Saturday, January 10, 2015

Started on a summer Sunday...

In 1986 I was 12, homeschooled, awkward, and had just discovered college radio. I became obsessed with WSMU, the radio station of what was then called Southeastern Massachusetts University, and which would later become University Of Massachusetts Dartmouth (and my own alma mater). My favorite DJ had a British accent and I imagined him to be exceedingly good looking. I spent a lot of time mustering up the courage to call in, but the stress over what I could request to impress him became too daunting. But more than that it was about the music. I felt like a switch had been flipped inside me. Up until then I mostly listened to stuff I heard on regular radio; I had Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Weird Al, Huey Lewis and Chipmunk Punk on pretty heavy rotation, but all that changed when I discovered WSMU. I listened in my room, at night, on my double tape deck boombox. I started recording shows and then feverishly tried to write down all the band names when the DJ came back on. I would then try to match up the songs and maybe 75% of the time get them right. I made a LOT of those tapes, the only thing slowing me down was that I didn't have access to many blank tapes, but then I learned that you could record over any cassette if you taped up the holes on the top side (sorry about those Bing Crosby Christmas tapes, mom).

There was one song that really packed a huge punch for me, I had never heard anything like it and I just couldn't get enough of it. It was called Silly Girl, and at the time, in my scribbled notes I had it erroneously attributed it to Black Flag. I listened for other Black Flag songs, because clearly they were my new favorite band, but everything I heard just confused me. This wasn't right! This couldn't be the same band! I considered calling the hot British DJ and asking him, but I was too embarrassed. It wasn't until about a year later that I heard the Descendents and realized (with a tremendous wave of excitement) that it was their song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n36hDSK-vhA

For years I laughed at my own naiveté for confusing Black Flag and the Descendents. Then tonight Tom and I went to see Filmage (which was totally amazing) and Bill Stevenson recounted how he wrote "Silly Girl" during the time that the Descendents were broken up and he was playing with Black Flag! He knew it wasn't right for Black Flag so when the Descendents got back together they made it into a song. This kind of blew my mind! So was it a crazy coincidence that I wrote down Black Flag on my tape of that song?? Or maybe that DJ was telling the story of the song and knew that info? Which doesn't seem likely to me because, back then, unless you knew the bands I can't imagine anyone would know a random tidbit of info like that. But who knows... it's just funny when little moments like that come rushing back from the depth of your memories. It's kind of like a bit of time traveling. I'm going to go look for those tapes.....