Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Fire Lake (1980)

 

My mom got remarried between my 3rd and 4th grades of school – and that included a move from Albuquerque to Circleville, New York. To say that Al wasn’t my favorite would be an understatement – quite honestly, I was always scared of him, but while this may have been the case, being closer to Greensburg was definitely a positive in my book.

1980 was an interesting year for me, to say the least. We lived in a small spot that seemed as though it was in the middle of nowhere. And that was new for me. Neighbors weren’t nearly as close as what I was used to and things were just so…different.

While I had always loved listening to music, it become a lifeline to me in 4th grade. It became an escape and I found myself really listening to the lyrics and just wanting to be able to leave. I don’t remember us having a record player – I don’t remember what happened to my Supertramp album – but I do remember what I got for Christmas that year, which was an 8-track player as well as copies of “Breakfast in America,” The Beatles’ Red and Blue Albums, The “Grease” Soundtrack, and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Against the Wind.”

While I reminisce fondly of listening to albums, I can’t say as I have these same memories of listening to an 8-track. Trying to fast forward to a song – or hearing that click as it switched over to the next program or channel or whatever it was (?) was a pain. For whatever reason, Seger’s “Against the Wind” became what I needed to get to sleep at night. I certainly didn’t have a sleep timer on that thing, and I’m not sure how many times I had fallen asleep, only to be woken up by that loud click, but I think I had to come close to wearing “Against the Wind” out.

I’m sure it sounds crazy, but I found myself running away with those horses. As bad as things got at times in Albuquerque, I can’t say as I ever thought about running away, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that I thought about running away from Circleville – and Al – every single day I was there.

I had no clue what the “Horizontal Bop” was at that time, but I knew every damn word of that lead off song, I can tell you that. Things slowed down after that with “You’ll Accomp’ny Me,” but then revved right back up with “Her Strut.”

Just an aside – between “The Horizontal Bop” and “Her Strut,” Seger was getting after it. Coming on the heels of the Disco era (you won’t hear anything negative about that from this guy), these songs had to have just flat out been a shot to the system, bringing back some pure, unadulterated rock and roll.

And that’s where things seemed to get real to me.

Between the ever restless crowd
And the silence of your room
Spend an hour in no man’s land
You’ll be leavin’ soon

I’m telling you, I can smell “No Man’s Land.” Images of running away were only stoked by Seger’s words.

And while I loved it and “Against the Wind” as well, I truly looked forward to “Betty Lou’s Getting Out Tonight,” not because it was my favorite – not even close – but because I knew that “Fire Lake” was up next.

I have no idea what it is about “Fire Lake” that I’ve loved so much – it’s just always appealed to me.

Who wants to take that long shot gamble

And head out to Fire Lake?

There are so many stories from that year…

Take the Long Way Home – Supertramp (1979)

So this will take some time to get to what I’m driving at, but so be it.

Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” is the first album I ever owned. And I had two copies of it – one in Greensburg and one in Albuquerque. I have no clue what it was about Supertramp that appealed to me – the iconic cover art maybe? – but this was an album that I couldn’t get enough of and listened to front to back any chance I had.

Originally, the copy that I had was in Greensburg, and I vividly remember returning to Albuquerque after being with my Dad for the summer and DEMANDING that my Mom stop on the way home from the airport in order to get a copy. To my surprise, I didn’t even have to really put up a big fight – even though I was prepared to – in order to get her to stop and get one. I found out in time that she loved them, too, and we spent a lot of time singing “The Logical Song,” and “Goodbye Stranger,” and “Child of Vision,” which I really didn’t like at the time and looked at as a four minute break between “Breakfast in America” and “Take the Long Way Home.”

That day of return actually was always a rough one for me. Leaving my Dad and all of my friends in Greensburg always, always sucked. Knowing that it would be another nine months before I returned was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t get it through my head why my brother, Jantson, was always so happy to get back to Mom. Looking back on it now, I get it. But perspective wasn’t something I had a lot of when I was eight. (Incidentally, I think there are stories and stories and stories locked in there about why – exactly – one child sees things one way with one parent while another sees things completely differently with that same parent – and I don’t say that as a criticism of anybody involved in that equation).

But from my point of view – looking back on things with almost 40 years’ worth of perspective at this point – I know that that day of return was also a good day for me. What always started as a miserable morning typically turned in to some fun. Looking back, I know that this is because my Mom was always in such a great mood to have us back. As a result, she was on her best behavior for a week or two as well.

Our August return almost always included in a new trailer or apartment when we got back. Whether in Rio Rancho or somewhere off Juan Tabo, it was almost never the same place as when we had left for Greensburg in June. And that meant a new school, once again a new beginning. While some people may enjoy that, for me it was starting all over and I hated it. I still have so many friends from my summers in Greensburg – I have none from my school years in Albuquerque.

But that specific night, after landing and stopping at Coronado Mall to pick up a copy of “Breakfast in America” – remember me saying that she was at her best, too??? – we stopped to eat at Pizza Hut, finding that they had almost the ENTIRE album on the jukebox. My Mom gave me enough quarters to play everything they had – I have no idea how much that meant in 1979 – $1?, $2? but I can assure you that I loved it. And I loved – and was surprised that my Mom knew all of the songs when we sat at the table and scarfed down our pizza.

