With few exceptions, 13-year olds aren’t typically known for a well developed musical palette. I was no exception. While I’d heard things like C+C Music Factory and Technotronic, my first exposure to non-pop crossover electronic music like Moby, Fatboy Slim, and Fluke came from a bottle of soda.
The year was 1998 and I was finally cool. I was in eighth grade and finally had a group of friends after struggling to make any for the first few years in a new town. Friday night rec center dances were no longer exercises in social isolation. Instead, our group of friends would form a small circle, shaking our booties as provocatively as we dared before a chaperone intervened.
I even hosted the occasional sleepover, despite being terribly embarrassed by my dysfunctional parents and our tiny apartment. Those nights, we’d listen to the five CDs I owned: TLC, The Spice Girls, Tag Team, and the soundtracks from Dangerous Minds and Waiting to Exhale (try not to judge, it was the free BMG Music Club selection). Before Napster and Limewire, new music just wasn’t as readily available.
We played them on a boombox we affectionately named Old Dirty, which got its name because it had been beat to shit. The CD door at the top was held shut with electrical tape and the speakers were completely dented in. I regularly spent my entire allowance on 8 D batteries so I could blast tapes I’d recorded from the radio on the school bus.
The other thing I loved to spend my allowance on was Surge Soda. If you aren’t familiar, Surge was Coco-Cola’s short-lived, dark green, sickeningly sweet answer to Pepsi’s Mountain Dew. We bought it by the 12-pack and easily went through two or three packs between a few of us.
One fateful day, I spent my last dollar on a bottle of Surge. When I opened the cap, inside it read “YOU WON A FREE SURGE CD”. I was ecstatic! Giveaways were much more tedious in the 90’s though, with no QR codes or websites to redeem them on. I had to send my bottle cap in an envelope to an address on the bottle and nearly 3 months later, my CD arrived in the mail.
The Surge CD was technologically advanced for its time. It not only came with music on it, but you could put it in your computer and it also had sound samples and a simple beat making software to use them on. I spent hours messing around with the 8 synths.
The track list included songs like Fluke’s ‘Absurd’, ‘Ah ah’ by Moby (who still had hair!), Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Going Out Of My Head’, and David Bowie’s ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ for good measure. I listened to it on repeat for months and it helped me to develop a much deeper appreciation for electronic music.
When the CD was stolen from my car in 2001, I was heartbroken. Luckily, Daft Punk‘s Discovery was released shortly thereafter. I’ve looked for copies of the CD on ebay and various CD resellers many times in the last 20 years (I’m getting old, y’all) and never found one, so I’ve had to resort to making my own playlist with the individual tracks.
I guess this #TBT goes to show that your musical taste can be developed in a lot of strange ways. While my dentist and waistline didn’t particularly appreciate my Surge habit, I’ll chalk that up to collateral damage.