It happened on a Sunday in early 1997. Because of Bergen County’s blue laws that kept most stores closed, I had driven down to Wayne, NJ, to shop for some new music. I’d been going to Willowbrook Mall and the other area shops around Wayne for as long as I could remember. As a kid, my neighbor’s mom would take her two sons, my brother, Matt, and I—with our pockets full of quarters—to the video game arcade at the mall. Years later, while I attended nearby Montclair State College, I would often go with friends to eat, shop, hangout, or sing karaoke in a basement bar of one of the restaurants (Casey O’Tooles?).
But that Sunday in 1997, I had gone by myself to The Wiz (an electronics and music store near Willowbrook, but not in the mall) to search the rows of CDs for something new. At the end of one of those rows was a special display, a rack of CDs featuring local artists. And that’s when Fountains of Wayne’s self-titled debut album caught my eye.
1970s. My toddler and tween years. Weekend mornings. Mom and dad wore down the needle playing Solid Gold Rock ‘N’ Roll Volume 1, a compilation album. Johnny Preston’s Running Bear was one of my favorites.
My sister’s favorite, of course, was Dickey Lee’s I Saw Linda Yesterday. I briefly thought about using the song during her campaign for Congress in 2000.
The entire album is filled with memories of childhood.
I’ve been posting song memories since I started this blog thing in December. Inspiration has often come while listening to my iPod Classic. I love that 160gb device. It holds every song I own, 13k, with room left for another 15k. This is my third iPod since the iPod came out. And I don’t know what I’ll do when this one grinds to halt. (Apple discontinued the iPod a few years ago with some lame excuse about not being able to find the parts. Really? You’re Apple. You can find what whatever parts you want, wherever you want.)
I don’t want to stream music to my iPhone, eating up data, and getting interrupted by texts, emails, alerts, and calls. No thanks. I like my music separate from my work. Besides, I’ve crafted so many playlists and smart playlists that sync up seamlessly with iTunes over the years. For me, the system didn’t need fixing.
My playlist called “Singles” is basically all the 45s I owned in the 1980s, ripped as MP3s, along with hits from the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s that I deemed worthy of being in the playlist. It currently has 7,343 songs. There’s a playlist called “Gym” for working out. One called “Mellow” for when I want to relax or cry. Sometimes I shuffle all 13,000 songs and get pleasantly surprised at how iTunes or the iPod mixes the songs. Continue reading “Believing in Chunky Soup?”
April 1995: San Francisco. After a breakup, I traveled alone for the first time. Sad and scared, yet excited to be exploring and finding myself, I walked, hiked, and biked around the city for days, sometimes never speaking to another person all day. This song, on a mixed tape with Radiohead’s Creep and Counting Crows’ Sullivan Street, kept me company. All three songs are forever etched onto my memory and senses, next to the rolling hills, the cable cars, the Castro, and the Golden Gate. The trip and Mary’s song changed my life.
And here we are with nothing
But this emptiness inside of us
Your smile a fitting, final gesture
Wish I could have loved you better
Baby, where’s that place where time stands still?
I remember like a lover can
But I forget it like a leaver will
It’s the first time that you held my hand
It’s the smell and the taste and the fear and the thrill
It’s everything I understand
And all the things I never will
1988: back seat of my parents’ car headed to visit my younger brother, a freshman at Boston University, fresh AA batteries in the Sony Walkman, 45s prerecorded onto a blank Maxell, headphones on, and a mixed tape playing and rewinding to this song over and over again.
I was an angry young man
And I’d pretend
That I was a billboard
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it’s only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it’s nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we’d start over
But I guess I was wrong