These days, I’m really thankful for Shazam. There are few things more frustrating than hearing an amazing song, and having no clue what it’s called, who it’s by, or how to ever hear it again. There were so many mystery songs where I’d listen intensely for any lyric that even remotely resembled a song title. Failing that, I’d invest all hope in the possibility that the radio DJ would mention the name of the song after it finished playing (this method dashed more hopes than betting on the Leafs).
The worst offenders were the songs that had the audacity to not even mention their titles in the lyrics. If it weren’t for Guitar Hero, I’d probably still only know Possum Kingdom as that song they play on Rock 101, which may or may not be about vampires. The purchase of my first dance album started out as one of these epic searches.
In the winter of ’99, I was on an ice fishing trip with my dad, step-mom, and sisters. I’m sure there was an intention of getting me interested in the manly pursuit of braving the elements, and yanking food out of the freezing water, but it just didn’t take.
I can’t really say that I’d recommend ice fishing. It’s kind of like regular fishing, but with all the fun removed.
Like casting a line out into the distance, using one glorious, sweeping motion?
You get to drop a line in a hole.
Like relaxing in the sun, while you dangle your feet off the end of a dock and wait for a bite?
You get to sit out on the ice, where there aren’t any of those pesky trees to block the -40° winds, and wait for frostbite.
On the upside, I had a good time during the other parts of the trip. We were staying with a friend of my dad’s, and their kids were pretty well decked out with video games. Most of the time there was spent struggling to make it through Donkey Kong Country mine cart levels, but I did end up taking a trip upstairs to play some N64 with the older kids.
The upstairs room was smoky, dimly lit, and the wallpaper was a D.I.Y job made out of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. I couldn’t have been more out of my element. I did have one thing going for me though. They were playing GoldenEye, and I was pretty decent at GoldenEye. During a run through the Library level, a song came on the stereo that really caught my attention. It sounded both old, and futuristic at the same time. Surf-rock guitars mixing with techno beats, and a repeating lyric about a “Funk Soul Brother”.
I spent months keeping an ear out for that song. Nobody knew who it was by, or what it was even called. It was almost approaching urban legend status, and it wouldn’t be until my grade 8 class trip to Toronto, that I’d finally catch a break in the case.
Since my school jumped on the Toronto trip bandwagon a bit late, my class ended up getting split in half, and lumped in with two other schools. I’d never taken part in any intramural sports, so this was my first real interaction with kids from a different elementary school. When you spend 8 years with the exact same group of people, it’s a bit unnerving to get tossed into a completely different group that had known each other for just as long, so I was a bit nervous.
I got over my inherent shyness as soon as I heard the guy in front of me on the bus singing along to “Funk Soul Brother” on his Discman. I jumped up and asked, “Hey kid! What’s that song?” I think he was a bit caught off guard by my abruptness, but he let me know it was Fatboy Slim.
I made sure to track down Fatboy Slim at the next music store we visited on the trip. Apparently Fatboy Slim was the name of the artist, and “Rockafeller Skank” was the name of the song that I’d been searching for. Never would’ve guessed either of those facts in a million years.
The album itself ended up being pretty solid, but for me it represented an achievement more than anything else. I’d finally tracked down this musical beast against all odds, and could listen to it whenever I pleased.