I’m going through all my crap in the attic last week and what do I find? Some gem of a story idea? Some forgotten memory I’ve pushed down so far I’ve forgotten it? Some inner secret from my family tree I can only reveal here for the very first time? No. I find a half-empty notebook with scribbled grocery lists, memos to myself and one list more interesting. A list of songs for a mix tape I made in 1987. Holy crap.
Looking at it hit me like a scent you haven’t smelled in 20 years, but the first time you do it spins you backward in a split second. Like when I smelled “White Linen” after my grandmother passed away. I actually cried. The moment was surreal.
Instead of a scent, snippets of sound hit me. As I read through the list I heard the lyrics. Some of them I hadn’t sang to myself in 25 years, but here they were in my head. Can’t remember where I put my keys, but can remember all the lyrics to “All You Ever Think About is Sex” by Sparks. Go figure…
1987 Mix Tape
52 Girls – B’52’s
Good and Divine – Yello
Musique Non-Stop – Kraftwerk
24-24 – Cabaret Voltaire
Wood Beez – Scritti Politti
Let Me Go – Heaven 17
The Walk – The Cure
Girl From Ipanema – The B’52’s
Tar – Visage
Angel No – Yello
Adolescent Sex – Japan
Worth Waiting For – Gene Loves Jezebel
Big Funk – Cabaret Voltaire
Planet Claire – The B’52’s
All You Ever Think About Is Sex – Sparks
Beat Box – Art of Noise
Swing – Japan
I mean, when was the last time you ever heard YELLO for crying out loud? Except maybe in a commercial for Axe, that sweet smelling shit all my eighth grade boys would wear to attract girls. All they ever attracted was flies. Blech. And Gene Loves Jezebel? Woof. Those twins were hot. Remember seeing them play at Rockitz on South Laurel Street in Richmond to a half-empty house on a weeknight. We snuck in underage by sending someone in with a fake ID, then inking the stamp they got onto our own hands with a ball point pen. Smudging it to make it look real. Sitting in the Lum’s parking lot, hoping it would work. It did. Wonder whatever happened to Gene Loves Jezebel? You don’t even hear them on Sirius First Wave.
I was pretty heavy into New Wave back then. This was before my House Music slash clubbing period but right after my Smiths period. Give me tinny European pop music heavy on the synth, strange lyrics, and band names please! I was a HUGE Cabaret Voltaire fan – still have that record. (Yes, as in VINYL). And loved 9353, this band from D.C. who had this great song called, “Famous Last Words” with lyrics that went:
It’s not loaded
I’m a good driver
Don’t worry honey.
Over and over. See, I told you. Can remember lyrics, just not where I put the damn keys. Awww, and Green from Scritti Politti. Gotta love a man who calls himself Green and puts the very hot and mohawked dancer Michael Clarke in his video. Okay, maybe he’s more pop, but his first album was weird enough to be included here certainly…
Maybe the only band who holds up still is Heaven 17. “Once we were years ahead but now those thought are dead…” Or The Cure’s “The Walk” (I can still sing the opening riff, probably will be able to when I’m 90). And who can forget the B’52’s “Girl From Ipanema?” Did you know “Sheeeee goes to Greeeeeen-Laaaaaaaaand……. ?
Anyway. Wonder what would happen if I downloaded all this (has iTunes even HEARD of Sparks?) and listened to it in its entirety? Would I travel back in time like Christopher Reeve in that movie? Would it be painful? Joyful? Or just weird because all the music is now crap to my 20-years-older ears?
These songs make me think of cranking music in my car. I was probably driving my ’67 blue AMC Rambler and the songs were probably blaring from a boombox (no stereo). The heat didn’t work, and my door handle was fashioned from a wrench with a mitten over it. I loved that car. I was probably on my way to my boyfriend’s apartment on South Adams, near the Jefferson Hotel. No warmth there either, except from a kerosene heater. A real shithole. Or maybe I was driving to some crap job. But the music got me through. It still does. Today it’s more Michael Franti and Zero 7 or Francis Dunnery, but the idea is the same. Crank it up, sing at the top of your lungs, and meditate. Be in the moment and just sing. Forget everything else. Relax. Or as Japan sang back then, “Relax and swing.”