I can wait a long, long time
Before I hear another love song.
— Sisters of Mercy
It was a clear and muggy Thursday night, and I had a bad case of the blues. So I did what I usually do–I laid down until it went away. An hour and a half later, it was worse. So I got in my car and drove, intending to drown my sorrows.
I stopped off at the Eat-Rite Diner on South Lindbergh. I sat down at the counter next to a cranky elderly guy. He ordered a BLT and American fries. I had bacon and eggs and hash browns. Hey, things that cut down on your life expectancy make you feel better when you’re down, right? Right?
The waitress didn’t give me my Sprite. I didn’t say anything.
The waitress handed the cranky guy his BLT. She apologized for it taking a while–she misread the ticket, she explained. He didn’t say anything. Then she turned around and walked a few steps. “You think I can have a fork?” the cranky guy yelled.
No wonder I was feeling bad. I didn’t set out to ruin anyone’s day on Thursday. Misery loves company, right? Right?
The waitress said something to the other waitress. She started doing some work behind the counter, then she looked up and a look of horror came over her. “I forgot your Sprite!” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
“That’s OK,” I said.
“Do you still want it?” she asked.
“Please. That would be nice.”
She brought me back a Sprite. “I’m sorry,” she said again.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. I could tell she felt bad about it. But there’s no reason to let something stupid like a 95-cent Sprite ruin your day, or even make it worse, for that matter. Someone had already tried to ruin it over a fork, after all.
I waited for the cranky guy to leave, then I paid and left myself. Dan Bowman had sent me a link earlier to something called 100 CDs you should remove from your collection (I’d provide a link, but I don’t have it handy). That made me think I needed to go to the record store. The selections on that list reminded me that sometimes you can find some gold in the $3.99 bin. Often you’ll find a disc that definitely wasn’t worth $18 when it was new, but it had at least one or two compelling tracks that made someone want to buy it in the first place. Radioactive by Dig is a classic example. Everyone who bought it bought it for one song, a heavy, punky rocker called “Believe.” The album didn’t have much else to offer. But “Believe” is worth $3.99.
I still remember that trip to the record store. I’d just been dumped hard and I needed someone who understood. In the $3.99 bin I spotted Radioactive and the words, “Why don’t you believe / Believe in your own kind?” rang more true than ever. I grabbed one of the three or so copies there. Nearby I spotted the soundtrack from The Crow. Everyone bought that for “Big Empty” by the Stone Temple Pilots. I bought it for “Burn” by The Cure. Another $3.99 well-spent. I spent $17 on Wild Mood Swings by The Cure the night it came out, and it had one good song on it–“Want.” “Burn” isn’t quite as good as “Want,” but if “Want” cost me $17, “Burn” is definitely worth $4.
I walked through the higher-priced stuff. Sisters of Mercy bootlegs? No such luck. I knew the song I wanted to hear. “I should have known, bop bop bop, that it was coming down to this, I should have known you would betray me but without the kiss…” Who was that? I panned down the racks. Aimee Mann. Whatever. That was it! Marked price? $8.99. Definitely worth a risk. I paid my money, took them home, brooded, and eventually found in Whatever a much more enduring friend than the one I had lost. Bonus.
But Thursday night I walked into the record store without as many preconceived notions. I’d go in and see what I could find. Mostly I found a whole lot of nothing. Lots of pop-metal I didn’t like 10 years ago and lots of pop-ternative I don’t like now. Speaking of pop-ternative, the local alternative station (93.3, not to be confused with the pop-ternative station, 105.7) has been playing a song by Blink 182 for the past few months called “Stay Together For the Kids.” It’s a really good song, and surprising, because I didn’t care much for the “All the Small Things” and the other Blink 182 songs they overplayed on 105.7 a couple of years ago.
I found the record that had that song, but I questioned whether I wanted a CD titled Take Off Your Pants and Jacket on my CD rack. I mean, wouldn’t that make Belle and Sebastian’s The Boy With Arab Strap and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust uncomfortable, being next to that? Well, on second thought, I doubt anything would make Ziggy uncomfortable. But it would make me uncomfortable. So I put the disc back.
I went over to the punk rock section. I know Eddie Cochran said there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues, but Eddie Cochran died in 1960, cruelly denied the opportunity to hear any punk rock. So I scanned the punk rock section. The band A New Found Glory jumped out. A couple of the tracks on Nothing Gold Can Stay sounded vaguely familiar. I picked it up. Then there was From the Screen to Your Stereo. I grabbed it too, and walked over to the CD player.
From the Screen to Your Stereo was exactly what it looked like: Covers of corny love songs from movie soundtracks played really fast and really loud and without a shred of sincerity. In that last regard, they were very true to the originals. They were all songs I’d never care to hear again, with the exception of “Never Ending Story Theme Song,” just because I remember who sang it and no one else does. (Answer to that useless trivia question: Limahl. Another useless trivia question: What was the name of the one-hit-wonder band Limahl left to embark on his one-hit-wonder solo career? Answer at the end.)
But this disc had the same strange appeal as the Hooked on Polkas medleys Weird Al Yankovic always slips onto his albums. I never thought I’d enjoy listening to “(Everything I do) I do it for you,” but that’s just because I’d only heard Bryan Adams sing it. When you hear five GenX slackers belt it out like a bunch of drunk fraternity guys on a Friday night, the song takes on a whole new quality it was never intended to have. When a song didn’t have any to begin with, that’s a very good thing.
Sold. I looked around some more. Nothing jumped out at me on the second go-round. I saw some teenagers hanging all over each other. Definitely time to go.
I paid for both discs and headed out to my car. I popped in Screen and instantly felt better. Laughter is great medicine. How do you top that off? Why, with ice cream, of course! Actually, I went to Spanky’s Frozen Custard for a blueberry concrete. There are better places, but it was on the way home and it would do.
Oh yeah, the answer to that useless trivia question: Kajagoogoo. They were known for their hit, “Too Shy,” and looking good on MTV.