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Now, If They'd Put Couches in Music Stores . . .

April 29, 1993|JIM WASHBURN | Jim Washburn is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

"Doctor, can you tell me what's wrong with me?"

"You've got acute 'Astral Weeks' and show tendencies of 'Axis: Bold as Love' and 'Pet Sounds.' "

"Give it to me straight, Doc."

"Well, the mobile steel rims have cracked in the viaducts of your dreams, your yellow in this case is not so mellow, and you're hindered by the belief that you just weren't made for these times." "Is there hope for me?"

"Sure. You're what we call a 'Pepper.' You'll get by with a little help. I prescribe two hours a day of Professor Longhair, and lay off those Velvet Underground."

In the future I think psychologists will dispense with the Rorschach tests and the years of analysis and just do what many of us do to see where someone's mind sits: Check out his or her record collection. What reveals the soul better than music? What evokes a mood as suddenly and profoundly?

Music reflects a person's mind-set, and surely influences it. The course of my whole life was defined by the first record I ever owned. Unfortunately, it was "Perri the Squirrel."

I predict that by this century's end a whole new school of psychotherapy will be based on the analysis of record collections. That's not too big a stretch considering that some friends of mine recently--true story--spent a boodle to have their cat analyzed by a professional. It had this wetting problem that they felt wasn't rooted in its physiology. Sure enough, the pet psychologist confirmed that the cat had some deep-seated problems:

"Little Muffy ist sufferink from zere vant of zere muhzzer's affection, cauzink him to get ze attention vit ze flamboyant acts."

"You mean. . . ?"

"Zat's correct: He haff ze Oedipus-in-Boots Complex, ya."

But I digress. There is a scale I'm working on, taking noted albums and giving them both a numeric value relating to degrees of mental health of their owner and a capsule description of the personality state they imply for said owner.

Zero equals the average human in repose--Ted Koppel, for example--while +5 is a healthy social genius and -5 implies you'd be better off dealing with a hill of red ants.

Here are a few examples:

Bob Dylan's "John Wesley Harding": +4. Deeply spiritual, in a nondenominational way.

"Big Brother and the Holding Company": -2. Hippie hysteric; poor hygiene habits.

Billy Ray Cyrus' "Some Gave All": Sorry, we're not the ones doing pet analysis.

Not all of an artist's albums merit the same profile and rating. "Led Zeppelin I," for example, gets "+1. Dude!" while Zep's "Presence" is "-3. Grow up already!"

Some albums are gender-specific: The profile of a woman who likes a Stevie Nicks album might be "-4. Self-absorbed would-be witch; talks to self on car phone." The same preference in a guy might mean "-5. Infantile dweeb; works at IRS but dreams of mild bondage."

These ratings aren't useful just for professionals but in daily life. Suppose you're on a first date with someone. It's late and you're at his or her apartment and it's threatening to develop into serious snugglebunny time. How can you tell if the person you're about to drop your defenses with is the simpatico love of your

life or a hot piece of psychosis who sharpens his/her teeth with a rat-tailed file?

Well, you could take it slow, getting to really know the person for a couple of years first, so that when you come together it's an act entered with shared respect and commitment. Ha ha, just kidding. You need a good, shorthand way of knowing just what you're dealing with, pronto. If Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me" is on the stereo, you're in there. If it's anything by Slim Harpo, propose. If it's Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music," run like hell.

There are some records like that; they say it all. One of my favorites in the early '70s was "Songs of the Humpbacked Whale," a collection of real whales doing this echoey underwater mooing for 40 minutes. A friend of mine always used to put it on when he wanted people to leave, and boy, did they. Though this album was actually reviewed in Rolling Stone, the whales never got another chance to record, probably because they weren't married to John Lennon.

Anyway, the best thing you can do to figure people out is to go through their whole record/CD collections and tally the numbers from our rating guide to see where they stand. It's fun to make up your own list of albums, particularly one that makes you seem superior to everyone else. I have.

Here are some significant albums and the personality traits they reveal:

Pink Floyd's "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn": +2. Divorced from reality, but got a good settlement.

Bob Marley's "Natty Dread": +3. Earthy; bring shampoo.

Bob Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks": -1. Self-absorbed. Borderline Stevie Nicks.

Peter Frampton's "Frampton Comes Alive": -3. Joiner; lacks initiative.

Michael Jackson's "Thriller": -3. Same as above, but add a monkey and glove.

Madonna's "Like a Virgin": -4. Venus envy.

"Patti Smith": +2. Doesn't do dishes.

"Patty Smyth": -3. Has dishwasher.

Garth Brooks' "The Chase": +2. Joiner, but very well-balanced. Can help you change a tire without necessarily murdering you.

Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick": -4. No-rhythm egghead on pot.

Michael Bolton's "Timeless": -4. No-rhythm airhead on Exercycle.

Guns N' Roses' "Use Your Illusion": -5. Dirt with an attitude.

The Beatles' "Revolver": +4. Never trust anyone who doesn't like the Beatles.

Procol Harum's "Shine on Brightly": +5. My editor likes this.

There you go, and always remember this when starting a relationship: Handle by the edges, do not allow dust to settle on the surface, and avoid sources of heat.

T. Jefferson Parker's column resumes in this spot next week.

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