Armagideon Time

Pal Dave’s latest installment of I Had That! (you are reading it, somnology aren’t you?) reminded me of a certain artifact that predated my vinyl-buying spree, treatment is not a record, find yet ties back to and symbolizes that period in my life.

Not long after the start of my first semester in college, my brother and I caught the pilot for Get a Life on Fox. The sitcom was a vehicle for Chris Elliot’s surreal brand of humor and featured a lot of callbacks and references to 1980s pop culture at a time when most folks were determined to forget that decade ever happened. This episode in particular included an amusement park montage set to “Head Over Heels” by the Go-Go’s, which reminded me how much I loved the band when I was kid.

It was enough to convince me to drop a portion of my limited funds on a then-recently released “greatest hits” cassette featuring most of the group’s familiar tunes. It got a lot of play, both on my home system and at the increasing infrequent gatherings of my old high school classmates (who’d start off with “oh gawd, remember them” and end with “wow, I forgot how good they were”).

Jump ahead a few months to the end of November 1990, where I was struggling to figure out how my vague scholarship worked while the college’s billing office threatened to kick me out over non-payment. After navigating through a nightmarish maze of red tape, I found myself in possession of a check for more money than I’d ever seen in one place.

Y’see, the scholarship included half of all living expenses in addition to half of my educational costs. The low tuition and fees at UMass Boston (around $1000 for a full time semester at the time; feel free to weep), combined with the high cost of living in the region, resulted in a non-insignificant cash payout for a kid who lived with his grandma and had no expenses to speak of.

The day after the check cleared I made a trip to the Back Bay to pick up some needed essentials at a military surplus store — a French rucksack to replace the shitty nylon bookbag I’d been using and a pair of army gloves that had leather shells over wool mittens. Since I was already in the area, I also hit up the Mystery Train store on Newbury Street to see of they had any interesting used tapes in stock.

In addition to records and tapes, the place also sold used and remaindered promo posters. I pointed at one for the Go-Go’s greatest hits album, but the self-consciously hip clerk wouldn’t have any of that.

“No, you don’t want one of them now. You want them in their prime,” he said as he pulled a copy of this from under the counter…

Sorry for the microscopic image size, it’s the best one google image search came back with.

A couple of the corners were frayed and there was some fossilized blu tac along the bottom edge, so he knocked fifty cents off the three-buck asking price. I bought it along with cassette copies of Bedtime for Democracy and Let’s Start a War for just under ten dollars total.

As elated as I was to be flush with cash and new acquisitions, my journey back to Woburn was accompanied by the sense that something horrible was going on — scratchy throat progressing to aching joints progressing to a high fever. I was unable to arrange a ride home from Mishawum Station, so I had to stagger the last mile home under my own failing power and assault by bouts of delirium.

Upon arriving at my grandma’s house, I stayed awake long enough to take my temperature (104 degrees, still a personal record) and to tack up the poster on the my closet door, where it stayed until I moved out. It’s presently rolled up in a tube, awaiting the day I get around to having it professionally framed and hung in a place of honor.

My rediscovery of the Go-Go’s was the first exhibition of my willingness to suspend punk puritanism in favor of childhood nostalgia and pure pop thrills. The poster is a reminder of a mindset which would come to dominate my record-buying habits.

Fun Fact: The Go-Go’s were (along with ’80s mecha-centric anime) one of the common interests that brought me together with my future wife (a devoted fan of the band since her junior high days). I first learned her name when she left an envelope full of old punk and new wave buttons for me on the Sci-Fi club bulletin board. The Go-Go’s one still occupies a prominent place on the lapel of my old punk jacket.

So, yes, in a roundabout way, Chris Elliott is partially responsible for me finding my partner of twenty-three years.

Related posts:

  1. Every Record Tells a Story #37: What we think of you
  2. Every Record Tells a Story #16: Made to last
  3. Every Record Tells a Story #12: Bleached sale

2 Responses to “Every Record Tells a Story #10: A thing of beauty”

  1. Zeno

    The fellow at Mystery Train had a point. I bought a copy of this on impulse back in 1988 and was surprised how much bitterly enjoyable the tone of some of the tracks was in stark contrast to the band’s generally perceived lighter, more commercial, image.

    On that same shopping excursion I had also bought a just-released copy of R.E.M’s “Green”, which I found somewhat disappointing in contrast. Looking at the two tapes side-by-side, I noticed that R.E.M.’s newest effort was on the Warner label, as opposed to their former home with IRS, which also happened to be the Go-Gos’ label, and I wondered if that switch had something to do with my fomenting impression that R.E.M. had somehow sold out. Yes it was flimsy logic to say that “IRS = what the cool kids listen to”, but I didn’t have much other information to go on back then (to frame my context more clearly, I bought these tapes inside of a military PX). On the other hand, it did help raise my level of esteem for the Go-Gos.

  2. Viru

    Great album and great series. That show was very popular in Spain, and I meet two of my best friends via ‘Get a life’ fandom :) We owe a lot to Elliot

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