Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The End of the Eighties, Track 21

Siouxsie and the Banshees

Freshman year at Bowling Green, I roomed with John. It wasn’t all easy going. We tried each other’s patience and strained the limits of our friendship during that time. But our friendship ultimately survived, despite my handily kicking his ass at a year-long game of Rummy. Down the hall from us, our bear of an RA, appropriately named Mark Justice, kept watch over the floor. Mark is one of those guys who, though physically intimidating, is completely approachable and quick to put you at ease.

Mark was a few years in front of me in the Creative Writing program, encouraged me to be a part of the college’s literary magazine Prairie Margins, and was a member of the infamous BG band The Escaped Fetal Pigs. Mark was the guy who made his way back to the dorm with bags of plastic piggy banks that he found at the Dollar Store, excitedly rambling about how they were going to use them in the band’s stage show. Mark was the guy who, when the ATM across the street from campus ate my card, drove me downtown to the Western Union to collect the money my parents wired me. He was also the guy who would have to come down and police me for blasting my stereo far too loud.

I believe it was the last day before spring break because that is the only time I remember my dad coming to pick me up by himself. Most everyone else on the floor was gone, and I had Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Peepshow BLASTING from the stereo. I probably had my dorm room door propped open as well. Because that was enough to bring Mark down the hall to tell me to turn down the music, I have always associated Peepshow – at least, in part – with him.

Among the brilliant kaleidoscopic vision from hell that is Peepshow, the gothic hoedown of “Burn Up” has always shone a little brighter for me. The static fadeout of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Only Time” is both jarring and appropriate next to the bows-on-strings screeching of the “Burn Up” opening. The song builds with an immediacy as the listener comes to realize amid percussionist Budgie’s raging drums and vicious harmonica that “All fire and brimstone, this Jack-O-Lantern / He likes to watch the buildings burn!” Four-and-a-half minutes later, both the song and its protagonist are raging out of control around a blazing musical bonfire of nursery rhyme as Siouxsie Sioux chants about Jack jumping over the candlestick.