Friday, March 12, 2010

Musical Reminiscence--Dateline 1991

One of these days I am going to get around to writing some serious examinations of major issues confronting humanity in this ever darkening age, but I have been distracted this week by memories of certain songs that were constantly in the foreground of my consciousness nineteen years ago. In one of those odd transformations of perception that afflicts the mind, it now seems much longer than 19 years have passed since the songs I am about to present were in heavy rotation in the atmosphere about my life, whereas up until fairly recently that time had seemed to me much nearer than in fact it was. As for waiting until the 20th anniversary of that pivotal year to do my commemoration, I am sure if I did the event would come out stilted and artificial. I remember conceiving the idea of making a big statement on the 75th anniversary of the Armistice in '93, and then finding myself unable to pull such a statement together. I would have been much better off doing it on the 74th.

This all started because I the commercial for a stupid Reggie Miller versus the Knicks documentary on ESPN that was playing on the radio was using the riff for this song. I couldn't place the name of the song for a couple of minutes, but it took me to a very specific place; not a particularly great place, the parking lot of the old shopping center in Parole, Maryland, the occasion for my being there I have no recollection of, but I know that it was sometime in the late summer of 1991, sending a fairly strange chain of associations into motion.

I say strange because the immediate next leap from LL Cool J was to the Go-Betweens, and this song that had about a two week run as a hit in our dorm, and then just as rapidly disappeared, and which I had also not thought about in eons. This clip apparently is not the actual video for the song, though it fits the mood of it perfectly. I have no idea what the Go-Betweens actually look like. Somebody had this song, and played it, and I liked it, and that was about as far as it went.

From that the next step was to the Velvet Underground, which during the long and dark, though not as I remember especially cold, January through March of '91, received almost daily airplay. It was always said of this group that they were ahead of their time, and I think that is correct; to me anyway they will always belong much more of the spirit of 1991 than of 1967. While this analysis coincides neatly with the period of my highest susceptibility to them, I do think there is something in it. Their particular attitude and rather pessimistic relation to the world, had become pretty mainstream by the early 90s compared to 1967, it seems to me. Anyway, for them it is hard to pick just one song, but I will choose the two most melancholy ones to fortify the memory I am calling up, Sunday Morning and, of course, Stephanie Says.

The Pogues are perhaps obvious, but I did down an awful lot of booze and sucked on a lot of cigarettes--I'm drinking some Labatt's Blue in a can right now, in fact--to this song over the years.

This one doesn't really fit in with the rest, and I don't really like it, but through association I have to include it. This was what the 6'4", 270 pound guy in the room next to me used to crank full blast when he was getting psyched up for an intermural sports game, or (much more rarely), if he was meeting some lady or other of an evening. This guy was a much less intimidating figure on the playing field than his size might suggest, mainly because he could rarely make it 30 seconds into any contest without suffering some injury that would debilitate him for the rest of the game. There are always a handful of guys around like this, who are constantly afflicted with some ailment, and for whom crutches, casts, braces, etc, come to constitute a regular facet of their general look. This fellow I'm speaking of was more commonly weighed down by ice packs than crutches on the sideline, though once he was stung by a bee and was laid up in bed for the better part of two weeks. It had nearly killed him, at least that was what was reported. Kidding aside, on the two or three occasions a year when he managed to make it through a whole game, his unusual and rarely seen array of skills would catch his opponents off guard a couple of times in the course of a game. In basketball he had a kind of Gheorghe Muresan style offensive package where he never got off the floor. One time he went up fully extended for a shot and I flew at him and, as he pulled it back at the last minute, right past him, after which he proceeded to casually lay it in, no up-and-down in the least. In softball he actually had kind of fearsome power for our league, though the lack of a DH rule definitely hurt him, for he frequently injured himself playing defense and running the bases.

I didn't actually listen to this with other people, but I saw it on 120 minutes and always thought it was a cool song and video, not to mention the essence of all things 1991 down to its ashes.

And yes, we listened to the Smiths a lot too. This was an especial favorite of that season. And this one. And one more.

I can't find a video for the last song I was going to do, which had an elaborate story that went with it anyway, so I will save that for either another time or, more likely, never.


Hannah said...

That MUST be DT, yes?

mm45 said...

I admit it is our old friend DT. I feel kind of bad about having my little fit of fun at his expense, but, to paraphrase Shakespeare, however witty he was in himself, he was decidedly the source of much wit in others (whom I am ripping off in this little remembrance, I might add.

Hannah said...

Yeah, but it is really funny. I just read it again and laughed out loud. You caught him perfectly.