Another View on the Summer of 82

Thanks very much to HERC for his guest post earlier this week; it was a lot of fun for me to learn about his summer in Texas as well as some of the tunes he particularly associates with that point in his life. Today I’m going through a similar exercise.

My high school graduation was on Tuesday, June 1, and I left for college on Saturday, September 4; quite a few things happened in between. I’ll try to touch on what I can recall as I list twenty of the pop singles I enjoyed. You can generally, but not always, assume at least a modest connection between the song(s) listed and the event(s) described below them. Stuff is in something akin to chronological order. Let’s fire it up!


Motels, “Only the Lonely”

Patrice Rushen, “Forget Me Nots”

On one of the first couple of Saturday mornings in June, I competed in a 10K in Florence, one of only two I ever ran (the other came about a year later—all my other races were 5Ks). I think I was pleased enough with my time, and I’m fairly sure I ran for pleasure occasionally the rest of the summer.


.38 Special, “Caught Up in You”

Haircut One Hundred, “Love Plus One”

I talked a little earlier this month about having my wisdom teeth extracted that summer; that happened on June 23. Feel like I heard the .38 Special song in the car either going to or returning from the hospital.


J. Geils Band, “Angel in Blue”

There was an ice cream & hamburger place, the Dairy Delight, not too far from my house in Walton; the owner lived down the street from me. I think it was strictly walk-up when we moved to Walton but at some point they enclosed a few feet of space in front of the counters where you ordered. In the 80s they started keeping a video game or two in that area; I remember playing Centipede a fair amount there—would they still have had that one in summer of 82? Looks like it was closed for some period of time but re-opened under new ownership a few years ago and has expanded its menu greatly.


Genesis, “Paperlate”

Gary U.S. Bonds, “Out of Work”

In mid-July I went to Transy to sign up for my fall classes. An exchange of letters with Susan, my Student Orientation Leader, helped me decide among a couple of options (her advice on who to take for Calculus I was literally life-changing). I met with Dr. Miller, my advisor, for one of the first times, and chatted with a few of my soon-to-be classmates.


Kim Wilde, “Kids in America”

Men at Work, “Who Can It Be Now?”

That summer I rediscovered Cincinnati AM radio for just a bit.  WCLU, 1320 on the dial, played a much wider range of Top 40 music that I was used to–I think they were aggressively trying to break hits and perhaps focused on some of the more new-wavy stuff.  I have a few survey sheets of theirs from the summer of 83; I thought I had some from 82 as well, but if I ever did they appear to be lost to the dustbin of history.

Footnote: Looking at the link above, I was reminded that for a while in the late 80s, that station had an all-Elvis format.


Crosby, Stills and Nash, “Wasted on the Way”

In the last half of July, Frank and I took an overnight roadtrip to Stanford, to see some of the folks I knew from the early 70s (I’d re-established connections with a few of them toward the end of 81). Among other things, I got in a round of golf with the guy who had lived next door to me, on the course I first played with Dad when I was six.

Frank and I had been good friends since his family had moved to Walton at the beginning of our sophomore years, but that summer we were best friends in a way I haven’t experienced often. We both ran in that 10K. He dropped by a couple of times while I was recovering from my oral surgery. We shared lots of confidences. This trip was a bonding experience, too—several hours in the car together over a couple of days to talk about all kinds of stuff. Good times.


Steve Miller Band, “Abracadabra”
Chicago, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”

My relatives from Massachusetts came to KY for a two-week vacation at the beginning of August. Amy and I hung out a lot with my cousins Sandi and Jack the first week. This visit was the springboard for keeping in closer touch with that branch of my family.


Go-Go’s, “Vacation”

Missing Persons, “Words”
Melissa Manchester, “You Should Hear How She Talks About You”

My family’s vacation that summer, the third week of August, was Myrtle Beach. There I discovered a radio station that played what I think is called “beach” and/or “shag” music. Very interesting—and fun—stuff, not exactly oldies, that I don’t feel like I’ve heard anywhere else before or since.


