[September, 1994] My So-Called Life, Lollapalooza, Details, Raygun
“No more promise no more sorrow no longer will I follow can anybody hear me I just want to be me and when I can I will.” – Smashing Pumpkins
I’m watching “My So-Called Life.” This is the only show that I make a conscious effort to watch. It’s so perceptive.
I listened to Siamese Dream this morning. After Lollapalooza it seemed like I was drained of my Pumpkin listening capabilities. Got a couple of letters yesterday (big surprise) and I really need to catch up on my mail. I’ll try for a couple this weekend.
I sent in the Details subscription card a couple of days ago but now I’m torn about what to do next month. If I buy it and that’s the first issue they send me, that’ll suck. I can’t fund Raygun anywhere. What if they printed my letter?! I might never know!
As usual I have nothing too noteworthy to say and aside from having the chance to write down great quotes, I fail to see the point of this log. I’m feeling a little grumpy today.
“She is raging she is raging and the storm blows up in her eyes…” – U2
“Go, now, go!”
And so began every episode of My So-Called Life, with this whispered urging.
On the surface there wasn’t much to it. The show, mostly narrated by 15-year-old Angela Chase, followed her experiences in and out of high school. There were her old friends she was drifting away from, the quirky new friendships she was developing, the family who drove her crazy, and the seemingly-unattainable crush.
And yet there was so much more to it.
My So-Called Life had a wit and pathos and flat out magic to it that moved me in a way that very few televisions shows have since. The characters were fleshed out, the stories weren’t simple or easily resolved, and the narration and dialogue were strung together with these observations that were so true to a teenage voice and beautiful in their own right. There was a search for identity and desire to push past the boundaries of adolescence, but also an awareness. For example,
…this whole thing with yearbook – it’s like, everybody’s in this big hurry to make this book, to supposedly remember what happened. Because if you made a book of what really happened, it’d be a really upsetting book.
Clare Danes as semi-gawky Angela Chase was pitch-perfect, and damn that girl could cry. Her whole face would turn bright red and collapse and just thinking of it makes my throat tighten. The supporting cast was equally strong, from the free-spirited Rayanne to the flamboyant Rickie (who rocked guyliner before it became trendy) to dreamy Jordan Catalano (you always had to say his first and last name together) to brainy Brian Krakow (ditto). But a single adjective doesn’t do them justice. The beauty of the show was how well it wove these nuanced, layered characters into stories that were relatable without being trite. No other show captured being a teenager in the 1990’s like this one. The tragedy of it is that it only lasted 19 episodes.
But before all this there was Lollapalooza.
I went with my friend Darby, an obsessed Smashing Pumpkins fan. I was excited to attend this outdoor music festival to see the Pumpkins, Green Day, and, to a lesser extent, The Breeders. We were dropped off on Roosevelt Island and spent a sweaty day wandering around, among the crowd of alterna-kids, hippies, with a few punks and goths thrown in for good measure. I caught one or two songs from The Breeders set and then was completely blown away by Green Day, whose catchy pseudo-punk pop songs were the highlight of the day for me (little did I know/expect they would attain such mass popularity and go on to create a Broadway musical). I missed Nick Cave’s set which I didn’t mind (this was many years before I would develop even the slightest fondness for his music) and enjoyed the Beastie Boys as much as I could for not being a big fan. Then it was a seemingly endless wait for Smashing Pumpkins, my then second-favorite band, to take the stage. They proved to be merely ok. Fuzzy guitar riffs blended into each other, a pre-bald Billy Corgan had less angsty charisma than I hoped for, and I was disappointed that they didn’t perform my favorite song of theirs, “Mayonnaise.” It wasn’t long after that I discovered Nine Inch Nails, who ended up overshadowing the Pumpkins (in every sense of the word) in my personal music history.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t find Lollapalooza all that special. I appreciated the communal anything-goes vibe Perry Farrell was going for when he created the annual event, but the heat and the density of people taught me outdoor festivals are not my thing. I felt trapped on that island, out of place, and a little overwhelmed. But it did give me bragging rights and a couple of cool points (well, maybe), since Lollapalooza was a big deal back then for music junkies.
As for Details and Raygun, they were my favorite magazines at the time. Raygun was a tribute to alternative pop culture and prided itself on its wacky use of fonts and other design elements. It was oversized and its heavy stock and inventive graphics inspired me to turned many of its pages into envelopes for my penpal letters (I still have a box of unused ones lying around somewhere). Details, before it became a lad rag, had sharp and funny writing that was less about appealing to a certain male lifestyle and more about being edgy and interesting. One of the highlights was Anka Radakovich’s sex column, which was equal parts bawdy, funny, and intelligent. There was also once an amusing sidebar on misheard song lyrics, in which the author encouraged readers to submit their own for future collection in a book. Having a tendency to hear song lyrics incorrectly for most of my life, I sent in two pages worth and ended up being included (and acknowledged and sent free copies) of two of the books, Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy and When a Man Loves a Walnut. One wrong lyric that made it in was “Every time you go away you take a piece of meat with you.” I’ll spare you the rest.