Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Grounded For Life (Part 2 of 2)
It was early 1994 and I was beyond grounded…
I was 15 years-old, had no bedroom door, and was stuck at home for a week playing video games and starting at the wall. All because of a handful of No. 2 pencils and a penchant for destroying that which I cannot control.
But it was about to turn into the most important week of my life. I was spending most of my time replaying Final Fantasy II on the SNES (or, Final Fantasy IV for you nitpickers out there), in anticipation of the new game due later in the year. And, frankly, the soundtrack, which is quite good, was beginning to grind on my nerves after years of repetition.
So, I decided it was time to dig into my sister’s cassette collection for something new to listen to. Now, I’d been borrowing music from my sister my whole life. She’s nine years older than me and was very influential in regards to my musical tastes. When I was 10, most of my friends were listening to New Kids On The Block or MC Hammer. I was listening to Bauhaus and Jane’s Addiction, thanks to my sister.
I was looking for things I’d passed over for one reason or another over the years. That week, I listened to Yaz for the first time. Throbbing Gristle. Einstürzende Neubauten. Etc, etc, etc. In the piles of cassettes, I found someone I’d seen in movies and knew consciously was a musician, but never thought I’d be into: David Bowie.
She had a copy of the double-cassette singles collection. 1969-1993. I popped the first tape into my deck and starting playing. Random dungeon encounter? “Space Oddity.” Boss battle? “John, I’m Only Dancing.” Chocobo ride? “Diamond Dogs.” Power leveling? “Heroes.”
The songs all sounded so familiar. I’m sure I’d heard them somewhere before. What was different this time is that I now knew that these disparate-sounding songs were all from the same man. A very, very cool and brilliant man. I was in love. It was my first real experience with aural sex.
I played those tapes over and over again. I was insatiable. Once my suspension was over, I went on Bowie hunts. I’d check the music stores in the mall, looking for dusty old tapes. I’d scrounge through the Warehouse music store down the block, begging the cashier to special order imports for me.
I’d find used cassettes of Station To Station. Used CD’s of Let’s Dance. Every so often when I’d save up enough money, I’d buy a new CD. The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. Pin Ups. Tin Machine.
I never stopped. I hunted down every Bowie album I could get my hand on. I bought tapes, CD’s, and vinyl. I bought posters. I bought buttons. And I told all of my friends that everything they were listening to paled in comparison to David Bowie. And I still feel that way, 14 years later.
Being grounded for life wound up being the most important time in my life because it brought me to the table of the single greatest musician I’ve ever heard. My life was shaped by the thin white duke. “It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine. I’m thinking that it must be love.”