I have a small part in the 1987 television movie (failed pilot) version of The Man Who Fell To Earth. Lewis Smith played the titular character. Beverly D’Angelo played my mom, his love interest. (Fun Star Trek connection: Bob Picardo is also in it).
My character was a Troubled Youth, which I gotta tell you was not a stretch for me at all. I was deeply, deeply hurting at the time we made it. I was struggling not to suffocate on all the emotional and financial burdens my mom put on my shoulders, and fully aware of just how much my dad hated and resented me. You need a kid who doesn’t want to be an actor, whose eyes can’t hide the pain? I’m your guy.
Anyway, one of the scenes I was in took place in a record store, where Troubled Youth steals some albums, before he is chased by the cops and The Man Who Fell To Earth, uses a glowing crystal to save his life from … some scratches on his face.
We filmed the interior of the record store at Sunset and La Brea, in what I think was a Warehouse Records and Tapes, and at the end of the day, I was allowed to buy some records at a modest discount.
I was deep into my metal years, on my way from my punk years to my New Wave years, so I only bought metal albums. I know I bought more than I needed or could carry (I was making a point that I was allowed to spend my own money, mom), but the only ones I can clearly remember are:
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Judas Priest – Turbo and Defenders of the Faith
W.A.S.P – The Last Command
Of those, Piece of Mind is the only one I never really stopped listening to, even through all the different it’s-not-a-phase phases. I still listen to it, today.
Ever since I became an Adult with a Fancy Adult Record Player And All That Bullshit, I have kept my records in two places: stuff I want right now, and stuff I keep in the library because of Reasons.
Generally, records move in one direction toward the library, even if it takes years to happen. I just don’t accumulate albums like I once did, because I’m Old and set in my ways, and every album in the library was something I loved listening to at some point in my life, even if I’ve mostly forgotten them.
Earlier today, I decided that I wanted to listen to an album while I cleaned up the kitchen, and because I wanted to make my life more interesting, I opened the library cabinet for the first time in at least five years. I reached in, and pulled out the first album I touched.
It was the very same W.A.S.P album from that day in March, 1987. I don’t have any of the others — I looked — but The Last Command was right there. I looked at it, curiously. Why do I still have this?
Before I fully knew what I was doing, I put it on the Fancy Adult Record Player and dropped the needle.
I watched four decades of dust build up with a satisfying crackle, and there was something magical and beautiful about hearing all the skips and the scratches, realizing I remembered them from before.
The first track, Wild Child, was just as great as I remembered. It struck all the same chords in me that it did in the late nineteen hundreds. The rest of the first side was … um. It just didn’t connect with me, and during the few moments I spent trying to find a connection, I realized that I don’t think it ever really did. I would remember.
What I did remember how much I loved making those mix tapes, and what a big part of them that song was. I did remember how empowering it felt to not just spend my own money that I earned doing work I didn’t want to do, but to spend it on music my parents hated, right under their noses. I did remember how impressed Robby Lee was, when I showed him my extensive heavy metal album collection, and he gave me a cassette with Screaming for Vengeance on one side, and Metal Health on the other, on one of those iconic Memorex tapes.
Remembering all of that, in one of those cinematic flashes of rapid cut visuals and sped up sounds, told me why I kept this record, while I gradually sold or replaced the other records I bought that day with CDs, then mp3s, then lossless digital files, before finally coming all the way back to records, where I started. This record lives in the library for reasons that have nothing to do with the music.
I didn’t listen to the second side. I didn’t need to. I took it off the Fancy Adult Record Player, and put it back into the library, next to the George Carlin records.