Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

“A speech presented by igDana at the ConWorks ‘We Could Be Heroes’ music forum” June 17, 2004

Remembering one’s precise moment of musical spark is a tricky one. For me, musical awakening has occurred on a continuum.

Practically since birth, I’ve been hyper-aware of the music in my surroundings. My babybook lists “record player” as my favorite toy. Even in the crib I would rock back and forth with my head to the mattress for so long my hair would snarl, and my mother reports that before the nursery was carpeted, the crib would BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! from one wall to the other in tune with my internal rhythm.

But I haven’t always had the… how shall I say this? I haven’t always had coolest of tastes. So when Conworks challenged me to define (and present upon) my personal moment of when musical heroism — when I was set on the path of musical righteousness — I realized that I needed to explain the Evolution of how I got there…

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My favorite first song was Alan O’Day‘s “Undercover Angel“. Foisted on the public somewhere circa the mid-70s, this bubbly little tune tells the story of a guy who’s telling his future potential girlfriend about the love affair he’s had with his *imaginary* dream girlfriend who “made sweet love to him.” It’s a totally off-putting premise. But I was wee — what did I know? The hooks hooked me, and my brother and I would run screaming to the radio every time we heard it.

Barry ManilowMoving forward a bit through childhood, I had a long-standing infatuation with my parents Beach Boys and Beatles records…and I don’t mean the cool Pet Sounds or White Album stuff. My under-developed musical taste buds craved the “Ba-ba-ba-ba-rara Ann!” and “I Wanna Hold Your Ha-aa-aaa-and” confections. And then there was my Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits four-record collection. “Even Now” remains a favorite to this day. I wish I were kidding {actually, I don’t. I still adore it too much to kid.}.

That all being confessed, dare I describe the dance routines my little girl friends and I would perform to the Grease, Saturday Nite Fever, and Xanadu soundtracks? Maybe that subject is best left outside the lines…

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With a dawning adolescence came the emergence of the tape deck and with it, my love for eighties rock. Columbia House pennies came and went, and with them, my first tape purchased (REO Speedwagon‘s Hi Infidelity). Shortly thereafter I discovered the joys of Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Van Halen, the Scorpions, and the band that went on to become the love of my adolescence: Journey.

JourneyMy love of Journey knew no bounds. Never during my 12th or 13th year was I seen out of my house with fewer than 20 Journey pins stuck to my Members Only jacket. I had every Teen Beat, every Circus magazine they ever got mentioned in. My babysitting funds even went to join Journey Force, the Journey fan club. When Journey came to South Florida in 1983 to support their “Frontiers” release, my over-protective mother would not allow me, her only daughter, to attend. I thought my life was over.

Well, life went on, though my musical tastes remained stagnant. South Florida in the 80s was, as it remains now, a Clear Channel wet dream, a musical stagnation of epic proportions. So I spent those years immersed in 80s radio rock, Pink Floyd‘s “The Wall,” my mother’s Neil Diamond collection, late night radio (“Getting the Led Out”) and, of course, Journey.

Now try to imagine my crestfallen horror when I found out that a local radio statios 103 WSHE (“SHE’s only Rock and Roll“) had acquired EVERY SINGLE TICKET for the show, so the only way to attend was to call in to the station and win them.

As my still-best friend Denise will happily tell anyone who I am trying to impress as a hip-indie-music-critic, I shed real tears at this news. I wept. For Journey.

