Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not.
At number 100 is Peter Gabriel’s So, an album that includes “In Your Eyes,” the song Lloyd Dobler played to win over Ione Skye, though most people know the album for “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” and their trippy Claymation music videos that were staples of MTV when MTV stood for Music TeleVision. Omnipresent at the time, I haven’t seen either video in ages. I have copies of them. I taped them off MTV. I always had a tape in my Sanyo version of a Sony Betamax at the ready, should one of my favorite performers show up on MTV or any of the other many many mid-eighties cable television channels, 37 in total! That number has since ballooned to just over 300 trillion stations, fully half of which are dedicated to Law & Order reruns and none of which show music videos. In several cartons in my primary bedroom closet are 158 beta tapes of music videos and performances. You may ask “Why did you record videos like ‘Sledgehammer’ when MTV aired it every hour, 40 hours a day?” That I could tell you in one word. Fear. I had a fear that someday MTV would stop showing videos, which, like my fear of getting stuck in an elevator and my fear of being mauled by a raccoon, has come to pass, except for the fear about the raccoon. My fear of MTV ceasing the broadcast of videos falls under a general fear category I have – that one day the things I like will be out of my life for good. That fear applies to the people in my life as well. I mentioned this fear of abandonment by people I care about to my most recent therapist, Dr. Triceratops (NOT HIS REAL NAME), to which he replied “Can we talk about something else?” Not even “please.” The. Worst.
I can’t think of a way to keep the people I care about in my life. Dr. Triceratops was no help. “I don’t know why they left you. I wasn’t there.” The. Worst. I could do something about telecast music performances, though. Anytime someone I liked appeared on screen, I’d press down on the PLAY and RECORD (with the red dot) buttons on my Sanyo version of a Sony Betamax and preserve that moment on beta tapes. I have Prince performing “Baby I’m a Star” on the Grammy Awards, Beastie Boys performing “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!!!)” on Joan Rivers’ The Late Show and then wreaking havoc on her set, and that time Courtney Love threw makeup at Madonna while she was being interviewed by Kurt Loder. I have TV appearances by Simply Red. A lot of appearances by Simply Red. It was a phase I was going through. A short yet powerful phase. Because I’m feeling vulnerable and exposing myself to you right now, I’ll cop to it now, but please let us never speak of it again.
You may think with the advent of YouTube I can chuck my beta tapes and thus be able to walk into my closet, which, in theory, is a walk-in closet, but not everything on my beta tapes is on YouTube. So then the more tech-savvy among you say “upload those rare clips from your beta tapes to YouTube,” as if my name is Poindexter. As if I was a computer science major in college, which I was, actually, but they didn’t teach us how to connect stereo components to our non-existent home computers so we can put things on the non-existent Internet. They taught us programming languages like Pascal and Prolog and C. C! What kind of lame name is that for a language? C. Was its inventor spelling it for his assistant when a chicken bone got lodged in his esophagus and he turned blue and died of asphyxiation while his assistant – let’s call them Holmes – was so busy staring at his or her notebook that they didn’t see what happened when they ran into the conference room yelling “He decided to call the new language ‘C.’ Just the letter C, as in callomania.” More like C as in crap name for a computer language. Because I learned C as in cacatorium and not practical things to do with a still years away home computer, I now sit with 158 beta tapes that include Chaka Khan on a Spanish-language talk show and the Chicago Bears rapping “The Super Bowl Shuffle” and every televised performance ever until 1987 of “Holding Back the Years” (please let us not speak of that again). While speaking with Beck’s manager once I told him I had the clip of Beck throwing his sneaker against the wall in response to a question from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore (the question not being “Hey Beck – are you able to take off your sneaker and throw it against the wall?”) and every Beck TV appearance on beta tapes (how we got onto the subject I do not recall) and he asked me to make a list of all the Beck stuff I had as Beck was interested in compiling clips of his TV appearances for a home video. Perhaps because as I re-read that last sentence I see that I may have come across as a bit obsessive and a tad stalker-like, I don’t think that home video ever materialized. Good thing I have my beta tapes! Plus what happens when YouTube goes away, as everything that brings me joy eventually does? While you’ll be bored out of your gourd with your significant other or family, I’ll be watching Boy George’s guest appearance on The A-Team. Before I do that I’ll need to get my Sanyo version of a Sony Betamax fixed. Presently it sits in my primary bedroom’s theoretical walk-in closet.
Similarly, I like to own copies of the music I like rather than rely solely on music streaming services. I can listen to my vinyl LP of Olivia Newton-John’s If You Love Me Let Me Know. (I love you, Olivia!) You only have Spotify? Sorry, Charlie (or whatever your name is). ONJ’s IYLMLMK is not there. What’s that you say? You’re dying to hear P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss?” Enjoy the C as in crappy rerecord on Spotify while I pop the C as in cassingle of “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” into my cassette player, once I get my cassette player fixed. It’s in my primary bedroom’s theoretical walk-in closet. Paul McCartney’s “Spies Like Us” isn’t on Spotify or Apple Music or Amazon Prime Music (or, presumably, Tidal, but who the hell knows). However, I can play my 45. Sucks to be y – okay, point in your favor there. Ooh ooh, what did you do, Sir Paul? Peter Gabriel’s So didn’t hit streaming services until less than three and a half years ago. Luckily, I had my original vinyl album all this time, so throughout the years I could enjoy “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” and “Don’t Give Up” and “Red Rain” and that song Lloyd Dobler played on the boombox he held above his head to woo Ione Skye in that scene from Say Anything… that I have preserved on a beta tape. And thank science I held onto that album, as it’s a good one. How good? So good. Thank you, ladies and germs. Tip the wait staff.
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