Throughout my journey aboard this rock floating in space, I have paused to obsess over many things. Things that I can collect, mount, photograph, record or cut and paste – some edible. Things that define me.Things that mean a lot. It is safe to say that in the absence of friendships, relationships and (neuro)typical social engagements and endeavors, I have filled my life with meaningful things.

Sometimes, that’s all I have – things. Things I’ve taken care of. Things I return to again and again. Things I think about. Things I remember. I have a room full of things stored in my parent’s basement.

Music is one of the main things in my life. That room in my parent’s basement is full of music – vinyl, cassettes, VHS, DVDs, CDs, posters, books, magazines, t shirts and concert tickets stretching back to 1987. I don’t know what I would do without music. It was, and still is, such an important part of me – an extension of me. Music allowed me to find common ground with people. When I was young, and didn’t know any better, trying in vain to get along with everyone and devastated when I failed, music was my inroads into any discussion. For better or worst, it determined my friendships and haphazardly guided my fumbling attempts at “relationships”. Whereas most people seem to outgrow this influence, I have not changed; I still obsess over music. I still search YouTube for old favorites, concerts I attended and concerts I wish I attended. I order copies of the t shirts I used to wear when I was a teenager – New Order, The Smiths etc. I guess I am still stuck in the 80s, which is another characteristic of my autism – stubborn inability to let go and move on.

Maybe I will always be adolescent at heart. This is aided and abetted by my excellent long term memory. I remember everything about my youth – in great detail. I recall all the music that made me who I am. In particular, I vaguely remember one song that stuck with me forever. I was obsessed with it; but I couldn’t find evidence of it anywhere. I googled every lyric I could recall – “I’m only human”, “just like everybody else”, “gotta have a sense of humour, a sense of humour”, “space clones”, “… and computers …” – but came up empty handed. Did it even exist? I began to doubt my own memories. But recently, I managed to find the song that had teased me for 41 years – FORTY ONE YEARS!!

When I was twelve, I heard this song during American Bandstand’s “Rate-a-Record” segment back in 1980 – and never heard it since. Here’s an example of how the segment worked:

The odd lyrics, eccentric delivery, new wave synths and alienation theme immediately caught my interest. Never understood why I never heard it again. Couldn’t recall who did it and couldn’t find evidence of it anywhere. At one point, I thought it could have been Styx, but that avenue lead to a dead end. Then, about a month ago, I decided to search yet again. I googled “I’m only human” and, while some of the artists were too recent to fit the mold, Michael Des Barres’ name came up; he had released an album called “I’m Only Human” in 1980. That sounded promising! I knew a bit about Des Barres and it was the right year. In a sudden fit of excitement, peppered with desperation, I googled his name and the name of the song – and voilà!

At the time, I only found one reference to it on YouTube; it is included above. I did uncover some articles about it; explaining how Des Barres hoped for a long-deserved hit, but it failed to enter the Top 40. Still, how it evaded me for so long, and why it is not more widely known as a trendy “lost track”, or “new wave song you’ve never heard before”, is beyond me. I hope to compensate for that with this blog post.

Looking back at the album covers, is there a better title and imagery for a young autistic boy to latch onto? And those lyrics! Alas, the song is so obscure that no one has posted the lyrics online, but give it a listen; I can relate. Apparently, Des Barres was trying to channel the same alien / outsider / new wave sound that Gary Numan (himself autistic) and Bowie (some autistic traits) took to stellar heights. Was I so sophisticated back then that they resonated with me, despite not knowing I was autistic? This highlights a trend throughout my journey: my autism clearly determines my taste in all forms of culture, despite pressure to change or embrace what’s “popular”. Post diagnosis, this song still resonates and it is a happy accident that lead me to digging up these great memories. Thank God for things!

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