Not to mention “Copacabana”…

Let me tell you the story of the Internet.

Every summer growing up, my family went to the cottage. We didn’t own it. We rented. But we still called it “the cottage” because, among the double rows of brightly painted bungalows, we booked the same one year after year. Ours was the yellow one in front, overlooking the Northumberland Strait, with Prince Edward Island a ferry ride beyond.

picThe cottage was different from home. At the cottage, we could hang from rafters where the ceiling ought to be. There was free-range candy and pop, a fireplace, mosquitoes we made dizzy with Pic coils before smacking their blood-engorged bodies on the wall. There was Dad not working but sitting on the beach reading book after book after book. And there was no television.

There was, however, AM radio.

In the car, in the cottage, on the beach, over lunch and games of Clue, the radio provided the soundtrack of our summers – a soundtrack of mostly questionable taste.

“Afternoon Delight” was a number-one hit in the summer of 1976, the sweetest song ever written about doing the midday-dirty. I was 10. I didn’t get it. But I did get funny feelings that summer for a girl staying in one of the other cottages, so maybe the song had more influence than I realized. I don’t remember her name, only her tan. She tanned real good. These days, I’d be hectoring her to apply some SPF 30, which is romance buzz-kill, even for a 10-year-old.

Hearing “Afternoon Delight” today pulls me back to that summer. So do “Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck and the world’s best dog-drifting-out-to-sea song, “Shannon” by Henry Gross and many other cheesy not-so-classics.

toniBut that’s nostalgia. Nostalgia has no taste. Nostalgia is pastels, soaring strings and unbuttoned chest hair. It’s Toni Home Perms, funky hats and vibraphones. It’s Paul McCartney spiraling into his treacly doom. It’s the sax riff on “Baker Street” and everything by Dr. Hook. Nostalgia does not discriminate. Nostalgia takes me back to a transistor radio on the beach, where we listened to every bad song, because we never knew when we’d hear our favourites.

Three years later, lying on that same beach, how many times did Anne Murray sleepwalk through “Shadows in the Moonlight” or Kenny Rogers convince himself that “She Believes in Me” before the radio finally played “The Logical Song”? And did we secretly like “The Main Event” by Barbra Streisand? And would we admit it even now?

Three more years later, my tractor beam of nostalgia is triggered by songs that have aged more gracefully: “Don’t You Want Me?” by Human League, “Hold Me” by Fleetwood Mac, “I’ve Never Been to Me” by Charlene. Okay, forget Charlene. What an overdose of estrogen that song was! But these and others are forever tied to that summer of ’82, one of my last full vacations at the cottage, the one with the summer romance.

There were no pick-up lines about tanning products, no confusion over what I meant by “ferry.” Just “We’re having a bonfire later on the beach if you want to come,” and me knowing at that moment that I would never again in my life be so suave.

Our romance lasted nearly two weeks and the radio was there with us. “Abracadabra” and “Hurt So Good” and that stupid Charlene song. I remember the music more than the making out. Or maybe we didn’t make out. Maybe I wasn’t so suave after all.

It felt real, though, and yet like a dream. Then, in the final days, I lost her. I lost her to a boy with a licence and a car. Maybe it wasn’t even the car but the idea that, in a car, you can go anywhere and take the music of summer with you. A radio in the car is worth two on the beach.

And so, later, scientists invented the Internet to ensure that, for the good of their geeky kind, music would no longer be anchored to radios but would be controlled personally and played anywhere, the song of your choice, on demand. Music would never again command such nostalgic hold on time and place, but boys without cars would be able to play “Silly Love Songs” any time, any time, any time.

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Related Post: Mixed Tape Messages

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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49 Responses to Not to mention “Copacabana”…

  1. So awesome how music can take us back… Great post.

  2. Mooselicker says:

    Maybe it’s because you had such an extensive soundtrack, but I totally felt like I was there! Please do not do this for a bad memory of yours. I will get sucked in.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Funny, I can’t think of any song I associate with a bad memory. I had a friend once who was certain terrible things happened whenever she heard “Red, Red Wine.”

  3. These are some truly terrible earwigs and sadly, each and every one is recognizable to me. My friends and I used to laugh hysterically about the “I’ve Never Been to Me” song. Most of us said we’d been and were glad we had round trip tickets.

  4. DrFrood says:

    Love Baker Street, the saxophone, the lyrics – but it’s the squealy guitar solo gets me every time. And the Logical Song!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are times..when allll the world’s asleep, the questions run so deep, for suuuuuch a simple maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan.

    Ahem.

    Summer in a cottage sounds pretty lovely. One ought never offer or accept advice from strangers on the internet of course, but one wonders whether you ever went back with your own family, or whether it still exists.

    But then would it be the same without AM radio owning your ears?

