The Long Play

Saturday 1 August 2015

In my teenage years in the 80's we had big, cumbersome storage devices.  The floppy discs I worked on as a typesetter were huge, but not as huge as the LPs we played on our turntables.  LPs were good; the cover art was big, lyrics were often supplied, so you could sing along as you sat, without computers, tablets and phones to distract you, and listened to an album in its entirety.  Sometimes it was hard to put the stylus on the record without scratching it, it was so small - especially if you just had to listen to a particular album after you'd been out drinking the two cans of UDL vodka and orange that got you drunk for the night. 

It wasn't too far past the 70's so apart from big storage devices we also had big pubic hair.  No one had yet told us that carrying our pubes around au naturale was a hideousness beyond belief, and so therefore when you looked at us side-on in our underwear, there were ever so slight bulges of soft and fluffy pubic hair.  Some of those pubes occasionally poked through your undies, if you ran your fingers over their outsides.   Pubes are horribly condemned.  They're just trying to protect us, after all.

But this is not about pubic hair.  This is about my record collection.   Or what's left of it.

I had more albums than this.  There were my Mum's old original Beatles albums, Please Please Me and Hard Day's Night.  There were others that were probably pretty good as well but I will never know because they have disappeared.  I like to presume they were stolen from the garage when I lived in Braybrook.  I don't want to cast nasturtiums on any one person, but my bias would like to say it was Dylan, who rented the house in front of the granny flat I rented at the back.

I tend to think it was Dylan because he was basically a bit of a prick, really.  When I moved out, broke as usual, and he still hadn't paid me the money he owed me for bills, he simply ignored my text messages asking, nay pleading, for the 300 bucks.  Some people are just quite simply arseholes with very little concern for other people.  Dylan indeed was one of them.  His girlfriend Jane drove around in a pink car with "Janey" numberplates and when I looked at them I saw future domestic violence written across her face.  I hope Jane has upgraded.

So yes, the missing albums.  I also can't find a large stack of singles I had.  Some of them were truly ghastly.  Others were daggy one-offs that I'm happy to lay claim to, like 5705 (but there's no reply!)  And who can go past the wonderful Ah! Leah! by the punctuation-loving Donnie Iris?  Never heard of it?  Well, where have you been?  Get onto this 3 minutes of pure pop/rock awesomeness with self-deprecating nerdy-wish-fulfillment right this second!  The bit at the end where he's sing-screaming to Leah makes all the chest feels go all chest feely for me, just like it did all the way through the 80's.

The singles could possibly be around somewhere because my organisational capacities are malformed, and with my drastic energy levels are quite chaotic.  I just got my 2009 tax return done three months ago.  It's possible also that I have some cassettes lying around, although surely not by now?  Surely, the once-a-decade clean-up that happened in the 2000s took care of the cassettes?  I would have seen them, known it was time, and felt horribly guilty throwing them in the rubbish bin.  I hate living in a world where we produce so much shit!  My cassettes are probably making up part of that giant plastic island that lives in the Specific Ocean.

I do have some cassettes still though.  They are from the time in the early 90's when I was penpalling a guy in Arizona State Prison from my rental house in Noble Park who had put an advert in one of the music mags.  He used to whisper quietly into his tape deck's microphone.  Occasionally I would hear an iron door close in the distance.  He paused the recording a lot.  He drew a picture of me once.  He used to say, "Mercy, girl," and in the end it kind of creeped me out a bit because it just felt ... I don't know, like suddenly it was a commitment to be writing to this guy.  One day I just never wrote back.

I'm sure he was a lovely guy in his way, even despite the fact that the internet shows me that he is still in jail, after being released for some time.  One day I will bring myself to listen to those cassettes, there luckily being several cassette decks lying around these here parts.  But I'm having to build up to listening to them.  I feel like listening to them will make me feel squishy, embarrassed. I don't really know why.  I wish I would hurry up and have built up to listen, because those tapes are going to be like a time capsule from 20 years ago.  I really only want to listen to them to hear what James from Arizona feeds back to me about what Sue from Noble Park was doing and thinking at that particular point in time.

