Memorial Day weekend never really meant much to me, as it was (in grade school) all about the parade through town and playing patriotic songs at the VFW and waiting for the National Guard howitzer to go boom, while in the back of my head I was simultaneously anticipating and dreading the school year being over. On the one hand, no more school for three month. On the other hand, three months of being even more isolated than usual on the farm. And once I was out of school and in the work force, during the years represented here I worked in restaurants or retail, so Memorial Day weekend was busier than usual, and full of entitled consumers taking out their frustrations on underpaid workers. As it always is.
1977: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Spirits in the Night”
This is a deeply groovy song, but I don’t remember when I first heard it. Probably sometime in junior high, because on first playing it while writing this post I had a definite hit of deja vu which put me in mind of sitting sullenly on a school bus buried under music instruments, athletic equipment, and homework. I mostly know Manfred Mann etc. from “Blinded by the Light” and “Quinn the Eskimo.” So this is another instance of the temporal shear made possible by and exacerbated by, oldies stations.
1982: Karla Bonoff, “Personally”
I might have heard “Personally” back when it was released. It has that early-eighties smooth vibe like the seventies have not quite been transcended, and were it released a few years earlier it would have fit right in. This is a pretty song, and Bonoff is a wonderful singer.
1987: T’Pau, “Heart and Soul”
This one made something of a splash when it was released, and I remember hearing it on the radio on my way to and from one of the worst jobs I have ever had in my life – working the belt at the Eaton Rapids pickle factory. Having fun music to listen to made things slightly less unbearable. To be fair, I only occasionally listened to the radio (Q106!); mostly I had David Bowie cassettes (Tonight, Never Let Me Down) on heavy rotation in the after-market tape deck in my 1977 Cutlass Supreme. Like every other song of the summer of 1987, this marked me treading water, counting the seconds until I left for college and put Springport permanently in my rearview mirror.
1992: Atlantic Starr, “Masterpiece”
I have probably heard “Masterpiece” more times at weddings than on the radio or on MTV, though it was on heavy rotation back in 1992. It doesn’t pull at any nostalgic threads, so I will say this is just one of those ubiquitous songs which seems to have always been around.
1997: Depeche Mode, “It’s No Good”
Depeche Mode keyboardist Andrew Fletcher died four days ago. Goddammit so much. I was never a DM superfan, but their songs and sound were the soundtrack of the 1990s, and “It’s No Good” was particularly popular among my group of friends, back in the day. 25 years ago I was at the cusp of a new relationship; I was hanging out with a group of renfaire types at Grand Valley practicing padded weapon fighting, and working at the low-paying bookstore and living in a crappy apartment and driving a crappy car and exhausting myself every day with kung fu and tai chi practice, as well as beginning the process of becoming a martial arts instructor. All of which is to say, for all the stress, it was a pretty good year.