Saturday, May 12, 2012
The Time I Ruined My Brother's Mixtape
Back in the early 1980s, long before IPODS and file sharing and 99 cent downloads - back when Michael Jackson's single white glove and moonwalk were all the rage amongst the posses of small town elementary school kids circling recess playgrounds and singing "Billie Jean is NOT my lovebird"...back then we made radio mix tapes. For those of you younger than 35, a radio mix tape was a collection of favorite songs carefully recorded during marathon radio listening sessions. Creating these mix tapes was a practice in patience as it often required enduring hours annoying DJ banter and uninspiring tunage for the moment when a favorite song was finally cued...which almost always coincided with the moment you'd walked across the room for some unknown reason. With the quick awkward grace of childhood, you'd leap across the room to hit record and hopefully catch most of the song's beginning. Sometimes, an unfortunately timed trip to the bathroom would cause you to miss a favorite song and you would be forced to repeat the process over. Because of the great effort required, when a favorite song was finally captured, you felt a sense of real accomplishment and joy. FINALLY!!!! You had it! 99 Luft Ballons! Or whatever.
Around this time, The Police's "Roxanne" was a big hit. My brother loved this song. I hated it. I thought Sting's voice sounded like a yelping primate's. Moreover my ears were not yet sophisticated enough to appreciate the then unfamiliar reggae/tango rhythms.
"Roxanne" was one of those songs my brother worked hard to capture on his mix tape; once he had, he played it CONSTANTLY. Every time I heard it booming from his room, the hair on the back of my neck would pucker with anxiety and the muscles of my face would tense as if chalk was screeching across a chalkboard. And I wanted to kill Sting.
One afternoon when my brother was gone, I trotted into his room to borrow his ghettoblaster so I could listen to tapes. I had no pre-meditated plan or ill intention. But when I pushed play, there it was - "Roxanne." AHHHH!!! The hair on the back of my neck! The autonomic facial reaction. My hatred was primal. And I cannot be held responsible for my actions that followed.
A convenience of cassette tapes was that they could be recorded over multiple times as long as the tabs on the end hadn't been removed. If after a period of time you decided you hated a song you once loved, you simply recorded a new song over the previous song - and erased all record of ever having liked the first song. Also, if you had a microphone, you could record yourself onto a cassette. I was quite familiar with how this worked because my friends and I were in the habit of making pretend radio interview cassettes.
Before my raging hatred for "Roxanne" could send me into convulsions, I plugged a microphone it to my brother's ghettoblaster, found a spot right in the middle of the song, hit record, and proceeded to sing "Raaahhhhhhhxanne" in my own horrific nails on a chalkboard child-voice. Afterwards, I listened back. Finally. The song was listenable. I snickered at my comic genius and then left it for my unsuspecting brother to find.
Later that afternoon, I was in my room reading, when I heard the beginning of "Roxanne." I felt a tinge of fear. Right in the middle of the chorus, there it was - my improvisation. The stop button was aggressively pushed, his bedroom door was thrown open and an angry "MOOOOOMMMMMM!" echoed down the hallway. Quickly, I locked my bedroom door to protect myself from my brother's early adolescent fury.
My mom didn't hear my brother's shout. She may have been outside in the garden or at the market. Unable to elicit the help of a parent to resolve this matter, my brother came for my door. When he found it locked, he took his anger out on the only thing of mine that was within reach - a Garfield door tag that said "Do Not Disturb." He ripped it off my door and tore it into tiny bits. I loved that doortag. What a bummer!
Today is my brother's 42nd birthday; and this morning I was teaching myself to play "Synchronicity II" by The Police. My aural palate has grown more sophisticated and I can now appreciate Sting for the musical genius he is. But I still hate "Roxanne."
Happy Birthday Matt.
You're Bratty Sister