Walk in Silence 21

Love And Rockets

(Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images)

The summer of 1989 was spent mostly in cemeteries.

No, I hadn’t decided to go full-on goth…I was in the Cemetery, Park and Tree Division of the DPW, lugging lawn mowers in the back of the town trucks around to most of the local cemeteries.  We on the summer help team would cut the grass around the headstones and the odd niches, and one of the regular full-timers would come riding around on a John Deere and cut the rest.  We’d usually be one or two sections ahead of the riders, so occasionally we’d sneak into one of the wooded areas and enjoy the shade.  The cycle of cutting was such that by the time we made our rounds at all our usual stops, it was time to cut the grass on the first location again.  My favorite cemetery to mow was Silver Lake; it’s the largest in town (a few of my relatives are buried there), so it would take a few days to finish, and we’d have so much more time to goof off.

Me?  I got along just fine with everyone at the job.  They thought I was a bit weird, wearing my Cure and Smiths tee-shirts and all and listening to that weird shit, but I gave as good as I got, and got the job done as needed.  I brought my Walkman (I finally had an official Sony by that time!) and listened to all kinds of stuff during my job, both old and new:  Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, Bauhaus’ Swing the Heartache: The BBC Sessions, most of my 1988-89 compilations to date, The The’s Mind Bomb, Concrete Blonde’s self-titled, The Cure’s Disintegration and The Head on the Door, most of Cocteau Twins’ Treasure, The Moon and the Melodies and most of their EPs from that era, and so much more.  I’m pretty sure I went through fifty or sixty dollars’ worth of AA batteries that summer.

I also started focusing a bit more seriously on the writing.  The IWN had pretty much gone into stasis, the Belief in Fate project was complete, so I focused mostly on my lyrics and poetry writing.  I also worked on my guitar chops, both on my bass and on my sister’s acoustic.  I’d gotten better, though my chord-shifting still needed a hell of a lot of work.  Given that I was outside for most of the day and hiding inside in the evening during the hot summer, I didn’t have much else to do except listen to a lot of music and let my influences get the best of me.

This was a bit of a double-edged sword, as I found myself returning to my ‘morose bastard’ ways again, even though I was in a strong relationship and was heading out into the Big Bad World in a few months.  Perhaps it was a bit of melancholy I felt in realizing that I’d finally be letting go of both the good and the bad of my youth.  Maybe it was a bit of sadness that I’d be heading off to Boston and leaving Tracey back home for another three years.  Maybe it’s that I’d be even further away from my friends and would have to start over from scratch.  Maybe it was that I really had no idea what I truly wanted to do, but I was afraid to admit it, especially after I’d already committed to my choice of college.  Maybe it was a bit of all of this.

The end of the summer came quickly.  I worked pretty much all the way up to the last few weeks of August, taking maybe a week off before I was to head out the first week of September to my new destination.  Which meant any last minute music dubbing and compilation making would need to be done post haste!

fiasco

It also meant that, for a very brief time, I’d get to see all my Misfit friends again.  Chris borrowed his grandfather’s cabin out on Packard Pond north of town, and invited most of the Misfit crew in for a three day get-together (which he’d amusingly named a ‘fiasco’).  It was a purposely low-key party, just like most of ours, in which we listened to music, played various games, watched silly movies and cartoons, and went swimming.  There was even a tag sale up the street that we went to, where I bought a few things for my impending college years.  It was the vacation we all needed then, a few days of doing nothing but sleeping in, goofing off, chatting and just having fun.

If anything, I’d say this was the point where our friendship had truly become more than just being high school friends.  Many of us have drifted various ways over the years, but that summer was the moment when I truly knew that many of these people would be in my life for years to come.  I wouldn’t know when I’d be seeing them again after this, or if we’d be in constant touch with each other (remember, this was 1989, well before anyone of us used the internet)…but I knew that, despite that, we’d still find a way to make it happen.

I’d borrowed my mom’s car for that weekend, so I was one of the last people to head out when the party was over.  I packed my belongings in the back seat, helped Chris clean up, and saw him off.  He’d be heading back to his parents’ house for a bit and then head back to UMass in a few days, I’d be leaving the first week of September for Boston.

