Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Shoebox Tapes

Dear Friends, though we moved house almost two months ago, we still find ourselves surrounded by the flotsam and jetsam of our material lives. Unfiled files lie on the office floor. Cairns of books await shelving. CDs still cavort unfettered in the living room. Entropy laps at our shores.

To give her the credit and applause she so richly deserves, Dearest Wife has fought --and continues to fight-- the chaos with ruthless efficiency. But there is, I can see, only so much that is superhumanly possible. So I am forced to admit it: Pilbo triumphs aside, I probably haven't been contributing enough to the effort. Bad FiL.

The other night I therefore set about to make at least a token effort to continue disciplining our (mostly my) unruly CDs. That's when I stumbled upon a shoebox nestled betwixt two photo albums. Memory dimmed and curiosity piqued, I opened it. Inside was a clutch of about ten C90 cassettes, the survivors of a brutal, rushed, pre-move cull that saw scores of their brethren either trashed or banished to charity shops. Though the purge itself is a blur, as I dug through the cardboard sarcophagus I realized why these artifacts were spared. Merely looking at them evoked, like a most enjoyable and fast-acting drug, memories, feelings, faces, places. Two in particular caught my eye, and listening to them just brought it it all into more intense focus...

Insert: A hand-drawn manga youth stares intensely out from a fluorescent yellow background, mumbling something cryptic about film noir.
Music: A starry, shoegazey pie of ethereal gossamer. Heavenly. Popguns. Charlottes. Sea Urchins. The Sweetest Ache. And more.
Tape: 'Manheim Dominatrix,' a lovely compilation crafted by one of the Dearest of my Dearest Friends, Bishakh (say 'Hello' to the folks, Beesh)
Date: Circa 1990.
Place: In flux, transiting from the comfortable, familiar structure of American undergraduate study to the freeflow, self-starting opacity of old-skool, English postgraduate academia.
Moods: Effervescently excited, terrified, self-doubting.

Heavenly - I Fell In Love Last Night (buy here)
Popguns - Landslide (buy here)

Insert: Plain, hand-lettered. Don't want to seem too keen, you know.
Music: A painstakingly assembled roster of tunes, each one carefully selected for mood or message. Band of Holy Joy's 'Real Beauty Just Passed Through' - right, she should get the message there. The new vocal mix of 'Belfast/Wasted' - picked for it's sweeping, evocative architecture, and not for the line 'Do you recommend yourself to my gentle senses?' How was I to know she didn't care much for electronica?
Tape: My first musical offering to the woman who would later become Dearest Wife.
Date: Probably November 1992. And yes, it did indirectly get me a date. An excruciatingly awkward one. I had the trout. At least she held my hand on the way back.
Place: The surreal hothouse of Cambridge.
Moods: At the time - giddily gleeful, petrified, maladroit. Today - pleasantly gratified (yes, she and her friends did pore over each song), bewildered (how the heck did we get here from there??).

Band Of Holy Joy - Real Beauty Just Passed Through (buy here)
Orbital - Belfast/Wasted (this version can be found on either 'Volume Three' or 'Best of Volume.' Happy hunting...)

And finally, some miscellaneous notices, if I may:

First, and most important, you may have noticed that marvellous Merz has once again rejoined us at Mars Needs Guitars. I am overjoyed that he has - Merz, you were sorely missed!

Second, Contrast Podcast #14 is up and tremendous Tim was kind enough to include my contribution. The wonderfully gruesome theme is 'Dinner music For A Pack Of Hungry Cannibals,' so do pop round here to have a listen to the ghoulishly groovy tunes on offer.

Third, at work yesterday one of my colleagues and I broke out into an inpromptu rendition of Iron Maiden's 'Run To The Hills.' Don't ask why. However, I was shocked and impressed by the high quality of my Bruce Dickinson imitation- I didn't know I had it in me. Here, try it for yourself:

Iron Maiden - Run To The Hills (buy here)

And last, it will be a few days before I venture again into the blogosphere, as we are off to Mayne Island (y'all should really come out and visit) for the long Canada Day weekend. We hope to frolic with ravens and gambol with orcas, but mucking about in tidal pools and hiking lovely wooded trails will do nicely as well. Thankfully Darling Daughter has recovered from her bug, I've rebounded from mine, and Dearest Wife is also on the mend. We are looking forward to our time away.

