Sunday, June 25, 2017

Weekend Diversion: Old Tunes, Part 1

Photos of our past are nice, moving images and audio recordings are even better in some ways. But when one grows up with neither, is there a way to capture at least some of the look and sound of our youth? I recently came across something that sort of did that for me.

When I was a kid, I envied friends whose families had home movies. Sure, they were silent, but those families could see people actually move, and that seemed kind of magical to me. A generation later, families started making home videos, but we didn’t do that, either.

There are photos of me in my childhood and youth, but no film/video, and no audio recordings. So, I don’t know what my family and I sounded like decades ago, nor how we moved, nor do I know what I was like in the first years of my independent life.

Recently, I was going through boxes of papers to determine what had to be filed, what had to be shredded, and what could just be chucked in the rubbish. And, a lot of it was rubbish, too—but one thing caught my eye: It was a list of songs that I’d written down at some point (the front page of that list is the photo above). This was something I’d done a lot in the 1980s as a way of remembering songs I might like to buy.

This particular list has moved around with me for decades, most of that time in my address book, something I haven’t used for years. At some point I put it aside to check out later, and then never did.

I don’t remember making this specific list, but I know it must have been in 1987—thirty years ago, give or take. It was written on a sheet of notepaper that my boss printed up to give away to customers, and I had some by my phone. Looking at it, I suspect I was watching MTV’s “120 Minutes”, at the time one of my favourite shows, which aired videos from the “alternative” genre of music, what I was into in those days. Judging by the deterioration in my handwriting as the list went on, I suspect I may have been drinking at the time, too. I was still in my 20s. It happened.

In any case, that list is a snapshot of sorts into what music appealed to me one night in 1987. Sure, I still know a lot of the music I liked in that same era, but this list is an actual record of my personal history, and it’s the closest I’ll ever get to knowing what one of my nights would have sounded like back then.

So, this week and next I’ll share those songs and what I was thinking, if I even know, when I put them on the list.

First up is Sonic Youth “Schizophrenia”, from their 1987 album, Sister. This wasn’t a single, but an album track, and this isn’t an actual video:

The next item on the list is the most enigmatic: It mere says “The Wolfgang Press”, with no song listed. I have NO idea what song it would’ve been. I listened to a few of their songs from around 1987 on YouTube and none of them were remotely familiar. The “post-punk, post-industrial” genre isn’t one that would normally be something I’d be into, although that same year I bought Opus Dei by Laibach, as I mentioned several years ago, so anything’s possible.*

Next was Visiting Kids’ “Trilobites”. The group, described as “the spawn of Devo” was closely associated with that group. It is pretty surreal on all counts. The video was directed by someone called Rocky Schenck (no relation).

The next song on the list, Echo & the Bunnymen's “Lips Like Sugar”, is crossed out because I later bought the album the song was on, their eponymous fifth studio album, “Echo & the Bunnymen”. I still like the song, though I no longer have the album.

Gene Loves Jezebel - “The Motion Of Love”, one of their better known songs, though I never bought it or anything else by them. Still, it appealed to me at the time.

Finally for this week, “Crazy”, the 1987 single by Icehouse. Icehouse is an Australian band, though I doubt I knew that at the time. This song reached number 4 in Australia, Number 10 in NZ, Number 38 in the UK, and Number 7 in the USA. At the time, I loved this song. This video is the US version, which is what I saw back in the day, of course [Update: That video was deleted, so I replaced it with the "International Version"].

Once I moved to New Zealand, I heard much more of their music, such as 1982’s “Great Southern Land” [WATCH/LISTEN], which never charted in the USA, and also “Electric Blue” [WATCH/LISTEN], which was also released in 1987. I still hear this song on the radio.

That’s all for the first page of that note to myself from thirty years ago. Next week, the rest of that list.

See Also: "Weekend Diversion: Old Tunes, Part 2" from July 2, 2017.

I’ve created a Spotify Playlist, “One Night in 1987”, for all the songs on that list (all the songs in both this post and Part 2).

*Update: December 15. 2021: After returning to this with fresh ears, I now think the song by The Wolfgang Press was most likely “I'm Coming Home (Mama)” [LISTEN] from their 1985 EP, Sweatbox, because this single sounds most like something that might’ve appealed to me, though it could have been something older, or a non-single, too. Still, this I think this is a good guess.

I’ve created a Spotify Playlist, “One Night in 1987”, for all the songs on that list (all the songs in both this post and Part 2).

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