Monday, May 4, 2009

Musical Memories

Memories of the musical sort seem to be the theme of the morning (I know it's kind of afternoon already but I worked last night, it's my morning). I opened my email to find a message from my friend Polly with a link to this video of a punk show at the Fireside Bowl where you can see some of the backs of our friends' heads.

I totally remember seeing Zoinks at the Fireside. Do I remember this particular show? Um not really, all the shows blur together, but I know they were one of the many, many bands I saw there, along with Apocalypse Hoboken, Sleater Kinney, Bratmobile, The Third Sex, Sidekick Kato, Oblivion, Slapstick, Blue Meanies, Mr. T Experience. I could go on and on. Those are just my favorites off the top of my head. I went to the Fireside at least once a week for a year or so there. It was like home away from home. There were no ticket stubs though, so no physical memories for me to touch in a scrapbook like all my other concerts everywhere else. But that's okay. That's the way the Fireside experience should be. Volatile and everchanging the way punk rock is. Every show you went to there would be rumors that it was going to be the last because the city was shutting the place down.

I like the way my musical memories from end of sophomore year through end of senior year (note my senior year ended in January) feel like the music I listened to. I like that I stumble upon them in random ways. A YouTube video, a used vinyl at a record store in another city, a cassette tape with Mike's handwriting on it. NOFX on side A, Face to Face on side B. Made for the endless hours of driving in my car going everywhere, going nowhere.

I got pissed when I couldn't find my Tilt vinyls or my Screeching Weasel CDs because I wanted to listen to them and I bought those at Earwax Records, the punk rock record store that opened in Oak Park for all of about six months before they realized that the only people interested in a punk rock store in Oak Park was my group of about ten friends. We tried to keep them alive. We really did. I spent every dime I earned at Dominicks that I wasn't spending at Denny's or saving to get the hell out of Oak Park at Earwax.... But I'm getting off subject here. Musical memories tend to do that.

Anyway, I'm pissed when I can't find Tilt or Screeching Weasel or the Queers or Operation Ivy. Or worst of all that original pressing Minor Threat record which I'm sure was worth something. But I know those CDs and records are missing because I lent them to someone and didn't get them back or I got drunk at a party at Antioch and we put them on and they disappeared. And that's okay somehow, for punk cds and records to disappear in this way. What's not okay is the music I willing gave up.

Whenever I am asked the question, "Do you have any regrets?" I always say no because even the bad, horrible, ugly things that happened in my life had their purpose and led me to the place I am now. But I realized today, as the result of a silly Facebook quiz, that I do have one regret: my tendency to destroy/giveaway/get rid of my possessions when they become associated with bad things/people. I purge. And it's one thing to purge old letters and tacky gifts and clothes that are worn out or you will never wear again, but it's another thing to purge music and I am guilty of purging music.

This all started when I took the "What Goth Band Are You?" quiz. I ended up with Specimen, who I did not immediately recognize. Then Tai commented, "You've heard them. They were on the comps we listened to." Oh yes, the comps! I start to get up and then I realize, I gave my ex all the goth CDs when he moved out because I associated goth with him and I wanted to be rid of him and those memories. But there was goth in my life before him. There was me and Tai in black lipstick. There was that hole in the wall goth record store on Belmont just east of Halsted. Armageddon or something totally gloom and doom sounding where we hunted for those CDs, those comps. And the hunt, the sense of discovery was so much fun.... And I just handed it off because in that moment all I saw was a tall boy with Robert Smith hair and too much makeup who I'd fought with too many times and didn't want to remember. I took solace in my punk, my grunge, all the things I was before I knew him (even though I was goth too before I knew him) and I let him leave with my discoveries. And now here I am wanting those damn comps and they are gone.

And I'm cursing myself, regretting things for the first time ever because this happened to me just a few weeks ago. I wanted to listen to Pavement. I was never a big Pavement fan. All my friends were and I felt kind of left out, like Pavement was a joke I didn't get. I took solace in the fact that my best friend didn't really get it either and I clung to the other indie bands that I had in common with the other friends like Slint and Sonic Youth. But I did have a Pavement CD. Asshole gave it me. (Asshole being my sophomore year boyfriend; his name has slowly been abbrieviated over the years from "my psychotic abusive asshole ex boyfriend" to simply Asshole. Just like my aforementioned ex had a lot of adjectives before ex as well, but now he is just Ex. Anyway the explanation of the Asshole relationship is here.)

Everything that Asshole gave to me has been destroyed. Even my journal from the time I dated Asshole was thrown away (another regret). Even the Nirvana bootleg he gave me was given away even though Nirvana is my favorite band on earth. I stopped listening to them for about a year post-Asshole because he was a wannabe Kurt Cobain when we dated so even my favorite band totally associated with him. Such was the trauma of Asshole. The Pavement CD particularly upset me though because it reminded me of the people he was friends with before we started dating; people I wanted to be friends with. My relationship with those people was fucked for years because they associated me with him. We were all victims of his assholishness (did I just invent a new word?), but weren't really able to see that/mend things. Any way, the point is Pavement is gone. CDs that are gone because of Asshole are a particularly sore spot with me because I used to buy CDs and he would take them from me to listen to first and then he would decide they were not good enough and he would sell MY CDs. He sold my Jawbreaker CDs for example and I was pissed for days, but he thought Jawbreaker was lame and boring. Of course now he has a Jawbreaker tattoo so I hear....

