Admitting your affection for Suzanne Vega (who’s celebrating a birthday today) probably isn’t the most rocking thing to do. But then again, I’m done trying to impress people, having figured that I’ve paid enough dues in four decades to declare a hearty “fuck y’all” to most that question me, my collection, and why I have an affection for someone like, say, Suzanne Vega.
I mean, fuck man, she released “Luka,” probably one of the most pretentious singles known to mankind since, I dunno, “Marlene On The Wall.”
And if you’re a Suzanne Vega fan, you got that last joke.
It started on a car ride to Iowa City one weekend. I was driving up to visit some friends who’d made their way into a “real” college while I tested the grounds of collegiate life in my hometown’s community college. It was both an economic decision and based on the possibility that I may not have had the self-discipline to live in a college town and not be entirely consumed by drugs and alcohol. I guess I have what people might deem as an “addictive personality.”
That weekend would turn out to be my first weekend experimenting with hallucinogens, gained by unknown methods by someone who you normally wouldn’t think of as a guy who would even consider buying psilocybin mushrooms. But he did, and I’m fairly grateful for his tenacity.
That weekend was also the first week for the release of Suzanne Vega’s debut album. Aside from “Marlene On The Wall,” there’s probably not a lot of familiarity with this release and, admittedly, I had no fucking idea who Suzanne Vega was when I heard “Small Blue Thing” on the airwaves of a low-wattage student station as I made my way into Iowa City.
It was haunting.
I was hooked.
The routine for any trip to Iowa City usually included a routine that required that I stop by the head shop (called The Third Coast and, seemingly, always moving to a new location every other month) and the record store (BJ Records, long since closed). After getting pipe screens and rolling papers from the head shop, I made my way to the record store and notice that the artist I had been enchanted with not less than two hours before was on sale. Taking a chance on an artist I’d never heard of and going on a feeling based by one spin of one song, I shelled out the money for her cd.
Now the argument could be made that even amplified farts may have some aural appeal under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms, but I’m here to confess that Suzanne Vega did wonders for me/us at three o’clock in the morning after being brutally assaulted by a shitty Sony cd player that continuously skipped during Are You Experienced?
It had to be over an hour before anyone noticed that it was skipping and then add another hour as we tried to fix the issue before spending another hour on what disc to play next.
Suzanne Vega’s debut album saved us from a mental breakdown and probably pacified the neighbors just enough to not call the police on us.
I followed Vega’s career all through ‘92’s 99.9F° before losing track rather than lose interest. She, like many other artists, became another victim of my wide palate that tends to follow many performers before moving on to another obsession. To be fair, Vega took four years to follow-up 99.9F°, which made my forgetfulness a little easier to explain.
But even though my memory of her may have been lost over the past decade, I still remember vividly how I meandered into the hole of her acoustic guitar and how critical she was at keeping my feet on the ground, even when my head was somewhere in outer space.