August 22nd, 2005

Atacama

music meme: best of 1987

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By way of explanation: The summer before I started the eighth grade, I went to summer camp in Soquel, CA. While I was there, either an older kid, a counselor, or maybe this weird hippie sailing instructor [who looked like somebody's Grandma] had a Kraftwerk tape, and maybe even some Depeche Mode. This would have been 1981. I'd never heard anything like that music before, and I was hooked. As a twelve-year-old, of course I couldn't just go right out and buy music like that, but my parents were indulgent enough to buy me records from time to time. Before that summer, I remember having copies of The Muppet Movie, ABBA: The Album, Freedom of Choice, and a Neil Diamond single. After that summer, I had copies of Computer World, Speak & Spell, and... well, I think that was about it. Over the next several years, I slowly built up a collection of lots of Kraftwerk, plus other stuff that seemed cool. In the summer of 1982, for example, I remember sneaking away on my bicycle, riding many, many miles to a bank, raiding my savings account [it probably had about $50 in it, and I took most of it], and then riding it for at least another hour until I got to the Tower Records in Lincoln Center [in my hometown of Stockton, CA], where I blew it on a cassette of Depeche Mode's new album, A Broken Frame. In the summer of 1983, I still remember listening to both Computer World and Speaking in Tongues on a road trip around the USA; earlier on that year, we went to Germany on vacation and I'm pretty sure I remember seeing an ad for Techno-Pop in a Zweitausendeins catalog in Freiburg [where I bought a weird Kraftwerk compilation LP that had stuff from Ralf & Florian on it - it wasn't until nearly thirty years later I finally heard those songs on a CD].

By 1983, when I started high school, I had somehow developed fairly distinct tastes in music. I don't remember exactly how or why - maybe it was by raiding the bins of vinyl at the high school radio station; maybe it was by listening to other students' collections - but by the summer of 1985, I was enamored of stuff like Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, and Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel. My best friend Jesse - we went to Sunday school together - had similar tastes; I remember driving off to San Francisco as a sixteen year old, spending allowance money on expensive used copies of stuff like Die Zeichnungen des Patienten O. T. before heading back to Stockton to listen to the stuff together. Somehow, my love for Soft Cell followed Marc Almond through his far less commercial recordings, and by the time I graduated from high school I had all kinds of unusual stuff in my collection - things like a vinyl copy of the Rev. Jim Jones' final words in Jonestown. My senior year of high school, I remember listening to stuff like Wiseblood's The Fudge Punch and thinking that it was really, really incredible [I still do!].

And all the while commercial radio was presumably doing its thing, and I was completely ignoring it. That list of 100 songs, well, most of them I've probably never heard. The Prince song I called out as liking the most, well, it isn't my favorite, but I did love a song called Starfish and Coffee on that album; I would play it sometimes during my early morning show on KSPB, our high school radio station. [We were reprimanded to play stuff from new records at least three times an hour; thank God stuff like Coil's The Anal Staircase snuck in from time to time, though.] The other stuff, well, bleah.

Here we are, eighteen years later, and I still don't listen to the radio. Something tells me I'm not missing much, though. :)