Anything with the brand name “ACME” seems like it must be a joke, a product from a Road Runner cartoon. This cartoon, along with episodes of Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, Great Mysteries of the World, and the Addams Family, plays in the television room of my childhood memories. I learnt all sorts of confusing and conflicting messages from these shows. Watching Road Runner I never knew which one of them I should go for. Both the roadrunner and the coyote seemed equally as rotten. Perhaps it was preparing my for adult decision making.
This is an old tape which plays in a hysterical treble. This has the effect of giving a very lo-fi, AM sound to the highly produced early 90s chart songs on Side A. This makes them sound as if they are coming from somewhere far away, like I am tuning into a radio station from far away in time.
When I was little, five or six years old, my fascination with scanning the radio dial commenced. I started at one end and turned the dial slowly from it to the other end, seeing what I could catch along the way. When I heard programs in languages other than English, I imagined I was hearing them from the countries where these languages were spoken. The grey radio tape player, which belonged to my dad and usually lived in his corner of the loungeroom, became a magical object under my hands, with which I could explore the whole world.
I still enjoy scanning the dial, so I don’t like radios with electronic tuners. I love the fuzz in between each of the stations, a substance I imagined as a child was rather like the ocean. This, I imagine, is not present with digital radio, something of which I am, of course, suspicious. To my relief, there are currently no plans to switch off AM and FM.
This tape is one of Natasha’s, but it is as if it were mine. She was five months older than me, and so we shared the same pop culture landscape in the years before we met each other. Side A had obviously been taped over and over many times, with the charts from different weeks.
I had a few years of listening to the charts before moving on to reading the NME and listening to Triple J, but one of the unusual things about me was that I spent the first 10 or so years of my life rather unaware of popular music. My mother was against it, and so my sister and I could only listen to it furtively. To this day I don’t know what was so bad about us listening to it, it certainly would have helped my popularity at school. I remember having to constantly lie about my knowledge of people like Kylie Minogue. At home, it may have well been the nineteenth century.
A combination of Video Hits and my radio band scanning game eventually saw me catch up with the present day. Did this music send me astray? I guess it did, but I think my path was always destined to be in that direction.
The tape starts with two Kim Wilde songs, which make me think of school discos. I never went to any school discos, not that I would have wanted to, being as shy as I was. It is something I feel I know enough about from hearing people’s stories about them, and gleaning information from pop culture. I went to none of them, not even the formals towards the end of high school, something which a number of my friends at the time warned me was a decision I would regret. However I have never for one moment regretted not going. I went to goth clubs instead by that stage, which were much more interesting.
These songs are from the very early 1990s, when I would have been about twelve. After Kim Wilde ceases telling us “love is holy when you stay with me”, the mood changes and Eric Clapton describes his tears in heaven. I remember complaining to my friend Rachael in about Year 7 that this was such a soppy song, I hated it! And she said that he wrote it about his three year old son, who fell out of a window and died. So every time I hear it I feel guilty about my glib denouncement of it. I still don’t like it though, it makes me think of all the funerals it must have been played at. As I listen to it, I can see the coffin, the flowers, the pallbearers. Like wedding songs (“Throw Your Arms Around Me”, “Everything I do, I do it for you” etc.), funeral songs are difficult to listen to on their own merits. Although I hope not to die, the song I want at my funeral is “Senses Working Overtime” by XTC, as this is the song that fairly accurately describes my outlook on the world, and it will hopefully remind the mourners that they are still alive and free to go out and observe. This is my legacy, people!
Side B is from a slightly later time and phase, and is a collection of songs and snippets from The J Files on Triple J. First there is an interview with Ian Brown from the Stone Roses. This became obvious after about five minutes or so, but at the start I listened a chap with an English accent going on about how it’s not about the money, that it’s all about the songs, writing better and better songs. “I believe anyone can do anything,” he said.
Now I am a fan of that first, self titled Stone Roses album as much as anyone, marking as it did a new phase in English pop/rock. I like to listen to it when I can find my cassette of it, which is currently floating coverless in one of my boxes. I’m not particularly interested, however, in the band themselves. In general, when a band is four guys playing guitar, bass, and drums, I’m not interested in the personal side of the band, unless one of them is particularly interesting (ie. on the level of Morrissey). I’d never paid much attention to Ian Brown before, but this interview was actually quite funny in a pathetic way, because he is giving fairly monosyllabic responses to the questions he’s being asked.
He’s there to play his top five lifechanging songs, and after a round of questioning, he explains “I haven’t been talking too much because all my gums are aching, y’know, my tongue’s numb, and I can’t move half my face”. He had recently been punched in the face at a Tokyo nightclub, “by an Australian,” he points out, to which Richard Kingsmill gives a diplomatic reply about how this didn’t represent Australia’s views on having the Stone Roses tour. In fact, we are very excited about it.
He plays his five songs, which include Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five, and one of his own songs (saying that if they wanted songs that changed his life, his own certainly did), and then he is free to go back to the hotel and snuggle up to an icepack. If I am ever interviewed again I will remember it for clues on how to participate in an interview under physical duress.
The tape zips into another week of the same show, and another top five, this time from a listener. Husker Du, The Pursuit of Happiness, then a quiz where the contestants have to identify the first line of a song.
“got me a movie I want you to know,
slicing up eyeballs I want you to know,”
Neither of the contestants, John from Richmond nor Susie from Wangaratta, are able to identify it.
As I sat listening to this cassette, I was slicing up paper for my zine about ferns, and yelling “Debaser! Debaser you idiots!” (Although I never knew he said “got me a movie” I thought it was “got me moving”). But then it stops with the sound of the stop button and comes alive again with the Falling Joys song “Lock It”, and listening to it is like sleeping in, with a warm quilt around me, and the sun coming in the window.