The Last Home Year had finally come to a close.

Throwback Thursday: Spring 1989

Ah, twenty-five years already, then? A quarter century already since I was a pimply, music-obsessed, self-proclaimed nonconformist and budding writer, twitchy and moody and waiting for my senior year in high school to be over and done with so I could go out and live in the Big Bad World. My senior year felt like a badly scripted, unwanted denouement, to be honest. I really should have been a year ahead. I say this now, well after the fact, because after twenty-five years of contemplation, I realize it wasn’t that I was lazy or had any learning deficiency, it’s that I was bored. And boredom begets distraction. And distraction begets so-so grades. And I never quite got out of that slump, not really. I think if I’d graduated in 1988 instead, it would have forced me to put more effort into it, made me work to my potential. It would have made me mature a hell of a lot quicker. As it happens, I ended up coasting for the rest of my education years instead when I should have excelled.

But that’s a different post altogether. This is a music blog, isn’t it?

Credit: flyerize.com

Credit: flyerize.com

Spring 1989 was right about the time when that beloved radio subgenre of mine, college rock, finally emerged from its late night perch and started making its presence known elsewhere. Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s a lot more to it than a wider audience. Consider the following:

–In late 1988 (the September 10th issue, to be exact), Billboard acknowledged the subgenre for the first time with a “Modern Rock Tracks” chart.

–The Top 40 of the late 80s was in flux, with all different kinds of pop music gaining traction. Top 40 rock was giving way to Top 40 dance music. Many production-ready sounds had emerged as well, thanks to production houses like Stock Aitken Waterman. This was especially embraced by the poppier end of the MTV playlist, thanks to heavy rotation as well as shows like Club MTV. This let the occasional unexpected hit sneak into the charts now and again, giving other subgenres an opening for success.

–The rock sounds of early in the decade and the one before it–the arena rock, the LA glam metal, the Michael-Mann-approved, Miami Vice-ready mood pieces, and the last dregs of 70s bar band sounds–had begun to age, and age badly. Harder, more serious rock like Guns n’ Roses and Metallica became the accepted norm. [Come to think of it, this is probably around the same time many FM rock stations divided between “current rock” and “classic rock” formats.]

credit: discogs.com

credit: discogs.com

–Several British subgenres of rock emerged or were noticed in America about this time as well: shoegaze, Madchester, Britpop, etc. Many were noticed and release by major American labels at this time. They may not have made high chart placement, but they were starting to get noticed. Several local US scenes were gaining traction as well: Seattle, Boston, Athens, and so on.

–Even the American punk scene was in flux, many of its major late-70s/early-80s players (Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Black Flag, et al) either having broken up, evolved considerably, or on their way to self-destruction. There would always be the hardcore punk in its many sounds and guises, and it would remain in the shadows where it wanted to be, but the newer sounds were more steeped in the post-punk sound–equally as emotional in its delivery, but more melodic and adventurous in its sound. This sound was less influenced by the DIY punk ethos and more by the UK post-punk sounds of just a few years earlier.

credit: thequietus.com

credit: thequietus.com

–Two years earlier in late 1987, we also saw an influx of uniquely college-rock bands releasing highly lauded albums, elevating them past the college-radio-only playlists and onto commercial radio: The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode, REM, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so on. Many of these were on Warner Bros-related labels, and a number of them had the backing of Sire Records head Seymour Stein. [Seriously, we need a bio of this man, STAT…he was such a big influence on the New Wave scene.]

By 1989, for this music nerd and self-proclaimed nonconformist, I felt both liberated and a little saddened by this change in the weather. On the one hand, I was thrilled that the music I had so loved since that fateful evening in April 1986 was finally getting its due…but at the same time, it felt like it was losing its mystique in the process. After all, this was the music I listened to on my own. It was my music, the songs that spoke to me. I tried to take the high road with this one, though…I felt it was high time my peers stopped listening to the prepackaged crap that radio was feeding us and listen to music with substance.

