If you’re anything like me, first let me say that I’m terribly sorry. But it also means you spend lots of time listening to your iPod. And, if like me, you take a hard look at your wildly-diverse playlist, it sometimes looks like it was programmed by 9 different people. All with Multiple Personality Disorder. One minute, you’re listening to Hallelujah, with Leonard Cohen sounding like a moose dying up in Canada. The next you’re yelling along with Dr. Dre, who’s raving about “Living in correctional facilities.” And the people on your bus all decide to get off at the next stop. Some through the window. My point? For some of us, there comes a moment when eclectic taste stops seeming cool and betrays too many characters, all inside you. You think, ‘I’m not a music lover. I’m… Sybil!’
This epiphany struck while listening last week. Eminem bleated about his terrible mom, which segued into Jackson Browne crooning about the Apocalypse, and I freaked. ‘It will not be long,’ I figured, ‘before I’m on anti-psychotic meds and living in a group home.’ It was the kind of horrible epiphany you don’t want to have. Like realizing, ‘I can’t listen to Beyonce anymore. Since I found out she sang for Muammar Gaddafi.’
It’s possible this craziness existed years ago. I remember, as a kid, buying The Sex Pistols and Shaun Cassidy albums on the same day. And thinking they both totally rocked. My second thought? This didn’t indicate wide-ranging tastes. But insanity. Soon, I’d call myself God, gather a cult and be splashing pig’s blood on somebody’s kitchen walls. The following week? I bought Heart of Glass, by Blondie, and Exile’s I Wanna Kiss You All Over. A song about sex so moronic, it made Afternoon Delight sound like it’d been written by Masters and Johnson. I got the records home and found myself nauseous. Although, in all fairness, that Exile song made many people feel that way. Which is why it was sold with Dramamine.
Still, seeing these very-different discs next to each other didn’t upset me that much. Okay, so I liked The Clash and Leif Garrett. There weren’t laws against this. At least until Newt Gingrich came into power. But it was disturbing. Years went by, I got my iPod and my paranoia became so intense, I could’ve joined the Branch Davidians.
I’d be on a train, listening. First came the soothing voice of Davy Jones, singing Girl. Next, Dead Homiez, by Ice Cube, followed by The New York Dolls, The Spinners, Morrissey. I hyperventilated so hard, a woman gave me a paper bag to breathe into. I was so desperate, she even dumped her lunch out of it first.
Somehow, I made it home. But for days this catshit-crazy taste of mine made me sit in a dark room, quietly, for days. Listening to nothing but The Byrds.
A few weeks later, I had a good epiphany. As Public Enemy segued into Nick Drake, it hit me: I wasn’t quite ready for thorazine yet. Because the unifying principle here was….soul. And honesty. From Shaun singing, Hey Deanie to a rapper talking about shooting you with his Nine. It was all the work of somebody who meant it. And that allowed me to finally relax.
So, if you’re sitting next to me someday and one second I’m all, “187 to an undercover cop,” and the next, singing, “Waterloo sunset’s fine,” don’t move away. I may be crazy. But not dangerous. And these days? That’s one very important distinction to make.