What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? – Rob from High Fidelity
As a junior in high school in the fall of 1991, absolutely nothing was bigger or more important to my group of friends than the release of U2’s Achtung Baby. Way back in the day when we watched MTV for 120 Minutes, all my friends and I set our parents’ VCR’s to record the video premier of the first single, The Fly. I made sure to be away from everyone else on that weekend afternoon so as not to be interrupted. None of us had any idea as to what to expect, but when we first heard it we loved it. It was so different, harder and edgier with a hint of industrial. The industrial suited us all well, because in less than a year’s time we’d form our own industrial “band” in the garage of Mike White’s parents. That story is entirely different however, and probably best told by my friend Steve (whose instrument happened to be a hammer and propane tank).
Getting back though, the Fly single was released some time in October (a few weeks after the video premiered on MTV), and all we could talk about was just how fucking cool the b-side was (which for those wondering is Alex Descends into Hell for a Bottle of Milk/Korova 1). And then came the preview of the album on 99.1 WHFS-FM, which just happened to be on a night of a symphonic band concert (which some but not all of my friends were in). The bastards, how dare they schedule the concert on this night. Alas I had no other choice than to break away from the stereo in my bedroom that night, though I did manage to hear a snippet of Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World before I had to leave.
And finally, f–i–n–a–l–l–y, after what seemed ages of waiting, came the big day: November 19, 1991. With the album came a poster if you bought it early enough, and this mattered so much to me, that I begged my Dad to buy two copies of the album (the other was for my aforementioned best friend Steve) at a very particular record store that would most definitely have the poster. Of the fate of this poster I’m not sure though only two options are likely – it was thrown in the trash or given away. Of the cd itself, I still have the same copy with the original cardboard packaging.
When I arrived home from school that day, I still vividly remember laying on my bed, reading along with the songs as they came, reading the credits, who engineered the album, where it was recorded, all the stuff that really matters in life.
It’s possible that I listened to no other album during the span of November 19, 1991 until April 21, 1992 when The Cure released Wish. I’m sure this isn’t true, but I can’t recall listening to anything else. And if you don’t believe that I have the tendency to play an album over and over and over, just ask Erin.
So you’re probably asking yourself why I’m writing about this in such detail, especially after a two or so month layoff from updating this blog at all. And I don’t really have a good answer other than this:
Last week I was driving around with Nate listening to Achtung Baby, when nostalgia crept up on me and I found myself remembering the anticipation and build-up to its release. And it dawned on me that this doesn’t or can’t really happen anymore.
This thought has occurred to me previously, most notably in 2005 when my friend Jon and I made a pact prior to the release of Some Cities by Doves. We bought the first single in January, but didn’t listen to anything on-line. We made every effort to recapture this feeling from our youth which we’d both been missing, building up the anticipation until March when the album was released. For the most part it worked, except we listened to Some Cities for the first time drinking and smoking at Hye Bar (thanks Bill), a stark contrast to the solitude of listening to albums for the first time in my bedroom as a teenager.
I’d like Nate to do this but alas recognize the lack of a point of reference for the desire to wait for something. He’ll only know a world in which albums are leaked on-line sometimes months prior to their official release. There’s no waiting, no teasing, no seduction or foreplay anymore. I miss this and it saddens me a little.