Credit: discogs.com

Credit: discogs.com

Style versus substance…that was the big debate of the 80s, wasn’t it? Do you want something pleasing to the eyes and ears but superficial, or do you want something of deep meaning but not exactly pretty to look at or listen to? I’d like to think that’s why New Order chose Substance as the title for its 1987 hits collection (and by extension, its Joy Division collection as well); they may also be making sequenced dance music, but put “Blue Monday” side by side with “Never Gonna Give You Up” and one can definitely hear the difference. One was destined for status of classic dance track that’s still embraced today, the other the subject of a hokey (yet admittedly amusing) internet meme. The genre could be similar, but the quality couldn’t be any more different.

Then there’s also the change that comes with the change in decades as well. It’s often been noted that the last few years of a decade tend to show a decline in the interests that once defined them–the flower power of 1967 gave way to the high-octane politics of 1968; the blissful haze of the 70s gave way to the discontent of the late 70s. The paranoia and the wackiness of the early 80s was giving way to the more serious and reflective late 80s. There was also the fact we were coming in on the last decade of the millennia as well. We wondered what the 90s would bring us–the promised jetpacks? World peace? Information at our fingertips? The possibilities!

I’d like to think that this calmer introspection was yet another piece in the puzzle that led to college rock, and in effect other rock subgenres, becoming more acceptable. Yes, I know, it might be a stretch, but think about it–when you’re thirteen, things you dislike are stupid (or in the 80s New England parlance, fucken retahded), but when you’re hitting eighteen and about to head off to college, these things aren’t as important on your popularity scale and you start accepting different things easier. Where Metallica was once only listenable to those long-haired smoking weirdos who wore denim jackets and drove to school in Camaros, in 1989 they had a massive hit with the song “One”–a song based on a 30s war novel at that. By 1989 we had chart hits from Faith No More, Fine Young Cannibals, Love and Rockets, REM, The B-52s, Nine Inch Nails, and more.

Credit: discogs.com

Credit: discogs.com

In early May, just as I was finally winding down my educational years in my small hometown, The Cure released what would be considered their best album ever, Disintegration. It was prefaced by two different singles: in the UK, the slinky and creepy “Lullaby” reached all the way to #5, and in the US the darker and angrier “Fascination Street” became their first US chart hit, hitting #1 on the new Modern Rock Tracks list. This was new stuff for those unfamiliar with the band, and for those like me and my close friends, this was definitely new stuff. The Cure had always retained a darker sound since their inception, but after the much brighter sounds of 1985’s The Head on the Door and the poppier, more psychedelic sounds of 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Disintegration was an altogether different affair. It was epic not only in scope but in sound, “mixed to be played loud so turn it up” as the liner notes suggest. It was as dark, it was moody, and it was absolutely, stunningly gorgeous.

This album fit perfectly as a final step towards the end of the decade, and it was the soundtrack to the last remaining days I spent in my hometown. I’d spend the summer working for the DPW in the town cemeteries, and I’d be listening to this album on repeat on my Walkman while I pushed lawn mowers all over the place. I’d listen to it at night that summer, now that WAMH out of Amherst College was off the air for the season. I’d been writing a gloriously doom-laden teen roman à clef and several poems/lyrics at the time (you know how it is when you’re that age), and used this album as a soundtrack as well. And when August rolled around and my buddy Chris had his first of a few “fiasco” parties as his grandfather’s cabin out on Packard Pond, this album got heavy airplay both on our tape players while we laughed, played cards and did other silly things, and again on my Walkman as I finally climbed into bed later that night.

On the last day of that party, after we all cleaned and straightened up and headed back to our homes, I sat on the front porch at my parents’ house and listened to it one more time on my headphones, composition book in hand in case inspiration arose. “Homesick” came on, and I latched on to the lyrics: “So just one more, just one more go / inspire in me, the desire in me, to never go home.” It was the perfect ending quote to my life up to that time–not that I don’t like it here, but PLEASE give me a reason to move on. It was the end of summer, I’d be heading to Boston for college in a month, and I was just itching to get started with the new chapter of my life. And to add to the bittersweet end of the season, the last track, “Untitled”, came on with its slightly-offkey melodica intro, creating a melody that would repeat ad nauseum until all the instruments left again, leaving the offkey melodica drifting way. The lyrics to “Untitled” were the polar opposite of “Homesick”, a last tearful goodbye delivered with such a mortal finality it felt like heartache. While the former was “okay, time to move on and embrace the future”, the latter was “oh, and by the way–you can never return to the past.”

