Thursday, March 24, 2016

Kim's Challenge: Her Topic

A few weeks back. one of my coworkers and I were discussing writing.  The fruits of this discussion were a challenge- I would provide a topic, and she would write about it on her blog.  And she would provide one for me.  As it was, she had me write on the same topic she did.
Her piece is HERE.  My piece is HERE.

The other day, she gave me a new topic.  

"Discuss the one book/cd/movie/etc that changed your life."

Now, I'd already covered this topic last August.  Book wise anyway.  So I decided to discuss an album.  She has already completed her piece, but, as I had a couple of pieces to finish first, I'm getting to this now.

Read her thoughts on the topic HERE.

And yes, Kim, it's part of my sneaky plan.  My subversive agenda.

Anyway.  Cast your mind back a few decades.  The Sizzling Summer of 1983.  I was 16, and was working at Burger King.  I had stopped dressing and purged all the girl clothes I bought.  I'd fallen into a deep depression, suicidal, and was angry at the world.  I also was dealing with my first real unrequited crush.  

By then, MTV had swept the US in new forms of music.  It was the summer of the Police Synchronicity.  Eurythmics, and Footloose.  Loverboy, Flashdance, and the Tubes.  Men at Work and INXS.

Now, the year before, I answered an ad for Columbia House where you got like twelve cassettes for a penny if you joined their club.  I remember I got Jackson Brown's Lawyers in Love, Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, Nazareth 2XS... and Pete Townshend's  All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes.

So, my source of music at that time was a "boom box" I bought at Sears.  It was small, but could get loud (this was before Walkman became the craze.)

Back to the summer of 1983.  By then, I'd become obsessed by Music.  (I'm STILL obsessed by 80s music!)  But the album I kept returning to, and quickly memorized was All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes.

Pete Townshend is the writer/lead guitar player for the Who.  (I wrote about my love for this group HERE.)  But I, um, didn't realize that when I bought the album.  Hey- I was a kid!

He actually had more sales success with his solo albums then with the Who.  However, this album was an arty, experimental piece featuring a lot of synth and spoken word.  It had a couple of singles:  Face Dances (Part II) and Slit Skirts.  Pete wrote the album while getting clean from alcohol and trying to deal with his crumbling marriage.    It's funny- for many Pete fans, myself included, this is their favorite of his solo works.

But it also spoke directly to my soul, at a time when I really needed it.  I was in the worst psychological pain of my short life, and I didn't understand it.

The first song, Stop Hurting People, contained the lines

So you, without question, know your first love is your last
and you will never, you never, never will, never love again.

And the way he said it was so very sarcastic, so... "get over yourself" that it cut deep,

And so it went on.  Almost every song spoke to who I was, and who I wanted to be.  The Sea Refuses no River, after all.

The final song on the record is Slit Skirts.  It contains the line that was and still is my motto:

"No one respects the flame quite like the fool who's badly burned."

I listened to the tape so much that it eventually went bad, and I had to replace it.  The first CD I ever bought was All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes.  And I bought it before I had a CD player!

Why?  This album literally saved my life.  Pete's words, at times haranguing, at other times encouraging, told me that everything would be all right if I could just hold on.  And so I held on, and hoped... and waited.

I have completely memorized this album.  Is it my favorite record of all time?  No, that would still be Quadrophenia.  Pete wrote that one as well.  But that's not the topic, is it?

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes isn't for everybody.  As I said before: it's arty, and not like anything else from the time.  None of my friends in 1983 liked it.  But that's ok.

Sometimes, we need something just for ourselves.


  1. Great post. There are several songs that I credit with saving my life . . .

    1. Perhaps you could share them in a post in your amazing blog? Y'know, the one that influenced me to start mine?