I settled into my morning as usual today - logging in, responding pointlessly to pointless emails, savoring my first few sips of coffee, trying madly to keep the depression of my boring-as-hell job at bay… you know, the normal weekday morning routine.
I pulled out my best weapon – my trusty iPod – and plugged in, following my general M.O. of Shuffle Songs.
I started with a little Nellie McKay, a regular on my iPod random rotation. Then my new BFF Duffy crooned Warwick Avenue while I lip-synched with flourish (something I do pathetically often and have been caught at more than once). MIKA was up next, with a very gay, Carly Simon-esque, choir-filled Happy Ending, and I don’t mean the massage-parlor version. Nevertheless, I bounced along in my chair.
And then it started. Song Number Four.
Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale is an obscure tune from the gorgeous, Norwegian, flash-of-light 80′s-era band A-Ha. The band’s best known today for their one big 80s pop hit, Take On Me, which appears on pretty much every 80s compilation CD ever made. It was super-catchy and, perhaps more importantly back in the glory days of MTV, had a BAD ASS video in which an average-looking girl was whisked into a black-and-white comic book world by a delicious hunk of Norway goodness, who happily sang to her through a magic mirror until scary guys with lead pipes came after them, at which point he found her a way back to the real world, facing certain doom to save her. But just when you thought it was all tragically over, Comic Book Fate found a way to let him bust through the pages himself – a little dirtier and sweatier, yes, but finally liberated from the restraints of his black-and-white world and free to Live Happily Ever After in Technicolor with his newly found, average-looking heroine.
For a boy-crazy, average-looking 8th grade girl prone to devastating crushes, that video was the equivalent of a wet dream.
Of course, I fell hopelessly in love with the lead singer, Morten Harket. (Do you mind if I call you “Morty”?) And by “hopelessly in love” I mean my own peculiar fucked-up 13-year-old version of “hopelessly in love,” which meant I clipped pictures of him from Tiger Beat magazine and pasted them on my wall alongside all the other fellas I was “hopelessly in love” with, like George Michael (neon shorts and all), Sting of the Spiky Hair and Dangerously Loose Clothing in a Room Full of Candles, and of course, my always gender-bending eyeliner boys John-Nick-Simon-Andy-Roger (I still love you Simon, you handsome devil, you… BEEJ+SIMON=TRULUV4EVA).
But I digress.
I made the cassette tape of Morty & Co.’s album Hunting High and Low mine as fast as I could – then listened to it from the beginning of Side A to the end of Side B over and over and over again, until I could finally Take On Me no more. I instantly fell out of “hopelessly in love,” the cassette tape callously discarded and forgotten, along with countless other cassettes from artists as varied as Echo and the Bunnymen, Concrete Blonde, and Debbie Gibson. (I had a weak moment, okay? Fuck you. I bet you’ve got skeletons, too, Judge McJudgerson.)
Life went on, and I did, too. I discovered new musical genres and technologies. Cassettes were replaced by CDs, which lasted until the iPod and satellite radio took over my electronic entertainment life. Groups like A-Ha were long gone, distant memories of a distant past.
But then a year ago or so I went through a nostalgic 80s music phase and, in a downloading frenzy, bought the album again. And found most of it surprisingly good. In fact, a lot of it still holds up today — you can even hear echoes of it in new songs by bands like the Killers and Zero 7.
(In fact, you know that über-popular U2 song Beautiful Day? I challenge you to listen to Side A’s The Sun Always Shines on TV and NOT find an eerie similarity.)
Which brings me back to Song Number Four. The first few notes played and time just…
For one long moment, I was back in the 8th grade, standing alone in my bedroom with all the posters and painstakingly clipped Bennetton and Espirit ads on the walls, the familiar neon-red-and-gray-checkered bedspread, my closet filled with miniskirts and felt hats and acid-washed jeans with strategically placed rips and Sharpie hearts.
MTV occupied the TV screen behind me – back when MTV still actually played music videos, before reality TV took hold and reduced it to an unrecognizable mess of 30 minute shows about spoiled, rich socialites and skater boys. I didn’t have to hear the words or look behind me to know it was on – it was ALWAYS on in those days. MTV provided the soundtrack to my life during those formative years.
Man, I didn’t have a care in the world. Bills, home maintenance, health insurance, car repairs… they were all SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM. My only concerns were hanging out with my best friend the Queen Bee, finding the perfect lip gloss, and impressing boys. Priorities were conning my mom out of more money for shopping at the mall on Saturday afternoon and finding some way to prolong my possession of the denim jacket that stunning, bright-eyed transfer student Arlo P. had loaned me, which I DID NOT WANT TO GIVE BACK — because it still smelled faintly of Polo cologne and, also, I was “hopelessly in love” with him, too – even though I knew he thought of me as “just a friend.”
There’s no real story here – I wasn’t making out with a boy in my bedroom only to find myself dumped a millisecond later, or biting anyone’s tongue off - not like Auds in her own musical flashback.
No, I was just there, standing still in my old room, appreciating the amount of time and effort I put into each poster on the wall, the Seventeen magazines I’d read cover-to-cover and shelved with care, the desk I’d painted myself to match the bedspread, the closetful of clothes I both loved and hated, the feeling of Carefree that enveloped me, knowing my mom was in the other room to take care of Everything Else.
I knew I’d have to come back to reality – I wasn’t so far gone that I thought I could stay there – so I tried to soak it all in. I tried to FEEL it all. I let it wash over me as the Norwegians wailed that obscure, Side B song Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale and, for that moment, let me straddle both worlds.
And then I came back. The song was through. The White Stripes took over and I resumed my day in Technicolor.
But it was a nice moment.Stumble it!
Tags: Musical Flashbacks