Inspired by Songs That Saved Your Life, here’s another post about music:
By September of 1990 I had been living at my father’s house for nearly a year but I was still forbidden to use his stereo. I was 16 years old by then and already a full blown music nerd (by nerd I mean snob) but I could not blast my favorite songs for all of the neighbors to hear, that was strictly my dad’s job (and if the neighbors didn’t like Bad Company they could go fuck themselves). When I wanted to hear music I had to playing them on my portable CD player* or the Walkman I took to school with me everyday.
* Please allow me to go off on tangent for a minute: I had a portable CD player but when I went to school I took my old cassette player. Some of you may be too young to remember this but there was a time when you didn’t just walk around with a CD because, where I lived, somebody would steal the CD player, or worse someone would think I had money and try take that from you too. The only thing worse than getting beaten up for your money is getting beaten up for money you do not have (or so I hear). One thing a mugger hates is accidentally mugging a poor person because then you have to take SOMETHING for your trouble and you wind up as bad as the victim but I’m getting off topic here.
By the summer of 1990 there were a lot of rules at my dad’s house but not using the stereo was at the top of the list, it was also the only rule not created in response to something stupid I had done. I had no problems ignoring the prohibitions on drinking, smoking and committing petty crimes but I respected the stereo rule until the day I saw my chance to break it and get away with it.
On a beautiful late summer afternoon there was block party on out street. For my dad’s part: kegs were bought, tables and food were moved into the street and the stereo speakers were turned to face the street in order to best rock us like mother fuckin’ hurricanes. All day long dad gave us a steady stream of burgers’ sausages and his favorite music. I knew that asking if I could play something would only result in him saying no so when I thought enough beer had been consumed I dropped what was my favorite album in the world into the 6 disc CD changer and waited for it to come around. It took about a half hour but when The Best of Bad Company faded out, this song came on:
R.E.M. – Finest Worksong
I guess I thought everyone would like R.E.M. as much as I did when I was 16, but I was wrong. My father came into the house mid song, turned it off and then looked at me and said “You’ll use the stereo over my dead body.** Nobody wants to hear this shit at a party” and walked off with my CD. Later on that night my dad’s wife called me from where I had been hiding upstairs, handed me my CD and laughed at me for thinking I could get away with that. A few months later I saved enough money to buy my own stereo, which I could play as loud as I wanted, as long as my father wasn’t home.
**This part turned out to be true. A few days after my father died, my sister and I used his stereo. It wasn’t the same one as that 1980’s rack system with the collumn speakers but we still felt like we were breaking the rules.