I remember getting this issue the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I had purchased a subscription to Sassy with cash I sent folded into a sheet of yellow legal paper with an address for a friend’s house because my mom found the magazine completely inappropriate.
That summer, my grandmother was dying of cancer and my family was just an epic mess. Epic. I still have my diary entries from making my way through the lists in that booklet interspersed with entries on what it’s like to watch someone you love die and your parents act crazy about it (I kept the booklet folded in half in the back of my diary). The library helped with most of the books that I hadn’t already read. The videos were harder—I couldn’t always get a car to go to the video store and often had to walk, and then there was trying to figure out where to watch them. I didn’t get through very many of the movies.
The music list changed my life. Just prior to that, my freshmen year, it seemed like there were all of these boys discovering “important” music. I don’t know why the boys were getting the attention for doing that. I remember listening to a Nick Cave tape in this guy’s car in the parking lot of the junior high around that time and being so incredibly moved and he accused me of saying I liked it because I liked him (I didn’t like him. He had a tape player in his car). So, the music list made me freak out and my heart beat faster as I read it.
Some of the albums I could listen to at the library in a listening carrel. That was the hardest way because you were limited to 45 minutes. If there wasn’t anyone around, you could get away with longer, but not always. And you couldn’t check out albums for home and I am one of those people who wants to listen to the same song on repeat all day. Especially that summer. I found out you could also check out tape recorders. So I bought a big pack of tapes (no small expense at the time), went the library on a slow afternoon, checked out a tape recorder and snuck it into the listening carrel with the Eartha Kitt album. I got maybe three songs in before the librarian caught me.
So then I figured out that around 11 pm at night I could tune into a local college radio show that would take requests. So I took the tapes I bought along with my friend’s borrowed boombox and every night I would request 4-5 songs from a selection of those albums and carefully tape them. This ridiculously tedious project of library listening, radio recording, purchasing three of the albums on the list with carefully saved babysitting money (The Thes, Nick Cave, REM), and borrowing a few albums from a flush older boy cousin got me close to making deep headway into that list around the time of my grandmother’s funeral and the first few days of my sophomore year.
I can’t put my finger on the metamorphosis, the how of it, but there was one. I showed up at school sad but knowing important things about myself that year that I think gave me some power to survive high school despite being a weird girl with a badly dysfunctional family. I was never afraid, either, of those boys who would decamp at tables in the high school cafeteria talking music because they were all worked up about Out of Time and I already knew Murmur was one of REM’s last great albums and some of them hadn’t even heard it.
I can’t find the booklet now, I just have the diary, so I am so glad to have the download and this post, too. When I looked at the scan it was like Proust’s cookies. I could smell the library and hear the voice of that nice college DJ and fell how hot it was the day my grandmother was buried.
And of course, like others have said, the list became the anchors for bands I have discovered in the nearly 25 years since. I guess there is some heroics in what I went through to get that music, but I’m glad music is so much more accessible now. I’m glad there’s a way for high school girls to find a personal soundtrack to embroider their summers and still have time to live a little. Fuck, that summer was hard.
On Metafilter, reminiscences of how Sassy profoundly shaped our tastes.
I marvel how I remember literally every word in every issue of Sassy yet I can’t remember the emails I read this morning, but really? It’s because at the time Sassy meant everything to me.
And I, too, pored over the music reviews and purchased whatever I could find based on them. Rolling Stone introduced me to the Clash and Lou Reed. Sassy introduced me to Nick Cave and (YES) Nation of Ulysses.
(I can also remember every word of every MaximumRocknRoll I bought, too. MRR introduced me to a bunch of sanctimonious, whiny, shouty stuff.)