It started with an innocent request: Would I DJ at a friend's birthday party? Well, sure. He's my buddy, and, conveniently, books one of the biggest clubs in town. But when I asked the host if he had any programming requests, he threw me a curveball.
"Mostly butt rock," was all he said.
I hesitated. What could make my pal possibly think, for even a split second, I could fill such an order? The last time I played his venue, I spun Primal Scream, the theme from S.W.A.T., and a mambo version of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express." Definitely a butt rock-free set.
Then I remembered the night he had checked out one of my Linda's Tavern gigs and become awfully excited after I mixed into the Stooges' "Search and Destroy" out of a Rolling Stones cut. But that's borderline butt rock at best.
"Where were his ears for the rest of the set?" I thought, being a judgmental ass. Yeah, I'd played Judas Priest that night, but beat-matched it with an Afrika Bambaataa jam. Had my friend been paying more attention to the center of the universe (me) and less to the other fount from which all blessings flow (booze), surely he'd have picked up on one of my cardinal rules for DJing: Always vary the program. It's all about "the mix." Once you break pop music down to its core components—melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics, and arrangement—all manner of odd song combinations fly. Was my friend in the bathroom when I dropped Prince's "Erotic City" on top of Mouse on Mars?
Yet since it was a birthday request, I was determined to oblige. Surely, I thought, I'd have to stock up on countless artists whose records I never dreamed of owning. But as I dug through the crates, I began to wonder if I've been manifesting multiple personalities—and one of them had been buying old Foreigner and Chicago albums. Despite being a horrible music snob, my shelves were now teeming with titles I'd sneered at all through the '80s, the very albums beloved by kids who'd persecuted me for my Flock of Seagulls haircut as I scurried through high school in my magenta parachute pants and Chinese slippers.
Admittedly, I'd bought many of these discs for specific reasons. My Kansas vinyl was purchased for a dinner theme party, where all the food—and music—had to begin with the letter K. But the sheer volume of mainstream rock that had crept into my library belied a painful truth I'd been suppressing for 15 years: I like a lot of butt rock. More than I care to admit.
That alternate personality combing through secondhand Journey records at the flea market has no such prejudices. He's never fretted that Lita Ford isn't nearly as cool as Joan Jett; he just likes the fact she says the word "laid" in "Kiss Me Deadly." He's forgiven Chris, my first big crush and the biggest Tom Petty disciple in our high school, for breaking my heart by beating the shit out of me, and picked up a copy of Damn The Torpedoes. And I'm absolutely positive it was him who hung on to that copy of M�y Cre's Girls, Girls, Girls long after the snooty, esoteric face I show the world daily had used it for a drag routine.
Apparently my disorder isn't as uncommon as I cared to believe. I thought this was an uncool epiphany on par with confessing my love for Joey Fatone, the chunkiest, hairiest member of 'N Sync, but everyone I told seemed to have a similar story. During an interview with Ryan Adams of Whiskeytown, he spent more time rhapsodizing over death metal than he did praising his recent collaborator Emmylou Harris. My pal Arty from emo outfit ErrorType: 11 brags brazenly about eliciting a standing ovation in a Montana karaoke bar with his reading of "Rock You Like a Hurricane."
So I've come to terms with the fact that butt rock is a healthy part of "the mix" in my programming, and I don't need to manifest a psychological disorder just to enjoy "Pour Some Sugar on Me" guilt-free. I suppose if I started listening to nothing but butt rock, an intervention would be in order, just the same as if I limited my diet to nothing but pork rinds. They may not carry the cachet of the latest Sonic Youth or DJ Spooky release, but Screaming For Vengeance and Diver Down make me want to fuck and drink and generally let my graying hair down. And honestly, if I'm publicly overanalyzing my love for the Scorpions, anything that makes me more uninhibited can only be a plus.