Since coming to Australia, I've discovered that iTunes is not as bad of an idea as I had once previously thought. Rather than download for free half versions, trojan tainted versions, and some of the worst live versions of my beloved favorites, I can now own studio version quality of most songs for a modest price. I still refuse to spend over fifteen dollars on a new album, but I regularly peruse the classics, looking to replace the cassette collection of my youth. That is, of course, if the album <yes, i call them albums, gawd i'm old> passes my admittedly stringent screening process. For the beginning of the collection, I had to ask how many times I'd bought and worn out the cassette listening to songs so often that my friends rejoiced when the batteries went dead on my overpriced, oversized, and overloud portable stereo. Call it a boom box and you lose a testicle.
I bussed too many tables for too many icky people saving up money for that Panasonic Platinum Series Stereo. Believe it or not, my first car would cost one third of what I spent on that stereo, and the batteries per week cost more than I spent on pot. I prided myself in the fact that everyone knew I was coming well before I was even in view, and timed my arrival to guitar solos, drum rolls, or heavy metal screams to accentuate the importance of the 'intelligent, dorky, progressive' music I was listening to at the moment. Sure there were crowd pleasers for hanging out in the afternoon, at the beach, or in the woods on Saturday night, but if I had to not only carry the four beers I had left when the police made their regular surprise visit to the couch we would have sworn noone would see burning from the road but also carry a forty pound monstrosity that I could turn off in the dark with my eyes closed to cloak my location, then it was DJ Iron Brian that was choosing the song list. People would be arrested for underage consumption, possession, and even take horrific spills in the pursuit of our great escapes from the police, but that PPSS fared better than most of us did, I believe I was more concerned with it than with my own safety or clean record, and once the music was back on in whatever backyard, backlot, or living room we found ourselves feeling safe in, the party was back on, no harm, no foul, just a little bit of an interesting excursion from the night before.
I'd fallen out of love with music or the pursuit of a career in music in 1991 and joined the Navy, a plethora of stories for another time, thank you very much. But while in the Navy, I'd still go to concerts and shows, and made one of my more solid relationships based on what music we were listening to and what books we were reading at the time. Titles of music and books at the time we were enjoying then are now too embarrassing to list, but in general, the book and the music were dark, reflecting the doom we were experiencing in our lower middle class existence, and we felt evolved for not being spoonfed the commonplace titles of people who were reaping the benefits of the end of the hair metal days, or the invent of electronica. The less the musical style, lyrics, or authors were understood, the more eclectic we were convinced... er... we were.
After the service, music became something that was in the background, and though I may have enjoyed it, danced to it, and felt strongly about it, I was never strongly compelled to carry it around with me at 100 watts peak power in a forty pound box pointing it directly at people who may or may not have been able to make out who I was listening to, sending my message of doom towards whomever needed to hear it not for selfish reasons, I was making them aware that other genres of music did indeed exist if they researched a bit, and it was not all about who was my 'cherry pie', or making damn sure that Billy Jean knew her kid was 'not my son'.
For such a quiet guy, which I was at the time, the music spoke for me, and I thought long about which music defined me, logically, socially, and unconventionally. I still cringe thinking about it now.