Back from Europe (which was awesome, except for the bits that weren’t). Back at work. Writing my last workshop of the year, THE SUBMISSION CRASH COURSE, which will be running at QWC this Sunday (spaces still available).
Once that’s done, I have to go find a new place to live. And, you know, move.
If you looked at my buying habits, as a kid, you’d be fooled into thinking I was a huge fan of Van Halen. I owned a copy of 1984 on cassette by the age of twelve, acquired primarily ’cause I thought the smoking cherub on the cover was kinda awesome.
My first CD – acquired, begrudgingly, when cassettes ceased being available – was a copy of the Van Halen. We were deep into the nineties by this point, long past the age where the distorted guitar of Nirvana had put hair metal to death, and there was something deeply uncool about liking Van Halen at that point. And, if I’m honest, Van Halen, as an album, did nothing for me. I’d picked it up ’cause I was collecting guitar magazines at the time, and kept coming across references to Eruption and the rest of Eddie Van Halen’s solos.
I learned something really important from that CD: don’t front load your album.The three best tracks on Van Halen are the first three, which meant I’d pretty much go from Running with the Devil to the cover of You Really Got Me, then stop.
Also, I learned that I really, really hate guitar solos.
Maybe, if I’d been better at guitar, I would have appreciated them more. Unfortunately I was destined to be one of those guys who learned a handful of chords, the opening to Stairway to Heaven, and an off-key version of Tomorrow, Wendy before giving up on the guitar for good. Listening to Van Halen fell by the wayside as I practiced less and less, and these days I couldn’t even begin to tell you where my CD went.
But 1984 stuck with me.Every now and then I’d find it among my cassette collection, kept around ’cause there was still a tape-deck in my car, and I’d spend a week or two playing Jump, Panama, and the rest of the album as I drove between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Sometimes I’d tell myself I was going it ironically. Most of the times, I wasn’t. Hair metal may have stopped being cool somewhere along the line, but of the albums Van Halen produced, I’d argue that it’s the one that holds up best in a modern context.
Plus, it’s got Hot for Teacher on it, which isn’t a classy song by any stretch of the imagination and is thoroughly about the male gaze in a way that only 80s film clips can be, but there’s something about the drum intro that digs into my skull and sits there.
I’m going to be listening to this song a whole lot over the next couple of months, since it’s going to be sitting at the core of one of my upcoming writing projects.This and a whole bunch of 80’s hair metal besides, which is why I’m posting about it tonight: if you were (or still are) a fan of the poodle-rock phenomena of the 80s and early 90s, I’m eager to hear about your favourite clips and albums. I am, officially, in research mode now, so if you’ve got any recommendations, fire away in the comments.
This week has been a lesson in the ways of the internet. I put a handful of links to a brilliant Ira Glass video on creativity and taste in the middle of my post about On Writingand only 3% of you fuckers went and watched it, despite the fact that I talk the damn thing up ’cause it really is that useful and awesome.
I put one link in a post about Robot Jox where I mention that the writer is shitting on his own project, and all of you motherfuckers go traipsing off to snicker to look at Joe Haldeman being all “yeah, this film is a dog, man. What were we thinking.”
You people, you people worry me. And I know the excuses that people will throw my way. I hear you sitting up the back, being all, “”No, Pete, it’s not like that, we swear.”
To that I say: “bullshit, motherfucker. I’ve got goddamn metrics. Three fucking percent.”
“But it’s hard,” you say, “we don’t want to follow a link just to see people being brilliant. We want to laugh at peoples misery and failure.”
And really, I should leave you to your foolishness.
But I won’t. ‘Cause the Ira Glass video really is that damn good and it really is a useful thing to have heard, at least once, if you’re engaging in any kind of creative endeavor. And ’cause I care.
So here you go. No linking required. JUST PRESS GODDAMNED PLAY ALREADY. Think of it like eating your vegetables before you move onto a delicious schadenfreude pudding.
Ira Glass is a goddamn legend. And now you know it.
