Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mix Tape

I can't stop listening to the radio, even on days like this, when I hit the buttons and get Kansas, Eagles, T-Pain, Rascal Flats, NPR Airbag. Mrat. The best station in the city is WHUR, but as much as I like Michael Baisden, I wish they had more locals on, and sometimes I'm just not up for all that Quiet Storming. Internet radio is a touch better. DH usually has KCRW all around the house, but when I get up early to make the pancakes, I turn to the Technicolor Web of Sound psychedelia, which even replays ads from the old days (Cream doing a beer ad, speed kills, etc.). And of course I enjoy DJ Booger X, Tuesday nights 7-10--who doesn't?

But when you go back, way back, back to the time of Bertha Butt and the Butt Sisters...there was Radio Mitch, which was actually a series of cassette tapes, mix tapes, that he made just for a small army of acquaintances. I don't even remember how many there were, but BA found an old one and put it on a CD for me and I've been listening to the first two songs on it ever since. That's because it comes out as all one track, so I have to keep going back to the beginning, because I don't even want to go past the second song, because it is ELEKTRA by THE REIVERS, and I really, really, really used to love that song.

Except I can't remember where or when.

I know it. I know the words, I know the bassline--maybe I learned it once? But I don't remember where or how or when I heard it, when I must have heard it over and over. The years from 1976 to 1990 have two things in common--I own blurred memories and I didn't own a television. At some points I didn't have a stereo or even a radio, sometimes just an AM one in the car (used to love WOL), sometimes just a little portable picnic player, as Alex would call it, to play cassettes. A lot of people (save for BA, who bailed me out a couple times; I ever win Powerball, she gets half) don't get how poor I was then and how crazy the work was. The work + school together later was tough, but the starting out work the first time I left school was the worst. Whenever I think about getting laid off I get flashbacks to the employment office woman telling me I had to wear more makeup and cut my hair and dress more professionally, and there I was sitting in the new black suit, $40 from Dress Barn, $40 of rent money, and that sweet, sweet saleswoman who said so reassuringly that "black worsted goes with everything, it's so versatile." Shoulder pads. Me wearing it with the thrift store blouses. Trying to stretch out birth control pills over a day and a half because I couldn't afford them, and getting pregnant, and the car breaking down, and hitching to work, and the miscarriage, the bad one that landed me in the hospital, and my parents coldly and angrily bailing me out, and, as I recovered, my mother taking me for a haircut.

One's tempted to despise the 80s, but they gave us Joan Didion's The Last Thing He Wanted, which I dipped into the other night to find a description of the Omni Mall in Miami, which I used to live next door to, in the late 90s when it was long past its glory, and got stuck in--the book, I mean, not the mall, but sometimes in that haunted castle built on powder, too. Check this out: "It is hard now to call up the particular luridity of 1984." And: "I see now that there will be no Resolution Trust to do the workout on this particular default, but I did not see it then. Not that I shouldn't have. There were hints all along, clues we should have processed, sifted for their application to the general condition. Try the day we noticed that the banks had called in the paper on all the malls, try the day we noticed that somebody had called in the paper on all the banks..."

It's scary. It's about reconstructing a version of events. Out of the odd details you can remember clearly.

But goddamn, what a great song. "From sultry....I got you on my mind, in all soft-talking time..." Why do I know it? Did I use that phrase in a headline? "Sober, to sultry." Did someone make me a mix tape called that? Did I make someone a mix tape and call it that? Will I regret asking these questions? But I like the song. When I heard it, my heart lifted. Did I lose a good memory?

Image: I used to love that comic, too.


Anonymous said...

Mrat? Am I collecting royalties for that?

Best station . . . is PFW

- John S.

Pam said...

...and Bathsheba Butt.

No question.

Maria Padhila said...

But only the truest bad 70s songs geek like me knows the follow-up hit, The Bertha Butt Boogie. Music and lyrics to that are taking up the space in my brain that should be used for remembering where I put my phone.