I don’t know where to begin. How many times have you/we heard that phrase? For me, with Prince, it is easy. It began in a dying Pittsburgh suburb. I have no idea how the record landed on our living room floor. But, my sister brought it home. It was odd, as in 1981, all she and her friend Danielle could do was weep to the end of The Who. Wow. They stared at Roger Daltrey's ass for what seemed like an hour. He wore ripped jean shorts and his butt was halfway hanging out. I will never forget my sis saying, “Look at his ass!” There was Rush, The Who, lots of Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand. Lots of good music. Foreigner, Joan Jett. My parents were recently separated. Men at Work. Tons of random music in the early 80s. Then, somehow, Gretchen smuggled 1999 into the house in 1982.
Fuck! It was a record unlike any I had ever heard before. We had one of those old school record players that lived in a giant piece of furniture. I honestly can’t piece that part of it together. That is odd as it was such a sad part of my life. I lied about running away from Catholic school in 1982. I literally told the cops I was kidnapped and taken to an amusement park that wasn’t open. I was a liar. I was afraid. My parents were no longer together. The world was kinda folding in around me. And, then, bam! There is 1999.
1999 came out in 1982. I was 8. I was in the terrible belly of Catholic school, as my mom wanted me to be in it. I was a fucking rebel. I brought a Playboy to school…Bo Derek none the less, and a nun stapled my finger. Things were not going well with the parents’ divorce and I was losing my shit. Literally. I hated my mother so much at that point for leaving my dad in the first place. I hated my father for living so far away. I hated my sister for just being related to me. I hated the sky for being blue. I hated everything. Everything.
Then,1999. The cover was unlike anything I had ever seen before and it was a two record deal. That was super weird because I had never had one of those before. Or, more so, I never knew a double record existed. So, Gretchen brings it home. I guess there should be a little background about this house for a minute. We both slept on the second floor of 203 Wessex Hills Drive. Her room was so different from mine. Hers had crazy blue carpeting. Mine? I couldn’t tell you. We used to literally play pirates on her floor or the other big sister game of get the fuck out of my room, brother. Her room with the ocean of escapism was a lovely place to be until I over extended my welcome.
Downstairs were the living room and dining room. I spent hours upon hours watching Speed Racer there. Gretch watched a lot of General Hospital. It drove me nuts. So, I was 7/8. She was 14/15. We were both in Moon Township public schools by then. My mom removed me from the Catholic crap after the staple incident.
1999. The opening. Slow. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. I only want you to have some fun.” And then the rest of the song is all shit you’re supposed to be afraid of. I didn’t know what judgement day was. Even in Catholic school. It wasn’t referred to in that way. It was a welcoming in a weird way, in a kid’s mind of brokenness “Don’t worry” were the best words you could ever hear when your parents are splitting up. The song is fucked up as shit though. It’s about dying in an apocalypse….the end of the world…..the end of our existence. At 8, it felt that way. I didn't get the Reagan fear in his words. I internalized them in a sense. I took “we’re all gonna die” as a very personal lyric because of the world crumbling in front of me. At 8, when your mom and dad are fucking splitting up, it’s kinda hard to not see it otherwise. Yet, at the same point, it told you to party, to not be afraid. Profound shit for my little 8-year old mind.