Monday, January 15, 2007

Mixtape Monday: Manic Pop Thrill, Side One

(What is Mixtape Monday?)

From one of my last mixtapes to one of the first; the oldest surviving cassette in my collection, I think. There’s no date on the packaging, but it’s from late 1987—my first semester after transferring to Syracuse University.

Manic Pop thrill j-card

20/20 hindsight: Twenty years gone, twenty years old and obsessed with music as only the painfully alone can be. I bought records every week. There was a little record store right in the student union—Spectrum, it was called—and I’d browse there after lunch or when I had time to kill between classes. On payday I’d hike down to Record Theatre at Marshall Square for new 45s, or hike up the funky stairway to Desert Shore, a walk-up on M-Street proper, with intimidating punk-rock posters on the walls and such a staggering array of used vinyl that I hardly knew where to begin. One of the local comics shops used to sublet a corner of the store, and between the twelve-inches and the funnybooks I’d be gone for the day.

Nothing was planned. Mixtapes took shape over weeks or months, growing with the purchase of new vinyl. I’d come straight home from the record store, blow the dust off the stylus, and add a song or three to the work-in-progress. It’s a bit like freeform radio. It’s the sound of my musical reach exploding out in several directions at once, most notably beyond teenage rockism and towards a pure-pop-for-now-people vibe (a trajectory shared by several of the bands on this mix, interestingly and possibly not coincidentally).

As a portrait of a taste still in the process of formation, it’s also full of “It seemed like a good idea at the time” moments.

It seemed at the time that, snicker-worthy name aside, the Hooters had put out a fun, nervy d├ębut album and that the broad shots and easy targets of “Sattelite Satellite” would be redeemed, after multiple listens, by the shiny melody. It seemed at the time that after Alarm’s brash, unashamedly self-mythologizing early work, their new direction was a sign of maturation, and not of a growing aimlessness. It seemed at the time that Rush had (briefly, as it turned out) transformed themselves into a terrific little pop band, a poor man’s Police (I was right about that one).

It seemed at the time that, given how much I’d liked the liquid-metal sound of David Gilmour’s guitar on other people’s records (Pete Townshend, Bryan Ferry, Kate Bush etc), it would be a good idea to give the reformed Pink Floyd a listen—just as pomp discovered self-righteousness, and a band of fat multi-millionaires saw fit to berate their audience for insufficient charity. It seemed at the time that a “funny” song about Elvis Presley (then only ten years dead!) was the future of American comedy, and that I was lucky to hear it.

Can’t win ‘em all.

A note on the length: This side runs 50+ minutes in this reconstruction, where it originally ran under 45 minutes. That’s partly because my turntable ran a tad fast, chipmunking the pitch up a semitone and making the songs shorter accordingly; but mostly it’s because the reconstructed version uses album cuts, where the original was composed mainly of edits—remixed chopjobs created especially for the 45 singles market and never collected elsewhere. That’s a real shame, I think; the Bears single, in particular, is both poppier and noisier than this album version—pared back for impac’. The loss of the once-ubiquitous radio remix is a topic for another time, I think.

Download Side One (51 minutes, 46.6 meg file: YouSendIt link good until 22 January), and wonder what I was thinking.

[ MP# expired - so sorry ]

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