I Hate 1984

The music and movies were epochal. The politics were abysmal. A poison valentine to the year that won't go away.

There were, of course, a lot of records to buy in 1984. There were, and are, always a lot of records to buy, but that was, from a strictly personal standpoint, but also in nearly universal hindsight, a particularly good year. As miserable as I might otherwise have been, it will nonetheless always be remembered as a very good year, one of those rare good years that seem better to me all the time.

Like most music geeks, I've always made year-end lists of my favorite records. In my case, these have almost always been strictly for my own obsessive amusement, and a way to keep track of a record and CD collection that gets more unmanageable all the time. I can do the math, and I do: There's a damn good chance that at least half of the records in my possession may never get another listen.

Oddly enough, two of the most enduring records from 1984--Bruce Springsteen's hugely overrated Born in the USA and Prince's Purple Rain, which I was sick of hearing in clubs and at other people's apartments after two months--never even made it into the sort of heavy personal rotation that would allow me to give them much more than a second thought today. I was in no mood for stiff white guys in stiff blue jeans or androgynous little black guys in black bikini briefs in 1984, and I was never in the mood for synthesizers, period, so neither of those records has any place in my fierce and increasingly pathetic nostalgia for those wasted halcyon days.

Dan Picasso

For a long time, I've been fine-tuning a list of records that I need to have with me when I travel for any extended period; it's a list that gets longer all the time--last summer, when I readied for a two-week drive across Canada to the East Coast, I packed a box of more than 300 CDs, which was of course absurd, but a guy has to be prepared for any mood, weather, or landscape, and you never know what you're going to need to hear at any given moment.

Double Nickels is one of those records that always makes it out of the box. I don't even like to leave town for 24 hours without taking it along, and I once found myself in a panic when I realized at a roadside rest somewhere just east of the Black Hills that I didn't have a copy with me in the car. This was at the time when I was just starting to build a CD collection, and though I had Double Nickels on vinyl and on a worn-out cassette somewhere in my house, I had just replaced my car's cassette deck with a CD player. I was furious and ashamed of myself for the inexcusable oversight, and realized that I could not possibly continue on the trip without the record.

As is so often the case, my wife didn't particularly understand my irrational panic over a seemingly trivial matter, but she also knew enough by this time to recognize that there was no point in proceeding until I had peace of mind, knowing that Double Nickels was at the ready. What followed was an absurd and increasingly futile wild goose chase that eventually necessitated staying overnight at a Motel 6 in Rapid City so I could scrounge the town's record stores in the morning. Undaunted by my inevitable failure in Rapid City, I called a friend in the Twin Cities and asked him to overnight a copy of the disc to me at our motel in Livingston, Montana, which he was kind (and insane) enough to do. Double Nickels was waiting at the desk when we checked in the next afternoon, and all was once again right with the world.

There are a lot of records that I honestly don't believe I could live without, but there are two records that I know I couldn't possibly live without: Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and Double Nickels on the Dime. I'm afraid I can't explain to you, really, what it is I love so much about the Minutemen's masterpiece, but I can tell you that it's one of those records that I seem to actually listen to more with every passing year, and it never fails to make me happy. Unlike so many of those other 1984 records that I continue to love so much, there's no ache of nostalgia associated with Double Nickels. There are no individual songs that break my heart or dredge up all sorts of bittersweet memories of my lost youth, and I think the reason for that is that this is a record that reminds me again and again that nothing has been lost, that I'll always be in some essential way the same guy who put the needle down on Double Nickels' first disc for the first time in 1984, and that every single thing I ever wanted or expected from rock and roll has been given to me in spades, again and again and again.

I can still hear, and feel, everything that I ever heard or felt in the ferocious, awkward spectacle that was the Minutemen in their too-brief prime. It's all still there in D. Boon's sometimes overarching fever to signify and, at a time when no one else really seemed to stand for anything, or want to, D. Boon did, even if he could only articulate it through a passion that acted as equal parts contagion and fuse. I sensed then--and continue to sense--an idealistic kinship in the band's jamming-econo ethos and schlub fashion sense and yearning for community and connection.

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