FFWDing to the Best Part: “Your Love,” The Outfield (1986)

The mid-1980s were an odd time in popular music. In one corner were the pretty (or downright androgynous) boys making New Wave and Pop — Duran Duran, Culture Club, Wham!, Dead or Alive, etc. In the other were grizzled-before-their-time rock and rollers serving up guitar-heavy songs with side of synthesizers. Foreigner. Dire Straits. Journey (and Steve Perry by his lonesome).

Tending toward the latter group was The Outfield, a British trio that had just one monster hit Stateside. Think of them as the U.K.’s more rock-centric answer to A-Ha, the Norwegian threesome that slayed the charts with “Take On Me.”

So “Your Love” is pretty revolting, if you think about it. In the relatively recent music past, there’s an Enrique-Iglesias-featuring-Pitbull song, “I Like It,” which includes the following slant rhyme:

My girlfriend is out of town
And I’m all alone
Your boyfriend is on vacation
And he doesn’t have to know

“Your Love” is a variation on this theme, but it’s even worse. The protagonist’s girlfriend, Josie, is “on a vacation far away,” and so he is taking this opportunity to bed another.  Get some strange, if you will. But he refers to this betrayal as an act of “love,” he “just want(s) to use,” somehow making him WORSE THAN PITBULL (if that’s possible).

But it sure is catchy.

And coming from a place where I was a cougar before cougars were cool, I’ve always smiled at the line “You know I like my girls a little bit older.”  Damn right you do.

Best part: At 3:15, there is a simple but effective drum solo, during which lead singer Tony Lewis actually shuts up for second. The syncopated beats double-time us into the final wailing pleas for just one well-intentioned one-night stand. Poor, sad, cuckolded Josie.

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Seven Minutes Out of Heaven (In Which I Detail What Image I’ll See On My Death Bed)

You’d never know it to see me today, but I wasn’t the popular type in elementary school. First, I had glasses. And braces. Secondly, I was smart (ish). Thirdly, I’m pretty sure most of my wardrobe consisted of sweatshirts with “cute animals” on them. Fourthly, my Mom was a sixth-grade teacher at the same school I attended (and a slightly infamous reputation preceded her). (Pic below is from my eighth-grade year, when I was infinitely more enviable than just three years before.  Someday I need to get a scanner and deliver the proper 1983-1986 goods.)

.

Or this.

So no, I wasn’t best buddies with the crème de la crème of the school (though I am friends with some on Facebook now so I won’t name names). But in situations where the grammar-school caste system extended down a couple of rungs, I would get invited to things. Birthday parties and such. I was quite possibly the 17th-most popular girl in the fifth grade.

And because I was a fifth-grade girl, I had one “mean girl” arch nemesis – let’s call her “Annabel.” She was the most “popular” of all, even though even her closest “friends” didn’t really like her. She ruled through fear, her iron fist clutched around a crimping iron. Whatever fashion trends she started, others followed (the whole “wearing the stretchy socks OVER your Guess? jeans?”  Pretty sure that began in one fifth-grade classroom in suburban St. Louis).

Annabel paled in comparison to Rachel/Lacey/Amanda

But let’s back up. Even though I was only the 17th-most popular girl (and probably the 32nd cutest), I had a years-long crush on the first or second-most sought-after guy. Let’s call him “Jeff,” because that’s actually his name. Fast-Forward: same Jeff is married to one of my best friends today and I’ve spent the night in their home countless times. We were at each other’s weddings. I’ve helped him diaper his triplets, for God’s sake – I HAVE ARRIVED.

So back to fifth grade. One night in December 1984, I was dropped off fashionably late at a slumber party at my pseudo-friend Amy’s house. Telling goodbye to my Dad, lavender sleeping bag tucked under my arm, I noticed a crowd had gathered in Amy’s driveway.

“What’s going on?” I asked excitedly and with a huge smile on my face. Had the “light as a feather” game started yet? Were we waiting for the pizza delivery guy? (Were there pizza delivery guys in 1984?)