Marshall Crenshaw, “Someday, Someway”

We stopped by Knoxville on the way home, to check out the World’s Fair. I recall enjoying our time there.  I’ve had the occasion to attend a couple of workshops/conferences at the University of Tennessee in the last decade or so; the Sunsphere, which we ascended back in the day, is still there, but it’s hard for me to believe now that they crammed all those pavilions in the surrounding space.


Elton John, “Blue Eyes”

The next day, Sunday, August 22, we went through Lexington to visit one of my mom’s best friends, who was dying of lung cancer. It was also move-in day for Frank at the University of Kentucky (he and I were the only two from our high school class going to college in Lexington). We drove by UK and found him; I introduced him to a friend I had met via FBLA who was living on his floor. After he was all settled in, I rode back to Walton with Frank’s father and sister Maria. I know my dad was a bit miffed at me for not completing the trip with the family.


Asia, “Only Time Will Tell”

Billy Idol, “Hot in the City”
Randy Meisner, “Never Been in Love”

From there it was less than two weeks before my own college voyage began. That remaining time was full of goodbyes to friends, shopping for stuff for my dorm room, etc. An eventful three months quickly came to a close.

HERC mentioned the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack toward the end of his post on Tuesday.  One of its songs that he referenced was definitely in my head right at the end of that August. I’d often whistle along to it, particularly that keyboard line right after the first line of each verse; I remember Mom taking note of how much she thought my efforts at that one part sounded pretty much just like the song.

The Maniacs and Me

It’s not unreasonable to say the story starts with Michael Stipe.

Maybe, though, it’s more accurate to say it begins with Stacey’s admiration of REM. It was probably sometime in the spring of 85 that Stacey began playing them for James and me in our dorm room, almost certainly Reckoning. Fables of the Reconstruction came out that summer, and “Can’t Get There From Here” actually got some radio play. I don’t remember exactly why I didn’t go along with James, Stacey, and the others (who else went?) to see them play Memorial Coliseum that November. Perhaps I was caught up in the fog of my own world around that time–I had been going through a short arc of dating. What I do recall is my friends’ description of the lead singer for the opening act.

“You should have seen her up there on the stage, dancing and flailing around!” “She looked just like Maura!” (Not the real name–it was a reference was to one of our classmates, the daughter of a faculty member.)

Such was my introduction to Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.

Not long after I began atoning for the sin I’d committed of ignoring Stipe and Co. to that point. I bought Fables as part of a Columbia House membership in the summer of 86; a copy of Lifes Rich Pageant came my way that fall by being the right caller to a radio station soon after I moved to Illinois; a friend put their first two albums on a tape for me in spring 87; I saw them in concert at the Assembly Hall in Champaign in fall 87 as part of the Document tour.

And right around the time Document was released, they showed back up. I’d pretty much forgotten the whole Maura look-alike thing, but all it took to bring it back was seeing the name of the band. It was my first fall of teaching, a couple of recitation sections of Calculus I on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Afterwards I’d often stroll over to Record Service, THE place on campus to buy new music. They loved to promote recent releases over their in-house system. I have to believe that was how I first heard pieces of In My Tribe (released 30 years ago today). Yes, VH-1 was also playing their now-shunned cover of “Peace Train” around this time, but it would have been at “the Service” that I wound up captivated and practically willed to purchase the LP.

It was impossible for me not to try to mimic Merchant’s vocal inflections as those twelve songs became embedded in my consciousness (I still do it–I’ve had the chance to sing along to “What’s the Matter Here?” and “Hey Jack Kerouac” on the radio in the last few months). I was also struck by the presentation of the lyrics to Tribe, written in prose form (maybe pretentious, but I found it darn effective, as well as true to their spirit).

