(Re)Collection #46: It's 1984. I'm 18 Years Old.
1984. There were plenty of great songs and bands out and about. The musical landscape was jam-packed. It was plush and kind of ridiculous in retrospect. I was a consumer at that point in my life. I played no instrument. I didn't go to many shows. I contributed nothing. But I was a believer. I loved music more than school, career, future security. But I did what we all did in my neighborhood. We went to college.
I will not claim that these were the halcyon days of music as people often do when speaking of the music of their youth. But they were the most formative days of my own musical life. The clay was soft. The impressions were deep.
I had 18-year-old sensibilities, undeveloped links in my brain, surging hormones in my bloodstream, unfinished growth in my bones and a deep, confused and wounded immaturity and insecurity.
And alongside all of that and irrespective of my existence on the planet, many, many musical gems were released. The ones that meant something to me and jibed with my burgeoning notion of self were far fewer, of course. That I gravitated toward a certain song, album or band tells me a lot about myself. Often times, it tells me uncomfortable truths. Truths that took years and decades to fully unravel and reveal themselves to me.
I use and have used music as a balm, an elixir, a medication. I use it to sleep, wake up, cope with adversity, soothe my sense of isolation and longing. It is the glue that bonds me to certain friends and a memory aid that links me to a complex set of emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical experiences. Most importantly, without the songs and bands, it is very difficult for me to picture and feel the significance of my 18th year as a human.
There is always music in the background at any given time in life. There is the music that is currently on the radio, in the movies, on TV and coming out of car windows. There is the music of your perceived enemies and your bullies. There is the music of the popular ones who have the world figured out. Yet that music is not your savior, your refuge. Just because it is current and popular does not mean it has currency.
Your music is the stuff that wraps you up in its arms when you feel like shit; when the girl you secretly love does not love you; when you get that tragic haircut that you are so proud of. It is the song that is playing when your friends drive you to the hospital in the middle of the night after you get your ass kicked at a party you should not have been at.
That is the stuff that is special, sacrosanct. It exists outside of critics and commentators. It lives in and presides over your intellectual, emotional and spiritual domain.
Sure, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA was on everyone's stereo and was played at every single party I went to that year, but it was not for me. I love Bruce Springsteen now, but I did not then. He became relevant to me later, when my associations with the people who listened to it and played it on the speakers pointing out of their dorm room windows faded.
I like self-indulgent, arty, somber, morose, angry, wistful, cacophonous, ironic, anthemic, yearning, and sincere music. I like urgency. My taste is often pedestrian, sometimes not. I accept it. It mirrors and communicates my wants and desires better than I ever could with words.
In 1984, these records were my currency.
1. The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow
2. Minor Threat, Salad Days
3. Marginal Man, Identity
4. REM, Reckoning
5. Echo & the Bunnymen, Ocean Rain
6. Talking Heads- Stop Making Sense
7. U2, The Unforgettable Fire
8. Depeche Mode, Some Great Reward
9. The Replacements, Let It Be
10. Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, Junk Culture
11. Husker Du, Zen Arcade
12. Government Issue, Joy Ride
Long live the naiveté of youth. In the not-knowing and the not-having-experienced-much-yet, there is a lot of depth and wisdom.