Nostalgia: Popping Aural Cherries

Violent Femmes covering T-Rex’s “Children of the Revolution”: pinpointing the moment at which I realized there was a boatload of music not being played on Top 40 radio. Glad I didn’t have MTV at this time, cause this vid is pretty darned goofy. Although it does capture the look and feel of a typical Wisconsin Friday Fish Fry.

I grew up listening to AM radio. Loved Streisand’s “Evergreen” as much as Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell”. Didn’t quite understand the appeal of “Heart of Glass”, because I didn’t understand that Debbie Harry circa 1979/80 was smoking hot. She was just a breathy voice in front of a disco beat. I saw the cover of her 45 at my local National Record Mart, and didn’t realize what they were really selling.

Tell me that’s not a Farrah Fawcett clone. Oh, to be innocent again.

Then in the early 80s, MTV came when cable television hit town. The former “music channel” is such a strange phenomenon of my generation. I can clearly remember life pre- and post-MTV. Was I a better person because I knew who the Buggles were? Probably not, but I heard my first Kinks song this way, and also learned that if my friends didn’t dance they were no friends of Men Without Hats.

Then our family moved to Wisconsin, which was a culture shock to say the least. It was rural, quiet. Filled with mosquitos and tourists in the summer, and measurable amounts of snow the other 9 months of the year. MTV was a distant memory. In fact, there wasn’t even cable in our town in 1985.

A friend of mine introduced me to the Violent Femmes song above (still classic) and album (not so much), which not only marked a change in my view of entertainment, it also was a rude awakening. It’s not even the dirtiest song in the Femmes’ repertoire, but when I heard local-boy Gordon Gano growling “Bump and grind, have a good time”, I finally understood what it meant.


Within a few months, after MTV had returned to my life, I lavished in Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”, thanks to its fantastic video, and cryptically sexual lyrics. The girls that I knew didn’t exactly “open up [their] fruitcage”, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t aware of said fruitcages.

My newfound musical appetite not yet whetted, I stumbled upon Elvis Costello’s Blood and Chocolate at Musicland. I remember counting out pocket change to buy that cassette, because I had read such a great review in the year-end Rolling Stone. First of all, that album proves that Elvis was the original Napoleon Dynamite, and he should be getting DVD residuals to this day. However, more importantly to this post is that at the heart of that album – track #5 – is “I Want You”, a quintessential Costello song, and a nasty sex song.

“I Want You” chronicles a man driven mad by jealous thoughts of his lover sleeping with another man. And Elvis more or less spits the lyrics instead of singing them. He’s wounded, angry and murderous. And yet, it’s still kinda hot, because it’s apparent the song’s protagonist is horny as hell. It was through this song, um, among others, I learned that sex is natural, sex is fun, but sex is best when it’s between monogamous consensual adults. Better said, one on one. I mean, c-c-c-c-c-c-c-come on.

I got my driver’s license in 1988, and I discovered music and girls nearly simultaneously. Unfortunately, the outbreak of HIV/AIDS around that time almost guaranteed that I was going to be spending more time driving around with only the music to accompany me. No wonder I started listening to such angry stuff.


Posted on July 15, 2008, in Music, Nostalgia and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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