INDEX A — an analogue music diary of a teenage girl (Brisbane, 1987)

Perhaps a natal Virgo Moon conjunct Pluto is the astrological explanation for a 16-year old girl lost in the love, lust, power and emotional drama expressed by music in the mid 80s. An obsessively detailed index of a music collection on the cusp of the CD and digital music revolution that was to follow.

The mass produced aqua, hard board cover proudly features a gold nondescript title — ‘INDEX.’ The blank, now yellowing, lined pages are equally distributed between A-Z. The vertical caps typeface made to run a thumb along to the desired letter. A book for listing anything in an analogue way, alphabetically.

For her it was albums and songs. Specifically, vinyl records, full length tapes and songs from the radio recorded onto blank 60 (or 90) minute BASF or TDK tapes, commonly bought in three-packs. Red (the cheapest) unless shopping with Dad and then maybe lucky enough to receive a trio of the black ‘better quality’ tapes.

Bored with Year 12 assignments and locked in a hot suburban Brisbane bedroom, adorned with pictures torn from Smash Hits magazines, I catalogued a music collection. A repurposed INDEX book providing the inspiration to list all the purchased albums, 12", singles and mixed tapes. All indexed, manually — alphabetically by surname. Album titles, artists and dates written in black pen and noted with P.D. (Purchase Date) month and year.

Occasionally some albums eg Madonna “True Blue” (Tape) marked RR 11/86. RR, meaning “re-record” so either a duplicate of a friends record or tape-to-tape dub.

Singles were re-recorded on to 47+ mix tapes of songs recorded on the double tape-deck from the radio or dubbed from friends’ records and tapes. The details hand-printed in blue biro with the each mix tape’s catalogue number.

INDEX “A”

Top of the list, probably not surprisingly : ABC “The Lexicon of Love” P.D. 13/2/1987. Although released in 1982, I did not collect it until my 16th birthday, in the early weeks of the final year of high school. Was it a gift? If so, from whom? Or, was it a $5 note, wedged in a birthday card received in the post, taken to the Record Bar at Myer Brookside to buy that record on tape? Maybe it was already in the bargain bin and I bought it with a clutch of other long awaited 80s records on tape!

The favourite singles are also listed — double-downed as they also feature on Tape 25Poison Arrow”, “The Look of Love” and “All of My Heart.” The latter having such an impact that the lyrics were transcribed longhand into the companion piece — the “Day to a Page” teen diary. A late comer was ABC “S.O.S.” Tape 26. The first single from the English band’s ‘difficult’ new wave synth pop second album that heralded the waning of ABC’s career alongside my obsession with their sound, their words, their hair and their make up when was to fall hard for The Cure that same year.

A ‘curious’ recurring theme of the INDEX is rock power ballads by white dudes. In time these songs, lyrics and energy deserve further reflection and interrogation. What did these overtly gendered and misogynistic white dude rock songs teach a young girl about sexuality and desire in the 1980s ? What did she hear and understand (or not) to explain, lock and trigger trauma in her body? How does the mythology of sex, drugs and rock & roll impact the embodied experience of a young woman wrestling with childhood trauma and emotional abuse ? How much did she internalise the words, imagery and expectations of gender when battling through decades of working in the Australian music industry? When did she wake up to how harmful and retraumatizing the music business can be ? How did she learn to heal and what role did music play ? An INDEX providing a soundtrack to so many questions and ideas to explore.

Back to the letter “A” — a healthy dose of loud guitars and Aussie Pub Rock features and continues all the way to “Z.” Notably, the sole entry for “Z” is Zep, Jo Jo “Taxi Mary” Tape 45. Fascinating the choice of tracks, reflecting the inner gendered experience and connection with the themes of the songs to the constrained life of being 16 in Queensland in the 1980s, rather than the overt masculinity that dominated the lyrics and videos of the mainstream hits.

I was curious to note the listing of Australian Crawl “Shut Down” Rec. 19., Angels “We Gotta Get Outta This Place” Tape 43. Of course, any discerning hairbrush microphone in the suburbs had its fleeting moment with Anderson, Angry “Suddenly” Tape 43 ! Adams, Brian clearly hit a nerve with Run For You” Tape 5 and he hung in there with Heaven” Tape 6 and no sign of a connection with the summer of 69, or the fact I had misspelt Bryan. We move on.

In 2022, recreating this personal 1987 music trove I lean on the Spotify search function. Swipe right and just like that, long forgotten songs transport me back to dancefloors in lounge rooms, under houses, backyards, bedrooms, a pool and ‘entertainment’ area of a subdivided estate in Aspley and a concrete slab, tin-roofed sailing shed on Cabbage Tree Creek. After the Fire” Der Kommissar Tape 27 (misfiled like so much electronic dance music) a deep-dig to find Anemotion “Obsession” Tape 14 — now at >16 million Spotify streams, whilst a mere 2 million streams for the lyrical ‘gold’ that is Allan, Deborah “Baby I Lied” Tape 4.

An analogue music INDEX — an artifact of my life as Generation X music fan. A betwixt-between story of analogue and digital , work and play, trauma and healing. Fascinating what was already seeded in those 16 years and what was to follow — memories and movement unlocked by a long forgotten, much loved soundtrack. Carefully hand written names of songs and artists rediscovered in a dusty alphabetized INDEX written by a teenage girl in Brisbane in 1987.

A betwixt-between story that has only just begun to reveal itself.

INDEX B-Z to be continued….maybe.

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music, books, conversation, alchemy, feminism, justice ; in transition to a creative life > writer ; I live on unceded Turrbul country.

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Leanne de Souza

music, books, conversation, alchemy, feminism, justice ; in transition to a creative life > writer ; I live on unceded Turrbul country.