Which brings me to a tangent about Pizza Hut itself. Pizza wasn’t a huge thing in Albuquerque. In fact, I remember eating at Pizza Hut or getting a slice at Godfather’s. And that’s it. It just wasn’t part of the typical things we ate there.

For all I know there were plenty of other shops – but I don’t remember any of them. For the life of me, I certainly don’t remember us ever getting one delivered. And that’s so foreign to me compared to what it’s like in Greensburg, where we have a serious abundance of great spots to choose from (with the notable exception of a true Neopolitan pie – can somebody PLEASE get on that so I don’t have to drive to Pittsburgh for it???).

neopolitanpizza

My mouth is seriously watering even looking at that (it’s from Il Pizzaiolo, btw).

Any time that we had the opportunity to go out to eat, I almost always begged to go to Pizza Hut – but it had to be THAT Pizza Hut, because the other one in Albuquerque didn’t have those songs on the jukebox (the gall!). And that caused problems at times depending on where we lived and what kind of mood my Mom was in. Things weren’t always as great as they were that first week after we returned…

What brought this on, you might ask? Did I randomly hear a Supertramp song? Did I eat at a Pizza Hut last night? No and no. But I did drive past one that had been converted to a pawn shop and that got me to thinking about all of this.

And it also got me to thinking about this: is there a more iconic building design than Pizza Hut? I mean, every single one of them looks the same (I know that’s not that crazy), but when they’ve gone out of business and converted to whatever else, you STILL know what it was – and I’m not sure that we can say this about every other place? I mean, McDonald’s has the golden arches, but not every McDonald’s looks exactly the same. And I can’t remember ever seeing a McDonalds that went out of business and became something else.

Is there something to be said about this, or am I just making too much of it? Yeah, probably the latter, I know. (I actually just googled “converted Pizza Huts,” and found this right off the bat, so I guess I’m not totally alone in this).

afterdark

I know, all of that from driving past a converted Pizza Hut. Welcome to my head.

 

 

Left of Center – Suzanne Vega (1986)

She didn’t really hit big until the following year with “Luka,” but Suzanne Vega caught my attention with this gem from the “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack. And while Luka certainly brought her that attention, it might actually be my least favorite of her songs (I’ll take “Left of Center” and “Solitude Standing” any day of the week).

But that’s not really the point of this post – if anything, this is simply the medium to get me talking about John Hughes, specifically his use of music in his movies. Quite simply, Hughes was simply masterful at finding some up and comers – especially in the Alternative or New Wave fields – and then using them to fully complement the angst he had on the screen.

And, for my money, he did it nowhere better than in “Pretty in Pink,” a top three soundtrack for this guy (“The Big Chill” and “Garden State” are my others – scores are a different story…).

It’s very easy to focus on the hits from this movie – OMD’s “If You Leave,” and The Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink,” or even New Order’s “Shell Shock.” Don’t get me wrong, I love them all – and Hughes used each in a spot that makes perfect sense to me. But, to me, he’s never used a song as well as he did with New Order’s “Elegia.”

And that’s where I actually have to admit something, so if you’re still reading, well, you’ll learn something about me. For the longest time, in my head, I’ve thought Hughes used “Elegia” during the scene where Duckie sat in the rain after unloading his soul and love for Andie as she was about to go out with Blane.

Yet I was wrong about that – in fact, I have no clue what song that is playing in that scene. But I was SO convinced that it was “Elegia” playing there. It makes perfect sense that it would play there! Yeah, no clue what made me mis-remember that for so many years. (In reality, it really is used well, just not until much later in the movie, when Andie is crushed over Blane blowing her off).

Perhaps it’s that I always associated with Duckie? I really don’t know. And that brings me to another issue. Trust me when I tell you that I had my Duckie moments in high school. And there was absolutely an Andie to that Duckie – and man, was I unfair to her. It took me a REALLY long time to realize how shitty that actually was. Perhaps if this article would have existed back then, I would have understood this better (or maybe I wouldn’t have, who knows?) And this the crux for me:


Instead, a generation of American male teenagers, me included, saw themselves in Duckie—charming, quirky and overlooked. Duckie belonged an elite gang of best friends “Pretty in Pink” screenwriter John Hughes made the beating heart of his ’80s teen filmography—Cameron Frye in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Farmer Ted in “Sixteen Candles” and Watts in “Some Kind of Wonderful”—characters who embodied the pain of being young and not yet able to be honest about your own desires.


And yes, I also saw myself in Cameron and Watts – and yes, I know that says incredibly horrible things about my angst at the time…

“If you want me, you can find me, left of center off of the strip.”

Perhaps that line from “Left of Center” is really what I’m trying to get to with this post? Perhaps it’s about coming to terms with being so in love with somebody and projecting the world upon them and how absolutely unfair that can be. I know for a fact that I was rotten in this regard – and I have worked hard to atone for that. I wish that I would have been more willing to stand off on my own rather than trying to be somebody I wasn’t – but that was high school in a nutshell for me. And my 20s.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for it on the soundtrack, you won’t find it, as it wasn’t included. You’ll have to go to their “Low Life” album, or, if you really prefer, you can click here for the 17 minute extended version of it.