It all started with a mistake. A fuck up, if you will. The wrong confiscated Walkman in 1986. Eighth grade. I was in Drama class, but not the kind held in an auditorium. This was held in a classroom. Big surprise that didn’t work out. The teacher would go on and on about Commedia dell’arte and Mummenschanz as if we knew exactly what she was talking about.
The teacher had no control of the class. I can feel sorry for her now being a teacher myself, but she didn’t bother explaining so much of what she was passionate about. She just droned on and on. And this was before school reform. When yelling and screaming was an actual classroom management technique.
I was bored. I liked the Commedia dell’arte I did, I even kind of liked the Mummenschanz, if I didn’t quite get what she was talking about. I had this Walkman, this silver Walkman, it was a knock off of a Walkman, an off brand Walkman. It was silver, It had headphones. I loved headphones, I broke them in half, so I could listen to just one on my palm. So she’d be droning on an on about Kibuki or whatever and I’d be listening to the cassette Genesis, Genesis, the one with Home By the Sea on it, and Mama.
And I was listening to it, probably way too loud, because she snuck up on me all stealth like, was impressed how she was able to do that without my noticing it, but then I’ve always been a bit of a space cadet, still am in fact.
She snuck up and grabbed the one separated headphone, somehow slipped it from between my two fingers. And when she pulled the one headphone up out of my hand, that action pulled the other one up out of my backpack and the off brand walkman with it.
I was still locked into the Genesis rhythm section, still into Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford land. Yeah I still know the line up. The other one is Phil Collins. That’s not to difficult is it?
It was taken away. The Commedia dell’arte character looked up at me from my book, his long nose told me how I’d fucked up.
“Your parents can pick it up and the end of the day.” She said. Her name was Mrs. Beall.
Took me a few days to tell my parents. If I told my parents. I got it back months later. At least I thought I did, for about five nano seconds. I was a geek for music, always was, always will be.
The Walkman, my off brand walkman, didn’t quite look the same. I tried to tell whoever I got it back from, some secretary who felt bad for me, I don’t quite remember. It’s not important. What’s important is a few nights later I pulled out the not quite mine off brand Walkman. Hit the eject button on the silver housing. Up came the shaded cover, some series of triangles and descriptions boasting of stereo sound. And there was my tape.
Only it wasn’t my tape.
It was something about 10 hundred thousand times better. It was my first taste.
Only the cool kids listened to the Cure back then. 8th grade. The kids who listened to the cure recited Smiths lyrics all the time in the middle of class.
“If a double decker bus, crashes into us, to die by your side.” They’d sing over and over again. I thought it was cool. But I wasn’t so uncool as to ask where the lyrics came from. Their disapproval was all over their face. Their need of distance from all things Adam Strong. The faster the better.
I listened to this new tape, this Head on the Door. It took me some time to get into, the lyrics, the vocals, the howling, the dark synths. But it was great, it was poppy enough for me to fall into it’s spell. And fall into it I did.
By the end of high school I’d be wearing cure shirts, listening to their album Disintegration so much I’d felt like I’d gotten inside Robert Smith’s blood. It was a love affair that continues to this day, and it happened by accident, as a result of one pair of headphones snapped in half, one Commedia dell’arte obsessed Drama Teacher and one miss-placed copy of Head on the Door.