Internet Memories and Battle of the Bands ‘93

For better or worse, the internet has become a big collective memory organ.

Here’s more proof that you can find anything on the internet. Even though it’s been 25 years since I watched Battle of the Bands, it popped into my mind for some reason earlier this month. Or rather, this particular performance did. It only took a few minutes of searching to find this video, and suddenly, I was transported back to my parents’ living room in 1993.

Interestingly enough, I had only the vaguest recollection of what Wake actually sounded like, though I did remember thinking they should’ve won. (While Wake made it to the semifinals, Los Angeles-based funk group Dox Haus Mob were the night’s winners.) For the record, “She Wants” is the sort of driving, melodic college rock that screams “early ’90s” — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I can see why seventeen-year-old Jason wanted Wake to win.

It’s weirdly cool (and maybe even a bit humbling) to discover that I wasn’t the only one who found this memorable. In this particular case, Wake’s performance on Battle of the Bands didn’t just leave an impression on me that was strong enough to last nearly three decades. It was also memorable enough that one Eric Thompson not only recorded it from his TV but then, sixteen years on, saw fit to upload his recording to YouTube for anyone — like some random guy who had the vaguest memories of watching it in high school — to (re)discover years later.

For better or worse, the internet has become a big collective memory organ. It allows us to revisit and rediscover even the most random and trivial things: a barely-remembered TV show, a song that you heard once on the radio decades ago, a movie of which you only remember a single scene or line of dialog, a favorite childhood story or author… the list goes on. So long as somebody has even the slightest remembrance of something that they once experienced somewhere, there’s a good chance that they can find it lurking on some website. Or if not the entire thing, then at least enough to further jog, enhance, and accentuate their own memory.

The nice thing about this is that it allows us to plug in the holes in our lives where our minds fail us, and it can lead to unlikely connections and communities. How many of us have stumbled across an entire website devoted to something that we loved — and we’d been absolutely certain we were the only ones who felt that way? Somebody else likes this band? Somebody else watched this TV show? Others enjoyed this book? I thought I was the only one!

That sort of thing is what can make the internet so great, and indeed, it’s one of the reasons why I became so enamored with it in the first place. But what about stuff that’s more embarrassing or shameful than a decent performance on a Dick Clark-produced talent show from the early ’90s?

Tweets filled with ugly insults and off-color jokes; embarrassing photos and videos that you thought would only ever be seen by close friends; awkward blog posts; trolling, doxxing, and cyberbullying… this list goes on, as well, and depressingly so. If it was ever posted online, even in a manner that you thought private and protected, then chances are that it’s still somewhere online — and it’s simply biding its time, waiting to be discovered, waiting to haunt, waiting to upend, embarrass, and even ruin.

This should give us all pause whenever we think about posting and sharing online. This has really been driven home for me as of late. As time permits, I’ve been importing older posts from Opus’ previous incarnations, a process that can leave me wincing at stuff I wrote five, ten, even fifteen years ago. Not necessarily wincing at the content or opinion itself, but rather, at how I worded it, which often reveals my own naïveté and immaturity (e.g., the times when I mistook snark for wit and thoughtful criticism).

In its own innocuous way, this random video taken from a nearly 30-year-old TV talent show serves as a reminder that thanks to the internet, nothing ever truly disappears. It can always re-emerge in the most random of ways, and you’ll have little to no control over how it’ll be (mis)used and (mis)interpreted, or what it’ll dredge up in others.

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