Saturday, November 21, 2009

Life in the Hat

Thank you for wonderful messages of support and I promise I won't HTFU too much. I always feel a bit embarrassed after I grizzle on-line. I want to start licking my paws furiously like a cat. But I refuse to delete posts unless they're hurtful because this is as much about me remembering my life as it is sharing it with others.

More gloom: our DVD player is sick. Might be the heat, might be the excessive wurtiness pervading the house.

So we can't indulge in our favorite comfort videos, we're reliant on the tv, which (to stop whinging) really isn't so bad anymore since there's all those kooky free digital channels like GO and VH1 and Turner Classic Movies etc.

Luckily/wisely we bought an extended warranty for the player, but it's going to take up to 5 working days to find out if it gets fixed (which would be another long process) or replaced (huzzar).

Luckily, some of the crap I've been slowly sifting outwards includes our old DVD player that probably still works... we will find out tonight when I try to reconfigure all the wiring. Hopefully I've also still got the manual. We only replaced it because we wanted to be able to record shows and convert videos, etc, so we bought a DVD/VCR combo. Which, 15 months later, is cranky and playing up. I HATE built-in obsolescence. Colonel & Lady Duck used the same video player for 20 years before they went all crazy and bought DVD players and set-top boxes for every room in their house.


I feel I should explain the presence of Ultravox in the car the other day. It's all part of Bumblebee's musical education and trying to rip him away from endless Michael Jackson rotation.

He's found, as I mentioned earlier, all my 80s vinyl, which is really only EARLY 80s vinyl, from 1981 to about 1984. After that I got heavily into cassettes, and we all know how well they survive over 20 years. So I have a big gap in my music collection until I started buying CDs -- and I'm always a late starter -- in the mid-90s. And then in the late 90s, I was too busy sorting out dysfunctional relationships and having a complicated baby to pay much attention to contemporary music, so there's a big gap in my head from about 1994 to around 2002, when I started back at the art school and reconnected with what everyone else around me was listening to. During that gap time I'd been listening disconnectedly to blues, jazz, swing, old standards, and my totally uncool record collection.

Anyhoo, so Bumblebee was grinding our ears with endless loops of 'Footloose' and 'Fame' and 'I love Rock & Roll' (so do I, but not incessantly), and then suddenly a song like Depeche Mode's 'I just can't get enough' would emerge from the mix. And seem really out of place.

One morning I was lying in bed half-listening to his music choices and realised that most of the music I loved from the early-to-mid 80s was the music I wasn't exposed to at the time -- being stuck in country towns with cheesy radio stations -- but the music I'd danced to as a young uni student in my favorite Canberra nightspot: The Manhattan.

AAAHHHH! I heard certain of you gasp in adoring nostalgia.

The Hat, as it was affectionately called, was a cramped long thin swell of a space above the recently-dead Woodstock Pizza restaurant in Civic, in the walkway between Petrie Plaza and Garema Place. It was the polar opposite of all the other mainstream clubs, yet wasn't a particularly threatening environment. It was stuffed full of goths, druggies, new romantics, students, gays, everything that was fabulous about the 80s. They played The Cure, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Ultravox... and much much more... (you know the stuff) and you could dance on the low floor or the raised floor (if you were feeling brave or at least full of bravado).

The Hat exposed me to low-mood music that was grittier than listening to the Carpenters in my bedroom. It was a revelation, and while I didn't take on much the outward trappings (apart from -- for a while -- my beloved shoe-string tie held together by a deep red glass 'jewel' pushed up to the collar of my crisp white shirt, plus lots of hair gel and eyeliner), I definitely kept a big space in my heart for the Hat and its culture. It's funny, I wear more black these days than I ever did then.

