It’s hot today. Not that I’m complaining. It’s hard for me to be in a bad mood during the summertime. If I could spend every day in my flip-flops I’d be happy. Of course, that said, maybe the best part of summer is that it is fleeting, so you have to savor it while it’s here. So without those hazy shades of winter, maybe summers past wouldn’t be remembered with so much longing and nostalgia.
Music and smells can always instantly transport me back to a specific moment in time. This was particularly true before the days of iTunes and digital downloads where any song is at your fingertips at any given moment. Maybe only once a year you’d hear that old song that used to play in constant rotation when you were a teenager in July, and it would evoke memories of spending time with friends at the lake, or cruising in your first car, flirting with boys at a Legion baseball game, or sunbathing at the pool.
There is always a particular song that makes its mark on your summer. It might not be a good song, or a number one song, and you might have hated it had it come out any other time of year, but the association with everything carefree, sunny, and warm makes it epic.
1980 - It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me, Billy Joel. Yeah, I said not everything on my list will be considered a classic, but this reminds me of spending summer vacation in Colorado. Pikes Peak, the Rocky Mountains, blue spruce trees, chipmunks.
1981 - Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes. Again, bad 80s music, but it’s better than the second runner-up for that summer, which was Queen of Hearts, by Juice Newton, which played on the AM radio of our family station wagon about a thousand times on the road trip from Kansas to Lake Superior and back.
1982 - Eye Of The Tiger, Survivor. I have to say I don’t recall seeing the video of this song until today. Maybe a clip on Solid Gold. Watching it was fun, even though I kept looking over my shoulder at the coffee shop to make sure no one saw me. This has it all. It’s cheesy trying to be badass. Horrific production values. Unimaginative location shots. And what’s up with the fat keyboard player in the Members Only jacket, frizzy mullet, and Coke bottle glasses? I guess everyone looked like a pedophile in the early 80s.
1983 - Every Breath You Take, The Police. Inevitably this song would be on when my brother, sister, and I would take my transistor radio outside on the patio and make forts out of lawn chairs and blankets and listen to music on the one or two “good” stations in Colby, Kansas. Unless a Royals game was on. The soothing sounds of Fred White and Denny Matthews doing the play-by-play of our boys of summer, George Brett, Willie Wilson, Fred White, and Dan Quisenberry, always trumped music.
1984 - Eyes Without A Face, Billy Idol. I so wanted The Reflex by Duran Duran to be representative of 1984, because the hair alone in that video is purely awesome, not to mention the liberal use of the cowbell in the song. But that summer was all about Friday Night Videos, which my brother, sister and I would settle in to watch late at night after an evening of fighting with each other while my parents played golf on couples’ night, and then hung out at the country club, presumably to avoid us. And Eyes Without A Face was ALWAYS on Friday Night Videos, and I think it both delighted and disturbed us.
1985 - Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears. Still one of my favorite songs of all time. Though I despise Shout, which was the next, and biggest, hit for Tears For Fears. This just reminds me of everything that was 1985. Tennis lessons, early morning golf, biking everywhere, swimming in the afternoon. Truly my last summer of being a “kid.”
1986 - Live To Tell, Madonna. Back in the day, when all you had was a Walkman, listening to your preferred music was a challenge. That’s why I’d lay out to tan in my front yard and switch back and forth between two albums on cassette tape, Madonna’s True Blue, and Janet Jackson’s Control. I still know every song by heart.
1987 - I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Whitney Houston. I actually have a vivid memory of a day spent at the lake with Brett, Whitney and Stuart. It was one of the most relaxing days I’ve ever had, just lying in the sun on the dock, drinking beer, swimming in the lake, floating on a raft. I don’t know why we weren’t listening to better music, but I still remember some of the songs that played on the radio that day. In addition to Whitney, stuff like Luka by Suzanne Vega, Lady In Red by Chris DeBurgh, Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House, and Songbird by Kenny G. Maybe I was so chilled that only the softer music sticks with me. Also, what’s up with Whitney’s hair extensions in that video?
1988 - New Sensation, INXS. I really wish Michael Hutchence hadn’t gone and killed himself. I would love to hear new INXS music with him as the front man. Honorable mentions for 1988: Tall Cool One by Robert Plant, Sign Your Name by Terence Trent D’Arby, Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard, and I Hate Myself For Loving You by Joan Jett. Good stuff. Tennis, street dances, great friends.
1989 - Once Bitten Twice Shy, Great White. My friend Terri and I listened to this over and over on road trips to Kansas City in her little red Dodge Daytona. I still play air piano and drums when I hear it. One of the last great hair band songs.
It occurs to me I’m not going to cover everything in one blog post, so we’ll dedicate this one to the eighties and turn it into a series. Go make yourself a mojito and enjoy the hot weather!
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012