U Can Touch This

The first two songs I remember being obsessed with were Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” and M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”. They both came out in 1990, and to listen to them, I’d turn on my radio. They were popular, so were played a lot, which helped; but if I wanted the music at my house, I had two options. Either 1, I could buy the tape. That cost money, which I didn’t have. I made $107 annually - $50 for Christmas, and $57 at my birthday. All $107 was allocated for video games. Or I could, 2, tape them from the radio. In order to tape a song from the radio, you had to have excellent touch and timing. Luckily, my friend Jay also loved these songs, and we would call one another when they came on the radio. Several times during dinner, the phone would ring. “Can’t touch this is on,” he might say. I’d quickly hang up and run to the radio. One evening, I remember hanging up the phone and running to my room. Though I had to abandon the family to do it, I spent the next three minutes listening to the heavenly beats of “Ice Ice Baby”.

It’s funny to think about that 25 years later, and reflect on how much the music industry and delivery of music has changed. From tapes - which I still have a great fondness for - came CD’s. I remember how clear the first notes of “The Bodyguard Soundtrack” came through my CD player. Then this thing came Napster came along, and you could find and burn every song you wanted. My cousin had it, and all I had to do was make her a list and I’d have a recorded CD. Then the iPod, with “1,000 songs in your pocked”. I’ve now had Spotify for the past four years. With it, I’ve been able to listen to any song I want, whenever I want. A friend has a recommendation - just look up the song.

The very rare times I did buy a CD - Oasis, “What’s the Story Morning Glory”, Hootie & the Blowfish “Cracked Rear View”, and the Bob Dylan catalog - they were major expenses. They might cost the entire $20 I’d earned from those manual labor jobs.

When I went to buy them, there was a mall down the road from my parents house. When you walked in, you passed Radio Shack, and there were two music stores in the mall. Now Radio Shack, both music stores, and that entire mall no longer exist.

Had you said to any of us in that mall in the 1990’s, “This place will be closed, and most of the businesses will be closed down”, I doubt we’d have believed you.

Yet, they are.

And CD’s had major flaws. They sounded good, but scratched easily. Tapes were bulky and you had to be selective about what you could bring on a trip. But it’s things like these that are causing me to think about the past 25-years.