Sunday, January 17, 2010

The End of the Eighties: 70 Songs About 24 Months

Somewhere around the turn of the millennium, The Cure released Bloodflowers, I moved back to Northeast Ohio after ten years away, and the milestone of turning 30 was upon me. That throat-knotting mixture of nostalgia and aging (and realizing your heroes were aging too) resulted in a need to reset the compass. In dealing with this mini-crisis, I turned to the music of my youth, the music that had the greatest impact on shaping who I am and provided a soundtrack for the most formative time in my life, and attempted to capture the amazing two-year arc between late 1988 and late 1990.

The collection of songs began life as a series of mix CDs. Two discs covered the music of my freshman year at Bowling Green State University. Another two discs were devoted to the music I associated with Thursday’s, the punk bar on Exchange Street across from the University of Akron.

The BGSU collection was for all those in our tight circle of college freshman friends, though I think I only ever gave copies to John and Jeff. John and I have been in each others’ lives since sixth grade or so, but we met Jeff at college and then lost touch. When Tracy and I moved back north, Jeff and I reconnected and our wives became friends, and we have kept that friendship going ever since. The BGSU mix was a (hopefully) thoughtful collection of many of the songs that were so important to me (us) during those two semesters of chaos and emotion and laughter.

The Thursday’s collection was for Tracy and me. Tracy and I grew up Northeast Ohio and ran in the same Akron punk circles and knew many of the same people, but didn’t meet until we were both living in Florida. We’re certain our paths must have crossed at some point in the late ’80s when we were both frequenting Thursday’s regularly and attending the same shows at the same clubs, but neither of us remember actually meeting back in the day. I wanted to put together a songlist that captured that soundtrack I (and presumably, she would also) remember from Thursday’s.

The mixes might have begun life as mix CDs, but they now exist as mix playlists in iTunes. The original 60 songs spread across those four discs ballooned to 70 once I went digital and shed the constraints of physical media running time capacities (but still tried to keep things reasonable). Originally called BGSU / Fall 1989-Spring 1990 and Thursday’s Mix, they now commingle under the single playlist named “The End of the Eighties.”

Inspired by the conversation John and I have been having over the last few weeks (both publicly via our blogs and privately in email and in personal exchanges), I’ve decided to go back and revisit these combined playlists and capture some thoughts on each of the songs. I’m not really sure how this is going to unfold over the course of the next few weeks and months (and year?!). Blog entries could be a semi-coherent paragraph about some long-ago personal reference, or it might be something in the larger context of alternative music and the zeitgeist, but I’ll do my best to hopefully make this little nostalgia trip entertaining.

And, at the end of this little writing experiment, hopefully you’ll be rewarded with the blueprint to a killer mix playlist.

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