I Hate 1984

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

I loved that band, and I love them and miss them more every single time I play Double Nickels.

 

How Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel Almost Saved Me from Poseurdom

Chris Strouth

In 1984 i was a suburban wannabe punk rocker or "new waver" without a clue, in the best prep school that Fridley, Minnesota, had to offer. For about a year and a half I labored under the notion that I was the king of punk angst, at least all the angst you could wear on your sleeve while shopping at Chess King. Granted, I was trying to be old-school by listening to the "classics of the genre": Sex Pistols, the Damned, as well as what MTV said was cool. Every new wave album that I had was purchased at Musicland in Northtown.

To understand Northtown in the '80s is to understand Minnesota suburban youth culture in those days. If the '80s were an age of excess, Northtown was beyond the boundaries of time. Mullet-haired boys and sunflower-haired girls had lengthy discussions about the meaning of the lyrics "motoring, what's your price for flight." To my knowledge, at that point, my friends (well, friend) and I were very alone in our tastes. And my one friend, Suzette, was a cheerleader. Not exactly the punkest of rock. But we passed our time cruising Musicland for Oingo Boingo records, buying very cheap costume jewelry at Walgreens, and of course trying to look menacing. Lord knows nothing was scarier then a teenager with spiky hair and several plastic rings.

Punk rock/new wave hadn't come to my school yet, at least not the haircuts, and not all that much of the music. Being that I was a shy, unsure youth among strangers who all seemed to know each other since birth, the best way to get along seemed to be this: color my hair purple and spike it really, really high. Oh yeah, the rattail helped too. I think what made me look foolish was trying to adopt the new romantic look of the period without knowing anything about it--for example, knowing that even in England, they thought it was a lame idea.

Then Brian transferred to our school. Brian came from the mean streets of Roseville, a much grittier suburb. Brian, with hair that frightened adults much more then mine. Brian, with many earrings. Brian, who smelled rather bad. Brian who had, in large scrawly text on the back of his Army surplus coat, the word "Foetus."

Seeing as how we were the two guys with haircuts at Preppie High, it was assumed that we would be friends. Now, up to this time, my epithet of choice was "poseur." Anyone with a polo shirt and a Flock of Seagulls haircut was fair game for a harsh word and a surly look from me. But in the course of one school lunch, I got the feeling that I might in fact have been a poseur, too. Not through any fault of my own. I just had never found access to any other information, save what words of wisdom the clerk from Musicland could pass on. But Brian knew the truth. He held the keys to secret and arcane knowledge. He had a subscription to MaximumRockandRoll. Brian was from a different world: He had big, spiky hairy--poorly dyed, lots of tails, not to mention a large square randomly shaved into his head. Did I mention he smelled? I had no idea that you were supposed to be smelly, save, of course, the subtle hint of Drakar Noir.

As we talked about bands, I realized that his was a world I knew nothing about: DRI, JFA, GBH. The best I had to offer was some records on IRS. It was decided that some advanced study was needed. Since I tended to prefer things with synthesizers, he pulled from his backpack a ratty cassette with graffiti lettering that said "Scraping Foetus off the Wheel," and in even worse marred-up lettering, "Hole." Hole scared and excited me in equal measure. Hearing it was transcendent. This wasn't a guy hoping to be on American Bandstand. He was angry, and not angry in the MTV-won't-play-my-video way. The notes were sharp and pointy. His voice seemed to sneer with each word. He was much angrier then Joey Ramone. This was deeper, darker. Hearing it was like living in a Playboy world and suddenly seeing Hustler. It certainly wasn't the world I'd want to live in now, but when you're a 14-year-old boy, it's hard to put down. For three days, that was what I listened to. It was dark and brooding, with comic-book moments, a little like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, except, you know, minus Mr. Toad.

Twenty years later, things have changed. I won't tell you that Hole is a great record. But it is awfully good. It's hard to make nihilism hold up for that long a period of time. Sure, Rimbaud could do it, but he was French. Like all of that nihilist generation, the punks never lived up to their promise: It always seemed like something big was right around the corner, but then it never materialized.

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