Saturday, August 23, 2008

I went record shopping today, and among the things I picked up was a copy of the Wounded Bird reissue of Marshall Crenshaw's Field Day, his second album, from 1983. I bought a used copy when I was 15--this, and The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, at Oarfolkjokeopus (now Treehouse Records) on 26th and Lyndale--maybe the greatest day of record-buying I've ever had. I don't think I've played Field Day in a decade, and listening to it made me a little uneasy the first couple songs--which isn't to say it doesn't sound really good on this hot August afternoon. But it's an oddly melancholy experience to hear it again as an adult, which is probably as it should be, as much for the songs and tone of the thing as for whatever memories I bring to it.

I bring a lot of memories to it: Field Day was my favorite record in high school. I don't know how capable I am of loving any album the way I did back then, and it's funny to hear now in some ways. Back when I gorged most heavily on it, Field Day fit right into my burgeoning poptimist-consciousness: chewy '50s-rock hooks, huge overproduction that exactly emulated any number of ridiculous teenage longings I was experiencing, words that looked stupid on the lyric sheet and within a couple plays hit me really hard and stayed that way for a long time. I made a 110-minute cassette that was this album three times in a row for bus trips, so I wouldn't have to rewind it. In my mind it's inextricable from getting into Keith Haring and reading old Village Voices on microfilm at the downtown library, going to my first raves and buying the first three Speed Limit 140 BPM Plus comps. I imagine I'm the only person alive who feels this way about the album, but it made sense at the time. It still does when you consider that Crenshaw was writing about hearing Michael Jackson on the radio and going to see DJs in clubs. His old-fashioned pop-rock had loads of room in it for the new. Looking back, that's what I wanted for myself too.

I didn't talk about this record a lot at the time: maybe I was afraid I'd get made fun of for liking it so much, which is odd considering that I didn't generally care what people thought of my tastes even then. Or maybe I just wanted it to be my little secret. Field Day, even for a teenager, is a profoundly dorky album: Crenshaw's hooks and vocals are whiny and his '50s-isms were, in the early '90s, the furthest thing from cool imaginable. By the time I dove into early rock and roll for real, right after high school (I'd already dug into Elvis's Sun sessions but it took purchasing The Doo-Wop Box in 1994 to fully break the dam), my longstanding fling with Field Day was long over. Consciously or not, I left the album in high school, and for me it'll always be a marker for that. Do I love it still? Of course. It's just that the love is inevitably tinged with nostalgia. For an album of songs that are tinged the exact same way, that seems just about right.