A Headache Like A Pillow (Happy Birthday, Songs About Fucking!)

I never get to do this. On the one hand, I suppose it’s my own fault for not keeping closer track of the release dates of records I like, but on the other, anytime I’ve encountered some article where some goober’s reminding me of the anniversary/importance of such-and-such an album, I am typically moved to scorn.

But this is different. I’m more than a little chauvinistic about the month of September anyway, and the closer it comes to my birthday (September 13 – what did you get me?), the worse I get. And it doesn’t get much better (worse?) than this: as near as I can nail it down, this is the day. Twenty five years ago today, on September 10, 1987, Big Black’s Songs About Fucking was released.

Now, I may still be a goober for reminding you about the date, but I’m no aspiring rock historian dork. Here’s some other places to go if’n you want to read about this album’s cultural significance, its place in the pantheon of indie rock or what have you. I just want to tell you what I know.

I was nineteen years old at the time. I liked the Replacements and REM and Hüsker Dü and bands like them quite a bit, and there’s nothing wrong with any of that, but the thing about revelations is, you have no way of knowing you’re even in the market for one until you’ve actually experienced it. Most sincere thanks are due (yet again/always) to CJSR-FM. The first track I ever heard from Songs About Fucking was the cover of The Model, by Kraftwerk, which I almost missed because I was so busy freaking out over the fact that someone said “fucking” on the radio. Not long after that, it was Bad Penny and not long after that, my uberfriend Scott gave me a tape with the whole shebang on it, which I used with my trusty Sony walkman on walks home from just about anywhere to significantly decimate the upper frequencies of my hearing.

My girlfriend at the time hated Big Black. So did the girlfriend after her, and the one after her, and so on down the line. Why theorize? File under: it’s not you, it’s me. Obviously.

For a long time, I would suggest that when the time came for me to have children, I would like to name them after Big Black song titles: “Jordan Minnesota, come for supper”; “El Dopa, have you finished cleaning your room?”; but especially, “C’mon, The Power of Independent Trucking, let’s go to the park!” My sister was just worried enough about that last one that she preemptively gave it to her cat. Anyway, I didn’t, as long as it counts to never say my kids’ secret names out loud.

While the general consensus is that Atomizer is the superior Big Black album, in my heart, it will always be Songs About Fucking. Why? Probably first and foremost, it was the timing; you always remember your first time and hold it dear, don’t you? But also, everything about it. That title – many may have dreamed of bestowing such a name upon their work, but this is the only example of someone actually having the balls to do it. That artwork – while to this day I can’t tell whether the artwork is under- or overstated, I’m still happy to spend an afternoon thinking about it. They recorded the album and released it, knowing full well that they were going to break up right afterward – how cool is that? More bands should skip right to that part, in fact. And then there’s the songs…

So maybe it’s not that I never get to do this, but more like I never really want to do this, except when I do. Happy birthday to the album that occupies the most brittle, blackened, dried up little section of my heart. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SONGS ABOUT FUCKING.

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