10 Jun 2013
This weekend there was a return to the good times. The anticipation. The radios blaring all over the suburbs. A return to old times, when radio was a lifeline for lovers of music. A return to a time when waiting and anticipation was all part of the game. No instant anything. No internet, no SMS voting, no Spotify. Just vinyl and tapes. And the radio.
Twenty years of the JJJ Hottest 100. The music of the past twenty years – songs released between 1 January, 1993 and 31 December, 2012. The Hottest 100 poll, which started on JJJ in 1989, has changed a bit. The first time I was able to listen to the countdown was the first year I was in Sydney as an adult, 1991. The next year’s broadcast on Australia Day 1992, I was ready. And I made these.
I have carried them around for twenty one years. Through at least eight moves. That is now more than half my life. The top 15 songs contain 8 of my favourite songs of all time. I don’t have anything to play these tapes on any more. All the tape decks, all the walkmans, none of them are here any more. Lost over the years and broken and abandoned as CDs and then digital everything took over.
Now I wouldn’t need to laboriously record the music and then transcribe the playlists in minute writing, in four different colours. I’d just log on. I know there are golden moments on those tapes. The back announcing of songs, the sleepy (ok, drug addled) voices of artists doing interviews down the phone from the other side of the world. Those fleeting, ephemeral moments are trapped forever on magnetic tapes. Probably now unplayable.
The nostalgia created by the Hottest 100 this weekend lead me to reflect on all the lucky escapes I have had.
The missed opportunities, the chances not taken, the decisions which closed off a certain path. In 1992 I did not transfer into Arts/Law. Nor did I do well enough in first year uni to swap into Mass Comm – then as now, hard to get into and desirable. (I blame History 101 for that – a bastard C grade for that course wrecked that chance.) I didn’t stay in Potts Point. I didn’t do a lot of things. I did decided that I would study philosophy. I did only the minimum of other subjects that year. That set a path which turned into a doctorate, moving to Canberra the first time and a missed opportunity to marry someone with three passports and thanks to his baggage handler father, 10% fares on Qantas forever.
The ten years of songs, 1992 to 2002, reflect thousands of these moments. Heartache, young romance, parties, tragedies, mistakes. This year’s Hottest 100 countdown, is the soundtrack to every decision good and bad I have made for half my life. It is the musical accompaniment to all my joys and fears. All the sorrow and excitements.
The ten years after that from Are You Going Be My Girl to Spectrum (Say My Name) were among the most tumultuous of my whole life. They produced a PhD, another move, new jobs, a man and a baby. Massive changes.
When in the early days it was so difficult to record, archive, save and catalogue, now it is so simple. It’s fast but some of the fun has gone. It took me two minutes to mine the archive for the lists from the past 20 years and beyond to 1991. In 1992 it took me days to finish those tapes and I had to wait until Drum Media published the full list of the tracks as I didn’t know all the song titles and artists. Some of them I had heard for the first time, that Australia Day 1992. These track lists are now filed on Triple J’s website under archive – history. I have a special home in mind for those tapes. They really ought to be displayed as the cultural artifacts they are. They deserve a special place.
Only one question remains? What’s my favourite song from the 1991 list?
That was too hard. So I made a list. It’s here on Spotify – with the cool kids.
And here is the list with one of the most disappointing No 1 tracks ever
Thanks for the memories Triple J and here’s to paths not taken.