How Did We Used to Do Music?

Walking home from the Max today, a Reverend Horton Heat song came on my ipod...something from one of his really good albums, I think Liquor in the Front.  That album was important to us when I was about 18 - 19; it was this revelatory thing that revealed to us the existence of rockabilly.  I remember thinking at the time that there was a kind of kinship between rockabilly, surf, and ska as genres, and sure enough, just about everyone I was friends with back then liked all three (people tend to forget that there was a pretty intense underground surf rock thing that happened in the late 90s...Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet, The Phantom Surfers, etc., to say nothing of Man or Astroman.)

The larger issue, though, was what it was like back then to have albums.  This is something The Kids These Days won't really experience - what it's like to have an album you listen to obsessively, and all the way through, because you can only afford a little bit of new music every once in a while.  It was totally a Thing for us to go to Face the Music on 13th Ave. in Eugene and dig through the used CD bin, and when you found a really great new CD (or picked up a copy of one you already knew to be great), it spent a lot of time in the stereo and/or the car for the next several months.  You immersed yourself in that album, and for me, there are albums like those of the good Reverend that are palpable reminders of a certain point in my life.

Re: vinyl: the above, only more so.  And not in the car, except that in the era I'm talking about, you'd tape the record and play the tape.

Some albums that fit the above-described bill for me, in off-the-cuff, non-chronological order:
  1. No Means No, Wrong: played this record constantly starting when I was 14.  I used to do situps to "Oh No!  Bruno!" until I had terrible, searing cramps.  This is no doubt a big part in why I had a six-pack when I was an adolescent.
  2. Dead Kennedies, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death and Minor Threat Out of Step: oh....so this is the punk rock?  I will listen to these tapes nonstop on my walkman now from late freshman year through sophomore year.
  3. Slackers, Better Late Than Never, the best neo-traditional 3rd wave ska album of the height of the it-was-still-cool phase of 3rd wave ska.  I played this one all the time and every time I did my radio show in college, at least one song from this album was on there.
  4. Devo, Oh No It's Devo, still my favorite Devo album (and remember, this is me we're talking about.  I know what I'm on about, here.)  I had a really, really nice summer after junior year in high school, driving around in the CRX, listening to this on repeat.
  5. Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs, sort of B's and my official album(s).  When we started dating, we'd have beer + pizza nights set to this.
  6. Murder City Devils, Empty Bottles and Broken Hearts, ditto.
  7. Teddybears, Soft Machine, this reminds me of the good stuff that I liked about Santa Cruz.
  8. Red Fang, Red Fang, already well over a year ago when we moved back to Portland, an essential addition to the playlist.
Finding new music is really hard now, both because I'm old and out of touch and because the very proliferation of digital music has made the whole thing weirdly diffuse and hard to grasp.  Since I never get tired of the old stuff, though, I'm doing fine.

1 comment:

noncoupable said...

So true, so relevant. I remember saving up money to buy the $12 cassette of Use Your Illusion I, and I knew every song (crappy or not) on that album.

Even when Napster kicked in, I still bought full albums and listened to them in the car often (remember the device with the cassette tape to discman setup?). I used to have the Toasters Live from London permanently in the car.

Of course, the entire music scene has since changed. You know it's bad when they can make millions of dollars sellout NKOTBSB.