I'm about to show my age. Not that I don't freely admit I'm <blur>ty-<blur> years old. I mean — What? You couldn't read that? How very odd. You should probably have your eyes checked. First sign of old age, you know.
Anyhow, back when I first got interested in music, it was The Eighties. I know! It actually existed! It wasn't just some improbable, magical realm of freaky hair and clothing conjured up by John Hughes as a world in which it actually made sense for Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club to exist.
Granted, I was well past my larval stage and headed into pupa at this point. Meaning that my musically formative years happened in late high school and college rather than in childhood, which occurred, for the most part, in The Seventies.
Which didn't actually exist, unlike the Eighties. Well, at least not musically, for me. I lived in a tiny town in rural Alabama, and pretty much the only stations we got that I was aware of were all country stations. So while I was aware of (and had probably heard, briefly) hard, acid rock groups like The Osmonds, The Carpenters, The Jackson Five, and The Three Dog Night, most of what I actually heard on a daily basis was Tammy Wynette, Roy Clark, Loretta (pronounced LOW-RETta, thank you) Lynn, George Jones, and Charlie Pride. Why? Because I wasn't in control of the radio. I wasn't driving.1
The summer of the year after tenth grade (I think; it was a long time ago, and I've slept since then), I registered at Livingston University (now known as The University of West Alabama) for an introductory level college chemistry course.2
What? Yes, this all relates. Jesus, you're impatient. Another sign of age. Hmm? Nothing. Really. Now, where was I?
So I registered for this chemistry course, because my high school chemistry class had been a joke. Not because the teacher wasn't any good, but because she simply wasn't there. She had a sick child, and we had substitutes and such a lot, and . . . well, not everyone in the class was college-bound and our pace . . . reflected that. We (my mother and father) felt that although I had good grades in chemistry, I needed to actually learn the topic.
I know! Crazy talk.
Anyway, I got to drive (in my own car!) from Eutaw to Livingston three times per week (or whatever it was) to take the class. And on that twice-daily hour-long drive to and from school, in my two-door, 1976 Chrysler Cordoba, by myself, I discovered that the radio picked up stations that . . . that weren't country.
I mean, like, totally not country. Do you understand what I'm telling you? They had, like, people who pronounced "well" as one syllable and "thing" didn't rhyme with "slang." These were people who had probably never heard of Ricky Scaggs or Jeannie Riley. Who probably thought a steel guitar was just a really heavy, metal guitar. As opposed to a heavy-metal guitar. Because that's totally different.
Was this what music was?
I liked it! I really liked it!
I remember the song that "turned the corner" for me. Every single morning on the way to Livingston, whatever station it was that I tuned into played the song "Time" by The Alan Parsons Project. I would also have heard songs by Blondie, Hall & Oates, Kool & the Gang3, Sprick Ringfield . . . you should picture angelic chords playing here. They would probably sound something like "Time" by The Alan Parsons Project.
Fast forward a couple of years. 1983. Graduation. Going off to college. Buying cassette tapes for the first time. I seldom bought whole albums because I was one of those people who only liked one or two songs, and didn't want to take the chance with all those other ones. Because on a cassette tape (back in the old days before newfangled things like fire and dirt), there's no skipping around. You pretty much had to listen to music in the order it was on the cassette.
So I bought two compilation albums called Hit Explosion4 and Dancing Madness5 from K-tel. They both had some awesome hits from the previous couple of years. Coincidentally, during the time in which I had my own car and could listen to what I wanted to listen to. Go. Figure. :)
I must have listened to those cassettes hundreds of times. Straight through, in order.
Now, let's fast forward through the 80s (Don't we wish that had been possible at the time?) and the 90s. And most of the 2000s. To, in fact, a few months ago.
While declutterizing my home office, I found my old box of cassette tapes (Have I mentioned I pretty much never throw anything media-related away? Books, cassettes, CDs...). I had maybe sixty of them. Most of which I'd already replaced by buying the album on CD and then ripping to MP3 to put in iTunes. But I missed Hit Explosion and Dancing Madness. And I don't even own a cassette deck.
My, how times have changed.
And then it dawned on me that I could make my own damned compilation albums using playlists in iTunes.
I already owned a good many of the songs. Twenty minutes and maybe $8 later, I had reassembled both albums from 1983 as playlists in iTunes.
Last night, I felt the need to escape writing code for a while and just not be bothered. The call of 1983 was too strong to resist. "If I haaaaad a photograph of YOU-oo-OO-oo-OOOOH, as something to remiiiiind meeeeee..."
Which is what I meant by "The Small Pleasures."
- My mother, were she to comment on this, would no doubt interject, here, and mention in passing how there was this one particular trip in the mid-70s up to West Virginia to visit my grandparents for Christmas where "we" (my parents) were "forced" to listen to an 8-Track (look it up) of Dr. Seuss stories, pretty much back to back, all the way from Alabama to West Virginia. My mother still shudders when someone says the word "ooblek." This one, isolated, singular incident (this is my blog) notwithstanding, she and/or my father ("we") controlled the radio and what got played thereupon.
- Whereat I saw the single weirdest misspelling of my name, ever. The college admissions people had me down (until I corrected them) as "GARX HEMBERSON." Really? Garx? Really? Oy. In an unrelated note, my handwriting really sucked back then.
- I would later come to loathe Kool & the Gang because of my next-door-neighbors in the dorm during my sophomore year at the University of Alabama. These boys would listen to Kool & the Gang at a volume that made my bed frame vibrate in the next room. Until 3 AM. On nights before tests. And we (I) wanted to kill them. But since murder is wrong, I just learned to hate Kool & the Gang along with my next-door neighbors. That, and I moved into a room across the dorm from them the next semester. Jerks. I assume they're both prematurely deaf, now.
Mickey / Toni Basil
Vacation / The Go-Gos
Steppin' Out / Joe Jackson
Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) / Haircut 100
Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah) / Joan Jett
Young Turks / Rod Stewart
Abracadabra / Steve Miller Band
Shadows of the Night / Pat Benatar
Gloria / Laura Branigan
Hold On / Santana
Space Age Love Song / A Flock of Seagulls
New World Man / Rush
Keep the Fire Burnin' / REO Speedwagon
Eye of the Tiger / Survivor
Come Dancing / The Kinks
Fascination / Human League
Always Something There to Remind Me / Naked Eyes
Cool Places / Sparks
Whirly Girl / Oxo
Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You) / A Flock of Seagulls
Electric Avenue / Eddy Grant
Time (Clock of the Heart) / Culture Club
Pass the Dutchie / Musical Youth
Juicy Fruit / Mtume
Don't You Get So Mad / Jeffrey Osborne