Monday, May 09, 2005

And you know that can’t be bad.

I think my thing for the Beatles started with the Chipmunks. Or actually, maybe my thing for the Chipmunks started with the Beatles. I can’t remember. It’s really a chicken-and-egg sort of thing—too hard to say for sure which made its indelible impression first. John, Paul, George, Ringo. Alvin, Simon, Theodore. All equally revered, and all inextricably linked in my mind. And as bizarre as that seems now, at the time it was completely natural and went unquestioned. All due to one of the best gifts I ever received as a child: my beloved portable tape recorder.

Granted, by today’s standards, “portable” is really a stretch. But in contrast to my family’s huge turntable/stereo setup, this shoebox-sized black miracle that ran on the power of, I think, four D-cell batteries was a revelation. Suddenly, I was not confined to the family room or at the mercy of the schedules and tv-watching whims of the other members of my family when I wanted to hear some tunes. I could listen anywhere I wanted, at any time.

And I did. I carried that thing with me everywhere. And this was no boom box. Oh no. It was an honest to goodness “tape recorder”—the kind of thing you could see a reporter attaching a microphone to and conducting interviews over, or a detective plunking down on a cold, hard table and simultaneously pressing the “play” and “record” buttons as he prepares to grill his suspect. I can only imagine what I must have looked like as a pre-schooler carrying that thing around with me at all times, blaring whatever cassettes came into our house through the years. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual.” Starship’s “Knee Deep in the Hoopla.” Those are some of my earliest cassette tape memories.

But not the earliest. That dubious distinction goes to the tape my parents decided to give me with the tape recorder itself. A tape that I grew to love, and that I can only imagine they quickly grew to regret giving me. Especially since, seeing as how it was the only tape I owned for some time, it got played non-stop, on repeat, sun up to sun down. A set of circumstances that would be grating, I’m sure, with just about any recording. But picture this and, just momentarily, put yourself in my parents’ unfortunate shoes: the first tape I ever owned was a tape of Beatles hits performed by none other than Alvin, Simon, and Theodore themselves!

The Chipmunks sing the Beatles. Oh yes—it was sublime. I can still hear it in my head to this can my parents, I’m sure. Poor things. I often wonder how they survived that unfortunate period in their lives, or if they even for a second saw it coming when they so selflessly gave me that gift that they knew I would love so much. It’s like that scene in Amores Perros where the man so valiantly rescues the dog that’s been shot in the chest, brings it home, painstakingly nurses it back to health, and it proceeds to destroy his home and kill all of his other beloved pets. Sometimes the things we do purely for the benefit of others really do turn around and bite us in the ass.

But man, am I glad they did it. When years later I moved on to my first boom box, and then my first stereo, followed by my first cd player, etc. there was always a special place in my heart reserved for that first little tape recorder. Still is. Which I can’t say for any of those other things that followed. And to this day, the strains of “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah...” (whether sung in Beatles falsetto or super-speed Chipmunks falsetto) takes me back to a place where I can almost feel the weight of that technological wonder in my hands as I drag it with me everywhere that I myself am, as a child, dragged in turn.


Blogger Mr. H.K. said...

"Close your eyes and I'll kiss you.... Tomorrow I'll miss you!"

Gad! I had that album TOO! And I can hear it in my head...

I wonder if it's available on CD!??

I want it! Need it! Have to have it!

"Love, love, me do...."

Now, I have Chipmunks on the brain!...

4:49 PM  
Blogger P/O said...

no way! now i know i'm not crazy. you've totally validated that memory for me. :)

9:30 AM  

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