Reviews of Tribe regularly noted the discipline imposed on the Maniacs by producer Peter Asher. I found out what they meant when I bought The Wishing Chair, the release they’d been supporting in 85. It’s a solid disk, assuming they’re your cup of tea, but truth be told the playing isn’t all that tight, and Natalie sometimes wails away (at times you can practically visualize the writhing my friends witnessed). There are some fine moments, though: “Lilydale” is a charming tale of two friends strolling around a cemetery (it came to mind when I was recently searching for the mathematician David Hilbert’s grave in Göttingen, Germany), and “Scorpio Rising” hints at Merchant’s developing eye/ear for capturing tense relationships.

(Aside: Joe Boyd of Fairport Convention produced both Fables and Chair in London in early 85–makes me think this is how the two groups came to tour together that fall.)

Blind Man’s Zoo came out in 89 and they re-released their pre-Elektra recordings as Hope Chest in 90. Zoo, also produced by Asher, wasn’t as good as Tribe, but that was no real surprise–it might have been more of one if it had been better. Zoo is most notable on a personal level for having been one of the CDs I played on Halloween night, 2000, the day before my son was born–the last time Martha was “eating for two.” (Insert smiling emoji.)

In Fall 90 I was faced with a big dilemma. Toby and Karl were after me to see ZZ Top in Peoria with a few other friends. That same night, the Maniacs were scheduled to appear in Bloomington/Normal; Greg offered to go with me. What to do?

The Top show was pretty good (Greg still gives me grief about my choice). The most memorable thing about the evening, however, was the introduction of the phrase “administer the bird” to our group’s lexicon after I saw Jay flipping off the driver of a car that cut us off as we were trying to get out of the parking lot (“Jay, did you just…?”). “Administering” got a lot of mileage in our bridge conversations after that (it became a synonym for doubling a contract). But of course I’d blown my second chance to see the Maniacs perform.

By the time Our Time in Eden was released in fall 92, I had started my job at Georgetown. While I don’t love it quite the way I do Tribe, Eden is every bit as good, maybe better. Merchant’s lyrics and vocals are fully mature now, and the band feels both focused and confident.

Jay and his sweetheart Michelle got married in New Mexico in June 93. I rode out and back from St. Louis with Greg, Katie, and Karl, and it just so happened that the day after we returned, you-know-who was appearing in an outdoor venue just outside Nashville. My college friend Jim lived in Murfreesboro and we made arrangements to meet up. We didn’t sit particularly close, but at last I was there!

Just in time, too. After the tour ended, Natalie announced she was going solo. Somewhat anti-climactically, the “posthumous” Unplugged album produced their first Top 40 hit. Merchant enjoyed pretty strong success with her solo debut Tigerlily in 95. The group, meanwhile, brought back John Lombardo, who’d left before Chair and recruited Mary Ramsey as vocalist; they had a #25 hit with a cover of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” in 97. To me, however, it was never the same post-Eden (hmm…that feels like a sentence that could be applied elsewhere).

But.

As Jim and I were waiting for that Nashville show to begin, we caught a buzz from folks nearby that the vocalist for one of the biggest groups around would be making an appearance that night. Right, I thought–why should he show up? It’s true that he did a guest turn on one of the songs on Tribe, but still…

The show was great; they played many of their songs I really wanted to hear. For the first encore, someone–I never figured out who it was–came on stage and joined Natalie for a fine duet of “Dallas.” Could it have been Jimmie Dale Gilmore, who wrote it? I wouldn’t be aware of him and his music until a little while later, so I wouldn’t have recognized him if it were he. Natalie did pair up with David Byrne for a version of it as part of their Unplugged show, but I’m pretty certain I would have sussed him out.

It was the second encore that proved the whisperers correct. The rumored one came out and he and Natalie sang two songs together. I don’t remember now what they did first, but the second was unforgettable: “Because the Night.” Months before Unplugged came out and the version on it became the single that hit #11. Honestly one of the most magical concert moments of my life.

Yeah, I guess it’s not unreasonable to say that the story ends with Michael Stipe, too.