I tried it. From Friday morning through this morning, I neither listened to nor thought about nor read about music. And I didn’t miss it.
An unforseen side effect did threaten, however: my standards might lower with lack of exposure. When a snippet of radio music in my sister’s car raised its ugly head in the form of two bars of a new Pearl Joke song, I almost liked it, before my sister turned it off to spare my daughter, the Carsick Queen, who sat in the backseat. I sang beatles songs to her, and it was much more satisfying than corporate radio. She’s partial to Paul McCartney’s “Heart of the Country” or the Beatles’ “Two of Us,” and requests the later by saying “you and I have membories.”
Reinviting the music, I found myself this morning wanting nothing more than the obscene comfort food of Roxy Music’s Avalon, always the most placating summer album for me, and maybe for no sonic reason other than I bought the cassette in the summer of 1988 and remember the exact evening I bought it. (although like Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, I find Avalon just as resonant in the dappled light of 10:30 am as it is appropriate after dark). It doesn’t rock, and back then I was into the Rock, playing into submission a copied cassette of the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa b/w Black Sabbath’s Paranoid; anyone entering my green, 1973 AMC Matador in 1988 was asked to offer their souls to that tape and their bodies to the possibility of the transmission locking on a hill. I converted many a VH fan. Maybe it was the fear.
I must have read something about Avalon somewhere, because NYC-area classic rock stations had already introduced me to a few of that album’s songs, as well as other RM and Bryan Ferry stuff, and I’d never felt the need to spend cash and hear more. With today’s downloading, this would never happen, of course. I’d have the entire catalogue in an afternoon.
It was an awfully grownup album for my 150 Lb, seventeen-year-old self. I suppose I was trying to get laid, but I was getting laid (true story!), so that doesn’t explain it. Maybe this was the exact moment I’d stopped caring about what anyone thought about my music taste. I grew up in an era where eclectic taste was weird, and in an area where it was dangerous. Before the net (which hasn’t toally leveled the field, but …), where I came from, your music genre was your social set. To publicly like Duran Duran was impossible for a Sex Pistols fan. To like Public Enemy and Anthrax was even weirder even after they played together. But of course, I secretly enjoyed the burnouts’ Metallica as much as the B-Boys’ Big Daddy Kane. I hid out in the geek range, where no one asked or cared, although sometimes surprising a skinhead with Jam lyrics as easily as quoting Iron Maiden to get free beer at a party.
It was a July night after seeing a movie at the Rockaway Mall; beforehand, I’d snuck away to the cheeseball record store and spent my work money on Avalon. I don’t think my then g-friend was even in the car (I should have known; or maybe I did) during our drive back through a still-undeveloped northwestern New Jersey, swamps and crumbling houses hidden by breakneck turns and bumps I knew by heart after umpteen drives in near blackness while escaping, even for fifteen minutes, from my job as a lifeguard/canoe guy for a summer camp that paid well and got me out of my parents’ house for three months solid without having to run away. It was Dark out there, the kind of darkness after you turn out the darkness, where the only way you could see a cow or deer is if you’re low enough on the road, before you hit the animal, to see its shoulders and ears silhouetted against the almost less-black sky.
There were moans and groans when I slipped Avalon into the boombox on the seat beside me in the Matador, the expected what’s this and turn this shit off. I’m pretty sure I uncharacteristically said nothing, no defense, meaning there would be no convincing me otherwise. By the time “The Main Thing” clicked in as pastures moved past us, there was complete silence in the car, probably everyone making out, and I felt no jealousy, no burden at driving at all. It might be my greatest moment as a DJ, as close to real-life DJ-ing as there is possible, the club or bar scene being somewhat fabricated. Call it Field-Dj-ing. I made four copies of that cassette in the following weeks.
If I remember this right, my girlfriend was waiting for me when we got back, and she joined me in my parked car for a while longer. To paraphrase Homer Simpson during a parody of the ending of And Officer and a Gentleman, I probably showed her the greatest 2 minutes of her life.
I also bought a cassette copy of My Life in the Bush With Ghosts that night. Thank God I didn’t play that. We would have crashed.