Birthday Boy 22nd Anniversary Edition

Since today is my birthday, you can take this opportunity to purchase a limited edition cassette of a crappy lo-fi EP I released in 1996, (which has been re-released by a label in Eugene, Oregon without my knowledge or permission.) I guess I’ve finally reached the age as an artist where young people take up an interest my shitty and obscure early recordings, so I’m honored and grateful for that. I may not be worthy of such recognition, but no one can ever say I didn’t pay my dues.

Birthday Boy was originally released in October of 1996. It was recorded on a Fostex XR-3 when I lived in my first apartment, at Desert Star Apartments in Phoenix, AZ. The complex was a mildly seedy dump back then, but now resembles a dangerous, post apocalyptic wasteland. The apartment only came with basic cable, of which the only cable channels included were The Family Channel, C-Span and the E! Channel. That’s it, nothing else. Living on my own and knowing very few people in the city, I spent most of my spare time watching the E! Channel, which at the time featured reruns of Melrose Place, WKRP in Cincinnati, One Day at a Time, and Alice. Regular tv also aired reruns of Charlie’s Angels and The Rockford Files during this period. I mention this because the era has become an enduring inspiration for me and a formative part of my identity.

Since I was living a fairly isolated lifestyle and wasn’t socially active, I frequently wrote songs about the lives of characters on the shows I was watching. For example, the second track on Birthday Boy is titled Right Back Where I Started, but the lyrics actually chronicle the romantic and often diabolic misadventures of the character Michael on Melrose Place. There are dozens of similar recordings which once existed, such as my spoken word cover of the theme song of WKRP in Cincinnati (which was re-worded and adapted to be about Arizona.) Sadly, I have moved nearly 30 times since then, and these other recordings have all been lost over the years…having been last seen around the year 2004 or so.)

The show Alice was also a show which I found oddly relatable as an 18 year old young man. The plot of Alice was centered around a woman who was driving to Los Angeles to start a new life and pursue a singing career, but her car broke down in Phoenix. She ends up staying in suburban Phoenix after she’s forced to take a job at a diner there to make ends meet, and the place starts to grow on her.

Anyway, that is the story of Birthday Boy. The cassette re-release can be purchased HERE. Special thanks to Captain Crook Records for rediscovering this uncharted “fool’s gold” record. The limited edition cassette re-release is almost sold out, but Birthday Boy (along with many other recordings) can still be purchased through iTunes as well.

Click here to purchase on iTunes

An obscure 90’s oddity, Birthday Boy’s aesthetic resembles something of a “Lo-Fi Leisure Suit Larry.” The song, Right Back Where I Started chronicles the love life of the character Michael from the show, Melrose Place. Originally released on cassette in 1996, this is one the most unusual recordings from a highly experimental era of indie alternative music.

“Buddy Holly” and the Crickets of Weezereaction

What’s with these homies, dissing my girl?
Why do they gotta front?
What did we ever do to these guys
That made them so violent?

“Why do you like this song?” my girlfriend asked one time while we were driving somewhere. She had her iPhone plugged into the stereo, and I had been asking her to play various jams before at some point I requested to hear Weezer’s Buddy Holly.

Weezer is one of many bands that would likely be deemed too politically incorrect to be mainstream today, and if present trends continue, may one day be retroactively banned or censored. Of course, there isn’t really anything particularly offensive about their music or lyrics, but that just doesn’t matter anymore. People will find something whether it’s there or not.

I don’t recall being that interested in Weezer when I was in high school. I didn’t own any of their CDs, unless you count the Mallrats soundtrack (of which one of their song Susanne appears.) One thing I’ve discovered about getting older though is that you start to develop a fondness for certain things from when you were growing up (even if you never paid attention to them at the time,) as they come to be more recognizably associated with your “era” and present as alien artifacts to a new generation…like inside jokes that they aren’t in on (and don’t care to be in on.) It’s only long after the fact that you begin to notice that the popular songs, movies etc from your teenage years often subtly speak through cultural references to issues relatable to a particular place and time. The less serious side, is that sometimes even if you hated a song, you may appreciate it later because it will remind you of other good times you were having while you were annoyed that it was playing on the radio. I don’t remember ever being “excited” to hear Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping or Aqua’s Barbie Girl come on the radio in 1997, but if I heard them today I’d probably smile because they’d remind of me of some spring and summer nights that I’ll never get a chance to relive any other way. Of course, it isn’t always a positive association. The reason I never watch The Devil’s Advocate (besides it being a piece of shit movie,) is that my old friend Andrew and I were robbed at gunpoint (and very nearly shot) outside the theater after seeing the film when it came out.

Anyway, I told my girlfriend that Buddy Holly by Weezer was catchy, but that it also had subtle social themes and reactionary undertones I could relate to on some level. Take the following snippet of lyrics which I posted at the beginning of the article:

What’s with these homies, dissing my girl?
Why do they gotta front?
What did we ever do to these guys
That made them so violent?

A less charitable analyst might see that verse and shout “RACIST! NAZI! Rivers KKKUOMO!” under the assumption that “homies” refers to black gangsters, and that the question What did we ever do to these guys that made them so violent? potentially alludes to the problem of black violence and to what extent whites’ historical mistreatment of blacks contributed to the rise of it…as Weezer’s implicit throwback whiteness “Oo-ee-oo I look just like Buddy Holly Oh-oh, and you’re Mary Tyler Moore” suddenly finds itself out-of-place in a downright hostile 90’s America that’s in the process of being overrun by diversity, where Rivers Cuomo’s fashionable homage (even if semi-ironic) to 1950s America would be received with as much welcome as an episode of Happy Days being broadcast to BET audiences in 1995.

This is a highly dubious interpretation though, I mean really reaching, as it seems obvious to me (or anyone my age) that Weezer is probably talking about conflicts with 90’s wigger culture, which most people of the era this was released could relate to. As someone of a more alternative/indie persuasion, I absolutely hated the wanna-be gangster culture of the 90s. I thought it was dumb, ridiculous and featured some of the ugliest people, hairdos and clothing styles I have ever seen. I was a teenager though and a skateboarder, so I occasionally went along aspects with it to fit in when I was with certain groups of friends (and I will admit it was fun to sometimes troll parents and grandparents by speaking in gibberizzle.) The threat of getting into a fight with a bunch of obnoxious wiggers was real though, if you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and they decided to fuck with you. This might be especially so if you were a raver, goth, punk, skater, rockabilly kid, mod or the kind of nerdcore hipster Rivers Cuomo represents. You’d have stuck out like a sore thumb, and they probably would have talked shit about what you were wearing, called you a “fag,” “bitch,” “freak” or whatever.

So yes, I can relate to the song Buddy Holly as a commentary on the way civilized people must struggle having to deal with violent riff raff disrupting their pursuit of happiness. One can do one’s best to ignore the thugs and morons:

I don’t care what they say about us anyway
I don’t care ’bout that

but ultimately we have to live in the physical world (is there any other kind?) and tuning them out… often isn’t enough.

Brandon Adamson is the author of Skytrain to Nowhere