Music/Popular Culture

Say it wasn't so: 30-Day Song Challenge, the Sequel, day 5 – your favorite song for driving around town with the top down

The summer of 1986 has lodged itself in the pleasure centers of my brain, although a hard look at the details makes me wonder why. Yeah, I was working in what passed for a cool job for a kid who’d recently graduated from college (copy and production manager at a rock radio station, albeit one that paid me less than $13,000 a year), and maybe that’s most of it. I remember lots of sunny weather, pool parties, incredible music, and I remember Karen, the staggeringly beautiful woman that I dated for awhile. Tall, lean, a study in elegance with a quiet smile that could have lit every stage on Broadway.

In particular, I remember the Saturday we spent at Carowinds, courtesy of the station, which was sponsoring that night’s concert by – brace yourselves – Starship. Yeah, the “We Built This City” incarnation. I know, I know. They opened the show with the damned song and then, just for good measure, did it for the encore.

But the real fun was spending the day with such a wonderful young woman, and in getting to see one of my favorite bands at the time – opening for the Wankship was The Outfield.

Things didn’t work out with Karen. But one night that I’ll never forget made its way into a story I published some years back with storySouth called “Pictures of Venus.” The key passage went something like this:

Alone, he sometimes remembers one night just before the end. After making love she asked him to get her something to drink. So he trotted naked downstairs and filled a big Wake Forest Football cup with ice and Pepsi, and when he came back into the room she was lying on her stomach, arms folded under the pillow and her left knee bent, foot touching the inside of her right knee, like a ballerina arrested in mid-twirl, cast in porcelain and brought here for display in the gallery he’d made of his life. Streetlight streamed through half-open Levelors and fell like prison bars across the curve of her hips…

She was already asleep, and he stood there several minutes, enchanted, looking at her nude form. He knew what he admired in women—intelligence, humor, communicativeness—and Karen had all those things in abundance. But he knew that a man can also love simple beauty—primal, physical, elemental. There was no defense against it, this simple purity of form. Karen was sculpture, flesh and immortality, more exquisite in that moment than every hand-wrought majesty in a universe of Louvres.

The summer of 1986 was short on money and, in the final analysis, long on youthful heartbreak. But every time I hear anything off of Play Deep, the endorphins kick in and I can’t help smiling.

I never had a convertible, but I drove around at night, blasting “Say It Isn’t So” and “Your Love” as loud as the stereo would go. And I do it now, sometimes, when I remember the beauty of the women who graced the proscenium of my youth…

6 replies »

  1. In college I had a Jeep. Three inch lift, giant tires, rust bucket that ran great. The guy that had it before me was an excellent mechanic. One Spring, just as it got warm enough to take the top off, this song came on and I was in Heaven! It was a beautiful day, I was in love, I was young, I just got paid, everything was right in the world.

  2. The summer following my sophomore year of college I was stuck working second shift cutting soap boxes and beer labels instead of working in electronics. Every night I got off work around 11 and drove home with the windows of my parent’s ’84 Land Cruiser rolled down and the music cranked up to help me stay alert and awake. One of the tapes I listened to in the tape deck was Midnight Oil, Blue Sky Mining, and while I played the whole thing over and over and over again (I had to toss the tape my senior year because it was so stretched out), I’ll choose one of my favorites from the album:

  3. I love cars and I love driving even more. Right now I’ve got a few favorites.
    The first I like to listen to when I first get in the car and start driving and yes it is from a cartoon. The title of the second one describes my feelings when I’m driving perfectly. The last one somewhat describes my sentiments on driving and life and also came out senior year of high school.

    Sheryl Crow, Real Gone:

    The Outfield, My Paradise:

    Tom Cochrane, Life is a Highway: