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You Can't Dream Unless You're Dormant - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
You Can't Dream Unless You're Dormant
Sunday evening in Seattle I watched a member of my party sing "I Want You To Want Me" in a Capitol Hill karaoke bar frequented primarily by a mixed-race gay crowd. Because I'd been reading about Cheap Trick in The Stranger -- they were in town -- it seemed fitting. Even though it had always been one of my least favorite songs by the band, I came to see it in a new light that night. There's something compelling about the naked expression of a need for reciprocity.

Then, upon returning to Tucson, I was reminded that Cheap Trick was going to be playing here as well. Tonight, to be specific. I was surfing the radio for a good song this afternoon and came across an interview. At first I couldn't tell who it was. But then I realized that it must be Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick. He's pretty sharp still. When the interview was over, they launched the next music set with "Dream Police."

It had been a long time since I'd heard that one. Back in the day, it was the Cheap Trick song I liked best. Part of that had to do with the fact that I wasn't really listening to much popular music in 1978 -- we were still living in rural Pennsylvania -- but had become an American Top-40 devotee by the summer of 1979 -- we'd just moved to suburban Maryland -- and indiscriminately collected 45s regardless of genre, provided that they struck my fancy.

Hearing the song on the radio today made me nostalgic for my vinyl days, which are concealed besides several barriers in my mind.

I decided that I wanted a CD player shortly after they appeared on the market. Even though my passion for popular music was at ebb tide back then -- somewhere between "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Beat It" -- I was learning a lot about opera and reading audiophile magazines in which the digital vs. analog debate raged endlessly. When the Police album Synchronicity came out in 1983, I was chagrined to discover that it had an extra track -- "Murder By Numbers" -- and realized that vinyl was going to have other limitations besides hiss and crackle.

As it turned out, I didn't get my first CD player until 1986. I received a high-end Sony boombox as a high-school graduation present, together with four CDs: Prince, Under a Cherry Moon; a greatest hits collection of the Glen Miller orchestra; Sir Georg Solti conducting Dvorak's New World Symphony with his regular charges; and Jackson Browne, Lives in the Balance. Rather shockingly, I only have two of those CDs left in my collection. In a time of freshman-year penury, I traded the Glen Miller and Jackson Browne in at Rasputin's, an impulsive move I've regretted ever since, not because I missed those records that much -- I haven't bothered to replace them -- but because they were part of that initial 4-CD library.

With the exception of those two CDs, a few others I traded in, and a number that were pilfered from me -- most notably by "Smokey," the African-American woman whom my freshman-year flatmate periodically invited into our place and who, despite her general kindness, grabbed whatever she could in order to support her crack habit -- my CD collection is a functional archive. I still listen to that Prince album from time to time and, despite Steve Albini's fears, it sounds the same as ever. Other early entries in my collection, such as the first Violent Femmes album, REM's Lifes Rich Paegant, The Cure's Inbetween Days and U2's The Joshua Tree remain in regular rotation. And they sound fine too. Indeed, I have to remind myself that they are almost two decades old.

With my 45s, though, it's a different story. I've finally managed to bring them all out West to be with me. But I don't even have a turntable these days. I haven't had access to one since we left California. So, whereas my CDs remain what I will call, for want of a better term, "musically active," my 45s -- not to mention my LPs -- are dormant. Although I can hold them in my hand, I can't hear them. I can only hear the songs they carry.

Maybe that's why I feel a special surge of longing when I do hear one of them on the radio or in a movie. Tonight Skylar was watching Shrek 2. When Shrek and Fiona leave for her parents' castle, their friends stay behind to party. "Le Freak" comes on as our protagonists ride away. I have the original 45 for that one. And for "Dream Police" too, obviously. In the case of the latter, though, the opportunities to hear it are far more limited. So I paid close attention this afternoon.

The song is repetitive, just like "I Want You To Want Me." I'd like more variation, both lyrically and musically. But it has meaty hooks and a bridge that sounds all the better for coming relatively late in the song. And the best moments rival the carefree complexity of the New Pornographers. I'd never thought to make that particular connection, even though I've always thought of Carl Newman & Co. as a band that hearkens back first and foremost to the post-disco pop of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Maybe I'm finally grasping the reasons why Cheap Trick has been relatively unscathed by the scorn of critics. Although I wouldn't have been going to tonight's concert at the casino even if my partner were well, I'm looking forward to living vicariously through _luaineach's concert report. I hope she's having fun.

Tags: ,
Current Location: 85704
Mode: angular
Muse: a memory, obviously, of the song I'm writing about

4 comments or Leave a comment
tpratt From: tpratt Date: May 5th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
We had a relatively minor flood in our garage a few weeks back. Chris' old wooden crate with the George Dickel sticker on it got soaked, as did the bottoms (or tops, for some of them) of the LPs inside. I didn't freak out as much as I might have a decade or 2 ago. Still, it made me upset. I took the albums out and stacked them in a dry patch of the garage. One of the records, a 10" split of Schlong/False Sacrament, fell into a puddle. Schlong side down. I started thinking about the last time I listened to any of my vinyl. It was after Chris' housewarming party in San Jose, in 1997. I had damaged my turntable from years of pulling the record back, then hitting the pause button on the tape deck, so that I could make virtually pause-free mix tapes. Now the pitch is all skeewampus. I miss those records like crazy. CD's are all right. They hold more stuff, so if you get a complete discography on one it's a killer deal. They sound fine. Best of all, they're easy to copy onto an mp3 player or computer or whatever. I wish like hell I could transfer my records onto another source, though. There's something that supposedly does just that. I'm thinking I might end up forking over the dough to get one. Then again, there's always the thought that there's a good reason I haven't felt pangs of longing to hear most of the vinyl I do own for the last 8 or 9 years...
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 6th, 2006 03:46 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Hey! I thought you were Mr Crazy Collector of Arcane Objects de Past. How the hell did you let those vinyl delights slide away?

Okay, to be honest you're probably better off actually (look at the mess it's gotten me into lately: http://scarstuff.blogspot.com/ (http://scarstuff.blogspot.com/)), but still this strikes a chord with me in particular since I've been carting around the same copies of the first 3 Cheap Trick records to every house I've lived in since 1980.

...and they're still damn good live.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 6th, 2006 06:44 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I have my vinyl, actually. Just not those few CDs. But I agree that you're worse off than I am... :-)
From: marcegoodman Date: May 6th, 2006 06:04 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Ah, "Dream Police", just about my favorite Cheap Trick song too. I know many consider Dream Police the album, the beginning of the falloff for Cheap Trick. Xgau thinks they stop being funny on this record and for him that's the rub. But "Dream Police" followed by "Way of the World" is a great 1-2 punch of the late '70s power pop you describe. New Pornographers, absolutely. "Sing Me Spanish Techno", for instance, would not sound out of place on Dream Police.

I have lucked into an amazing number of classic country records in my vinyl thrifting lately, Hank Thompson and the Brazo Valley Boys being my favorite recent discovery. I recommend turntables for all households that can accomodate them. They're still pretty cheap.

It was great to see you the other night. I'll be back at Plush on Monday for Laura Veirs, who most recent record, Year of Meteors, I recommend very highly.

Happy Birthday!

4 comments or Leave a comment