    Questions, but alas, no answers.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      “Baker Street” really is quite good. I heard it on the road not long ago. It rises above its potential for cheesiness I think because of the superb production — the repeated sax riff with the chugging strings, Rafferty’s soft vocals, and, yes, the climax of the guitar solo. Another song from the same era that I feel is saved by the production is “Year of the Cat: by Al Stewart. Alan Parsons producer — not exactly known for restraint…

      We did go back to the cottage, about nine years ago, on the occasion of my parents’ 50th anniversary. We rented the place for the day and just hung out. It still held a powerful spell over us. Alas, the AM station we used to listen to from PEI is now FM and all-country. Time stands not still…

      Great chatting!

  5. peachyteachy says:

    “command such nostalgic hold on time and space”–that says it. I know many of these songs embarassingly well.

  6. Elyse says:

    Glad you didn’t mention Copacabana. But I’ll have to blame someone else for the fact that it’s stuck in my head.

  7. byebyebeer says:

    “Nostalgia has no taste.” Ha! Brilliant. Listening to all those songs could put me in a cocoon of dorky happiness or kill me. Not sure I want to find out.

    My favorite summer was ’83 when I was 10, so maybe it is a 10 year old thing. I don’t recall a summer romance, but I do remember a peeling suntan and my pink Ewok shirt, which probably explains the first part.

  8. Ned's Blog says:

    That was a blast! So many songs during so many great years… However, I just finished getting every Dr. Hook song out of my head. Now I have to start over. Thanks a lot, Ross…

  9. pencil pilot says:

    Enjoyed your post…loved, loved allll the music. And laughed at the bonfire on the beach invitation. Where would we be if we couldn’t look back and so clearly recall our suave/suavette moments? 🙂 I’ll drop back around, explore more. Great post~

  10. nfrederick78 says:

    I loved this so much! Totally reminded me of driving to PEI from Ottawa with my mom and dad when I was twelve and my brother was fifteen. We weren’t allowed to listen to our Walkmans for the entire car ride, so the four of us each got to take turns choosing which tape to play on the car stereo. My Dad always picked David Wilcox or Celine Dion, my mom was all about the John Cougar Mellencamp, I obviously chose Rick Astley and that was the summer my brother was pretty heavy into the Ramones. I vividly remember driving through the scenic Maritimes singing “The KKK Took My Baby Away” together as a family.
    Also, your blog is great and I have never EVER met another Canadian who says “aboot”. But I do live in an igloo and take may kids to school via dogsled.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      What a musically diverse car ride, although I can’t figure how your dad could like David Wilcox on one hand (yay!) and Celine Dion on the other (not yay). Still, good for him for promoting Canadian content. As for the Ramones, I would think that an even better song for a road trip like that would have been “I Wanna Be Sedated.”
      Thanks for the kind words. As for “aboot,” I know, right?

  11. “These days, I’d be hectoring her to apply some SPF 30, which is romance buzz-kill, even for a 10-year-old.” There is NOTHING sexier than skin cancer and wrinkle prevention, even for a 10-year-old. You really missed your opportunity to capitalize on the most epic childhood romance to ever grace Canadian borders.

  12. The Waiting says:

    That was awesome. I want that paragraph about nostalgia inscribed on my gravestone.

  13. I LOVE this post. I would say it took me back to ’76, but I wasn’t alive yet. Instead, it took me back to listening to “Sounds of the 70s” compilation CDs on my mom’s stereo and dreaming about being old enough for summer love. I love this paragraph:

    “It felt real, though, and yet like a dream. Then, in the final days, I lost her. I lost her to a boy with a licence and a car. Maybe it wasn’t even the car but the idea that, in a car, you can go anywhere and take the music of summer with you. A radio in the car is worth two on the beach.”

    Glad you decided to link up with us this week 🙂

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Glad you liked it. The link-up was a happy coincidence; the post was planned before I read Emily’s post.
      The seventies were the sedated spawn of the Summer of Love.
      Thanks for the follow. See you around.

  14. I loved this. I felt like I was on the beach with you, hanging from the rafters (fun!) and gorging myself on the “free-range candy.”

  15. Lily says:

    What is Canada’s weird obsession with Anne Murray? I don’t get it! Although, I’m pretty sure my grandma’s favorite song is Snowbird so I can’t really talk.
    Nice recollection of your nostalgia triggers. Beautifully written. I felt like I was there!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thanks. As for Anne, it’s complicated, involving radio Canadian content rules, national identity, right time right place, and her just being a really sweet person (true! my brother designed one of her TV specials). Gordon Lightfoot’s in this same category. If you think Canada is a nerd now, you should have seen us 30 years ago.

  16. Really good post, very well written!

  17. I had never linked nostalgia to chest hair but it totally works!!

  18. Nostalgia also lives on in the concert circuit. Which explains two recent shows I’ve seen: Lynyrd Skynyrd & Bad Company, and Bob Seger & The SIlver Bullet Band.

    Of course, tickets for both were purchased over the Internet, so we’ve sort of come full circle here…

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