I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, in the Philadelphia area, we are enjoying the most glorious, Classic Spring season in recent memory. It’s been sunny most days with just enough rain a few nights a week to keep the budding vegetation satisfied. The temperatures have been in the 60s, which I’ll take at this time of year. Some people, like my wife, wish we could get a month-long stretch of weather in the mid-70s, but I think that’s asking for too much. Often, at this time of year, we’re slogging through a full week of rain and temperatures still in the high 40s. My nearly half-century experience in this area tells me that once the thermometer hits 75º F in Philadelphia for 2 or 3 days in a row that a quick spike to 90º F with stifling humidity is just around the corner.
I’ve been so carried by the weather this April and the first few days of May that I’ve found myself having flashbacks to carefree spring days of my youth. As with many of my memories, a soundtrack is quickly associated. Days like this remind me of rushing from school or work to meet up with friends and start hitting the bong and/or the $6 case of beer. Freshman year at a college outside Chicago, during a week of just this sort of weather, I recall a friend and I placing stereo speakers on the windowsill of my dorm room and blasting the soundtrack from Apocalypse Now, a double-album set composed of the most of the movie’s dialog and sound effects, for passerby to hear: “Saigon…shit!”
Earlier this week, as the morning sun filtered through the fresh leaves on a winding Pennsylvania road, I had my 2 newly purchased New Order songs cranked up—yeah, 2 of the 25 characteristically ’80s songs I actually liked in their prime! I recalled a few college crushes and actual relationships that petered out. I recalled my efforts at getting over the hump and actually feeling tuned into the times. Soft Cell‘s “Tainted Love” was another song I could enjoy in mixed company—a mix of normal and slightly hip people, that is, not just my posse of high-minded, too-cool-for-school (yet criminally UNcool) outsiders who helped me spend my free time talking B-sides and SCTV skits.
The Buzzcocks have been sounding even better than ever, if you can imagine that. That feeling I’ve carried around for almost ever hit me hard: What’s wrong with this world that barely knows the wonders of The Buzzcocks?
My younger son wanted to hear Blondie the other night, and I had to resist high-fiving him over the thought of prime-time Debbie Harry singing “Dreaming.” I know what’s going on in his near-adolescent brain. But I don’t want to be one of those dads.
Last week our baseball team had its first road game. One of the guys owns a huge, black Mercedes “S.W.A.T.” van. He easily fit most of the team: 10 middle-aged guys and our player-coach’s 15-year-old son, who keeps score and helps out the team (and likely stores up a wealth of laughs). I sat in the back row both ways. On the ride home the van’s owner, our best pitcher, turned on a local rock station. There was a block of songs from 1987. Surrounded by my teammates, all of us somehow riding high after a 19-0 ass-kicking, even Guns ‘n Roses‘ “Paradise City,” or whatever that song is called, sounded great. The station moved onto playing other rock songs from the ’70s and ’80s. Guys started talking music. I kept my mouth shut, for fear of showing how much of a rock snob I was. They were talking about U2 and Springsteen and REM. Our player-coach’s son blurted out, “I hate REM!” I refrained from shooting him a high five.
Finally, our catcher, the guy who reminds me of my Babe Ruth League catcher and my first guitar partner, spoke up. “I liked New Wave music,” he said, “English Beat, The Specials, stuff like that.” I wanted to jump across 2 rows and hug the guy, but I still resisted showing my hand. No wonder, I thought to myself, I immediately liked this guy!
As the S.W.A.T. van approached our tree-lined destination, the driver’s home, right around the corner from me, Cheap Trick‘s “Surrender” came on. I could resist no longer. “Crank it up!” I yelled. He did. Graying, balding heads nodded in unison. I bet even the true teenager among us digs “Surrender.”
Soon enough the season will change to summer, I’ll happen across an Oldies station playing “It’s So Nice to Be With You,” and I’ll be taken back to a horse pasture at my grandparents’ farm, where I hold a vivid memory of hanging with a silken-haired, 11-year-old girl, for whom our innocent childhood friendship through the friendship our mothers struck up as their marriages fell apart, was on the verge of turning into something new!
Considering that I spend inordinate amounts of time hanging in these Hallowed Halls, it’s no surprise that our friendship never turned into something more and that I barely ever saw her again, as our mothers had some unexplained falling out. But those are summer memories with the sounds of poolside music. I want to soak up this season. I hope you’ve been digging your Spring and that cool sounds are springing to mind along with your seasonal memories.