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Mixtape mania

Inspired by ‘s comment on my last entry:

Oh, man, I forgot all about taping songs and writing lyrics sheets! Man, I used to spend hours and hours taping songs off the radio, then trying to make compilation tapes of just the songs I liked, without the ads and the songs I thought sucked. I kept a running wish-list on a calendar in my bedroom, and marked whenever the hard-rock station would be playing entire albums at midnight. And because my bedtime was theoretically supposed to be at 9:00, I’d turn the volume way, way, way down on my radio when I stayed up until midnight to bootleg an Iron Maiden, Shotgun Messiah, or Alice Cooper album!

I thought I was a little metalhead back in the day.

Oooh, and my mixtapes…I didn’t have a boombox with a dual tape deck, so what I’d do is get my dad’s tape-recorder he used to tape his band’s practice sessions, and sit its microphone right up next to the speakers on my boombox, and play my boombox as loud as it would go into the mic. I remember getting into some bloody brawls with my sister when she came into the room and made a lot of noise, ’cause then I’d have to re-tape that song, and cue-ing up the tape to just the right place was a pain in the ass, and then the recording would have the noise of the play switches being turned on! Oh, the memories.

I had a vast enthusiasm for shitty music, as most pre-teens and most teenagers do, and commercial radio of the late 1980s and early 1990s was happy to serve up a-plenty. Motley Cruue, Poison, Warrant on the hard-rock side. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince on the “hip hop” side, and Tiffany & Debbie Gibson on the pop side.

If you went by the musical tastes that formed my pre-adolescent sexual awakening, you’d think I’da grown up to be a total misogynistic perv. AC/DC, Motley Cruue, Poison… Alice Cooper and Prince were my introduction to a little bit of kinky…one day, when I was about 14, I realized the innuendo value of “Cream…get on top” and went “woah! he can sing that on the radio? Cool!” And I didn’t understand it, but I kinda dug Alice Cooper’s whole leather and whip thing. He was creepy as all hell, but still, the lyrics “run my greasy fingers up your greasy spine” fed something in my subconscious Frankenstein.

I know, for a fact, that my considerable love of Iron Maiden was one of the road-signs that directed me down the primrose path of becoming an English major. My long-suffering highschool teacher dealt with many an essay from me comparing rock lyrics with literary classics. Metallica, Nirvana, Cream, and of course, Iron Maiden. I also did a song-by-song comparison of the Black Crowes album “Three Snakes and a Charm” against the Rolling Stones classic, “Sticky Fingers.” Seriously, those two albums practically parallel each other all the way through. You should listen to both sometime and tell me if I tell a lie.

I remember the first time I heard NIN–it was the album Pretty Hate Machine (the album title alone almost dissuaded me from listening to it…I was afraid it was a neo-Nazi hardcore album). Anyhow, I found the tape lodged in the tape deck of a junk car my dad dragged home, and listened to it out of morbid curiosity…and liked what I heard. It reminded me of White Zombie, which I liked a lot, and Alice in Chains, another band I really liked. But somehow…more modern, more mysterious, more subliminaly twisted and freaky, and infinitely more danceable.

Now, as I said, as a young girl, I had a vast capacity and enthusiasm for music of all qualities and natures. No discretion whatsoever. Therefore I accepted pretty much everything I heard as being basically okay, up to and inluding Vanilla Ice and Quiet Riot. Nowadays, I have a theory which may prove controversial, that Metallica didn’t magically start sucking after the Black album, but that they were always a band of patchy quality, with some serious high points, but some barrel-bottom-busting low points too. For instance, James Hetfield’s voice, which is frankly appalling. I used to not like Megadeth on account of Metallica alum Dave Mustain’s voice, but how I preferred James Hetfield’s is something of a mystery. Then there’s the melodrama. Teenagers have an enormous affinity for melodrama, which is why Goth, Emo, and Deathmetal can even survive. Metallica is fucking melodramatic, even on their more artful and thoughtful songs. It is the nature of the beast. So what I think happened is that in the considerable interim between the Black album and Load, Metallica’s original fanbase outgrew Metallica. In the nearly 10 year hiatus, our tastes changed and matured, to an extent, and thrash-thrash-thrash-growl-moan no longer satisfied us. I’ll be the first to admit that Load is weak compared to And Justice for All, which was a very politically charged and thought-provoking album, but in comparison to the Black album, possibly Metallica’s most commercial and least complex album to that date, it doesn’t compare unfavorably. In fact, it is a surprisingly consistent follow-up, given the considerable break Metallica took from recording and touring. They could easily have come back with a totally new sound and style, though that would probably have been received even worse than Load was, considering.

I’ve had a very liberal political slant for as long as I’ve been politically aware, and I’d say my political awakening came during the 1988 presidential election campaign, when I was 10-going-on-11, and I came this close to praying that George Bush, Sr. would not be elected. Many of the songs I liked as I got older had lyrics that titillated my adolescent sense of outrage. Much of Metallica’s “And Justice for All” album (probably their most serious album), as well as much of “Master of Puppets” registered high on my “right on!” meter. Ditto the body of the Dead Kennedys. I dipped deeply into my parents’ old record collection toward the end of my highschool days, and learned of Cream’s The Politician and just nodded and thought of Clinton. Oddly, there were several bands which could have potentially spoken loudly to my consciousness, but were instead relegated to my “yuk” pile. Chief amongst those were REM and Bad Religion, which I wrote off as didactic pussy music. Today I appreciate their messages, yet still find their music tiresome. No accounting for tastes, I guess.

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