When I was an intrepid new wave teen, it was very important to me to be cutting edge. I had to know all the new music -- and had to have all the new music -- before anyone else did. In fact, I was so bitchin that I had the twelve inch MAXI SINGLE of "Hold Me Now" by The Thompson Twins BEFORE THE WHOLE RECORD CAME OUT. That, my friends, is not messing around. It had a "special dub mix" on the other side. Did anyone else at Monte Vista High School in 1983 have that record? I highly doubt it.
Okay, okay, it wasn't all that cutting edge, considering that song was doomed for high school dances and Easy Listening radio stations.
But back then, it was so much easier to find new music and hear new music and get really excited about it, and even wear pins to advertise one's allegiance to it. It was all so new to me then, and I was completely invested in it. We had an awesome "alternative" radio station called The Quake that I listened to religiously, and if I heard something I liked, I saved up my measly allowance (or my lunch money) and went to the record store and bought it. (And would sit on my bed and study the album cover and the liner notes and lyrics.) And it was easy enough to explore back then -- if the people on the record cover had even slightly weird haircuts, or if it was in a thrift shop and from the 50's or 60's, I was all over it.
I loved making mixed tapes for my friends, carefully choosing songs that segued into each other and that sounded good together, and that had meaning. I happily sat on the floor in front of my stereo, amidst piles of records and tapes, waiting for the perfect moment to hit "pause" between the songs, and cursing when the tape ran out before the song ended. Worse was when it wasn't just the usual snap, crackle and pop of records, but when it would skip -- I would wince and just flick the needle, and more often than not left it. (My friend Leslie used to call it "The Karen Finlay Special Remix Version.") While the songs played, I tried to think of witty titles for the tapes, and decorated the inserts by hand with colored marking pens (adding to the piles of records mess), experimenting with different handwriting and fonts. I spent hours working on those tapes, and loved giving them out. (Rumor has it that some of those tapes are still out there -- I love that, too.) And I loved it when people made them for me, too.
Of course, I wasn't all that knowledgeable or cool. I was a dopey kid from the suburbs with a 12 pm curfew and limited access to MTV. (I only got to watch it at friends' houses -- my dad thought it was all crap and he refused to subscribe.) So it's not like I really knew anything too obscure, but I certainly hated all the mainstream stuff that the other kids at my school were into. (Heavy metal was like totally gnarly!) I didn't know about college radio, and I wasn't angry or brave enough to be into the whole punk rock thing. But music was my life, and I took it very seriously, proclaiming my love by scrawling band names all over my blue cloth binders and PeeChee folders.
When I got to college, I had a roommate with big hair and an unnatural tan and a penchant for All Things With Lips On Them. My side of the dorm room had Style Council and Aretha Franklin posters and pictures carefully cut out of Interview magazine on the wall; she had airbrushed posters of lips. And a lips phone. And pens, mugs and stationery with lips on them. And since it was her side of the room, I woke up every morning to the sight of a poster of a pair of shiny lips sucking on a succulent lollipop or something ridiculously phallic. She woke up to my poster of Paul Weller and milk crates full of records and tapes that I had lugged from home, most of which she deemed "weird." "Why do you have so many records?" she asked. (Her music collection consisted of Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" and Janet Jackson and Cameo tapes she played in her Nissan Sentra.) "Isn't that, like, a guy thing?"
"A guy thing?" I asked, confused. "Why would it be a guy thing?"
"Because guys are all into records and music," she said, using a pik to fluff up her bangs. "Girls are, like, into clothes and stuff."
Score zero for feminism. Needless to say, we hated each other by Christmas break.
So, okay, maybe I was a total geek and socially maladjusted in my betty roommate's eyes (and ohhh, what I could have retorted about What It Means To Be Obsessed With Airbrushed Lips Posters), but that meant that most of my friends were, too -- boys and girls alike. Back then, and to this day, most of my friendships have music as the common ground, or at least that's how they started out. I have met so many of my friends through shows and clubs or events, all revolving around music. Being part of a subculture (or a few, depending on how you look at it) was a big part of my life, and the music -- even possibly more so than the clothes and accoutrements -- was the driving force. In a lot of ways, the music I listened to was my identity, and I was passionate about it.
