I bought many of variety of blank cassette tape from Reverse Garbage. They were from the Blind Society, and once contained audio versions of magazines and newspapers. The content had been wiped from them but the labels still remained, although I generally, as here, peeled them off. I remember buying a large amount for my friend Chris, who did the zine Coughing up Legomen; we were excited about what a bargain they were! I can’t remember the price exactly, but I think they were 20c each.
I’d use these tapes to record radio shows and make cassette compilations for listening to in the car, which is what one side of this tape contains, the one marked Car, BND etc.
BND is Boys Next Door, and I pick out my favourite songs from their album, beginning with “After a Fashion”. I liked its stagey-ness: Watch the thin boy in dark clothes/falling over pianos… It was obvious that this was the young Nickers poeticising himself, and I think that was what I liked about it. Why not poeticise oneself? It is better than “Watch the weedy goth trip over”, for example. Nevertheless, this tendency has got out of hand as his career has progressed.
The other thing about this song is that Nick Cave has yet to grow into his voice, it sounds put-on, like when hipsters affect that pseudo-American accent. Where on earth has this come from? It has happened to people I know. One day they talk normally, the next they have the hipster voice and cease to say anything interesting ever again.
After the Boys Next Door are a few songs that must have been on high rotation in VB world at the time: Wrongy Wrong by Fuck, Lay of the Land by The Fall (the introduction to which always makes me picture grim, dirty faced peasants with shovels) and then a bunch of songs by The Pixies. I don’t seem to be able to listen to the Pixies anymore, except for their song about the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know why this has happened. Like every alternakid in the 1990s, I used to love them. These days it’s like having someone scratch just a little too far away from the itch to be satisfying. Maybe it’s just that I don’t believe them anymore, or maybe I’ve just become a bit too attuned to lyrics these days, and their surrealism no longer impresses me. Listening to them I picture sombreros and dry, crackly heat, but it’s not really Mexico, it’s a Mexico that someone has made in their back garden somewhere in the suburbs, and you inevitably have to step out into the dull surrounding streets and remember where you really are, as you go home to something very far from your ideal life.
After the Pixies is “Shadowplay” by Joy Division, another band that I wore out and never listen to anymore, although I still like to hear their songs when one comes on in the supermarket or Starbucks (I mean this as a joke, but I’m sure it happens. Helen made the mistake of going into Cotton On recently and heard a girly, wishy washy cover of “Search and Destroy”, completely stripped of any of its original energy or intent. They make it safe!)
I listened to Joy Division so much as a teenager that their songs became a part of me, I know all the words, all the twists of instrumentation, I can play them in my head if need be. I find it funny that the Unknown Pleasures T-shirt has become so fashionable. I have seen multiple people in one day wearing this same shirt, and different types too: skaters, emos, goths, daggy record collector boys. I could have joined them if I’d kept my one of this t-shirt, which I bought from Red Eye Records as a teenager. It’s a t-shirt that’s never gone out of print!
I used to have a lot of band t-shirts, many of them purchased from the bootleg t-shirt stall at Glebe Markets. I even had a Pixies one, with the head of a boxer dog on it. I also had a Bauhaus, Bela Lugosi’s Dead shirt, from this stall. The stall was good because the shirts were only $15, at least half the price of the legit ones you could buy in a record store. These weren’t the first band t-shirts I had though. The first ones I bought when I was 13 and 14 years old. The first one was a Cure shirt, the white “Pictures of You” t-shirt. Why I bought a white Cure t-shirt is beyond me, surely a black one would be more appropriate. I remember wearing it when I accompanied one of my school friends to a basketball game at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. This is not what I would have preferred to see at this venue, I would have rather been going there to see The Cure. Maybe that’s why I wore the shirt.
I was thirteen, an awful age of transition. Many of my friends from school were involved in Christian youth groups, an activity of which I was highly suspicious. I grew up in a very secular household, and perhaps it was this that encouraged my friends to include me in their church activities. I didn’t last many visits. The basketball game bored me terribly – I hated sport – and was yet more confirmation that I was a weirdo who didn’t fit in anywhere. My clothes were different enough to make me feel self conscious, Cure t-shirt, short shiny purple skirt, black tights with rips in them, black Doc boots, cheap goth jewellery from the jewellery shop in Hoyts cinema. A few years later though, at Hornsby Police Youth Club all ages shows, I’d realise that my clothes were actually rather daggy and I needed to go more extreme. But at the time, I felt a misfit. If only I had known that I was part of a worldwide collective of misfit teenagers! Oh, life before the internet. I could sense them out there but not make contact with my kindred.
This side of the tape ends with Heart and Soul by Joy Division, one of my favourite songs by the band. It’s bruisey, gentle, and even listening to it now, I feel like the lyrics are being whispered to me, for my ears alone.
The other side of the tape is one of MC’s radio shows. This tape would have been made for driving around in his car. He and I spent a lot of time driving around in his little blue car, which he called Blue Valentine, though it was a very bright cyan colour, rather than the deep blue you might expect from that name. He drove, of course, my attempts to learn had given the Blue Valentine a large dent in one of the doors.
The radio show was a request show, and this particular night lots of people were calling up to hear goth songs. I crowed in delight at hearing the opening chords of the Fields of the Nephilim song “Psychonaut”, and turned up the volume. It’s a bombastic, ridiculous song, which begins with the singer intoning “PRAY NOW!” and then garbling on about falling from ecstasy, a babble of pseudo-religious/pagan nonsense. Simon and I actually bring up the Fields of the Nephilim every now and again, mostly making jokes about how they tipped flour over themselves so they’d look dusty (urban myth? I hope not). I used to have some Fields of the Nephilim CDs, but no longer. Why did I ever get rid of them? I must have had a goth garage sale at one point, if only I could have gone back and stopped myself, whispered in her ear and said: you’ll regret it, silly thing!
The other song on this side of the tape that gave me a feeling was “Charlotte Sometimes” by The Cure. I was one of those teenagers who was obsessed with the Cure. I bought posters, old magazines, books, anything related to them. Knowing someone was a Cure teenager, like my friend Ryan, was the same as knowing you shared the same ethnicity. When Tim said he was a Violent Femmes teenager, rather than a Cure one, it made me wonder: how many types were there?
Like many teenagers into the Cure, I bought a copy of “The Outsider” by Camus. I remember going into the secondhand bookstore in Chatswood and digging up a copy from in there, possibly cast off from another Cure fan. The person I bought it from would have known straight away why I was buying it, although I remember feeling very intellectual at the time. The cover had a blurry black and white picture on it, and the spine was that pale aqua of penguin classics. Though I went on to be a big reader of classics, at the time I read thick, gory horror books, the kind of thing I don’t even like to look at the cover of these days. But I guess it was just a few years beyond the 80s, and that sort of thing wasn’t so unusual. I never see people on the train reading horror books anymore.
The thing about “Charlotte Sometimes” was not so much the song itself, but the video. My sister and I used to watch it (I had taped a Cure special from Rage and so had all the videos) and laugh at the crude acting. I had read the book that it was based on, and it was nice to have one of my childhood books carried over into this new, teenage phase of my life. Why Robert Smith was so interested in girls’ schools, I’m not sure, although I guess he’s not alone there. I went to a girls’ school, and I still have nightmares about it.