Oh no. In fact, Annabel and Jeff were (French?!) kissing, and everyone was cheering them on and counting how high they could go before coming up for air. 37 seconds. 37 seconds. And I did that thing where your physical smile stays plastered on while your inner spirit becomes sucked out of you utterly. Here they were – the love of my short life and the girl who made my life miserable on a daily basis because I didn’t have more than one Swatch (my parents were both educators, for eff’s sake!)

23, 24, 25 … ha ha ha. Fake laugh. Gulp, squirm, blink back tears.

Turns out Jeff was staying at his friend’s house – next door to Amy’s. The next part of the interminable evening involved Annabel talking to him on the phone while she mindlessly ran her fingers over her rode-hard-for-37-seconds lips.

It pretty much ruined my evening. If not the rest of my childhood.

And while I still haven’t friended Annabel on Facebook, I have spotted her in my “People You May Know” sidebar and can unequivocally state that she hasn’t aged well.  Though she probably still has more Swatches than I do.

But this was the one I had, and it was awesome.

Photo courtesy of jenontheedge.com

Mixing it Up (In Which the OED Ruins a Decade-Long Pastime in One Fell Swoop)

Last week, the Oxford English Dictionary caught some buzz when it announced plans to remove the compound word “cassette tape” from etymological existence. First of all, this is ridiculous. Just because tapes aren’t the device of the future (or even the present), it doesn’t mean they cease to exist as a historical reference. As my friend Taylor pointed out, isn’t the word “chariot” in the dictionary even though it’s an antiquated conveyance? What about “telegraph” or “washboard?” Or … dare I say, in this electronic age, “dictionary!”

Second of all, you can still buy this product.  Maxell, folks!  Get blown away!

Third of all, what about all of the words associated with “cassette tapes?” The cassingle (I had close to 300, including the one pictured below). The dual-cassette deck. And yes, the “mix tape.”

He is willing to fight.

How quickly we forget these tokens of affection in this age of easily accessible music – Shazaam, iTunes, cloud computing, and the rest have spoiled all of us. People under the age of maybe 26 or 27 have limited memory of the pain-staking process required to create a mix tape (or was it supposed to be “mixed tape”) for a loved one. It was a labor of love.

Now, I’m not going to retread along the path that Nick Hornby and Rob Sheffield have traipsed so eloquently. I will say, however, that while I appreciate the convenience of mix-CDs turned online playlists (turned whatever’s next), much of the thought and romance has been stripped from the process.

From the moment I got my first dual-cassette deck (Christmas, 1998) through the time I got a computer with a CD burner (fall, 2000), I made no fewer than 150 mix tapes. I kept dozens for myself and took care to make personalized ones for friends, family members, boyfriends, and crushes. I may or may not have sent one to the New Kids on the Block fan club in an effort to widen their horizons to old-time rock and roll.

The process was always messy – I’d clear space on the floor in front of my stereo, lug over a huge stack of “cassette tapes” – or later CDs – and two different colored pens. My cassette-cover strategy rarely strayed:

A Side: [Font Color 1, Song Title] [Font Color 2, small dot] [Font Color 1, Artist]

B Side: [Font Color 2, Song Title] [Font Color 1, small dot] [Font Color 2, Artist]

OCD, perhaps, but I thought it made for an attractive sleeve that would inevitably wind up lost under the passenger seat of someone’s Dodge Shadow. Live songs were no good (the endings were always too abrupt) and one couldn’t swing tempos too dramatically – this thinking was confirmed in my time at the radio station. My Dad had a mix tape that swung from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” into Judy Collins’ “Sisters of Mercy.” I’ve never quite recovered from that startling segue.

Most of all, a mix tape had to combine familiar favorites with “new” music to which you wanted to introduce the listener. The former got the audience excited when first perusing the track list – the latter provided an education.  It was a service I was providing, and I hope I left a tiny bit of a legacy. Even if, when you’re asking the OED, none of these items ever really existed.