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For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Music: 1984

I arrived in Hattiesburg with barely a plan: say hi to Tim-the-Freudian, find an apartment, get a job. Though I had changed living quarters in Oxford a few times, the move to Hattiesburg was my first in four years, damn near a lifetime in my experience, and was the first I had orchestrated entirely for my own reasons.

A new sense of time, place and self had emerged. My own steps. My own decisions. Beholden to no one. Not yet 20, not really 19. Found Tim, an apartment and a job. And on the second day, I rested.

Music had become visual, as the MTV experiment had grown into a major entertainment phenomenon. Intrigued, I watched music. But despite some excellent and even artistic efforts, music would remain a product of my imagery. So despite the undeniable presences of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Culture Club and The Police, other songs and artists framed my moments.

Hours went by as I drove the streets and roads in senseless attempts to be what I wasn’t. The somber aches of those moments return with OWNER OF A LONELY HEART, by Yes and HARD HABIT TO BREAK, by Chicago. Hearing Chicago was especially poignant as Don was an avid fan of their music, the only person I ever met who had all their albums.

The newly-won freedom of relying entirely on myself is revived by Laura Branigan’s SELF CONTROL; Kool and the Gang’s JOANNA; I CAN DREAM ABOUT YOU by Dan Hartman and especially THE WARRIOR, with Scandal adding Patty Smyth to the mix. And Billy Joel's FOR THE LONGEST TIME was a connection to a rock and roll feeling I grafted onto my quickly-suppressed memories of Oxford.

Two songs evoke the feeling of Hattiesburg in ways I can’t pinpoint: HOLD ME NOW, by The Thompson Twins and The Cars’ YOU MIGHT THINK. Over the years, the undefinable essence of that evocation has prompted many a self-search. On the other hand, CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE, by Quiet Riot reminds me of riding to Mac’s Fish Camp with Brendan and Terry, jammed together in his small Isuzu pickup truck… and me riding in the back during the return because the All-You-Can-Eat for $10 was a bargain, a challenge and a chance for gross excess we could not pass up. We were indeed a quiet riot then.

My central stage in Hattiesburg was Brendan’s comic book shop, a snug library of memories and discoveries. Conversation, joking, games, hilarity, trading, reading and music fused into a single experience, pearls on a growing string. The songs that place me there, sitting on an upturned milk crate and watching the oddities walk in and out are TRUE, by Spandau Ballet; OH SHERRY, by Steve Perry; IF EVER YOU'RE IN MY ARMS AGAIN, by Peabo Bryson and ALMOST PARADISE, by Mick Reno and Ann Wilson.

The jokes would fly and reach outer orbits as Corey Hart revealed he wore SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT, prompting intensive discussions of stupidity (in other people, never ourselves.) Tim Shoemake and I would argue constantly over Stevie Wonder’s nasal I JUST CALLED TO SAY I LOVE YOU, my trenchant observation that it was Stevie’s lament while sitting on a nail trouncing Tim’s loopy opinion that it was the love song of the decade. I still rehash the give-and-take that often included references to Watergate, the Byzantine Empire, John Lennon, bad cheesecake, the best way to drive to Alaska, impressionist paintings, how the invention of gunpowder doomed the Chinese empire, why money isn’t real, medical procedures that sound more horrible than what they actually are and doomed relationships. Customers walking into the middle of our conversation would invariably ask what we were discussing. Tim and I always shared what we called “the recap,” going backwards from the current topic and tracing the path back to Stevie, relishing the blank faces of reaction. I smile even now.

On the other hand, both Tim and I agreed that WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO-GO, by Wham! would make them a one-hit wonder, never to be heard from again. Okay, so I missed one; he missed two.


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