Friday, December 17, 2010

Thirty Days of Music: Day Five.

Day 5
A song that reminds you of someone: "Music Box Dancer" by Frank Mills*

Growing up in Ashland, we didn't have a ton of reliable radio stations. There were a few from Duluth/Superior that came in most of the time, if the weather was clear; a Wisconsin Public Radio translator station in Brule that played classical music all day; one over in Ironwood that played Mike Harvey's oldies show on Saturday nights; and maybe one in Park Falls that came through on occasion. I think it's improved nowadays - the stations in Duluth have boosted their signals over the years, so most of them come in clearer - but when I was in high school, you generally had one of three options (if your car didn't have a tape player or, gasp!, a CD player):

- the country station;
- Hot Rock J96; or
- AM 1400.

In my friend Emily's Chevette, however, there was only one option, because all it had was an AM radio. As repetitive as Hot Rock J96 was (you could literally set your watch by what song was playing),
having it kept just out of arm's reach proved Cinderella right: you don't know what you got 'til it's gone.

AM 1400 was where old people music went to die. When it wasn't airing Brewer or Packer games, it was where artists of the 1940s and 50s gingerly mingled with the softest of 70s and 80s soft rock. Their gentle standards and mellow rock ballads never threatened to raise your pulse beyond what was necessary to pump enough blood into your legs to keep your rocking chair moving.

Emily was a year ahead of me in school, and thus, was driving before I was...we were both big band geeks and spent a lot of our afterschool hours shuttling between various band practices (jazz band, pep band, marching band, yadda-yadda). Emily was kind enough to give me the occasional lift back to Rancho del Asbach, when her mom had been kind enough to let her use the Chevette and granted her permission to drive me "all the way home," which seems kind of hilarious now since we live less than three miles out of town...back then, it seemed farther, I guess. Anyway, we had to jam to something, and AM 1400 was all we had, so that's what we listened to.

I remember one day in particular, driving from Emily's house along 11th Street - I can't remember where we were going (the school? my house?), but it was winter, and when "Music Box Dancer" came on the radio we thought it was hysterical. H-Y-S-T-E-R-I-C-A-L. And well, it kind of is, isn't it? We rolled down the windows and cranked the volume up to 11 and rolled through town like a couple of badasses.

*I chose this YouTube clip specifically because of that intriguing piece of art accompanying the song; it looks like one of those little glass-covered posters you'd win from a balloon-popping game at a carnival.

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