Again, getting off topic. I sold the CD I lost my virginity to. It was Saturation by Urge Overkill. That's probably the one CD I really don't want back. The memory is still too ugly. Though sometimes I want to listen to "Erica Kane"; I suppose I could download that.

I'm sure a lot of people are thinking, just download the songs, who cares, but it's not the same. There is something about the particular CD or vinyl. Memories of the discovery and the hunt. Memories of the good and the bad moments associated. My life could be told in music and I suspect one day I will attempt to do so. I have a working title for a personal essay collection: "Geek. Goth. Grunge. Grrrl." which I think about covers it. I started out pretty eclectic. If you asked me who my favorite bands were when I was 10, I would have named The Beatles, Faith No More, Depeche Mode, REM, and Madonna. Somewhere in junior high, I started trying to put myself in a musical box. Like it wasn't okay to like Nirvana and Madonna, or later in the pretentious punk period when I was disavowing bands on major labels, I couldn't like both Smashing Pumpkins and Propagandhi. Then during the goth years, the punk went into a box and a lot of it went missing.

So my words of advice is don't sell (or I guess nowadays, delete) that song you associate with an ex or you think is dorky now. You'll miss it later. And besides it's still part of you. I still know all the words to Ice, Ice Baby...

What are your musical memories?


Punk Rock Girl said...

From an old girl:

I missed out on some firsthand experience with the 70s punk scene because at the time I was seeing a singer/songwriter/asshole who demanded that I listen only to 60s crap, political folk music, or him. Needless to say, it blew up fast. I'm permanently turned off some things I listened to then, but not others. I've been married now for a long time to a guy who doesn't share my musical tastes. He's listening to Radio Margaritaville or new age or watching Steely Dan age on YouTube while I'm listening to old Iggy Pop or new Tom Gabel. But we meet in the middle where we can (Steve Earle, the Pogues), and he took me to see the Smithereens on my birthday and Mike Ness when I won tickets, even though he HATES clubs. The right one may not love what you love, but he'll love that you love it.

Liviania said...

I could never do that. I'm a total pack rat. The stories I can tell about the objects I've picked up through the years . . .

I remember my sister's Metallica S&M CD. It was one of the first she bought, which gave her complete control over it. It pissed me off once when she wouldn't let me borrow it (we shared a boom box! it wasn't going to run off), so I threw the case with the CDs inside. They survived. I now own my own copy, burned by an ex who gave it to me after we broke up. (We're good friends. More people have thought we were dating after we broke up than during.)

I remember my grandmother giving me the Backstreet Boys CD I wanted for Christmas in 5th grade. We listened to it together and both enjoyed it. I still own the CD and have no clue what I was thinking. (My other possible secret musical shame: a 6th grade Christmas present, Baha Men. Who Let the Dogs Out? was our unofficial school song. It's still fun.)

I remember driving back from the pool or guitar lessons and my sister and I forcing our dad to play our favorite songs over and over. Seen All Good People by Yes. Iron Man by Black Sabbath. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. London Calling and Train in Vain by the Clash. Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2 by Pink Floyd. Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. All songs I still love and play often on my iTunes. I don't physically own the CDs, my dad's copies are all I need.

I have the mix CDs Keedledee made for me. She has the ones I made for her. I'm constructing another in my head, hoping to get it ready to give to her by the end of the month. It's been over a year, since we went to college, but I know what songs I want to give her. Mix CDs are an intimate art. With mp3s you can get something like 80 minutes on one. It's a lot of room to play with. (Especially when your musical taste is as bipolar as mine.)

I remember singing about loving burritos to Ode to Joy. ("Ode to joy/can't you see/just what this/burrito means/to me." And I don't really like burritos. I'm a taco, flauta, chimichanga, quesadilla and chile relleno kind of girl.) I hear words, silly ones, in classical music, and once I write my piece it never goes away.

I remember playing a Pink Floyd bootleg and my roommate recognizing the band about two seconds in. I knew we would get along then.

I remember my first roommate's naked song was a live performance of Butterfly by Jason Mraz. Everyone should have a naked song. (You know, the one you dance to while you get dressed after a shower or whatever.) (No, I'm not sharing mine.)

I remember seeing Regina Spektor live. When I listen to her CDs I see her facial expressions, because they were cute and humble and so happy to be playing for such a large crowd.

When I listen to the Dropkick Murphys I remember the guy who patted me and my friend on the head and apologized after I shoved him, when he meant to start a fight. The advantages of being a cutesy teen girls on the edge of a mosh pit.

Everytime Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls comes on I remember it was the first song by second boyfriend and I slow danced to. It kinda hurts, even though it wasn't serious, because that was a wonderful night and I haven't had a guy at a dance who was mine since. (My third boyfriend didn't last long enough.)

I couldn't recognize the first song I dirty danced to. I think this is a good thing.

It's hard to pick the musical memories out. They're entwined with everything else.