The summer started with my first June VBS* as a “teen” and ended with a back-to-school-retreat right before I started 7th grade and was a wonderful buildup to my 13th birthday, well, except for when the whole family got a stomach bug on the 4th of July.
Still the radio did everything right, well, at least once I had shed some of my inbred prudence and decided to live a little. As I rigged up the AM/FM section of an old console hi-fi in the garage I got my first taste of Springsteen as he danced in the dark (with googley-eyed Courtney Cox in the vid to boot) and then later on wondered why Peter Wolf was into the same thing as he belted LIGHTS OUT…UHHH HUHHH...and who can deny the foreboding edge of Billy Idol’s eyes without a face?
It's important to remember that my family never bothered to get cable when I was younger...so, instead of the MTV perspective that my peers had of the summer's hits, my imagination supplied all the visual interpretation, and in those days I couldn't have been more inspired by life all around.
On all those rides to and from teen activities I realized that not all popular music was really far out, as Cindy Lauper pointed out with her timeless time after time, which as my blonde-haired crush Jenny pointed out was the number one hit at the very moment he worked the controls of the church van’s crappy AM radio…countless boomboxes turned heads whenever Prince’s guitar announced that doves were about to cry, and then not long after that those funky drums calling us to go crazy. One time I was riding with Mom and from a nearby vehicle heard Steve Perry crooning to his Sherry about how their love holds on…I looked and this dude was cranking it up to get me to look so he could make a face or something, just to mess with some kid on a warm evening.
Then there was my special assignment…Mom decided to treat Dad to an early birthday gift and have me install a new stereo in the truck. Finally…not only the best system we owned (FOUR speakers!) but the cab seemed to resonate those songs perfectly, even with only about 10 watts total power and the fact that the word subwoofer hadn’t been invented yet. I'll never forget how good those Cleveland area stations sounded when we took a camping trip up near what was then Sea World. But most of the time I just listened in the driveway at home. Dudes from down the street would ride their bikes around and stop by and we would talk thru the window about our favorite tunes and artists…I remember telling Matt Goecke that I was into Billy Joel, an in the back of my head I was thinking of the all-vocal For The Longest Time.
Almost forgot about the time I could get Dr. Demento by fluke one Sunday night…see, in my home town we only had so-so radio until after I moved away and so the atmosphere (and God’s sense of humor…) had to create a path for anything cool to come through, in this case Rock 104 WXKE out of Ft. Wayne. So, even tho I had heard novelty acts before I had never come across a wealth such as the Doc, and thankfully I had a tape rolling for most of it…especially for a moment I could have never seen coming…Bryan Bowers' one and only Scotsman *sigh*. It was late at night and there I am in my room laughing the hiney completely off my body…thing is, telling the guys at church about it got wayyyy more laughs than when I let them hear the tape; chalk that up to experience.
Then there were the minor hits no one remembers…ever heard Glen Frey of Eagles fame talk about his hot female neighbor, the sexy girl? And then there was this silly bubblegum retro spoof thing called They Don’t Know which turned out to be my introduction to Brit comedian Tracey Ullman. ON Imeem.com I just found a gem I hadn’t heard in 24 years…Rick Springfield making light of how his name sounds like that of an aforementioned legend from New Jersey. Oh yah…
So, there were countless moments that highlighted my introduction to adolescence during that summer as I constantly adjusted my brother’s old ten speed and observed the fairer sex from a safe distance (especially the gal a couple doors down and a couple years older - she hardly acknowledged my existence as tho she'd actually invented that form of torture...). The music had a way of bringing out the things in life I didn’t really want to face, namely, romance…some of the more soulful numbers, as the late great Dan Hartman dreamed about her if he couldn’t hold her tonight…what’s a body to do when a chorus like that just kinda pulls it out of you?
After that retreat and my birthday it was on to a new year of school…as I sat on the bus one afternoon I pictured myself entering a tunnel that would be the teen years. I had heard people say they’re hard and confusing and I spose I was coming to terms with that.
Heh, one the rising hits at that time was prolly my all-time favorite from Hall and Oates, out of touch, out of time…there it is, just as sure as I’m writing a windy blog about it a million years later.
*Vacation Bible School - a staple of children's Christian education, mainly in Evangelical circles and usually conducted during the summer months.