For all my love of pop and rock music, I don’t write a lot about it for one simple reason: I realize that our music tastes are a very intimate affair. Intimate in this case means that what’s dear to me will mean nothing to most people, even if we are talking about something well-known and mainstream. So you think that the Killers’ Hot Fuss album is the best music ever written because it brings memories of your first love at college and now, oh shit, it’s been almost twenty years since Hot Fuss and you’re no longer young and have been divorced already? Well, Hot Fuss is still an amazing record but no one truly understands how much Hot Fuss means to you. Except maybe for your first love.
Yet here I am, wanting to honor one of the most amazing songs ever written, knowing that no one reading this story will understand feelings.
Today I was driving and this record came up on my playlist. It’s been part of my life for almost thirty years!
I was a teenager — barely — growing up in Moscow. I’d visited Europe so had some experience of the “West” but I was yet to go through life-changing experiences that would truly “westernize” me — my education in America and England, then America again; the start of my career in London.
I was learning English at my Russian school and I wasn’t good at it. No one truly was. It’s hard to master a language when you’re not exposed to it in your everyday life.
That said, I was exposed to it in my everyday life, courtesy of my love of Western pop music! The early 1990s in Russia had seen the launch of the first FM radio stations, and music played every waking hour on my Phillips Hi-Fi, my best-ever present from my parents, received on my twelfth birthday. I loved being able to understand the lyrics of my favorite songs and I also learned English from the American radio deejay Casey Kasem. Moscow’s Radio Maximum aired his Top 40 show every Sunday morning, and I’d never miss it. The ritual was like going to church.
So in the fall of 1993 I heard this song on Radio Maximum (103.7FM!) and it caught my attention immediately. I was so different from everything I’d heard before. It was genre-bending. Was it rock? Was it dance? It was weird, sexy, and magnetizing. I’m not a musician so I can’t describe this song in technical terms but the lead vocalist was so versatile in how he changed from singling in a falsetto to sounding like…