But a funny thing happened on the way to getting older -- the music got too loud.
I don't know exactly when or how it happened, but I kind of lost the zeal for finding new music. I get 6 radio stations in my car (thanks to an Unfortunate Incident with an antennae and a car wash), all of which pretty much suck. There's no one station, like we had back in high school, that I turn on right away -- I push the buttons over and over, hating it all. (But, well, 6 stations doesn't leave me with many choices, I'll admit.) The "alternative" station is the worst. The Fall-Out-Chemical-Romance-Boy crapola (Good God, I sound just like my dad) makes me want Tylenol -- with cyanide in it. MTV and VH1 doesn't play music anymore, and when I go into a music store or open itunes, I just feel kind of lost. More and more I revert back to the music I loved when I was younger, and listen to mostly music from the 40's to the 60's, which is what I've always loved anyway. I'm hardly bereft -- my tastes are all over the place and there's plenty of music to fill it. But new music? I know barely any of it anymore, and lack the inspiration to search.
But I do miss that thrill of discovery, and the excitement of hearing a song and then going to seek it out. So when this Accomplishment popped up, I was pretty happy about it. And I had A Plan. A nefarious, greedy, and lazy Plan.
Last year I was invited to join a CD Club with 11 strangers, and we all had a month where we made 11 cds for each member of the club. I loved the idea -- after all, I had loved making those mix tapes. And while I did get to hear some great new music, not all of it was my cuppa tea. (And I'm sure mine wasn't theirs, either.) So when the year was up, I didn't renew my membership, instead deciding to branch out and start a club of my own.
And hence, my Plan. I could hear new music, and pick out the people that I would personally ransack their record collections, all for the price of blank CDS and postage, and have it all delivered to my doorstep. AND Accomplish something for the Blog. Nefarious, greedy, lazy AND fabulous.
So I picked out about 10 people, all of whom are musical afficiandos within their specific genres with enough diversity to make it interesting, and who I figured would be into it. "New" music wasn't necessarily a focus, but rather "new" to me and others in the group. And then, it EXPLODED.
Because it was such a good idea, someone told their two friends, and so on and so on, until it was like that old Faberge Organics shampoo commercial and suddenly we had 25 people in the group. Which was more than fine with me. All the more music to enjoy, right? Two CDS in a month, why that's back to the old days when I used to walk out of Amoeba records with a bag of CDs!
And I must say, it has worked out beautifully. (Except for CD Clubber for December Jeff who STILL hasn't sent his out... AHEM.) We've gotten to hear music in R&B, Northern Soul, Rockabilly, Country, Mod, Garage, 60's, pop... and yes, even NEW music. And we only started in September, so we still have a long way and a lot of CDs to go.
Mine was last month, in January. And like I used to make those mix tapes long ago, I carefully picked out songs that segued into each other and sounded good together. And some of them had meaning. And because I take this blog verrrry seriously, I tried to be creative and stretch and find some songs that were even recorded in this decade, and songs that might be "new" to the other people in the club as well. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed doing it. And though it was all through my laptop and itunes, so there weren't piles of records and tapes and magic markers, I still gave it a cute cover:
Okay, it wasn't by hand. But I love this image and thought it went well with the theme.
So in doing the CD Club, I am fulfilling the Accomplishment of Listening to New Music. But I also found something from my past that I had forgotten that I had loved to do, and for a few hours there, I felt like the "old" me -- inspired and falling in love with the thrill of not just discovery, but sharing that discovery as well.
And here are some discoveries for you:
A guy I know has an excellent music blog that you should check out:
Like Dynamite to Your Brain (good, rare 60's gems, and links to other music blogs as well)
And a girl I know has an excellent music and photography blog, too: All Eyes and Ears
And let me share one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE songs with you:
Karen by The Saturn V
So screw my old roommate. It's not a "Guy" thing. Music is universal. Old OR new.
Twenty-six down, 71 to go.