Feels like the First Time
There's a certain sadness that comes from flipping through the decades-old used CDs at your local music store. You can't help but hear the has-beens and the never-weres--who surely put huge amounts of energy into that unloved record you see before you--shaking their death rattles like pathetic little tambourines from somewhere within the stacks. Even the more memorable albums, the occasional Missing Persons or Berlin release, need someone to rescue them and restore their resonance--or, at the very least, to revive their singles for the next installment of American Psycho. (If we've learned anything from the first Bret Easton Ellis-inspired soundtrack, it's that Huey Lewis songs make you want to decapitate your friends.)
But Jake Rudh takes that retro-restoration one step further. The local DJ has been spinning older sounds for the last six years, owns some 5,000 CDs, and swears he can tell you exactly where he bought each and every one of them. He drags them out for his weekly Friday-night gig at the Chatterbox Pub, a series called Destination Unknown, during which he plays the likes of New Order, the Cure, and Elvis Costello while bar patrons watch Eighties movies and play vintage Atari games. Or he spins them at the ever-popular Sound and Vision, his weekly Thursday-night gig at Sursumcorda, where he plays artists such as Pulp, David Bowie, Blondie, and the Smiths. (Between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m., you can listen to his set live over the Internet at www.sursumcorda.com by clicking on the "Front DJ Lounge Events Live" link.)
If you've ever attended one of Rudh's sets, or read his e-mail updates about them (put yourself on his mailing list by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org), you know that he's happy to discuss some of his own personal audiophile milestones--as he did with City Pages one bright summer afternoon at his Minneapolis apartment. From Rudh's musical memories, we've gleaned some, er, sound advice.
DJs Collect More Than Records: Since 1991, Rudh has made a list of every concert he has ever attended (he goes to about 100 of them per year). His lengthy set of notebook-paper entries includes the headlining artist, the opening band, and the show's location. (First concert: Lollapalooza 1991 at Harriet Island with Living Colour, Rollins Band, and Ice-T. Most recent concert: Elbow and the Doves at the Fine Line, 2002.) In addition to the list, Rudh has made 20 scrapbook albums since he was in high school, all of which hold photos, articles about his favorite bands, ticket stubs, concert posters, and whatever else he can stuff in there. He jokes, "These are for my grandkids to look back on and say, 'Wow, Grandpa was fuckin' weird!'"
Older Women are Sexy--Especially When They Act Like Younger Women: "I had a crush on Martha Quinn, big-time," Rudh admits. "I think she represents the times--the innocence of the early Eighties. She was just springy and bouncy and innocent--she just had an aura of I love this stuff. And I can reach an entire nation with it. That would be the ultimate job for me, to be a VJ back in the day."
Grandpa's House is the Ultimate Rock 'n' Roll Lair: "When MTV came along, my cousin and I would sit and watch it all day long. The only people I knew who had it were my grandparents, so we'd go to visit them. I'd sit in my grandpa's big chair and watch it, and I'd write down all of the songs that were playing. Now, I actually have compilations I've made called Grandpa's Big Chair. They're all new wave mixes."
Monkeys are Funny: "I listened to this on my first trip to England, in 1996, while I was taking the underground. It was my soundtrack to that time. It reminds me of going out to the Virgin '96 festival, where I was able to see Pulp... They were absolutely insane and really funny. Thousands of people were at this festival, and everyone was watching this guy run around in a gorilla suit. He came within five feet of me, and he was getting in people's faces, doing gorilla stuff. Then Pulp goes onstage, and it turns out that Jarvis Cocker was the gorilla. He takes off the costume, and he's like, Fooled you!"
Listening to the Beatles Does Not Necessarily Make You a Macho Man: "At soccer practice, all the other guys were getting juiced up, listening to Guns N' Roses and stuff, and I'd be over there with my headphones on, listening to A Hard Day's Night....I was always accepted by the other guys, but I was also, you know, a little different from them."
Duran Duran Will Score You Big Points With the Ladies: "In third and fourth grade, I'd go out to recess to play kickball or soccer, and I'd have my Duran Duran painter's cap on. Seventh- and eighth-grade girls would think I was pretty cool. When I got attention from girls for wearing Duran Duran stuff, I knew I was onto something."
Dressing Like a Homoerotic Pop Star Will Also Score Big Points With the Ladies: "My first real girlfriend freshman year of high school introduced me to [the Smiths]. Before that, I had my fair share of listening to Boston and classic rock, you know, Styx and the Steve Miller Band. But this girl was my first major crush, and she was a huge influence on me. She brought me into the Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order, and the Smiths. She bought me my first pair of Docs and changed my hairstyle, made me dress like Morrissey.
Arena Rock Can Help You Distinguish the Music Elitists from the True Fans: "I'm not a music snob, and I can prove it: The first records I totally remember making out to were Foreigner records. It was a summer fling in my 1985 silver Ford Escort. I had a cassette, and [laughs] 'Urgent' came on. I was thinking, Yeah, this is totally perfect."
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