The Vinyl 100 continues on this Memorial Day Monday with album #97 Agent Orange – When You Least Expect It.
Most people remember their firsts.. Like, their first car (mine was a 1992 Buick Regal), their first love (I am actually unsure about that), first job (mine was a glorified office part time job while attending college), first pet (mine was a cool dog I named Bruce after Bruce Lee), etc, etc, etc.
I also remember the first “used” record I purchased. I do want to point out that I probably (most likely) touched upon this in an earlier posting in my blog, but I will expand upon it. Also, when I decided to begin this project of writing about 100 records selected from my collection, and what they mean to me, I began to realize what an undertaking it would be in the sense of mental time traveling and reflecting upon the past.. and also having to write about myself. Which is something I tend to do a lot, anyway.
We go back to the summer of 1995 and I am visiting my grandmother, who at the time, lived in the northern part of San Bernardino, California, in a tiny apartment. The summer of ’95 was when I had a “first” and let’s call it “my first crossroad”. I knew school was ending and I wasn’t going to attempt college right away because I felt a sense of confusion and uncertainty about what I was really going to do once high school ended. Like most/some teenagers, I was awkward, I had a deep love of music and photography and graphic design, but had no idea how to go about pursuing that as a career goal. I can’t recall ever talking to a high school guidance counselor or even sharing any career goals with family or friends. (awkward shift ahead) Also, I had long hair and I started to listen to “punk” and had “punk” friends. In retrospect being an introvert worked against me.
In a way to try and “find myself” I decided to shed the long hair while visiting my grandmother that summer.. By doing so decided to take a short walk to a local barbershop that she lived near and let a barber have his way with my head. Next door to that barbershop was a “hole-in-the-wall” second hand store.. More on that later. I am still unsure if I started listening to punk rock as a way of rebelling against a life I had and a life I was unsure about that lied ahead. I am not sure what I had to rebel against as I wasn’t an angsty teen, or if this was a way of figuring things out for myself, or if it was just a musical distraction for the time being.
I didn’t find a sense of community or belonging in the punk friends I had, unlike others who might be fortunate to find that strong sense of community, which isn’t surprising. Most kids then dropped out of high school and dropped off the face of the earth at the same time. I could define my associates as cool then, and fun to hang out with, I guess.. I might be putting too much merit in assuming everyone else the same as I back then had life figured out. More or less I just went through a punk phase. I knew what I liked about it (discovering Black Flag, and other dissolved punk bands I was too young to listen to in the 80’s and only found in the 90’s) and I knew what I began to not like about it, which is what everyone who dabbles in punk begins to realize that for some it is restrictive and limiting in a way. Really, just depending on how you use it to define your own life ideals, I think punk is a fun stop along life’s journey.
With newly shorn hair and a sense of dread and uncertainty I listened to a lot of punk, well, as much as I could get from Columbia House’s CD club at the time. I was hoping to take something away from it. This is something I still do to this day when listening to music. I also started to slowly make stylistic and fashionably changes that just come with the territory like: spike my hair, change up my clothes a little bit to feel dangerous. Funny and laughable now, looking back on that period of my life. Columbia House CD club was where I discovered the Orange County, CA surf/punk band Agent Orange’s and their two albums Living in Darkness and When You Least Expect were two cds I received through the mail. By the time I started listening to them in 1995 I believe they were on hiatus.. I liked them. So that summer while visiting grandma I wanted to visit the second hand store that was next door to the barbershop where I started a new chapter in my hair, er, I mean life. Not sure of what I was looking for at that second hand store. If I recall I probably looked for dangerous used clothes and happened to stumble upon some records (literally because they were on the floor in a heaping pile).
In a darkened corner of the store was a massive pile of used records (see previous paragraph). Remember, records were being given to second hand stores in the 90’s by the truck loads. In the 90’s vinyl was considered a dead format and CD reigned supreme. Much in the same way that in 2014 CDs are showing up in second hand stores. But anyway, I was soon sitting in that corner and digging through records and this moment would mark my first “crate digging” experience. Kind of, I don’t recall the records being in any wooden crates, they were just literally stacked and sitting on a concrete floor but I had to dig. I must have sat there for almost an hour, sifting through records. Some of what I didn’t buy I can recall still, Police, 70’s bands etc. But one record with it’s iconic cover art stood out simply because it was Agent Orange’s “When You Least Expect It” surprisingly in pristine condition, but in 12″ format. This record I had on CD, and now I was about to buy its vinyl counterpart in what would be my first used record purchase.
I didn’t own a turntable, and would not own one until 2003, nearly 8 years after buying this album. I think it says a lot that I would buy just one record and hold onto it for 8 years, somehow. The vinyl version only contains 4 songs as opposed to the CD which had 6.. something I didn’t realize until a few years ago oddly enough. I am unsure what I did with my CD either. I probably traded it in to a record store for some credit with a lot of other CDS that I got rid of in the early 00’s.
Agent Orange’s music didn’t have a profound affect on me, I thought they sounded good and were technically proficient. But the sad thing is that punk didn’t really change my life though, maybe, I mean I am writing about something that did affect me almost 20 years later. My punk phase lasted about a year, and all I took from that period of my life was that individualism comes from life experience, succeeding and failing and I learned a little bit about depression and anxiety, and true life procrastination. And I guess I learned that if you can’t at least find what you’re good at it might just find you. High school is a weird time period for most kids I feel. It’s a 4 year waiting period until the real challenge begins. I made the most of it, and didn’t at the same time. Young ideals change and mine have over the years.
That barbershop is gone, as is the second hand store. In its place now sits a .99 Cent store. Funny, now that I think about it, that Agent Orange record I purchased was only .99 cents.
I feel like watching SLC Punk! now.
For those keeping track:
#99 & #98 The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill & Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell
#100 History: America’s Greatest Hits