3AM Eternal: T.S.O.L. “It’s Too Late” (1987)

When I was a young teen, I had a number of pen pals. One of them was a punk rock kid named Jake. We only exchanged two or three letters. We decided to send each other copies of our favorite music. He sent me a dubbed copy of some of his favorite punk songs, with T.S.O.L.‘s Thoughts of Yesterday 1981-1982 in its entirety. In return, I sent him a tape of some of my favorite songs. I don’t recall what was on it, but I attributed his never writing back to him hating what was on it!

Still, I liked the T.S.O.L. stuff I heard. It was intelligent, fun, and aggressive, but never too stupid. So when I was a little older, I had a little extra cash, and at the record store, I saw a T.S.O.L. cassette entitled Hit and Run. Unlike the LP and CD version, the cassette version simply had the band’s name and album title on the cover–no picture of the band. That being my format of choice, I picked up the tape and bought it.

This different artwork, I would discover, was done for a reason.

I put the tape in my Walkman, and quickly discovered that this…this was not the T.S.O.L. I had come to know. I looked in the tape cover, and there they were, in all their leather and big hair finest. I didn’t know who Jack Grisham was, I had no idea of the band’s tumultuous back story, and after thirty seconds of “It’s Too Late,” I spit that tape out like a rotten piece of fruit. I felt gipped. I hated it. Period.

Came to find out I wasn’t the only one. I sold it on the bus, making sure to be rid of that piece of crap before I got home from the trip.

It doesn’t surprise me, though, that the label had hidden the band’s picture. Perhaps they were trying to save face among the cassette-buying punk rock kids with a horrid, underhanded bait-and-switch. I wasn’t adverse to metal; I liked Motley Crue and Metallica and Guns ‘n Roses, but this…i hated.

I never listened to the rest of the album. I couldn’t get past that first minute or so. Thanks to Youtube, I went back and listened to it again, and it’s just as mediocre as it was then, but I can at least understand the context of it.

These damn kids have it so easy today. All we had back then was name recognition and a hope of a benevolent record store clerk to let us hear our purchases ahead of time.

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