Friday, March 4, 2011

Synapse to the Beat: Loverboy's "Turn Me Loose"

So I'm about to confess something to you, something a bit strange and geeky, something that has next to nothing to do with Canadian poodle-rockers Loverboy and their ridiculous guitar-and-synth screeching epic. So sorry Mike Reno fans.

I have a feeling that it started with my father. With his collection of 45s going back to his own 'glory days' in the 1960s, back when he was probably a teenager sitting alone in his bedroom listening to the Beatles or the Ronettes or whever else. He seemed to have bought a lot of singles in the 1960s and seemed to have had pretty good taste in music.

By 1981, he wasn't buying music so voraciously, but those 45s were still kicking around. A lot of them he had kept in little boxes, the kind of boxes that Smashing Pumpkins would emulate one day for their singles collection whose name I can't be bothered to Wikipedia right now. They were messy, and it was tough to find certain songs. He, I guess, or my mother, or at least somebody got the idea to bring order to this mess, and so he started his own system, which involved sticking a numbered label on each single and drawing up an 'index' on card stock with a typewriter.

It was a pretty mammoth project.

Loverboy released 'Turn Me Loose' in 1981. That might not seem relevant now, but it will be soon. So this means that I was likely to have been five years old when my father was doing this. What's strange is that I took an interest in his project, worked (somehow) with him on it, and still have memories of it. No Smurfs for me, what got this five-year-old excited was a typewritten database of 1960s records.

The end result was that I developed a fascination not only for music but for the compilation of songs into lists. Years before the 'High Fidelity' era vogue of music lists, years before iPod playlists, before even the existence of MTV, I had developed a fascination that has stuck with me througout my life.

It must have been my instigation. It must have been my good-natured father merely following his geekish son's lead, but there was a stretch of time when the CHUM Chart, that particular legacy of music history on Toronto, held my interest. It was a weekly run-down of the top thirty songs on the Toronto radio station CHUM-AM, and it was published in the Saturday edition of whichever Toronto newspaper my grandparents subscribed to. Not only did I follow the chart every week, getting pleasure from watching the rises and falls of certain songs among their ranks, but for some reason I insisted on having my father retype the list. It's comical thinking about it now, but after watching my father produce his master list of 45s, I guess that's what I thought one did with a typewriter, and I guess it didn't seem like that strange an idea to me at the time.

My father might have had the same interest in music lists, or he might just have been a very indulgent father. For whatever reason, he would do it for me, or rather we'd do it together. A certain week that Loverboy's 'Turn Me Loose' was on the list, he managed two typos in one: typing the song as 'Torn Me Loose' and the artist as 'Leverboy'. He found this hysterically funny, and has referenced it over and over again in the intervening 30 years. To be honest, I'm not even sure if he knows why he uses an exaggeratedly mispronounced 'Torn me loose' as a punchline every now and then. But he does.

From those simple origins come a lifelong interest in what songs look like compiled in lists. A few years after that, in 1984 if I recall correctly, I got a rather expensive book by Joel Whitburn listing all the songs ever to charted in the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 since its inception. I thumbed through that book, and a Rolling Stone Album Guide as well, so many times that the binding was hopelessly split and most of the pages now lie loose. But I still have the book, and I must confess I still leaf through it from time to time. Habitually ever since, I've done things like compile my own lists or countdowns, programme imaginary compilations or even make up tracklists for imaginary albums released by imaginary bands. It's more than a little ridiculous, I acknowledge, but it's something I've always had. Apparently Jack Kerouac, all throughout his life and even once he'd become the poster boy for 'cool', kept an imaginary baseball league, with imaginary teams with imaginary star players, pencilling yearly statistics and even 'press releases' about one imaginary team or another. And never showed anyone in his whole life (this was all found after his death) - probably because he knew it was an incredibly geeky thing to do. It is geeky, if no doubt endearing. I could care about baseball, but music is my thing.

This being my blog, I've decided I'm going to include some of this kind of stuff. I've already posted a few imaginary compilation tracklists and some other music lists, but I'm going to carry on, unworried by how geeky it truly is. After all, if a grown man of 35 making imaginary CD compilations and whatnot strikes you as a bit, well, arrested-development... blame my father.

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