Transported by Song - My Freshman Year of College
I realized a few days ago how long it had been since I wrote a post strictly for fun, much like this one that I was challenged to write by Paul Slaybaugh back in November:
This one is along the lines of the post I wrote about meeting my wife:
And this one about the summer of that same year:
I realize this post is long, but these are memories, people!
I attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas from 1988-1992. My first semester in the fall of '88 included a LOT of parties, although I wasn't drinking then, because I had done more than my fair share of that in high school, and wanted a break. As such, I got to know a lot of people that I could actually remember later.
My roommate and I had met a couple of months prior during CLEP weekend ("testing out" of some classes), and we became fast friends. This made the transition to college easier, because we already sort of knew each other, and I had visited him in Katy (near Houston) before school started.
Andy and I were notoriously social, and the other guys in our dorm would marvel at the number of girls that came to visit us. Please note, "visit" is not a euphemism in this case. We just had a lot of female friends, some of whom became girlfriends later.
Looking back on it, I think we had so many visitors because we sort of established ourselves as a team, unafraid to meet anyone and everyone in our path. In fact, people often confused us for each other, or at least mixed up our names. We were also ridiculously funny (not that I am bragging, mind you), and there was a synergy which formed that is pretty hard to duplicate with friends in adult life. I remember going on a double date with Andy to a place in Round Rock called "Pass the Biscuits". Despite its backwoods name, they had terrific food and it was reasonably priced. We spent some time crafting a large tower of biscuits with a knife supporting it in the middle of the table. "The Biscuit Tower - the tallest free-standing structure on our table!", I declared for all to hear. We were fearless then.
We both ran for student senate and won, then petitioned to get a coin machine added to the laundry room in our dorm. That was added quickly. It is amazing how easy it was to meet people. I sometimes miss the openness that we experienced at that age. Everyone was a potential friend, until they did something to convince you otherwise.
During those parties I mentioned, there were a few tunes that we seemed to hear every time. Hearing them today on the radio or in a restaurant, I am transported back to age 18, when I still wanted to be a pediatrician, and I had no idea that I would make Austin my permanent home. My grades were so bad that first semester that I was forced to re-think my decision to be a biology major, and I wasn't able to join a fraternity, so I started my own (that is a story for another post). There are also some songs that I heard during more introspective or private times that left an impact on me.
So, what was I listening to in the fall of 1988?
R.E.M. - "Orange Crush" AND "Stand" - I was already an R.E.M. fan (and I suppose I still am, to some extent), but these songs are almost complete gibberish if you pay any attention to the lyrics. In "Orange Crush", Michael Stipe actually sings, "Got my spine. Got my Orange Crush." Where is this checklist handy? Spine? Check. Orange Crush? Check. Where are you headed that you had to double-check to make sure you are still a vertebrate? As an aside, do they still sell Orange Crush? What about Diet Chocolate Mint Shasta?
For "Stand", he basically sings the same refrain throughout, which is "Stand in the place where you live, think about direction, wonder why you haven't before." Deep. Why not "Dance in the place where you live", or "Laugh in the place where you stand"? The profundity of these lyrics is amazing. I guess that's why it was so appealing. Simple, yet...simple.
When in Rome - "The Promise"- Yikes! I had no idea what a visceral effect this one would have on me when I played it on Youtube just now. I remember dancing with a girl that I had a huge (Orange?) crush on at the time, and there was a guy who took himself far too seriously as a dancer right next to me. I would use his name here, but I have never met anyone else with the nickname Boots before, so he might see this someday (oops!).
Erasure - "Chains of Love" - This one became popular during the late summer of 1988, and I distinctly remember talking about the video on the phone (corded, no less) with a girl that I liked. I liked the song back then, for much the same reason that I liked other songs - there was a girl that I liked who enjoyed it. This was also how I discovered Led Zeppelin, Morissey, and Love and Rockets. I will take credit for liking the Doors and Jimi Hendrix on my own.
Will to Power - "Freebird/I Love Your Way"- I can't even believe I am including this particular one-hit wonder in a public post, but it was playing on the radio when I first kissed the girl whom I would later ask to marry me (we were engaged, but broke up before getting married). Despite the 80's stylings of this one, it gave me appreciation for the Frampton and Lynyrd Skynyrd originals. I will readily admit that it is almost unlistenable now, reminding me more of elevator music (does that exist anymore? why not?).
Frankie Valli - "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" - You are probably thinking that I am far too young to include this one here, but (as with the Erasure), this was played for me when I was with THAT girl, and I always think of her when I hear it now. Pretty much any song from 10,000 Maniacs "In My Tribe" (like this one) also reminds me of that time in my life.
The Beach Boys - "Kokomo"- This was kind of a last hurrah for the Beach Boys, as I recall. I even saw them live, I think in the summer of '89 in Dallas. I wrote previously on my blog about my inability to understand the lyrics of this song. When they sound "Martinique. Monserrat mystique", I thought they were saying something about "that monk's a rotten stink". This was ubiquitous at parties for that year.
UB40 - "Red Red Wine"- I think this song was originally released by UB40 in the earlier 80's, but it hit #1 in the fall of 1988. I remember listening to it when I was trying to learn how to play bocce ball near the girls' dorms. That last sentence sounds so dated that it reminds me of an SNL monologue I saw from Rob Lowe when he was supposed to be reading from his diary of the 80's, "The Thompson Twins spilled a kamikaze on my parachute pants today." I still like this particular song enough to have included it on the soundtrack for my birthday party a couple of weeks ago.
Robert Palmer - "Simply Irresistable" - I didn't know any guys who didn't like the video for this song, despite the fact that the girls look much like mannequins. This one was inescapable for a few months. I remember riding in the car with my roommate and another friend listening to this song, and all of us thought it was playing for the respective females that we liked at the time.
Tracy Chapman - "Fast Car" - Many people hate this song, either because it is so sad or because of the type of tune that it is, but I still like it, and I am not ashamed of it, either.
Peter Gabriel - "Solsbury Hill" - This one had been released in the late 70's, but I first heard it on my roommate Andy's cassette tape (not CD). I know that I had never heard it before college, and it stuck with me. Great song, even today.
INXS - Entire Album - "Shabooh Shoobah" - This was great music for just driving around with my friends, usually Andy, since he owned it. Includes "The One Thing" , "Don't Change" and "To Look at You". Classic stuff. Man, those guys look really young in the video!
I guess I could go on, and explain why I have such a strong appreciation for the music of James Taylor (true), but you can probably figure it out based on some of the stuff I said above. Thanks for reading through this post, if you actually did. If not, I can't say that I honestly blame you.