One of my all-time favorite albums turned twenty-five this year: Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s “God Fodder.” This album has meant a great deal to me, and helped me through a rough period in my life. In honor of its 25th anniversary, I thought I’d share my story of how this album empowered me, and altered my course in life.
Middle school was a difficult time for me. I was a decent enough student and had an exemplary attendance record, but I didn’t fit in where I wanted to be in the social hierarchy. I wanted to be one of the “cool kids,” and reap the benefits of being popular: lots of friends; stylish clothes; a dab of Drakkar Noir behind the ears; and something fun going on every weekend.
Alas, it was not to be. I was an overweight, nerdy kid, and had already been labeled a loser by the upper echelon. That didn’t stop me from trying, however. I wore the hottest brands from head to toe, thinking that once the cool kids saw me in familiar clothes they’d welcome me into the fold with open arms.
Instead, they mocked me and told me I wasn’t cool enough to be wearing that stuff. On a good day, they’d make pen marks on my shirts when my back was turned. On a bad day, they’d spit loogies or throw leftover food.
This treatment continued all through middle school, and when high school rolled around, I saw it as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and try again. Unfortunately, most of those same kids came with me to the new school. So, I upped the ante. I stayed current with the latest trends, hair styles, TV shows, and music, but none of it had any effect on my social status.
The bullying only intensified. The cool kids called me names, hurled insults, and slammed me into lockers. One guy even placed tacks on my chair when I got up to hand in a homework assignment. My parents went to the principal and complained—so uncool—and I was forced to turn in my bloody underwear as “evidence.” Needless to say, my path to become cool had reached its end.
Every day began and ended in tears after that. I couldn’t deal with those mean kids anymore. I thought the bullying was the worst of it, then came the panic attacks. Getting out of bed each morning was a struggle. At first I missed a few days of school here and there. Then I missed a few days every week. In 1991, crippling anxiety eventually forced me to drop out of school all together at only 14 years old.
I began homeschooling in the evenings, which left me with a lot of free time during the day. I spent the vast majority of it watching TV. I remember flipping channels one morning and a bright and colorful video on MTV caught my attention.
The lead singer looked like Mike Patton from Faith No More, so I listened because I didn’t recognize the song. Its melodic groove and crunchy guitars were super-catchy, much different than what I’d come to expect from Faith No More. I was hooked. I got lost in the music, tapping my foot and bobbing my head to the beat.
Much to my surprise, when the song ended it hadn’t been Faith No More at all. It was an MTV “Buzz Clip” from an English band called Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. The song: Grey Cell Green.
I’d been saving my allowance for a new Super Nintendo game, but Ned’s Atomic Dustbin became priority number one. I bought their album “God Fodder” and played it nonstop for weeks. They quickly became my favorite band. We didn’t have the internet back then, so to find out more about them, I bought countless issues of Spin, Rolling Stone, NME, and Melody Maker.
Not only did my love for the band deepen through feature articles and interviews, but the magazines also helped me discover more great music I’d have otherwise been unexposed to. By the end of 1991, my musical tastes had completely transformed. I’d gone from Guns N’ Roses and Bell Biv DeVoe to new favorites including The Wonderstuff, Teenage Fanclub, Lush, Swervedriver, Catherine Wheel, Smashing Pumpkins, and of course, Nirvana.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my musical preferences weren’t the only thing changing. I was maturing and finding myself. The “alternative scene” was about more than music. It was about rejecting the societal norms and celebrating individuality. Suddenly being popular and cool didn’t matter to me because it was all subjective. Who was anyone to tell me I wasn’t cool?
I returned to school in the fall of 1992 with newfound confidence. The overweight kid with coiffed hair and Body Glove t-shirts now had long, braided hair, concert tees, and ripped jeans. I didn’t worry about fitting in anymore. I’d become something far better than popular: me.
Although I’ve lost a great deal of weight since then, I’m proud to say that inside this 39-year-old body is that same 15-year-old kid… and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin is still in there, too.
Happy Anniversary, “God Fodder,” and my sincerest thanks to Jonn, Rat, Mat, Alex, and Dan for creating incredible music, and helping a lost kid find himself.