In 1984, the state libraries converted from the old card checkout system to the barcode-scanning system they still use. You used to show your library card at the circ desk with a little form you filled out with the titles, authors, and call numbers of the books you were borrowing. The barcode system made things super easy and super fast for borrowers and for the libraries, but of course the conversion couldn’t happen all at once. Each community library had to close for a few weeks, which meant that nearby community libraries had to be open. It was a library-by-library rollout.
I was working at the Aiea library when it was that library’s turn to do the conversion. It was March 1984, and as I’ve written in this space before, I was a high-school frosh, and this was my first paying job. I made $3.35 per hour, except when I worked after six, when I got a fifteen cent “night differential.”
Each book on the shelves had to be given a barcode sticker, which was then scanned so the computers could assign that barcode number to that book. Meanwhile, books were still being returned, and they had to be processed and then shelved. We took advantage of the quiet time to do other time-consuming maintenance. I mostly did grunt-level work; no computer inputs or barcode-sticking for me. It was a lot of shelf work, and I didn’t mind it. I’d applied for the job because I loved books.
One of the nice things about doing all this work with the library closed was that we got to dress comfortably in shorts and t-shirts. I got to see all my grownup library bosses dressed like normal people, which was kind of surprising and mildly unsettling. I was in a jeans-only period of my life when I almost never wore shorts except at home, so I just kept wearing what I always wore to work. Another nice thing was that since I was working alone and with no customer service, they let me listen to my Walkman while I worked the shelves.
Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man had been released the summer before, and it was still on endless repeat in my Walkman. I listened to that album a hundred times as I moved slowly through the stacks. It’s a great album with seven (!) hit singles out of ten tracks. I can still sing every word to every song in order as it plays.
Some albums remind you of a specific time and place. An Innocent Man, still one of my favorite albums of all time, always takes me back to Aiea Library in March of 1984.
It’s another reason 1984 is the greatest year for music, ever.
There is more to this story.
Rush’s Counterparts album (1993) is one of their underappreciated efforts. Spent a bit of time this evening reminding myself of how good (and how, uh, less good) the songs are. So for your enlightenment and for my future reference, here are the eleven songs on the album, ranked from worst to best.
11. Nobody’s Hero
10. Double Agent
9. Everyday Glory
8. Alien Shore
7. Speed of Love
6. Cut to the Chase
5. Stick it Out
4. Between Sun and Moon
2. Leave that Thing Alone
1. Cold Fire
The phosphorescent wave on a tropical sea
Is a cold fire
The pattern of moonlight on the bedroom floor
Is a cold fire
The flame at the heart of a pawnbroker’s diamond
Is a cold fire
The look in your eyes as you head for the door
Is a cold fire
Man, I love this band.
November 24, 1984. I was fifteen. It was the night of my first real rock concert. A bunch of classmates and I piled into a few cars and found parking in the neighborhood, behind the Jack in the Box. We had some time to kill before the doors opened, so Jeff said, “Let’s check out the Cavern.”
I didn’t know what the Cavern was, but as we turned a corner, Jeff pointed up to the second floor of what is now the Gary Galiher building (that two-story building right behind the Jack in the Box).
It was a record store. When we stood on the lanai right in front of its door, we could hear the quiet thumping of music, but when we opened the door, a massively loud noise washed over us like the ripples of a nuclear explosion. It was loud. It was so loud that, once we were in the store (with the door closed behind us) and had looked around a little, I stood directly in front of the cashier, only the counter separating us, and had to yell my question to him.
The Cavern only had heavy metal, and I think it only had vinyl. I didn’t see a single cassette in there, but then the details of my memory are slightly hazy.
Heavy metal is not my favorite music, despite what some may think. My favorite is still the stuff we call classic rock. I’m not sure it’s even my second favorite music, but it’s definitely up there. I love it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is its outsider status, and the outsider status its listeners identify with.
Man, it was difficult to get ahold of. Local radio stations only played the pop stuff that was on MTV, and while I loved that, I knew there was a gigantic world of metal out there that I had access to but couldn’t try out. I bought every issue of Hit Parader and occasional issues of Circus, whose articles focused mostly on the glammy, hair metal that was popular at the time: Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot. There was always an article or two about some old-school metal band who had put out a new album (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Dio). It was all great, more music than I could afford to keep up with except whatever got played on MTV and on the radio.
Tangent: There was a local AM station that had Filipino and Korean programming all week, but reserved late Saturday nights for an English-language metal show, but I didn’t discover it until after college. Also, the college station had a few metal shows, but I didn’t discover them until I was in college.
In those magazines would be articles about (and advertisements for) bands I never got to hear: Saxon, Diamond Head, Raven, Anthax, W.A.S.P., Kix, Keel, and Armored Saint, for example. I even saw the albums at Tower Records, but Tower wouldn’t spin anything it didn’t already have open. If I was going to hear any of it, I was going to have to pay for something before getting to hear it. That was too big a gamble with my paltry resources, and there was enough music I knew I wanted anyway, other forms I could hear on the radio and purchase with confidence.