Denise consoled me: “Don’t worry, Dana. We will simply call WSHE every minute from the time we get home from school until they give us tickets…”

Denise and DanaAnd we did. We called and we called and we called. Around 2am, we found sympathies in a late night DJ, we’ll call him Glenn. Glenn gave us two tickets around 4am. Glenn was all of 24 himself {which at the time seemed sooooo sophisticated}. Looking back, Glenn was probably lonely that late night shift, so it’s no surprise now that he had plenty of time to chat with a couple of high schoolers with a Journey obsession. Ahem. I think you can see where this is headed…

Denise and Glenn developed a little rapport, see, and we needed more than just TWO tickets. {At a bare minimum, we at least one for Denise’s annoying older brother so he could drive us to the Hollywood Sportatorium, which remains the scummiest venue where I’ve ever seen a show, to this day. But I digress.}

Turns out Glenn had been a college DJ in Miami, and was new to the “album oriented rock” format of his new paying job. So he’d sneak a few “alternative” songs in the mix in those wee h
ours, and of course, Denise and I were only too glad to call him to request these favorite songs of his. We wanted him to think we were cool, and besides, we really really really really really REALLY wanted those tickets. Ahh, the single-minded intensity of 16 year olds…

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So, back to my musical journey. Can you believe that it was on the way to getting Journey tickets that I finally stumbled upon the beginnings of my righteous path? See, DJ Glen’s favorite spin was REM‘s “Superman,” off of the glorious, wonderful, still-on-my-desert-island-list-of-favorite-albums, Life’s Rich Pageant. I was going to bring that song for you tonight, because I love Michael Stipe‘s resonant, monotonous, audaciously confident proclamation: “You -Don’t – Really – Love – That – Guy – You – Make – It – With – Now – Do – You?” But I didn’t. igLiz vetoed it on the grounds that it was a cover. {Would you believe that I didn’t know this until just now, nearly 20 years later? I had to instant message Liz while writing this story to find out it was written by The Clique. She is brilliant, and I am pathetic.}

But “Superman” was only the start… and I quickly came to find what the radio played around me stagnant, banal, annoying, and repetitive. Though repetitive I became as well, as shortly after discovering REM I found Squeeze Singles on cassette. I knew I had found my new obsession. I played it in my 1982 Datsun at least 50,000,000,000 times, until my pores oozed with anglo-terms like “tellie” “carpark” “tenner” and “waistcoat.”

Squeeze -- SinglesAhh, once my ears were filled with the wacky, melodic, perfect pop song-writing of Glen Tilbrook and Chris Difford, there was no turning back. I still consider “Up the Junction” an example of perfect song-writing craftsmanship: The gorgeously crafted lyrics make me giggle, the effortless melody make me dance. The song is epic yet irreverent, a man’s tale into romance that turns into home (“I worked eleven hours / And bought the girl some flowers / She said she’d seen a doctor / And nothing now could stop her”), as well as his subsequent shameful casting out into loneliness and regret, when “the devil came and took me / from bar to street to bookie”. I love to listen to the flow of those lyrics, the poetry of how the prosody of his speech matches the rhythm of the song. It’s nearly rap-like in its staccato, and it takes my breath away, every time.

Shortly after I found Squeeze, I met first love, and with it, got the inundation of music I’d missed throughout the 80s growing up in suburban South Florida: Love and Rockets, Tones on Tale, Bauhaus, the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, Joy Division, the Smiths — all things new wave and wonderful, an experience which introduced me to a lifelong ambition never to musically stagnate.

And while I maintain you can never fully outgrow your musical adolescence — I will always wax nostalgic over the Barry Manilow and Olivia Newton John, the Night Ranger and of course, the Journey — I will always save the warmest spot in my musical heart for REM’s Life’s Rich Pagaent and Squeeze’s Singles for initially engaging, enlightening, and enrapturing me.

Maestro, hit it! {And hit it!}

{igDana read the above story at the “We Could Be Heroes” lecture series at Consolidated Works in Seattle, WA on June 17th, 2004. Conworks decribed the event as….

For many of us memories of our past come flooding back with just a few bars from certain songs, the seminal points of our lives encoded in the notes of the music. Our panel of musicians, photographers, DJs, graphic artists, will spend the evening spinning their favorite records (and CDs) and reminiscing on important moments in their lives as marked by a particular song. Photographs, concert posters, and plenty of stories will accompany mental musical scrapbooks as we look into the past through music.

A special thanks to Conworks for sponsoring such a nostalgic and inspiring evening, and for including Three Imaginary Girls!!!}