I Be An Retarded (a post about musical tastes)
It's not that my group of friends don't try to fit into the quote-unquote real world. But how can we join the rest of civilisation in, oh I don't know, a book club or something when the only books we've ever read are by ex-SAS guys who recount their experiences in the Gulf War? Would you want to spend time with us discussing the works of Milan Kundera whilst listening to Mahler? I didn't think so. We, the unwashed masses, drink in horrible places and strike up conversations with guys called Mungo so you folk can talk about Vikram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy' over a bottle of red.
St.Jerome's is an ideal place for the likes of us. Located down Caledonian Lane, truly one of the worst smelling dank alleys your nose have ever been assaulted by, it remains a great meeting place (since it shuts at midnight) for small groups of alcoholics in Melbourne. Although these days suits crawl through the venue on Fridays and Sundays the rest of the week remains relatively unscathed. There's only six types of beer to choose from, no variety in spirits and you may have to use a milk crate for seating. Its a perfect place to yell insults at your friends, especially if they don't share the same music tastes as you do.
'How could you like Sigue Sigue Sputnik's Love Missile F1-11?'
'How could you not?'
'Let's not even get into your obsession with A-Ha.'
'No. Let's. Let's do it. Let's discuss my obsession with A-Ha. Right here and right now ya crude prick!'
(Brief Interlude as Just What I Needed by the Cars plays in the background)
'...as I was saying...'
'Oh shit. We cannot still be discussing this.'
Musical tastes are a weird one. What makes one person fond of the London Symphony Orchestra and Pink but abhor hip hop? Why will one person sing I Left My Sperm In a Fag Named Cisco quite happily but not a Ramones tune? It can divide friendships and send husbands to sleep on couches if the wrong things are said too often. And most of it is out of our control, so deeply encoded in our DNA are these feelings, entangled with the genetic code that makes some of us left-handed or trombone players or even left-handed trombone players. It's just a part of us. Because of what was playing on the radio when we were young.
The past comes crashing into my consciousness like burly firemen breaking through a wall. Suddenly its the '80s again. Wrinkly old leather-faced Regan rules the Americas. That bold guy with the ink-splotched head is the Russian head honcho. The Berlin Wall is still up. Happy pants are in. "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun." was a global anthem. Max Headroom told us to buy Coke.
I am going through puberty again. My voice is like a musical instrument suddenly out of tune. There's a taller, hairier version of me struggling to escape the confines of my skin. Masturbating is still a new hobby. I am feigning learning difficulties for cheap laughs. I am an attention-deprived kid. A kid who pretends he's feigning learning difficulties in order to avoid being persecuted for being an idiot. The radio plays Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Morris Minor and the Majors, De La Soul, Queen, Bon Jovi. Years later, when we are adults who buy albums (or, let's face it, assholes who download music) we find ourselves gravitating towards some artists who others find repulsive. Somewhere deep within we are still the same little villains who wish violence upon our teachers who gave us bad marks because of our learning difficulties. And we listen to crap.
In the present day, in St.Jerome's, the musical debate continues between Nik and Chris (my Russian travelling companions), Mark, Russ, Cole and myself. 'Have the Rolling Stones killed,' I say to Nik, 'Seriously.'
'Take that back!' says He of the Bulging Belly.
'They were great. They aren't anymore. I'm kind of disappointed they didn't die a fiery death in a horrific plane crash.'
'Yeah but Keef. Keef is cool. He snorted the group-up remains of his own father with some coke. That's Rock'n'Roll!' insists Nik making the 'devil sign' with his hands.
We come to a compromise.
'You're a dickhead.'
Just then a miracle happens. A song that unites the two factions. Is it? It couldn't be. It is!
'S-Express!' we all squeal in delight. Life is good again. Nik gives me a thumbs up- all is forgiven. I lean over and rub his belly for luck.