But there I was, standing in a far-too-narrow aisle between rows of LPs with the names of those bands on the covers. I carried a Diamond Head album to the counter and yelled, “IS THIS BAND FROM HERE?”
The long-haired guy yelled back, “NO! BUT THEY’RE REALLY GOOD! YOU SHOULD GET THAT!”
“CAN I HEAR IT FIRST?”
“SURE! I’LL GET IT ON AFTER THIS ONE’S OVER!”
But we had a Rush concert to get to, so I never got to hear that album until much later. Thank God for the Internet.
My friends had pretty open minds about rock music’s many genres, but I was the only one who really liked metal, who pursued it with geeky fervor, so as we walked to the arena for what is still one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen, I looked over my shoulder, longingly, swearing that when I got a job someday (I’d already had a paying job in my ninth-grade year and was waiting for things to calm down in my sophomore year to look for a new one) I would spend all my free time in that store and all my hard-earned cash.
It was gone within a few months. I never made it back. But I think of it almost every time I go past, that super-loud record store with nothing but heavy metal music at an age where just about everything was delayed gratification. I swear, if I had ten million dollars right now, I’d open something just like it and never worry about customers or making money, just have it there for people like fifteen-year-old me who needed to find it.
I’m still struggling to keep up with the paid writing. I know I sound like I’m on endless repeat about this, but I do think I’m getting slowly better at it. It’s just not showing up in my productivity. I have two hard dealines, and I have been pretty much ahead of them (Monday and Thursday mornings), but those are my longest-continuing assignments, going on three years, so they’re sorta built into my consciousness. I’m kind of always thinking about them, the way I always thought about lesson plans while I was a teacher. They’re just always there at the edges of my mind, and they move in for attention when a good opportunity presents itself. If I don’t have at least a mental outline of my content within a day of the deadline, I have to sit down and sketch something out, but that almost never happens now. By the time I sit down to write, I almost always know what I’m going to write.
The second gig is different. I tried reading fifty articles’ worth of content so I could sit down and bang out the fifty artciles, but that was far too big a bite. I found myself having to re-read everything before I wrote, which adds to my time and lowers my per-hour take. My current pace puts my hourly pay at like $3.50 an hour. I knew I was going to be underpaid when I took the gig because I needed the work. I was hoping to make it iron out to seven bucks an hours, which is still doable. I’m just not there yet.
The quality of the work is at least something I’m fairly proud of. I’m wondering if I need to sacrifice some of that quality for the sake of speed. My primary gig says no. We want it to be as good as it can be. My secondary gig says maybe. I feel horrible for not being faster with this work. I am going to decide by the end of this week if I want to spend $200 for a month of time at a co-working space. I do so much better when I have a place to go, and if I don’t have to worry about spending (additional) money, it will be a stress-lessener. I can bring a lunch, my water flask, and a snack, and not worry about taking up a table at the cafe without putting enough in its registers. It might be worth a trial run.
In my downtime, which I have already admitted is generally tainted with the awareness of my stealing it from time I should be getting caught up with the work, I’ve squeezed in a few movies, including (finally) Mean Girls, which I know has been a must-see for a person of my tastes. It was about as good as I expected (review soon), and in many ways not as good as it could have been. One of my biggest takeaways was how easy it has been to forget what a talented, magnetic screen presence Lindsay Lohan was before she became more known for her antics. I’m going to include that in my review. I probably won’t include my also being impressed by how Amanda Seyfried manages to be the most beautiful thing in a movie loaded with beautiful women.
I mentioned some time ago that I’ve had to rebuild my iTunes library (the songs are still in the folders, but they don’t show up in my library until I re-add them). I took a break from it and then went back where I left off (somewhere in the Es), and then went back to the very beginning, to hit every album from every artist to make sure the years, genres, song titles, and album artwork were exactly right. One of the worst things about the internet has been how easy it is for bad info to become canonical. With digital music, it seems that whoever gets to the database first gets to decide things like captial letters, genres, and other stuff in the ID3 tags, and most of it’s just wrong. I can have this kind of sloppiness in lots of areas of my life, but I can’t have it in my music.
So it’s been a long, slow process, especially since I’m determined not only to get the metainfo correct, but also to make sure everything’s been listened to once since its re-addition to the library. I’ll take a few detours as my craving dictates (as with the Pink Floyd list I made this week), so I’m not a slave to the process. As of this morning, I’m on Blink-182. Got through my Blind Guardian collection yesterday; taking a detour right now with Devin Townsend’s <i>Epicloud</i> stuff (including the bonus <i>Epiclouder</i> material), and then it’ll be the Royal Hunt album I crowdfunded a year ago but for some reason never claimed the download of until yesterday.
Enough procrastinating. Back to the grind.
Ten Best Pink Floyd Songs
I like this list because unlike similar bands with large discographies, Pink Floyd can say that their best work is the stuff that gets played on the radio. I like a lot of their deeper cuts, but I have to admit that their very best work is familiar even to casual listeners of FM radio.
1. “Comfortably Numb” — from The Wall (1979)
Some of my favorite slow guitar soloing (especially in the fadeout), and probably Pink Floyd’s best lyrics, which certainly plays a part in my liking this song.