I haven't thought about The Hat for AGES, and a combination of feeling low and B playing that particular DM song made me leap onto iTunes and put together the first in what I hope will be a series of Hat Mixes. The first, my instant gut reaction, has:

Love Action (The Human League)
Temptation (Heaven 17)
Enola Gay (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)
Chant No 1 (Spandau Ballet)
Fade to Grey (Visage)
Vienna (Ultravox)
Too Shy (Kajagoogoo)
Just Can't Get Enough (Depeche Mode)
The Model (Kraftwerk)
Living on the Ceiling (Blancmange)
Planet Earth (Duran Duran)

That last one is the only Duran Duran song ever worth listening to, IMHO.

When I played it for B, he liked it to a certain extent (it'll grow on him as he gets sookier in adolescence, but for now he's a real Light Pop boy), but I was surprised at how immediate and vivid were my memories of The Hat as a space and some of the interactions I'd had there. It was amazing.

I'm working on another Hat mix, this time taking the time to go through my CD collection to add to the iTunes purchases. New Order (initially typed New Idea, heh), The Cure, Brian Eno, The Cult, Pet Shop Boys, Bronski Beat... any other suggestions? And do feel free to reminisce about The Hat here, please.

It's a great lightweight and non-urgent project to distract me from but also sweetly enhance the inner gloom while it lasts. I'm trying to move Bumblebee through the 80s he's loving at the moment into the 90s so that we can both explore what I missed out on. And periodically he gets caught by something on the radio, which is also great.

When I'm not around him (i.e., during the day at Studio Duck, where I can play what I want, when I want and as loud as I want as long as my studio neighbour likes it), I've been playing CW Stoneking (I've got both albums and crave a third) and Robert Johnson on high rotation.

They're a bluesy cure for the 80s, fo'shure. And my studio neighbour does like them.


Penthe said...

Yes. I never felt I was cool enough in the 1980s to listen to cool 80s music. So I had quite some catching up to do in the 1990s by which time new wave was old wave to nearly everyone but me. I didn't feel any cooler by then, I was just less uptight about it.

And what is it about having babies that makes a person need to listen to lot of jazz?

Anonymous said...

I believe I am corect in saying that between 1994 and 2002 ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED except Britpop, and let's face it you're well out of that. I would skip the whole era and go straight to Americana.

I don't thin k there could be anything grittier than listening to the Carpenters in your bedroom, could there? I was never game to try......

Zarquon said...

I don't have any reminiscences about the Hat, because I'm not from Canberra. But this video by Architecture In Helsinki always makes me cheer up.

librarygirl said...

I have that same gap ( babies in 1994 and 1997) but I don't think I've ever caught up again. I have a cassette(!) mix tape in my car (called imaginatively Boy's Mix) with at least 4 of those songs on it. Also on it - Love cats, Tainted love - Marc Almond, B52s Planet Claire and Private Idaho.Big Pig singing something Hungry town? And best of all Tom Tom Club - Genius of love and L'Elephant. I also have a girls' mix tape and am far too embarrassed to say what's on THAT.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

I must have tough cassettes, I still listen to mixes my parents made in the mid 70s, and that I made in the late 70s and early 80s. I was such an early compiler ;-)

I LOVED Chant and Temptation - perfect perfect perfect. Heaven 17 were almost ignored out here weren't they? and the beginning of Love Action still makes me go all thing.

Living on the Ceiling is the OMD for me... but please, please, take out Kajagoogoo, unless it's meant to be ironic?

* Banshees
* Furs
* Jam or the less wet bits of Style Council (for whom I still have a secret fondness)
* Communards!
* Dexy's
* Clash
* Police
* Eurythmics
* Triffids
* Devo
* Cocteau Twins
* Stranglers
* P.i.L
* B.A.D
* Pretenders
* Blondie

I don't have half the stuff I'd love to have on any format.

doorbitch: domavism. not a bad band name!

Mummy/Crit said...

Oh, the Hat! I think I only ever went there once- I was never a nightclub goer, but friends used to rave about it, and sneak in underage. There really wasn't much happening in music around then. The radio offerings were pretty dire. XX was the only alternative and every time I tried to listen they were broadcasting in Estonian or something equally obscure.