Wednesday, May 18, 2016
In early 1997 a young lady I was dating planted the seed in my mind that I should start a website. I, with my utter lack of computer literacy, thought she was nuts at first. But when I found out you didn't need much computer literacy at all to put together a basic site, I set about starting to learn how. My big mistake was paying $350 to this cheap trade school to learn HTML. It took less than one class for me to realize I could just teach that shit to myself. I finally took the "textbook" I could've just paid 20 bucks for at Barnes & Noble and did just that. (If anyone from Career Center in NYC is reading this, I still want my money back, you cheap scammers.)
Back in '97 the internet was a very, very different little beast. You had to tap into a telephone line to get online, and downloading took forever and a day. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Youtube, no Soundcloud. But the word was out that HTML was so easy a child could learn it, and the "homepage" craze had begun accordingly in earnest. Most of the people who were creating these pages had anything but talent and original ideas. Thus, you had 1,000 "websites" (I use that term VERY loosely here!) on the Beatles and Pink Floyd, and about half a billion Simpsons "homepages," all with the same damned completely generic content. The web in '97 was anything but a worldwide archive of everything that exists under the sun. There was no Google, only a gaggle of equally shitty search engines like Altavista and Lycos and I forget the names of the rest.
So of course, I went ahead and practiced my HTML skills by making a website about Los Dug Dugs, taking what few clues I had about them and getting to work. I honestly admit the premise seemed like a joke at first. With the web still in its infancy, I figured there was no sense in bothering to put Los Dug Dug's there. Who would even notice a tiny little site like this one, with hardly any information outside of what little I knew about them? But when I came across that ad for Geocities, the free web hosting site started by Yahoo, offering two free megabytes with which to put up my tiny test site, I began to take the idea a bit more seriously. It was obvious I had nothing to lose by putting it online, and besides, however horrible the quality of my site was, at least I'd be offering something different, instead of the 9 billionth useless Beatles fan site.
And so, on July 31, 1997, "Los Dug Dug's Homepage," the very first website devoted to a rock band from Mexico, premiered on the internet through Geocities, quietly and with hardly any fanfare at all. Naturally, creating it was the easy part. Now I was faced with the far more difficult task of promoting it. Had I started it today, I could've just posted it on Facebook, and wouldn't have had to lift a finger to get it listed on Google. Twenty years ago, though, you actually had to submit your URL to one of the lousy search engine sites I mentioned earlier, then wait several days and keep your fingers crossed that they'd get around to listing it. It took awhile, but soon my site was on Altavista and the other lame search engines of the day.
While waiting for this to happen, I took to these very same search sites to find other places on the web where I could promote the site. That's how I happened across the Bomp Message Board, a spinoff of the famed garage-rock label and fanzine where you could talk about all things related to punk and pyschedelic music. I figured it was as good a place as any to hawk my site, so I signed up and then began my first Dug Dug's site promo campaign there in earnest. This campaign paid off to a certain degree as I soon found myself entering into handshake deals with creators of other obscure rock-oriented websites, who would link my site on theirs in exchange for the privilege of their sites being linked on mine. That's how we used to do it!
It was all well and good that these linking deals led to my site being seen in countries such as Australia and the UK, but still I had my doubts that my work would ever be seen in the one country that really mattered in my search for Los Dug Dug's -- namely, Mexico. That's why I was very surprised and shocked when I received an email in early October '97 from a man named Marco Mejia. It appeared to originate from Mexico City and was in very bad English, but it was understandable enough for me to gather that this Marco worked near a bar where Los Dug Dug's played all the time and he was willing to tell Armando Nava himself about my site and my search for him. I was excited but skeptical, especially so when my initial attempts to reply to this email were all marked "undeliverable." So close, and yet so far? I kept trying and trying again, taking about a month until I finally got a message through to Marco successfully, by which time he had written again wondering why he hadn't heard from me. A few very awkward words in both English and Spanish were exchanged, and Marco told me to stand by, promising that someone "very important" with ties to the band would be in touch with me shortly. And so I waited.
Like I said, my site at the time was extremely primitive. Just three short pages consisting only of whatever album cover images I had of the band, accompanied by whatever little information I could gather from their records and an article which detailed my discovery and subsequent obsession with Los Dug Dug's and ended on a plea for anyone with information on them to step forward. As for streaming their music, all I could fit onto the tiny 2 megabytes of storage Geocities had given me to start with were a few short samples in WAV format. MP3s had come into existence by then, but with only a 56K connection through a phone line, the simplest of three-minute songs took an hour or more to download.
Indeed, my site was what it was, but ultimately, what little it provided would prove more than enough. On November 22, 1997, Los Dug Dug's Homepage received a very historic visit from the last man I ever thought would even find out about it. And that night, I checked my email before bedtime with the initial plan of just going right to sleep afterwards. When I saw what awaited me in my inbox, though, I wound up staying up half the night.