And I really hope that video works, otherwise this post is going to look really goddamn stupid.
It’s been about twenty years since I went on holidays with the rest of my family, but it seems we’ll be breaking that streak on Tuesday when all four of us gather and fly down to Adelaide to spend five days at the Fringe Festival.
We fly back Sunday night.
And on Monday, I turn thirty-six. It wasn’t until tonight, looking at a calendar and planning my work week after I get home, that I realised that last bit.
Birthdays are weird. I expect, this year, I’ll be reducing my celebrations down to the absolute minimum: sleeping in, re-reading Murakami’s Birthday Stories anthology, getting on with things. I mean, what little celebratory energy I usually have is going to be burned out by five days of awesomeness as the Fringe, and any reserves are going to be needed to get me through the week that follows at the day-job.
In theory, the coming week is a holiday. I want to take it as one, I really do, but I’m already mentally planning out the various things I need to sneak in between time with the family and the shows I really want to see.
There are still things that need writing, whether I’m on holidays or no. There are things that need doing for the day-job. I’m proving remarkably bad at putting either away at this point, which largely means Shifty Silas is making the trip to Adelaide with me and I’ve just spent a half-hour figuring out how to access the internet by hooking my laptop up to my phone.
If anyone’s got any recommendations for good places to hide out and write in the city-centre of Adelaide, I’m eager to hear about them.
If anyone’s got a free afternoon and they’re interested in meeting up for a write-club somewhere, I’m similarly interested in hearing the news.
These are the things that occupy my mind at the moment. It’s 9:53 on a Sunday evening, which is actually a little early for me to get down to the act of writing. I’m drinking scotch, ’cause it’s been a drinking scotch kind of weekend, and I’m going to be kicking off a short burst of writing that will serve as a precursor to some truly manic packing in the hours to come.
I’m looking forward to Adelaide. I’ve been to the Fringe a couple of times before and it’s always been ten kinds of fucking awesome. I’m looking forward to spending time with my family, although that’s tinged with trepidation at this point.
And, despite the fact I’ll be taking work down there, I’m looking forward to getting some distance from Brisbane. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m processing this year, a kind of unrelenting onslaught of things that need to be sorted out, and it’ll be nice to get away and get some perspective on things.
A final PS: I can’t remember who first pointed out that actor Donald Glover rapped under the name Childish Gambino – I think it was probably Patrick O’Duffy, but I’m not 100%. Either way, I kinda owe them, ’cause I’ve spent the vast majority of this weekend either a) re-watching the early seasons of Community, or b) listening to Gambino’s latest album.
It happens like that, sometimes. I develop a strong level of focus when I’m consuming media and I just start consuming *everything* I can get my hands on that fits within a particular area of interest.
Some days need a bit of Def Leppard. Some days do not.
Today, well, it’s one of the former.
Weirdly, I missed the period when Def Leppard was actually a big deal. Hysteria came out in 1987, which means I was both 9 years old and living in the middle of nowhere, far from the pop cultural embrace of TV and cinema and popular radio. I was far more likely to be reading books back in those days, getting exposed to music through my dad’s LP collection (although I wasn’t yet allowed to play records on my own) or the soundtracks to the handful of movies we saw when we came to Brisbane for the holidays.
Basically, I didn’t even really process that Def Leppard was a big deal until they became a lyrical riff in Bloodhound Gang’s Why is everyone picking on me in the mid-nineties. They weren’t a band by then, not really; they were a pop cultural reference that you either got or you didn’t. I didn’t. I’m not a child of the eighties, although I can play one on TV. Most of the parts of 80s music that I like, I came to much later, figuring out the parts I like via references in other media.
All art acquires baggage that affects its meaning. Music is always an interesting resource for considering this, since the presence of music videos and subsequent musical movements always effects the way a particular song is read. Take one look at a video clip and it’s nearly impossible to escape the various signifiers that mark Def Leppard as the stuff of the eighties: the hair, the jeans, the production. Seven years after Hysteria came out and became huge, Nirvana would kick off a musical movement that rendered everything that made 80’s metal fun vaguely absurd and crudely excessive.