So that photo above is all there is to hand of the pre-digital music that made up my teenage years in the 80's - if you don't count the videos.  VHS video tapes came in somewhere around 1987.  I still have a few of those lying around as well.  I don't really know why.  I suspect I had this idea of transferring the music clips I taped off the TV onto something more digital, little knowing that YouTube most likely has got there first.  Or has it?  I mean, what are the chances that YouTube is going to have something obscure that I might find on those tapes if I looked that I would be horrified at the thought of losing again, after our enforced separation through chancing mediums for 30 years?  Surely coming across an old, well-loved musical treasure that you'd forgotten clean about is ... oh, I don't know, it's like the ultimate in musical spirituality.  That kinda reclamation can transport me for days.

So these albums.  This small little Dylan-depleted bunch of stuff that, quite frankly, is hardly representational of the music I loved, and the music I would grow to love in the future.  I mean, I was a teenage girl, right?  Some of it will be actually quite embarrassing.  And it's for that reason that it is going to be a pleasure to trawl through them, one after the other, as little possibly feet-curling memory portals back to a time when my hair was as huge as my pubes, climate change wasn't a conscious thing, and I would have been disturbed to discover that as emotionally wrangled as I was then, I would still continue to be so when more collagen-depleted, writing an excessively long sentence to end a blog post on a medium that I knew absolutely nothing of.

Stay tuned.


  1. I have a box of those. But, see, back in the day, I was a good vinyl owner and recorded every one of them onto cassette right away. So most of mine have only been played once. I have a set of singles, too. I'm hoping to retire on selling all of this some day. :)

    Did you have those "cassette singles" things? Where it was on a tape, but there was only one song on each side? What a waste or money. You could buy the whole album with 10 songs for $7.99 or you could buy two songs for $2.99.

    I love Ah Leah. It's a pointless guilty pleasure. Except when I was young I thought it was "Come On, Leah", like "Come On Eileen", right?

    What was with music back in the day that we couldn't understand what the hell they were saying? Why was that a thing? Misheard lyrics drove me nuts.

    I used to be SOOOO obsessive over lyrics and I'd buy all the teen music magazines hoping to find some lyrics to some song that had been puzzling me. I loved it when they were on the dust jacket. It came with a huge sigh of relief.

    People are so different. My husband doesn't know the words to any of his favorite songs. He likes them for the drums and guitar, and doesn't really care what they say. Sometimes he tries to sing and I love to correct him. Our minds are wired so differently.

    Anyhow. That.

  2. Oh oh oh, and recording songs off the radio. And later off of MTV.

    Kids today don't know how good they've got it. They can listen to ANY song they want on demand. They can text the radio station to find out the artist and title of the last 10 songs that were you remember that? hearing a new song on the radio and loving it, but they never said what it was and you agonized over it for days until you heard it again, and THIS time they told you who it was so you could go buy it.....and they have all the lyrics to everything at their fingertips.

    I still spend time sometime looking up the lyrics of old 80s songs that still drive me nuts.

  3. Hello, lovely! Hope you've been out and about enjoying the long-lighted days?

    Cassingles - they were a waste of money, weren't they? I had a couple, wish I could remember what they were. Our music here was SOOOOOO expensive. CDs used to cost 30 bucks a pop if my memory is behaving itself. Craziness!

    All those years of miss heard lyrics. It's so good to finally be able to fill in so many blanks these days. I agree, those young whippersnappers have no idea how easy they have it. We had to work for our music, trudging miles through the snow for one album :-) Seriously, I do think it's too accessible, and there's so much of it, that it all sort of flattens out so it's hard to settle to any one thing. Sitting in Andrea's lounge room listening to one side and them turning it over and listening to the other seems so anachronistic. But I like the space that provided. And the amount of time spent with just one thing. And yes, the anticipation waiting to hear that song again ...


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