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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #44—Music

Music is something everyone likes, but if you asked one hundred people their opinions about music, you might get one hundred completely different answers--opinions as individual as those giving them. Music is quite personal. And yet, at the same time, universal. It brings us up. It brings us to tears. It brings us right back to specific moments in our lives, even if they were decades in the past.

As a child I liked music and took piano lessons (thanks, Mom and Dad!). But when I entered my teens music became my portal to the world of pop culture and everything important in life (!). I still remember the first songs I discovered as a pre-teen. In the late 1980s, I spent my babysitting money on cassette tapes, and eventually on cds. We had a record player, and you’d flip a switch depending on whether the record played at 45 rpm or 33 rpm. Every once in a while I’d play a 33 at 45 speed, thereby turning the tunes into Alvin and the Chipmunks high-pitched auctioneer-speed songs. Kids, remember: this was before the Internet. Our options for fun were different back then! I remember the very first vinyl record I bought as a young teen—Business as Usual, by Men at Work. I bought it used at my local library’s sale for $1. My pennywise ways stayed with me, even if it’s been a long time since my Men at Work days. (Yet, I still know most of the words if I hear the band’s song “Who Can it be Now” on the radio. Amazing, how lyrics stamp themselves into our brains…) And I still remember my first cassette tape: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I’d bet you remember your first album, too.

The idea for this week’s costume came to me a little over a year ago. I was sorting through stuff at my parents’ house and low and behold, I found the Men at Work album, a few dozen cassette tapes, and other records stashed away in my old bedroom closet (truly, a time capsule). An image popped into my head: using my old cassette tapes and records to make some kind of costume. The idea remained in the back of my mind, and today I am wearing music on my clothes—my twist on the concert tee shirts that were ubiquitous when I was a teen. (I don’t know if teens today identify themselves through their music the way we did when I was a teen. Before tattoos and social media became such popular forms of self-expression, your music collection was like your fingerprint: it was your identity.)

Even as a teen I thought it was a little silly that people debated musical taste. You can’t tell someone that their taste is wrong or bad—it’s not like a math problem with one correct answer. Taste is individual. But teenagers are an opinionated group and music brought out opinions.  Digital music is a good thing—no argument there—but I’m a little nostalgic for the days of vinyl records and cassette tapes, the days when you could hold an album in your hands…Putting this costume together piqued my curiosity about whether records are still made. They are! Sales of records account for only 1.4% of all music sales, but that number is projected to rise…

Today’s costume has plenty of history to it. Here’s what it includes: a dress I made last summer for a costume and repurposed; cds; a record I thrifted as a teen (and wore on a necklace!) because of its groovy, clear blue vinyl; cassette tapes from my past; permanent marker forming notes from “Moonlight Sonata” (part of which I can play on the piano, the same song my dad played on piano, and which his mom played, too); felt; pipe cleaners; embroidery thread and ribbon. I formed the vest by hand. In the 80s using your hands was a bigger part of playing music than it is today. You took music out of a case. You put a tape or record in a machine with your hands. My friend Jen remembered that if the magnetic tape came out of your cassette, you wound it back in using a pencil. Good times…
I hope this costume brings back some happy memories for my readers, most of whom grew up when I did: in the 80s and 90s. You remember mix tapes. You recall DJs lugging heavy creates of vinyl to parties. You owned a concert tee shirt or two. And for those of you who have come up during the age of digital music, that’s just fine, too. You might get a kick out of imagining teenagers schlepping around 12” vinyl records and tapes. Hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s costume and musical musings. Now, please excuse me--I’m going to go alphabetize my 45s…



  1. Cool idea! A best made of cassette tapes :-) This post reminds me of the music I used to like back in the mid- to late-80s, which include some goodies like The Police and Depeche Mode, as well as some doozies (Tiffany??! Ugh!)

  2. L, thanks. Yes, the 80s certainly had lots of great music and some we'd be happy to leave in the past. Although I must say, Tiffany did have quite a good voice...

  3. The cassette tapes are awesome

  4. Memory lane... Being the youngest, I could always get my older siblings to give a few dollars and I would head over to Tower Records and purchase some cassette tapes! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  5. A fun image...remember when going to a music store to flip through music was an activity? A destination?!

  6. I remember the 45's my sisters had bought back in the 60's, mostly, and how I would lip sinc to the Beach Boys, and to other great groups. The 33's were great, too. Listening to
    Andy Williams, orthe Limelighters, or to the Musical My Fair Lady, or to the original broadway recording of the Sound of Music, starring Mary Martin. You sat in front of your record player, on the ground, and were transported to another place, or time, or space, in your mind. And your mood would go with it- usually to a happy feeling. Thanks for reminding me, Freckle Face. Love, Aunt Eileenie

  7. Aunt Eileen--you've painted such a vivid picture. I love how you remember the details, like sitting in front of the record player. Great memories...