Friday, June 26, 2009

the 80s: background

My step dad Dan was a record collector. He was a fancy, uptight 70s guy. He took a long time making his hair just right every day and he often wore white pants. He mostly bought cheesy jazz. He also bought plastic cover protectors and anti-static inside dust jackets for every record, which he would file alphabetically when he got home.

Dan took forever to figure out what he wanted to buy. So I'd wander around the store and look at record covers. A lot of it scared me.

I'd been warned that some rock and roll was satanic. I even heard a Christian tape once where they played records backward and, though you could never hear the words that were supposed to be there, like "satan" and I don't know what else, they still sounded really creepy, so they must've been bad. Plus, my real dad, who died in 1976, when I was eight, was a born again Christian and he thought all rock was a sin. I didn't quite believe him, but I was still a little young to be sure.

So there I was, eight or nine, I suppose, in a record store surrounded by records by Blue Oyster Cult, Nazareth, The Grateful Dead, Judas Priest, ACDC, Black Sabbath and probably a few others I can't remember. The covers were dark and full of demons and skulls and blood and they terrified me and fascinated me all at the same time.

I was still too young to distinguish completely between art and reality. I was into pop music. My mom kept the car station set to the top 40 station, and I could sing along with most of the songs. My favorite was Elton John. I would wear sunglasses and silk shirts and put on lip-sync concerts for my family. I couldn't uderstand how or why they got the audience to stay quiet for every song on his Greatest Hits except for Benny and the Jets.

So it was in this highly impressionable stage, poised between bubblegum and the pits of hell, that I received a great gift. My mom and stepdad Dan came home with a bright-red, plastic record player, and a record that would propel me on a path that would take me through all the weird little corners of the 80s.

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