Sunday, December 09, 2007

Around This Time...

...I think of my own personal mythology- the transcendent, magical power of the music of late 1980. That Christmas I got one of those fancy new portable radio/cassette player combos, and I felt like I was given the keys to the Kingdom. Boston had a whole host of college radio stations turned on to the new sounds, so I pumped the DJ's to play the latest 45s. Which, of course, I dutifully committed to tape, without the annoying voiceover of commercial radio. Back then, this felt like the absolute cutting edge of technological piracy. Bow Wow Wow immortalized home-tapers like myself in this classic:

Annabella was one of my adolescent obsessions, and her very existence seemed to promise some mythological pirate/fantasy world, filled with spunky, precocious kids who were flouting all the old rules. In those magical months, I felt like she was singing these songs to me (and if you're familiar with BWW lyrics, you'll know what a kick that was). All of these bands seemed like living comic books, and the cross-pollination of strange new sounds, colorful visuals and cutting edge graphics burned itself into the deepest recesses of my brain.

Then there were bands that seemed like they had pulled their music straight out of my dreams. This started for me in 1979, when I first heard songs like "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" by the Buzzcocks and "I Should Have Known Better" by Wire. It may well have reached its apogee with "Sister Europe" by the Psychedelic Furs, but then there is also "From the Flagstones" a few years later.

It's stunning to think how quickly all of this happened, how mind-numbingly awful what the rest of the world seemed to be listening to was (Juice Newton, anyone?) and how the power of the inner world this music invoked seemed so fragile and fleeting in the outer one.

I was a guest on the Jordan Rich show on WBZ-AM last night and it felt like a homecoming. WBZ-FM was my initiation point for Punk and New Wave, and I felt a little shiver of an echo, calling to me across all of the years in-between. Boston is a place where you can find yourself frozen in others' definition of yourself forever, which is why so many people leave to reinvent themselves (I've met a lot of them down here, in fact). But there's an awful lot of power back there as well. Boston makes you work to impress it. Sinatra had it wrong- New York is so big and open, anyone can make it there. Boston, on the other hand...

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