It’s one of the reasons I love covers that recontextualize a song, letting you hear it fresh. Consider, for example, the version of the above put together by Emm Gryner and Buck 65:
Strip away all the aspects of the song that mark it as unrelentingly 80s and it actually becomes quite beautiful and haunting. It’s still the same song – slowed down, yes, and the riffs that hook you in are significantly less up-front, but they’re still there. And it’s one of those covers that makes me go back to the original and appreciate it a little more.
Sometimes it takes a few years for the context to get stripped away from the art. I could never have appreciated Def Leppard in the 90s. I was too young, too caught up in the spirit of the age, willing to disregard everything that was handed down from the 80s as a waste of time. And, truthfully, Def Leppard’s version of the song was never going to be my favourite, although looking back from the age of thirty-six I’m willing to acknowledge that it’s a damn fine pop song.
Once upon a time I was obligated to know all things unicorn the moment they appeared on the internet. These days, not so much, but occasionally the world points me towards things that are truly deserving of being shared.
Oh, dear god, like this.
BEST UNICORN THING EVER IN THE HISTORY OF UNICORN THINGS.
No, wait, none of that actually makes sense when it’s written as a sentence. Let me try that again.
So on the way out of the house this morning, I passed my CD rack and thought to myself, you know what I feel like listening to right now? Fucking Bombtrack. It’s been ages.
So I pulled the first Rage Against the Machine disc out of my collection and took it out to the car and rocked the fuck out on my entire drive to work.
It was awesome.
I mean, even the pub with its motorized esky races and its double-exclamation points on pretty much anything they’re trying to advertise didn’t bother me today. I was listening to some old school RatM and I was at peace with the fucking world.
Then I got to work and I parked the car and I started whistling as I walked upstairs to the QWC office where I’d spend the hour and a half before work writing thigns, as I’ve done every day-job morning this year. ‘Cause apparently I’ve become someone who whistles this year, I whistled the entire way up. Not well, you understand, ’cause I’m not really built for whistling, but there was a tune inside my head and it wanted to get out.
And what came out was the chorus for Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights.
I don’t even want to know how my brain made that connection.
I’ve been worrying my flatmate recently, ’cause I seem to have developed a jaunty whistle of late. This is not, as a general rule, the sort of thing that happens around our house, least of all to me.
‘Course, historically speaking, this isn’t actually true. I spend a great deal of my day with little fragments of music running through my head. I always have, one way or another, and I’ve always been fond of having music on while I work. What’s really happened is that I’ve inherited my sister’s stereo with it’s five-CD turntable and I’ve moved it out of my bedroom and into the study where I write, surf the internet, and occasionally play computer games.
Up until this point, all my music had to run on either Fritz the Laptop (which meant he couldn’t do anything else) or play on the DVD player attached to my TV. Neither of these have been particularly optimal, so my music listening gradually whittled down to playing things in my car and listening to the same Dresden Doll’s live DVD while I cleaned the old apartment. Even upgrading laptops to Shifty Silas didn’t help much – he could play audio at the same time as word-processing, but his speakers were…well, lets just say they weren’t designed with audio in mind.
So, there’s suddenly a stereo I can pack with music that floats around the space I spend most of my non-day-job waking hours. Net result: I’ve listened to a lot more music in the last two weeks than I have in the previous two years.
And it’s been freakin’ GLORIOUS.
I’ve largely celebrated this by listening to a stream of classics from the eighties and nineties. If you’re wondering what the interior of my head sounds like this week, it can be captured by the following three youtube clips:
It must be said, all three of these songs benefit greatly from volume. It’s eleven-thirty as I type this, which means I don’t have the freedom to crank the stereo the levels all three songs demand, but you can be sure I’ll rectify that the moment I’m left in the house alone.
It must also be said that I’m a man singularly lacking in musical taste and class, but I’ve had years to get used to that.