Indeed, I could not, no matter how much I may have wanted to.

*

I’ve returned to my past many times over the years, mostly with writing works in progress, song lyrics and poems, and quite a few blog posts, but I understand that I can’t stay there indefinitely. It took me little while in college to understand that, but I eventually got over it. Now, I enjoy heading back to the days of the late 80s, especially with my overly large music collection. I like to listen to what came out back then and compare it to what’s out now. I can see and hear the cycles now, the songs of yesterday hidden in the songs of today. I talk with many of the same people in that circle of friends online now, even though a continent separates us. I might not be the twitchy self-proclaimed nonconformist anymore, though I am still that writer and music nerd.

So I think after twenty-five years, it’s a good balance.

WiS: We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!!

I’ve been wanting to write this post since the two remastered cds came out in the middle of last year, and now I can finally do so! We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!!, aka Fuzzbox here in the states, was a cute and punky quartet out of Birmingham UK, and one of my first music crushes when I started listening to alternative rock. They’d been brought to my attention right about the same time as Sigue Sigue Sputnik in the glossy music mag Star Hits, and upon seeing their crazy-colored and spritzed hair and Goodwill-chic punky fashion, I was completely hooked–which in all honesty wasn’t really hard, considering it didn’t take much to rebel in a small town like mine. They made me realize punk wasn’t just about rebelling against society, like American punk had suggested–it was also about doing your own thing, however out there it might be, and not giving a shit about what other people thought about it.

Fuzzbox was only together for a short time, releasing only two albums and a handful of singles (like most punk bands were wont to do during the 80s, it seems) before going their separate ways, but they were just so damn fun to listen to that it didn’t matter.

Credit: last.fm - l-r, Tina, Vix, Magz & Jo

Credit: last.fm – l-r, Tina, Vix, Magz & Jo

Fuzzbox started sometime in 1985 with four friends who’d decided to start a band. And like any punk band worth their salt at the time, mastering your instrument wasn’t exactly high on the list of priorities. Consisting of Vickie Perks (aka Vix) on vocals, Tina O’Neill on drums and sax, and sisters Maggie (aka Magz–vocals, keys and guitars) and Jo Dunne (bass, guitars and keys), they immediately jumped in on the occasional open mike night at the local bars and learned their chops onstage. It’s said Maggie was the creator of the band name, announcing that they did in fact have a fuzz distortion guitar pedal they were about to use.

Their debut single was the gritty and poppy “XX Sex”, with shockingly direct feminist lyrics about exploitation and sexism in the media. They followed up with a ridiculous and silly summer single with labelmates The Nightingales and Ted Chippington with “Rockin’ with Rita”, and by summer’s end they were given a spot on the highly influential NME C86 compilation with “Console Me”. They prefaced their debut album that October with a jittery and bass-heavy single about unrequited love, “Love Is the Slug”, my musical introduction to them via MTV’s 120 Minutes.

Credit: fuzzbox.angelfire.com

Credit: fuzzbox.angelfire.com

Bostin’ Steve Austin (released as a self-titled album here in the states, but with the same cover) was released in December of 1986, featuring a dozen gems about the girls’ life in Birmingham–not just containing the teen heartbreak of “Love Is the Slug” and “Jackie”, it also contains the confrontational “XX Sex” and “What’s the Point” (their follow-up single released in January of 1987) and “Preconceptions”, as well as a weirdly hypnotic cover of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky”. The quality of the music here is surprisingly tight, even when it hints at sounding on the verge of disintegrating into a distorted mess. Vix’s lyrics alternate between playful, angry, and emotional, and despite the simplicity of the melodies there’s a lot going on musically. The stop-start of “You Got Me”, the building tension in “Love Is the Slug” and even the 60s-girl-group pastiche of “Hollow Girl” works perfectly.

