the first album i ever bought: ace of base – the sign

architecture in helsinki @ cat's cradle

The First Album I Ever Bought is an occasional guest post series where friends, family, and strangers talk about, well, the first album they ever bought. A new piece runs every Wednesday, and sometimes more often. If you’d like to submit, please see the guidelines here.

It is early 1994.  I am a 10 years old, with Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket.  There is a record store in the mall – it is probably a Sam Goody, but that’s not important.  The radio has been playing this song called “The Sign”, and I am obsessed.  Prior to this moment, every piece of music I’ve owned has been a gift, and all of them compilation Beatles albums.  But for my very first purchase using my own money, I’ve decided to take a chance on Ace of Base.

The tape – because I had my own walkman, but no CD player yet – probably cost me $8.  I can still remember the packaging – pink and green, with two ladies looking at me from behind an abstract rose on the cover, and then long-folded page of lyrics and liner notes in white on black.  The music is all so earnest and danceable, with occasional semi-rap-breaks by men with deep bass voices.  I learn all the words to all the songs by following along, and eventually sing along unaided (learning basic harmonization for the first time) as I dance in my room every day after school.  I imagine disco balls and singing to imaginary crowds of people dancing as I do this for months.  I don’t understand what many of the lyrics are trying to say, but I sing along with unabashed joy and seriousness.

Going back and listening now, it’s all a little bizarre – most of songs are pretty much the same, but it’s easy to see why a burgeoning fan of pop music would enjoy it.  Songs like “Don’t Turn Around” and “The Sign” still make for excellent karaoke fodder, and most everyone who hears them and was listening to the radio in that early-mid 90s era enjoys them – at least on a kitsch level.  And considering the fact that Wikipedia tells me it is in the top 100 best selling albums of all time, I’m probably not alone in “The Sign” as my first album purchase.  Because it may be Swedish dance-pop, but it’s fun, damn-it!

Maggie is a librarian working for the federal government in the DC area, who has questionable taste in music, but is surrounded by good influences. (Her words, not mine! I think Maggie’s taste is perfectly fine.)

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