Monday, March 19, 2007

Cassettes In My Closet

I have probably constructed a narrative with this blog that tells the story of a person who has always been into "cool" music. There is probably a kernel of truth in that narrative: My high school yearbook lists The Velvet Underground and Love among my "likes," and a Residents concert among my "most memorable experiences." While I regard my one time infatuation with The Residents as a bit embarrassing today, it still suggests that I was the kind of music fan on the lookout for something "different" and outside the mainstream.

If The Residents were the most embarrassing thing I used to like, I could probably collect my trophy as the lord of all things hip and go home. But any such narrative of perpetual coolness could only be constructed by selectively filtering out key facts. There is much more embarrassing music than The Residents lurking in my past: In Junior High School, I owned, listened to, and enjoyed music by the likes of Journey, Foreigner, Asia (I think I even owned their second album, Alpha), Toto, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, Culture Club, Billy Joel, and even Air Supply.

Now I could argue that this is entirely forgivable considering I was 12-14 years old at that period in time, and by 15 I had completely purged such lame music from my collection. But owning an album by Asia or Journey (even if only on cassettes obtained through the Columbia House Music Club) is not a sin any right-minded hipster could easily forgive. Any person who once owned such music, no matter how long ago, should relinquish any right to be an arbiter of coolness. I hereby relinquish any such right.

What cassettes lurk in your closet?


Peter Hennig said...

I think the blueprint for the Residents sound could be traced back to none other than the Beach Boys Smiley Smile and "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter".

How about "Paradise Theatre" by Styx? Used to love that one.

Pete Bilderback said...

I think the only Styx album I ever owned was the one with "Mr. Roboto," which is probably even worse. Actually, there is something really great about that album in a "this is even funnier than Spinal Tap" kind of way. The Styx edition of "Behind The Music" is a classic. The segment where Tommy Shaw--a guy who just wanted to rock--talks about how much he hated doing the tour for that album is great.

The TV show Freaks and Geeks made great use of Styx's music a couple times. Once at a dance where they play "Come Sail Away" and Sam doesn't manage to slow dance with Cindy Sanders before the song speeds up. Then there is the time Nick sings along to "Lady" for Lindsey and she looks like she wants to crawl under a rock and die.

For me Styx's music is completely redeemed by having been exploited so well in Freaks and Geeks.

"Fall Breaks into Winter" does sound like the Residents. I was always puzzled by the fact that the band dumped Smile because it was "too weird" and then put out stuff like that and "She's Goin' Bald" in it's place.

MC said...

Hmm I thought that you guys would have been weaned on cooler music growing up back East with what I assumed greater access to indie records. But I guess it’s our generation’s curse to have been brought up on MTV-my first batch of Columbia House records also included Asia, but also Sammy Hagar, Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis and the News, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Quite Riot, etc... Sadly my first concert was Loverboy/Quiet Riot.

My segue way into alternative music came through new wave—inexplicably Duran Duran and Thompson Twins gave way to The Sex Pistols and the Smiths, which led me to an influential friend with a large record collection that led me to Husker Du, The Replacements, REM, Camper van Beethoven, etc…

BTW I totally want to see Freaks & Geeks now-it sounds awesome. I still hear way too much Styx when I visit my hometown-Spokane.

Pete Bilderback said...

Freaks and Geeks is possibly my favorite TV show ever. You should definitely check it out.

I think we probably liked some "cooler" stuff back then too, but the path you describe is pretty similar to the one we took. I know both Pete and I were very into The Talking Heads in Junior High. We also had the benefit of a decent radio station--WHFS--which probably helped push our musical taste in a different direction.

I was also into a lot of funk oriented stuff--my favorite song in 7th grade was "You Dropped A Bomb On Me" by the Gap Band.

Dumbek said...

I still have my old KISS 8-tracks. I even own a Styx cd.