Bostin’ Steve Austin got a ridiculous amount of play on my tape players between early 1987 and mid-1989–this was the side of punk that I gravitated to, the revelation that I didn’t have to try fitting in with the in-crowd anymore. I didn’t really need to do much, of course–wear some of my college rock tee-shirts, my grandfather’s green trenchcoat, and let my hair grow out of its quintessentially 80s spiky ‘do (but not to the point of longhaired metaldom), and start writing music reviews for albums hardly anyone else in my school listened to.

Meanwhile, Fuzzbox disappeared for a short while, and would reappear in early 1989 with a completely new and unexpected look and sound. I admit I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach it at first, having twitched and thought “oh god, they’ve become Jem and the Holograms.” But there was something about it…something about the slick late 80s production, the chart-ready poppiness, that called to me. I began to realize that this was the forbidden candy for me as a fan of college rock, the ultimate test: do I dare admit that, after labeling myself an alternative music nerd and a nonconformist, that I actually enjoyed this admittedly catchy music?

Credit: www.independent.ie - clockwise from top left: Vix, Maggie, Tina, Jo

Credit: http://www.independent.ie – clockwise from top left: Vix, Magz, Tina, Jo

Gone was the thrift-shop fashion as well, replaced by glitz and glamour. The fuzziness of their sound was also gone, replaced by shiny synthesizers and sequencers. They now had an outsider as a cowriter of songs in the form of session musician/producer Liam Sternberg. And yet…

…and yet, there was something about this new album, Big Bang, that I just could not give it up. I was older and now in college, and yet the music hinted at the readymade poppiness of 80s Top 40, the kind that was throwaway and yet catchy and likable at the same time. The Brummie humor was still there, hiding in the lyrics of lead single “International Rescue”, a loving ode to the Gerry Anderson tv classic Thunderbirds (and, in the video, a humorous nod to Jane Fonda’s Barbarella as well).

Credit: musicstack.com

Credit: musicstack.com

Big Bang kicked off with the irresistibly poppy “Pink Sunshine” (and also released as the second single) and my immediate reaction was to wonder where the hell my punk goddesses had gone off to…but I soon understood what they were doing. This wasn’t about rebelling, not anymore. It was about being an adult now, having gotten over the teenage growing pains. These were the Brummie girls stuck in their jobs, dealing with the drudgery of the real world and letting it all loose at the end of the working week.
There’s a lot of flirting and emotion going on with this album, and that’s part of what makes it so irresistible. There’s the rocking sci-fi of “Fast Forward Futurama”, the heartbreak of “Self!” (featuring the guitar work of none other than Queen’s Brian May!), and the gorgeous dancefloor bliss of “Versatile for Discos and Parties” (quite possibly my favorite track off the album). There’s even a brilliant cover of Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice”, retaining the song’s mystique but giving it additional emotional beauty. The album ends on a very somber yet lovely note with a track called “Beauty”, which sounds like nothing else they’ve ever recorded.

Big Bang‘s shameless pop wasn’t shameless at all–it was a loving tribute to the dance pop of the decade, one that was about to come to a close. The sound of 80s pop would age, and often not for the best, but when it was done right, it was still fun to listen to. A few years later, once I discovered anime movies and series, from Urusei Yatsura and Silent Möbius and later to the Gall Force series and Sailor Moon, I began to realize that, thanks to Big Bang, I now had begun a long-lasting love affair with Japanese Pop (aka J-Pop). I began seeing the album as an unintended but spot-on paean to the J-Pop so prevalent in the credits and montages in anime, and that made me love the album even more. It’s pure pop, but it’s still irresistibly fun.

In 1990 they would release a final single, “Your Loss My Gain”, written for a never-realized third album, and while it seemed they were progressing in a more mature pop direction, they soon split up. They all went their separate ways. Only Vix remained in the music industry, recording under various band names including Vix n’ the Kix. Three compilations would surface a bit over a decade later: two albums of demos and outtakes called Fuzz and Nonsense and Rules & Regulations to Pink Sunshine: The Fuzzbox Story, and a greatest hits collection amusingly titled Look at the Hits on That (a very Fuzzbox-worthy pun title). And in 2010, Vix, Maggie and Jo reunited with the help of Vix’s backing band for a one-off single, a cover of M’s classic track “Pop Muzik”. Sadly, Jo would pass away from a cancer-related illness in 2012, but a year later, Vix decided it was time to rerelease the band’s 80s discography. Bostin’ Steve Austin would finally have its debut on compact disc, and Big Bang would contain all the remaining 80s tracks, including the “Your Loss My Gain” single.

