Today I’m going to try and get this feature back on track with a forgotten bit of flotsam that resurfaced while I was pulling some more memorable records from storage.
Though Action Replay’s 1984 Personality Crisis compilation managed to slip clear out of my memory for over two decades, I can still remember the details of its purchase. I picked it up for a fiver at Mystery Train on Newbury Street sometime during the spring of 1992, before my first falling out with my punk rock pal Leech. I’m not sure why we even bothered visiting the store, as its tourist-friendly location ensured that anything remotely interesting sold within seconds or was slapped with an extortionate price tag and locked up behind the counter.
I suppose we were bored or trying to get out of the rain or possibly both. Buying the album was almost an afterthought, fueled by its low asking price and the shock of finding an unknown-to-me punk rock compilation buried in the shop’s otherwise slim pickings.
The biggest selling point was that it included the studio version of “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” by the Adverts, which got cut from the import reissue of Crossing the Red Sea because of copyright issues. The rest of the material was a haphazard mix of deep cuts and familiar favorites tossed together as a bargain bin package — The Tubes’ “White Punks on Dope,” Sham 69′s “Hurry Up Harry,” Dr. Feelgood’s “Milk & Alcohol,” and the titular track by the New York Dolls. It’s all quality material, but lacking anything approaching a thematic or temporal throughline.
It felt as if someone at K-Tel wannabe label reviewed their licensing deals and realized they had enough songs to greenlight a “punk” compilation, and I be surprised if that wasn’t the case.
The record did get a decent number of spins, though mainly for the Adverts and Tubes tracks (and even those got more play as mixtape material than on the turntable). It wasn’t long, however, before the post-Alternasplosion flood of re-releases and collections meant being able to listen to those twin selling points in more cohesive contexts.
I picked up Personality Crisis during a transitional period of my punk-i-tude, as my relationship with Maura grew more serious and my affected aggro stance started to feel like an obsolete embarrassment. I still identified as punk, but it wasn’t the same punk I’d embraced as a hardcore kid or Oi! turd.
It wasn’t an entirely conscious decision, either, so much of that glacial shift was spent going through the motions and clinging to old habits with ever diminishing enthusiasm. My purchase of Personality Crisis was an example of that auto-pilot phase. I bought it because it was punk rock and it was there. A year or two earlier, and it would’ve been a cherished foundational artifact instead of a easily forgotten afterthought.