I know, this time of year I always start writing one of my patented nostalgic ‘this time of year I…’ posts. This one’s probably no different. Maybe a little bit meta this time around.
Given that thirty years ago, we were going from 1987 into 1988 — two classic years of college rock containing some of my all-time favorite albums — I got to thinking not so much about the music of the time or what I was going through at the time (for once!) but the passage of time itself.
About this time thirty years ago, I was working my meager internship/job at WCAT, then an AM-only radio station, slogging through my junior year. The station had a listen-at-work playlist, with Red Sox and local color on the weekends. Kinda sorta current music, maybe a few years behind with a few recent lighter tracks dropped in. Which meant that I still had a bit of a connection to the pop charts. The fourth-quarter wave of new releases had quieted down to a trickle, as expected. I spent most of December listening to the music I’d purchased so far, listened to the students on WAMH play their last shows for the semester, checked out some of the year-end countdowns. I was still making the radio tapes but hadn’t yet started making the mixtapes in earnest yet (that wouldn’t happen for another few months).
I was listening primarily to my favorite releases from the last few months: Music for the Masses, Strangeways Here We Come, Happy?, Floodland, The Lion and the Cobra, Bête Noire, Savage, Earth Sun Moon. I’d read Rolling Stone and Spin and watch 120 Minutes for release news, but for the most part I had no idea what else was coming out.
As far as I knew, I wasn’t going to expect anything too exciting. I didn’t have too much access to more intensive music journals at the time. I’d heard that Morrissey was working on a solo album, that The Cure were going on tour, but that was pretty much it. So I went into 1988 in my usual teenage way, being the moody bastard and plugging away at my writing and all that.
I had no idea, probably not until maybe halfway through the year, that 1988 would end up being one of my favorite-ever years of college rock. I knew then and I know now that part of this was due to the music being there at the same time as a cherished time with close friends. But part of it was also me letting myself get totally immersed in the sound, even more so than ever before.
Years later, the same thing happens. I never quite know if the upcoming year is going to be stellar, merely okay, or just plain dull until we’ve gotten almost halfway into it. And whatever I happen to be doing in my life does play a part in it as well. [I think of 2012 as a more recent example, which had a bevy of excellent releases, plus I was headlong into the Big Honkin’ Trilogy Revision Project for most of that year. And 2006 is on the other end of the spectrum, as I had a lot going on in my life and I hardly remember any of its album drops.]
I’m looking forward to 2018, to be honest. Despite what’s going on in the big wide world, I’m in a much more positive place emotionally and mentally, and I’ve got some exciting creative plans that I’m looking forward to. I’m not about to put high expectations on whatever music comes my way next year, but if it ends up being stellar, I’m not going to complain!