There Is No Cat

The alternative to flowers!

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Where thoughts are reborn

I don't like to steal links, especially not from my brother, but Salon has an article about one of my absolute favorite bands, Mission of Burma, that I might not have noticed but for his post. While I enjoyed reading it, and pretty much everything else I've read about Burma recently, I have to say that everyone is getting something terribly wrong. Burma were not ignored during their lifetime. I remember when Signals, Calls and Marches came in to the radio station I worked at in college. We damned near played that record to death. If you were paying attention, Burma's brilliance shone madly even in the day, not merely in retrospect. I thought Michael Azzerad's book, Our Band Could Be Your Life, was a great read, but it seems to have set off a ton of revisionist history about Mission of Burma. I don't know, maybe State College, Pennsylvania, was a weird little hotbed of Burmaism, but everyone I knew loved their music, even though it was impossible to find the records at any of the stores in town.

I did eventually find a copy of Signals, Calls and Marches somewhere, but it was damned hard. I never did find an original copy of Vs. I got a lead on some copies at Midnight Music in NYC around 1987, but by the time I got there, they were gone. (Interestingly, within minutes after I left the store, dejected at not finding a copy of the album, I read in the Village Voice about the impending release of the Rykodisc compilation.) And that may have been the source of Burma's so-called obscurity, the fact that they had lousy distribution, and perhaps a reluctance to tour (insecurity?). But everyone I know who heard the records, and that was a lot of people, loved them, swore by them. Burma was huge among the crowd I hung with, and we knew at the time that they were one of the best bands around. They stood out, head and shoulders above their contemporaries, and we knew it. They didn't reach Nirvana-like sales, but who did back then? The Azzerad book and the slew of articles that have come in its wake seem determined to position Burma as the greatest band you never heard of, but damnit, everyone I knew listened to them back in the day, and we knew how good they were.

Posted at 11:18 PM

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


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Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

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