The Record that Changed My Life: Steve Vai Discusses 'West Side Story: Original Broadway Cast Recording'

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Steve Vai chooses (and discusses) the record that changed his life.

West Side Story
Original Broadway Cast Recording (1957)

I was about seven or eight years old when I first heard West Side Story, and it had a huge impact on me.

If you look at the elements of that record, it contains many of the things I enjoy doing today. It has history, melody (How can you compete with [Leonard] Bernstein and [Stephen] Sondheim?) and the lyrics are wonderful.

Along with its enchanting and exquisite melodies, West Side Story has attitude and a tremendous amount of frenetic energy. It's emotional, theatrical and technical. It's everything.

Because I was a young kid, that type of music represented a sort of freedom for me. It wasn't all groove- or beat-oriented, and it didn't fall within the confines of conventional pop song structures. These guys just did whatever the hell they wanted. When I first heard it, I thought, This is what music needs to be.

And you can see the influence in my approach. From the first note I ever recorded on my first solo record, I've made a very conscious decision to try and work outside of the box.

NOTE: This is the trailer for the 1961 film version of West Side Story.

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