Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Duff Thoughts: Memory Train

This past fall, my parents were kind enough to give me their old car, which bizarrely enough, has a cassette deck, even though it came off the factory line in 2002. Unfortunately, dad didn't warn me that the deck wasn't working that well--I discovered that as I was speeding down the Deegan toward Manhattan and it ate my NYC Ska Live cassette. I shredded the tape trying to get it out. Luckily, I have an LP copy of this compilation, so I still have the music and all, but I was bummed nonetheless. My immediate thought was that there aren't too many cassette copies of this floating out there anymore (sure enough, a search on eBay and GEMM didn't turn anything up--no NYC Ska Live LPs or cassettes, nada).

It also reminded me how earlier in the summer, when I was moving around some of the stuff I have in storage in my parents' basement, I opened one of the big Rubbermaid trunks where I had been keeping a ton of old ska t-shirts dating back to the late 80s, Moon posters, and posters that Buck brought back from touring in Europe and points beyond--and found almost everything wet and moldy (their basement had flooded a year earlier, but not high enough to leak into the seam where the lid connects to the I'm not exactly sure how the water found its way in). It was all trashed. I was heartbroken.

Most of this stuff can never be replaced.

Now, I don't consider myself to be a ska collector (I'm not obsessive enough, and don't have the time or enough disposable income--or even space--to do so), but what I have I treasure. I don't hold on to all of this stuff because I hope to sell it one day for a killing on eBay (if that were even possible!), but because each LP and patch and sticker and button that I have means something to me.

Here's sad part--the true geek in me: I imagine that someday, someone will desperately want it all to be part of a larger scholarly collection of ska and reggae (a version of the ARChive of Contemporary Music, where one of the ex-Skavoovie band members has been a music archivist). I can trace the seed of this desire back to around 1997, when a librarian at the New York Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center got in touch with me at Moon, because they were putting on a small exhibit featuring graphic design in punk and ska (or something like that). So I sent over a bunch of posters, t-shirts, etc. that were displayed in the library (and I had been regularly sending him promo CDs, which became part of the general New York Public Library collection--some of them are still in circulation and I've run across them in the stacks). Plus, I've always been a sucker for sociology and cultural studies--particularly what the products of pop and subculture reveal about us as a people. The meaning behind the sound and vision.

There's nothing profound in this here post--sorry. I'm getting older. Change is constant. Things that hold meaning for me won't last forever. Pop culture is especially ephemeral (CDs crack; LPs warp and melt; bands break up; labels go under; fanzines disintegrate; digital files are mistakenly deleted or are stored on something that becomes obsolete; fans move on; people die).

But I like to think that it all will still continue to matter.


Jeremy Patton said...

Steve! You didn't throw that stuff away did you? Mold and all, send it my way! Seriously. DO NOT THROW ANYTHING AWAY!, I will clean up and salvage what I can and scan / archive the rest. A little mold never hurt no one.
I am the archivist. You should know this by now! Don't forsake me! I think I just bought the same Madness CD for the 3rd time today! They keep changing the artwork on it! It's MADNESS I tell you...

I'm not hear to sell shit either. I am hear to be the keep of keepsakes...Anything and everything Moon / Toasters and most other ska related stuff, I hold on to with dear life. I know this sort of "possession obsession" is not supposed to be a positive way to live, but what the heck, I don't believe in heaven anyway! Long live my ska collection!

One day when I can actually catch up on all the work I'm supposed to do, I will finally get around to getting it all organized cataloged and scanned for all to gaze upon, then and only then can I rest...

Jeremy Patton said...

I'm still mad at Dave Barry for trashing the "shell" of the old Toasters KORG CX3 that was in the music videos...uggg, I don't care if it was not working and had been stripped for parts, I still wanted it!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post very much and can completely relate. I think writing my blog helps keep me connected in a way that moldy t-shirts and broken cassettes can't

Steve from Moon said...


Sorry, I had to trash a fair amount of stuff--the posters and shirts had been wet for months and were moldy/disintegrating/way gone. I did salvage a few shirts, but even after several trips through the washing machine, they still smell moldy. Yeech.

Keep up with the archiving. I sleep better nights knowing that you and other peeps out there are holding onto as much of this slice of pop culture as you can...



Steve from Moon said...


Thanks. What you wrote is certainly true. Writing about ska and the bands/releases we dig is certainly a more active and engaged way to share and celebrate the music we love than just pouring over our hoard of ska memorabilia squirreled away in our parents' basements or attics.

Helped me work through the loss of my stuff, too. (Not that this was a serious, life-altering event.)