See you all next week!


L'Anonyme de Chateau Rouge said...

this week i re-learned the past tense at my english cours.
Since many years it was very difficult to me to remember the irregular verbs. Today it's moucho easy. Maybe in the futur i will to know every forms to the 140 irregulars verbs...Between past & future i working again my english and it's with a pleasure that i reed your blog. Again donc. It's crazy to listen Iron Maiden in XXIe century ! i like it !

coxon le woof said...

Have fun away Fil.

I must say, I did really enjoy reading this post (as I always do). You certainly know your way around the language and use it to great effect.

Only one thing could have made this a better post ... the inclusion of your Bruce Dickinson rendition. Just a suggestion for the future. You know you wanna.

FiL said...

Thanks Coxon!

You know, I actually have a murky recording of my one and only performance with a live backing band, some fifteen years ago. The occasion was a 1970s party, and I signed up to sing 'Anarchy In The UK' in full Rotten regalia. It was excruciating, but also riotous fun.

I'm not sure if there's anything that could entice me to post that performance. But I'm open to offers...


Bishakh said...

Good gravy, did I draw that? I must rediscover my records from that era - it's been a while since I've listened to The Orchids or The Popguns. And The Charlottes! They were SO good. Why weren't they massively famous? The bastard children of My Bloody Valentine and The Primitives. And The Sea Urchins! That voice! I could drive people out of my room just by playing "Please Rain Fall"!

FiL, what else was on the tape you made for Dearest Wife?

T&F@tlh said...


As an Englishman to an Anglo-American - Happy Canada Day!

Tickle the boy for me and turn A upside down and tickle her too! Dearest wife can remain right way up.......

big kiss

L'Anonyme de Chateau Rouge said...

I need help !!!

(maybe monday)

no problem, just question of vocabulary....

Any one understand me, I know...

A. B. Chairiet said...

"Though the purge itself is a blur, as I dug through the cardboard sarcophagus I realized why these artifacts were spared. Merely looking at them evoked, like a most enjoyable and fast-acting drug, memories, feelings, faces, places. Two in particular caught my eye, and listening to them just brought it it all into more intense focus..."

I loved this, by the way.

And I'm starting to get jealous of your writing, I think. It's so good...just SO good. Makes me smile while reading it, but later on, I start to think, If only my writing was a good as FiL's, and all the other writers who are way better than I am (way too many to name). :)

It is good, though. Very good. The whole entry was!

And now that I've actually read it: scratch what I said about hoping you all feel better.

You do feel better. That's so great!! :)


I hope you have a wonderful weekend away.

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Saturday, and July, also.

Happiness in general, ;)
~ Ash

merz said...

I hope you have an excellent weekend Brother and thanks again for the kind concern and friendship!


Tim Young said...

As everyone says, a wonderful post.

Now where did I put my box of mixtapes?

FiL said...

Dearest All, apologies for the delay in responding...

Cher ACR, oui, l'anglais est une langue bien irreguliere! Et la rentree a l'ecole - Bravo! Chapeau!

Dearest Beesh, yes, it was a fey, frolicking time, hein? As for the rest of the tape, I have it not in front of me (skiving at work, I am), but it did also have (inter alia) Julian Cope's 'Beautiful Love,'XTC's 'Love on a Farmboy's Wages' (we were poor students, after all), Billy Bragg's 'Sexuality' (one of the unsexiest, yet most heartfelt songs ever written about sex, methinks) and This Mortal Coil's 'Mr Somewhere.'

Dearest T, thank you - Canada Day was fun. Children duly tickled.

Dearest Ash, what can I say, you always humble me with your kind words. Shucks... *Blushes, looks down at ground, traces circles in dirt with right big toe* I am pleased that it makes you smile. And don't knock yourself. I've read some of the back catalogue of Deathblog. And it is wonderful...

Dearest Merz, many thanks! It is so good to see you in the saddle again.

Oh Tim, do find that box - and enjoy frolicking with the memories that spill out of it...