opening act for Barenaked Ladies, an experience she calls “inspiring because they are all phenomenal musicians who know their craft – there are no throw-away words in their songs.” As a music publisher and composer for advertising, Abby has licensed her music to film/TV (MTV, VH1, Logos, and ABC ) and advertising and is excited that her song “Spend the Night” played in the finale of HBO’s hot new show “Girls.”
The music of Abby Bernstein is best described as quirky pop rooted in hooks and storytelling. What is consistent about Abby’s songs is that they are open, honest, and conversational in feel, and particularly reflect the experiences of young women.
Thanks to Abby Bernstein for sharing her thoughts on No Doubt and Gwen Stefani! We love hearing about different musician’s earliest experiences with music. Hope you do too!