After A Fashion

Your Style Avatar hits the rewind button and is on a glitter-soaked loop

Classic turntables are hardly a thing of the past – Dub Academy (<b><a href=http://www.dubacademy.com/>www.dubacademy.com</a></b>) in Downtown Austin teaches all the old ways of DJ'ing, as well as the newfangled high tech.
Classic turntables are hardly a thing of the past – Dub Academy (www.dubacademy.com) in Downtown Austin teaches all the old ways of DJ'ing, as well as the newfangled high tech. (Photo by Seabrook Jones/www.juicythis.com)

THE SOUNDTRACK OF LIFE I've decided to let go of a box that I've carried around unopened for 20 years. It contains dozens of cassette tapes that are the soundtrack to every day of my life from about 1981 to 1991. Dance and New Wave music were deeply important to me throughout that time – so much so that I became a DJ. I made some of the tapes, but most of them were made by various DJs from Seattle during that period. It was the era of three-minute overlays of songs that were seven or 10 minutes long, and the mixes went on forever. Everything I learned about playing dance music I learned from listening to these tapes and watching the DJs who made them. One in particular, a now-deceased gentleman named Bjorn Kristiansson, was my mentor. He was a very dear friend who not only taught me everything that I knew, but also taught me everything that he knew. He's been gone 20 years too, and with his passing, I closed the book on my obsession with having the coolest, largest, and most diverse collection of 12-inch 45s in town. I sold everything to finance a dreamy trip to Hawaii. The twin Technics SL-1200 turntables went; my "beat book," in which I cataloged every song on every record and arranged it by tempo, was gone; and my desire to hear every new song was gone. But omigod we loved it when Dance Music Report came out – it was the DJ bible. There were reviews of all the songs that made us rush to our local independent record store and spend money we didn't have. In fact, when I was a teenager, long before I ever dreamed of being a DJ, I was hanging around the Pearl Street Warehouse and Friends & Lovers here in Austin, being enthralled with the DJ skills of Casey Jones. Casey wrote a column for Dance Music Report and was a national icon at that point. But I remember that one night at PSW, Casey and his friends showed up in onepiece bathing suits and high heels, and they proceeded to spread out blankets and umbrellas on the dance floor and apply suntan lotion to one another as if basking in a day at the beach. It was a truly inspired piece of disco theatre. But I digress. By the time Bjorn died, dance music was changing so rapidly anyway. It was no longer dominated by the British male New Wave vocals, and in fact, vocals seemed to be disappearing altogether. Something called rap and hip-hop was happening, along with house music, acid house, and tribal music. Where were the lush lyrics of 1983? Where were the stories of new love and good love and bad love and unrequited love? Where were the charmingly obtuse lyrics of the Psychedelic Furs? Where were the assembly line songs with the unrelenting beats from Bobby Orlando? Where were the spacey and spooky sounds by Cerrone? Where was "Rough Justice" by Bananarama? "To Sir With Love" by Vicki Sue Robinson? Nowhere. It was completely new territory to me, a scene that I didn't really want a part of. So it was with an astounding lack of sentimentality that I shut it out from my life. Concurrent to that was the arrival of CDs, which made vinyl fall out of favor. I didn't care about learning a new way of doing things. I had simply been so immersed in the dance music milieu and all its accoutrements (drugs, alcohol, sex, and more) that I was just burned out on caring that much about music. But I saved this box of cassette tapes for unknown reasons. Maybe because it held actual documentation of what I was doing at the time; maybe because each song took me to a specific place and time, remembering whom I was with, what club we were at, what we were wearing. But I'll never play those tapes again. I don't even have a cassette player, and though I used to want to transfer all the music to CD, I suspect the quality of the tapes has degenerated over time. So what? Someone will want this treasure trove of relics from a distant era – just not me.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin style, club, cassette, Casey Jones, Dance Music Report, Bjorn Kristiansson, disco, dance, New Wave, drugs alcohol sex

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