Monday, November 13, 2006

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It only took me two hours to find a song that would inspire this post...

Did you watch the video? Did you see those big things they were carrying on their shoulders? Those were the first 'ipods'. (And there's nothing better than thrusting and shimmying New Romantic boys.)
When I was 15, I lived in Connecticut for a year, and became immersed into the New York scene, via cable TV, and the small population of new wave kids in my high school, who I never talked to, but was enlightened by, through osmosis. The live music shows broadcast from New York on the weekends were the best. It seemed the weirder the band was, the more the producers liked it. This was 1980, and 'boom boxes' or 'beat boxes', their name depending upon what country you lived in, were the latest rage. Music to go! Bow Wow Wow dug it, and wrote that song. Their best one, in my opinion. The way technology is going now, with everything getting smaller and more personal, the only tack that could possibly be next, say in 2015 or so, is to be injected with music. It would be easy! Each song would have an elaborate password, a password you look up on the computer that will be implanted in your eyes. You know I'm right.

For the car ride west from Connecticut, I made some tapes for the long journey, and played it on my step dad's cassette player. You know, those old fashioned ones you see on old TV shows. When I asked my parents to buy me a boom box, they said Use your step father's old tape player from college! It still works! We can't afford one of those obnoxious, expensive ones! so I had to make due.
On the first day back in Wisconsin, we stopped at my mom's hair salon. She owned and ran it by mail and phone the year we were away, because she didn't want to sell it.
She wanted to stop there first to check on things, so we all got out of the car to stretch our legs, and went in. I couldn't wait to show off how cool I thought I was now, so I walked around the salon with my dorky cassette player on my shoulder, 'blasting' the tinny sounds of Devo, The B-52's, and Blondie, with a look on my face that said: of all the cool kids back east do this. This is normal cool kid behavior. I can't help it. I'm cool now. I was wearing my step dad's 1960's wine-colored blazer with a white t-shirt and orange running shorts with white piping. The girls at the salon looked at me, and looked at my parents, who just rolled their eyes. I spent the next week embarrassing my brothers and friends by wearing that outfit and toting around the tape player, in the grocery store, and at the Copps in the strip mall in Neenah. I stopped the second I saw a kid who was toting around a real one.
When the Sony Walkman hit the Valley around the same time, (not the gag me with a spoon valley, but the ya der hey valley) I was very excited. But those were super-expensive, too, and I got a radio-only version of one for Christmas in 1981. The puffy head phones were great for keeping my ears warm during the Arctic blasts that hit Wisconsin in the winters, but that was about it. It wasn't til 1982 that I got a fancy one, cause Brad bought a stolen one off some kid selling it on the street on Milwalkee. It was great because it had dual head phone jacks, and Brad and I spent hours on the bus, when we skipped school, plugged into the same music. I spent many more hours at night in bed with that walkman, listening to Scary Monsters and Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret.

Before we annoyed each other by giving out home-made CD's, we made mixed-tapes. I couldn't write about mixed-tapes better than Nick Hornby did in High Fidelity, but suffice it to say I made millions of them, first in the 8-track mode, then on cassettes. Here's one I made in 1987, London Hair. Christopher, a guy I was madly in love with in 1986, was famous for his mixed-tapes. Robert, who worked in that trendy boutique (that's long gone) on Broadway just north of Diversey, Xanadu, and who later worked at Flashy Trash during it's better days in the mid-eighties, (he helped Madonna try on vintage stilettos in 1986) also had a crush on Christopher, and he and I would argue over which one of us had received the most tapes from him, and who's had deeper meaning. Christopher made one for me he named "Miss Maybellene", (yes, a proper mixed-tape should be named) and one of the songs was Bigmouth. That wasn't the first time I had heard that song, but I, for some reason, dismissed it as a Smiths attempt at a 'novelty' song. But because Chris had put it on that tape, I thought I must've missed something, so I really listened to it. And when I mean listen, I mean listen. I played it 50 times, until I understood why it was good.

I am so weird like that when it comes to music. I sometimes wish I could just take a passing interest in music and think hmm, interesting tune, and just keep walking, but I can't. I have to become the music. I have to get inside it. I have to play it over and over, so I know every inch. The first time I did that to a song was in 1979, for Ring My Bell by Anita Ward. For some reason I needed to know every word she was singing, and played it until I wrote down every lyric, in my dad's living room, with him in it. My father's patients sometimes amazes me. The conclusion my 13 year old brain came to was that she was a single gal, with her own apartment, singing about a guy she liked coming over for a visit by ringing her doorbell. I latched onto it because I was a kid, and having my own house was a very foreign concept to me, and I guess because she also sang about 'doing the dishes', and hey! I do the dishes, too!
My love for disco was slowly turning in another direction, at first because of the Sex Pistol's disastrous American tour, and all the press it got, and then by New Wave Theatre.
Ever since then, I cling to music that has the power to make me see the world in a different way; be it through how a band looks, how their music sounds, or the lyrics. I run to it and embrace it and wear their badges, because I need all the help I can get when it comes to seeing things differently.


Aaron said...

I used to love New Wave Theatre when it was on "Night Flights." My dad and I used to sometimes watch that, and "Radio 1990" on USA. That was before MTV, of course..

David said...

LOL! Hey! I do the dishes too! Oh, Blondie...