The Eighties Project / 19 January 2003

Unearthed a treasure-trove of classics today. A few weeks back I finally realized my dream of converting the book-on-tape version of Et Tu, Babe to CD, so precious is it to me and so fragile is it out there in the car, all analog and shit, in the subzero temperatures, slowly deteriorating. So after an intense visit to Radio Shack, where the clerk called me beautifully insane and an A/V rogue of the highest order, I linked my walkman (I’m using that brand name generically, Sony — suck it!) to my computer and was able to turn cheap tape to laserfied digital sheen.

Then today I went up to the attic and searched through the garbage bag where I’ve filed my old cassettes and stumbled upon something called The Eighties Project. This ambitious album was the result of months of hard work on the part of producer Miguel Rodriguez, whose vision was dangerously vast.

At the time, and I think this was 1995 or so, everyone I knew was in a band or wanted to be in a band or was pretending to be in a band. Miguel decided to channel all this musical genius into one big compilation, where all these various bands would cover an 80s song.

To quote Et Tu, Babe: “The psychoactive effect … was quite as astonishing as its aroma.”

The result: Twenty songs, fifteen musicians working together in just about every possible combination (hence nineteen different made-up band names), and the final nail in the neon-lined coffin of the 1980s.

I converted the tape to fancy MP3 today, which manages to capture, with crystal clarity, every missed note, every false start, and, of course, the deafening tape hiss that threatens to swallow these masterworks whole. Here are some samples:

“Whip It” [4.6M]
Probably my first recorded performance. So raw; so real. I’d learned to play the guitar maybe a month earlier. I didn’t know how to play the chorus so I just played a series of chords that I knew. That dramatic pause during the bridge is not a dramatic pause. And the singing? Like being violated by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I wasn’t entirely sure of the lyrics. “Cactus” [3.1M]
Me again (operating under the pseudonym “Dr. Glove”), working over a Pixies song, selected because it’s basically two chords. I think we can all agree that Bowie’s recent version of this tune can suck it along with Sony — mine is the real deal. Actually, the only good thing about this track is the superheavy guitar sound, which made me so proud. No pedals, no effects — that’s my Korean-made Telecaster in all its naked glory. It took me at least twenty attempts to get that little five-note melody at the end. My partner in crime Bob makes the grunting noises in the middle. “Gigantic” [5.3M]
Another Pixies song, and I guess these aren’t Classic Eighties Tunes, but rest assured that this compilation includes plenty of “Tainted Love,” a heaping helping of “Little Red Corvette,” and two scoops of “Jessie’s Girl.” Anyhow, I had nothing to do with this song which is why it’s so pretty and by far my favorite. On the vocals there is James who went on to form Xiu Xiu. I’m not sure who handled the clown horn. “Billie Jean” [5.4M]
A surprise bonus track that features Miguel and Bob pushing the four-track to its breaking point with this a cappella version of the MJ hit. Bobby McFerrin and David Bowie and Sony can all suck it.

The Eighties Project was such a hit amongst nearly everyone who made it that we immediately started work on The Seventies Project. This album, however, never saw the light of day. Which is too bad because it seemed to be shaping up nicely, what with my two-minute version of “Stairway to Heaven” (incl. my first-ever stab at homemade sample loops!), Jesse and I doing a rousing gospel take on “The Trial” from The Wall, stunning three-part harmonies on ABBA’s “S.O.S.,” and Bob and I laying down the definitive version of “Fat Bottomed Girls,” the only Queen song I could even think about playing on the guitar. Brian May and his fancy fingers can suck it.

Joshua Green Allen

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