Christopherson Column: No ‘sub’-stitute for the 1980s
"What is this, 1980?" she wondered, in a friendly yet semi-mocking tone.
Oh, if only it were. What a year.
I turned 10 in 1980, a monumental event for any child. Double digits, baby. But there was more. I remember the pandemonium unleashed in our living room when the "Miracle on Ice" played out before our very eyes on our 19-inch Sylvania Superset. And the Crookston Pirate football team was so insanely good, on their way to a 13-0 season and a state championship, that I didn't protest when my mom bought my sister and I blue and gold Pirate cowboy hats that I actually wore with a proud smile in a photograph that's still firmly secured under protective plastic on a page in a family photo album tucked among a stack of family photo albums in a box or a drawer or a chest somewhere.
Then there’s the music. OK, maybe much of the actual music made in 1980 wasn't exactly epic or worthy source material for any documentaries or "rockumentaries,” but it was played anyway, often in loud fashion, in the Pleasant Avenue living room of much of my youth. My dad's beefy Kenwood receiver, replaced a few years later by a Harmon Kardon so pretty I just sat and gazed at it. His tower speakers on the other side of the room, replaced a while later by spacecraft-resembling Bose speakers hanging upside-down from the ceiling. They were so iconic they came with their own amplifier. The Akai turntable, and almost enough vinyl catalogued alphabetically on the floor under the bookshelves to touch the walls on opposite sides of the room.
None of us played any instruments beyond the typical pursuits parents sign their kids up for – guitar lessons for my sister and I – but we were a musical family, no doubt about it.
In the early 1980s my parents remodeled our basement into their own master suite, and I moved into their old bedroom, an impressive space that demanded fuller and better sound than any mere boom box could produce. When I got that Sony rack system (audio receiver, equalizer, dual-cassette deck and turntable) for Christmas and a couple years later spent my own work money on a CD player, I literally thought my life had peaked right then and there. CD technology was brand new and very costly. My first three CDs, Led Zeppelin IV, Boston's self-titled LP, and, yes, I admit, Bon Jovi's self-titled debut, set me back around a hundred large.
To my delight, the audio geek that manifested himself in my childhood is perhaps more geeked-out today than when, as a teen, I stood in my bedroom, Sony system vibrating the mirror above my dresser, and simultaneously played air guitar and air drums during Zep's "Misty Mountain Hop" or Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time” and, yes, I admit, even air keyboards during Bon Jovi's "Runaway."
I listen to music more than I watch TV. As I've often worked from home during the pandemic, immediately after pouring a cup of coffee and grabbing my laptop in the morning, I turn on the hi-fi and tell Alexa to play one of my go-to stations on SiriuxXM or Pandora. (No, kids, that's not a typo. I typed hi-fi, as in high-fidelity, not wi-fi. Google it, or, better yet, ask your grandpa.)
If you're an audio geek or, I prefer, the more sophisticated “audiophile” label, you're either a bass man or a treble man. I'm more of the former, which I why I bought a subwoofer for the hi-fi a couple weeks ago. When I alerted a friend to my purchase in particularly giddy fashion, she replied with the question that opened this column.
It’s, shockingly, 40 years later, and although there are no mirrors mounted on our living room walls vibrating when it’s time to rock the house, this semi-grown up audio geek/phile is more than satisfied to make the glass in the kitchen cupboard doors pulsate to the bass thump.