2. “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” — From The Wall (1979)
Anyone who knows only one Pink Floyd song knows this one. I used to dislike the slow disco beat, but now I love it. When I got my first cell phone ten years ago (or however long ago it was), the first ringtone I got, back when you had to purchase ringtones, was a tinny, electronic sound of the riff from this song. This is my favorite Pink Floyd guitar solo, too.
3. “Wish You Were Here” — From Wish You Were Here (1975)
Almost surely Pink Floyd’s most-covered song. Several years ago, Rodrigo y Gabriela started playing this in their concerts. Since they don’t sing, audience participation can be tricky for them to pull off, but the opening notes of this song always get their audiences excited and the audiences just sing the song while Rodrigo y Gabriela play the instruments. I’ve seen the same thing happen at late-night campfires on the beach.
4. “Welcome to the Machine” — From Wish You Were Here (1975)
“It’s all right; we know where you’ve been!” I have no idea what this song is about, but that adds to my fondness for it. I love the eeriness of this song.
5. “Brain Damage” / “Eclipse” — From The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
It’s two songs, but they’re connected on the album, and radio stations never play them separately, so it’s no foul to count them as one song. This was my favorite song of theirs all through my high school years. I even took my senior yearbook quote from it: “You lock the door and throw away the key; there’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.” As the conclusion to one of the greatest albums of all time, it’ll always have a special place in my heart.
6. “Sheep” — from Animals (1977)
This album is kind of recent discovery for me, and this is the only song on my list that never gets played on the radio (the others get played pretty regularly). Like most Pink Floyd songs, it’s much better in context, but it does stand out on a great album as an especially mind-blowing track.
7. “Learning to Fly” — from A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
I didn’t care much for this song at all when it was an MTV hit after my high school graduation — I didn’t care for the video, and still don’t. It’s grown on me in recent years, enough to move it ahead of the other really good song from this album. I really dig the rhymes at the end of the chorus: “Tongue-tied and twisted: just an earthbound misfit, I.” I also like “Ice is forming on the tips of my wings / unheeded warnings, I thought I’d thought of everything.”
8. “Hey You” — From The Wall (1979)
My love for this song comes mostly from the lyric “Hey you / don’t let them bury the light / don’t give in without a fight,” and I love the way it’s sung. End of the first verse.
9. “On the Turning Away” — From A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
Probably their preachiest, most positive song. I like it anyway.
10. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI – IX)” — from Wish You Were Here (1973)
This whole album is just so sad.
I was sorry to leave out “Time,” which includes my favorite Pink Floyd lyrics ever (“Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” got me through my final two weeks of undergraduate study), “Have a Cigar,” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” which is their best song title. I limited myself to ten, though, so of course certain favorites were going to have to be left off the list.
In an effort actively to seek a little more happiness, I spent some time a year ago identifying things that make me happiest. I don’t know if the three things I came up with are the whole list, but they’re a good list.
- Swimming at the beach
- Attending concerts by musicians I like
- …there’s a third, but I can’t remember it
Man, that number three is a bummer. I am sure I have the whole list written down somewhere. Need to find it.
So anyway. Number two. I’ve got a write-up of my concert experiences last year, but I need to find good accompanying photos, and I’ve been without my laptop for a couple of weeks because of a broken charger. I have a replacement now, so hopefully I’ll get on that soon.
I’ve missed too many shows for too many stupid reasons, including not having anyone to go with and not having enough money to go. The car situation is another huge issue and another stupid reason. Last year, I decided I’d just make it work, even if it meant instant ramen and oatmeal for a few weeks.
Although it didn’t really sustain an overall happiness I kind of hoped for, the happiness in the moments themselves (and in the post-concert glow, which lasted at least a full day afterward) was totally worth it.
This year, more of the same, I think. Finances are a bit more restrictive this year than last, but I think I can still make it work.
I’m seeing Megadeth in a couple of weeks. I’m not a huge fan, really. However, I’m a fan of the genre, and I’ve already seen two of the Big Four of thrash metal (Metallica and Slayer), so Megadeth, whose original lineup included a guy from Hawaii, seems like a must-see, if only because it sets up Anthrax as the last of the Big Four I’ll need in order to complete the set.
They’re a good band. Or they were. I’m not sure if they still are, although the lineup right now features some guys I’ve always liked from other bands, including a guitarist from Angra. I’m a little confused because my favorite album from them, Risk, is everyone’s least favorite Megadeth album. Still, the venue is good and I love a good metal show.
A month after that is Of Monsters and Men. Yeah, boy. That’s going to be a great show.
I saw Tony Trischka last weekend, and he was fantastic. This fan’s humble opinion is that he’s the second-best living banjo player on the planet (Bela Fleck is the first), so the chance to see him in the tiny studio at the local public radio station was too good to pass up. When someone is that excellent at something (almost anything!), it’s a blessing to watch him or her do it. There’s an amazing self-assured air about people like this (is it from decades of performing it in front of others?). I want that. I want to approach anything with that kind of confidence and self-awareness.
I can’t even walk to the corner without being self-conscious.