While listening to the “80’s Hits” station on Slacker radio at work the other day, I found myself singing along to Don Henley’s Boys of Summer. You know the one, I can see you / your brown skin shining in the sun. You got your hair combed back and your / sunglasses on, baby.
Oh God, how I hated that fucking song. It came out in 1984. I was 12, and radio stations played it to death. Then MTV gave in an extended funeral, awarding Boys of Summer Video of the Year in 1985. Three years later, some genius decided to resuscitate the song so they could play it to death all over. The resurrection just missed the Top Ten. From age 12 to age 16, I couldn't turn a radio dial without being served this sit sandwich at least once.
Growing up, I watched my parents sing along with certain songs. I always wondered if they really liked those songs or were just reminiscing. No really, they explained in my imagination, I’m not so lame that I think this song is cool. I just liked being eighteen and having the whole world in front of me, and they played this song a lot at the time.
Now I have my answer. Here I am, singing along to a song I couldn’t turn off quickly enough when I was a teenager. Maybe it’s because the song is about passing from youth into middle age and it finally speaks to me, or maybe I just liked certain things about my teenage years, something besides pimples, peer ridicule, and feeling perpetually outside of a joke everyone else seemed to get. Whatever it is, I see a long-haired mullet boy with braces, odd clothes, boney limbs, and love-handles shaking his head at me in disdain.
"Boys of Summer?," he mutters. "Really?"
Flipping through some CDs to play while I cleaned house, I came across a pink one mixed in with the A’s. I thought it was Tori Amos’ Under the Pink. When it came into rotation and started to play, I felt like a drunk gremlin was trying to spit in my ear. I gave the whole disc a listen, reasoning that I’d liked it enough to buy it at some point. When I popped the disc out, I saw it was Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker.
Now, I didn’t much go for Windowlicker when it came out. Until I decided to write this post, I never saw the video. If you’re billing yourself as an artist and video is your medium, bring it, but don’t fool around in the studio and tell me it’s music. That came out pretty fucking cool; let’s put it on CD! I threw it in the trash, because life’s too short. The video? Definitely worth a peep or two.
I’ve listened to a disc and trashed it once before [POTENTIAL EAR-VIRUS WARNING], Chumbawumba’s Tubthumper. You might know it for the single “Tumbthumping,” the one that goes, I get knocked down / but I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down, on and on until your head implodes, a song on more worst-of and most-hated lists than I care to name here.
It should be noted that I loved the shit out of Tubthumper when it came out in 1997, and played it to death for a few months (usually skipping the annoying single). Then I heard it last year. That’s what pop in the nineties was like? Oh, dear lord, no.
I think my favorite you can’t go back (or “don’t look back, you should never look back” as Don Henley would say) moment came on my birthday, in 2009. In the middle of a divorce, celebrating my first adult birthday as a single guy, I scheduled an array of events. I didn’t expect everyone to come to every event, but I figured with four to choose from, my friends would find time for at least one. It worked like a charm, and I had the best time.
After opening night of Where the Wild Things Are, we found ourselves trapped in a line of cars. Inching our way around the parking garage, we decided it would be fun to play a CD I’d been given at the bowling alley a few hours before- Spin Doctors’ Pocket Full of Kryptonite. I still think it was a gag gift, but G insists she went to a thrift store and spent her hard-earned dollar on a genuine piece of nineties nostalgia just for me.
We popped the CD in and were transported back in time nineteen years. Trapped in the car, there was no escape. Between signing along with the dated music, our running commentary, and the heavy emotions I’d been dealing with for the better part of a year, I couldn’t stop laughing. I laughed until it turned into a fit.
“Man down! Man down!” Amanda yelled from the backseat, while tears of laughter rolled down my face.
I left that CD in Hilldawg's car, but it’s still one of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever gotten.