We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!! was a band that influenced not just my listening habits but my way of life when I was growing up in the late 80s; it was a refreshing view of punk-as-freedom rather than punk-as-anger, and helped me realize that the music I listen to, then and now. My tastes still lean towards the alternative, but I’m not above the shamelessly pop, especially if it’s done well. In relistening to Bostin Steve Austin I now hear a lot of the intelligence and fearlessness in the lyrics, which makes me appreciate it all the more. And as an added bonus, they’re there if all I want is some great and fun music to listen to.

Check it out:
Bostin Steve Austin: Splendiferous Edition, at Amazon.co.uk
Big Bang!: Orgasmatron Edition, at Amazon.co.uk
“Pop Muzik” single on iTunes

WiS Notes – The Last Home Year

When I started my research for the Walk in Silence project last year, I’d decided to write some personal notes and reflections on how college radio affected me in the late 80′s.  It was a brief overview of what I want to cover in this book that lasted for twenty-five installments, a sort of a detailed outline of memories, thoughts on influential (to me) bands and albums, friendships, and such.  I’ll be posting these sporadically on the site over the next few weeks or so.

THE LAST HOME YEAR

Considering how I desperately wanted to escape the small town by the end of my senior year, I ended up spending a lot of time planting memories and even a few long-lasting friendships then.  Of course at the time I was doing my best to trim anything extraneous that I didn’t want to bring with me to college.  This was my preparation to start a new phase in my life and not look back.  (Best laid plans, but that’s another story entirely…)

I’d decided to call it “The Last Home Year” in honor of it being the last time I’d be there before heading out into the Big Scary World.  The title pretty much mostly referred to the music side of things—especially listening to WAMH.  I have four cassettes that I gave that name to, as that was apparently going to be the last year I’d listen to the station.  If I recall, it might have also been the last year for the student at Amherst who ran the “Haphazard Radio” show, by then one of the best shows ever that I’d heard.

This last half of the year was spent doing a lot of different things.  There was my budding relationship with Tracey, my preparation for college, hanging out with Kris…and it kept me busy
and distracted enough that I wouldn’t fall into a funk.  I was also heavily into my writing at the time as well—after finishing off the Infamous War Novel, I’d started revising it, reimagining and reworking certain parts of it.  There was also the poetry and lyrics, which I’d work on at any available moment (usually study halls and late at night, and sometimes at the radio station).  And there was Belief in Fate,  the story that started as fiction but soon became a fictionalized diary of real events, including my relationship with Tracey.  I kept myself as busy as possible, and I think it wasn’t just to avoid depression, but to kickstart my creative juices that had been semi-dormant for too long.

The start of 1989 seemed promising, musically…bands I’d gotten into in 1987 (New Order, the Replacements, XTC, and so on) were now releasing new titles at the start of the new year.  It sounds strange to say it, but while 1988 had a “late night” left-of-the-dial feel to its indie rock, 1989 started sounding more open, more fresh, like the previous year had been winter and it was now becoming spring—if that makes sense.  The music and the attitude seemed more outgoing and positive, as if it knew it was gathering more steam in becoming the prevalent rock genre, as it did a year or so later.  Many of these songs were getting significant airplay on college radio, and to some extend on the progressive stations like WMDK as well.  Lastly, they were also getting more play on 120 Minutes, which had become the de facto alternative show on TV.  Little by little, I’d also hear some of these songs on regular rock radio (that is, when I listened to it), and during the daytime on MTV.  Not much, but every now and again a gem would pop up. A more radio-friendly track like Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” would show up on playlists, even if it had a weird video.  Most of these songs would stay on radio over the years, becoming AOR or Adult Alternative staples that you could listen to while at work.

[Side note:  I know there was a subculture of indie kids out there at the time that swore off this lighter alt.pop by decreeing it as selling out.  I should know, I had to contend with them in
college.   Still, it was stuff I liked, and I appreciated it because it was well-written music and good stuff compared to the overproduced pop of the time.  While I considered myself somewhat of a nonconformist, I certainly wasn’t a purist…I just couldn’t see myself rebelling against things I actually liked.]

I suppose some of this optimism came from my new relationship at the time.  So much so that I remember telling Tracey that after all those years of being moody and embracing dark ideas in my writing, now that I was with her I was kind of missing that dark side.  It sounded goofy at the time but it made sense—much of my poetry through most of 1988 was dark and angry or moody (and reminiscent of the Cure), and now that I’d fallen in love with someone, that moodiness had seemed kind of trite and lost its allure.  Which in effect was kind of interesting in that some of my non-relationship inspired poetry reflected  loss of something I felt close to for so long.  Funny how I felt that towards emotions I was used to, and not my fellow classmates.

And of course at the start of May, there was the new Cure album, Disintegration.

I’d heard they’d be coming out with a new album that year, and by that time I was a huge fan of the band—I’d gotten into them via Standing on a Beach and had gotten a few of their earlier albums on cassette, and 1987’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me was on  heavy rotation for quite some time.  The first US single off this new album, “Fascination Street”, had been released in late April (and the UK’s first single, “Lullaby”, had garnered some college airplay as well) and I found the cassette single in my Walkman on many a morning on the way to school.  My first reaction to the single was that of awe, as it was darker and heavier than the singles on their last few albums (their previous single was the silly “Hot Hot Hot!!!” which, interestingly enough, had been released around the same time as Buster Poindexter’s similarly titled song—guess which one got more commercial airplay?).  Chris and I were both eagerly awaiting the release.  He bought it on the release day (May 2nd), and I bought it soon after.  I remember hearing it at a mall department store’s music section, and couldn’t wait to pick it up.  And when I did, I wasn’t let down.

The Last Home Year, like I said, was that of preparation.  With my music collection, I had decided that bringing the entire thing to college would probably be a bit much—the same with
the books I had and the stories I was writing at the time.  On a more personal level, Tracey and I saw each other as often as we could, going out on dates and hanging out during the
school day.  My mindset at the time was that I’d finally gotten to the point of escaping this small town—not so much that I was bored or angry with the town itself, but the restrictions it had put on me over the last few years.  I knew that once September rolled around, I’d be in Boston, staying up all hours, going to used record stores when I wanted, and hanging out with all sorts of new people.  I wasn’t so much sick of the people I’d known since childhood, as I just wanted to branch out.

Listening to the radio and my music collection got me through most of that.  There were, of course, bouts of depression and loneliness (the downside being that I’d be further away from most of my friends from two years previous), and most of that was grist for the writing mill—the passages of Belief in Fate and my poetry in particular.

The Last Home Year was also the year of Killing Music By Home Taping.  Let’s be honest, I understood the worry behind that movement, but when you’re a high school student saving up for college and you want to beef up your collection in preparation for it, you end up bothering all your friends with cool collections, stock up on blank tapes from Radio Shack, and dub like crazy.  I’d done that the previous year with Chris—added to the fact that I’d made a list of my own collection for others to borrow if they wanted to copy from me—and it worked out well.  I’d go over to friends’ houses and peruse their collections (holding back on the urge to organize it for them), and sometimes borrow over the weekend.  Some people I could count on certain styles and genres—Chris usually had the alt-rock and punk stuff I didn’t have, Kris had the John Hughes soundtracks, REM and the poppier stuff, Nathane had the weird industrial and punk stuff, and the Cocteau Twins I didn’t have.  I remember one time at my shift at WCAT where Kris and I were chatting on the phone shooting the breeze and making plans on who was going to borrow what at the end of the week.  That isn’t to say I avoided buying music—in fact, I made even more trips down to Amherst and Northampton (and Leominster) with my sisters or my Dad (or Chris and the gang if they were home) and bought many new and used things from the stores out that way.  I even bought a number of cheap titles from Columbia House, something I did well into college.

Suffice it to say, I accumulated quite a lot of music in early 1989…

30 November 2010 – 4 January 2011