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5 Summer Music Memories

I'm definitely not what I would call a "music person."  I've worked with some people that can spend hours telling me about their music collection, how they spent weeks perfecting their "playlist," or go deep into conversation about songs that never get air time on the radio.  I've had conversations about things like this with people about singers like Enya.  Yes, even that Enya.

That's just not my thing.  Sure, I can prattle off about pro wrestling lore or things from my childhood like Ghostbusters or Dick Tracy, and that probably bores the music folk just as much as their songs make my eyes roll.  I don't HATE music; I do have some songs I like, but that's about it.  I don't go "deep," as they say, and my taste is a pretty eclectic set of songs.  

The songs I really like tend to remind me of a moment in time from the past.  If I had to classify my favorite type of music, I guess it would be classic rock.  I'm not really sure.  Of course, being a Long Islander, it's basically required to like Billy Joel, and I do.  

In the car, I'd rather listen to my podcasts or talk radio.  I won't listen to the sports or politics kind of talk radio, but more the Opie and Anthony and Howard Stern "hot talk" format.  

That all said, I understand why most people prefer music.  For me, and I'm sure everyone else, hearing a certain song can instantly bring me back to a time and place, or even a specific scent sometimes, that I haven't thought of in years. 

The following 5 songs bring me right back to great memories of the summer times of my youth.  Hopefully, they spark a memory of your own!  

1999- "Mambo Number 5" by Lou Bega

Growing up, we spent several weeks in August each year in Maine.  Our extended family would all rent the same cabins on the same lake at the same time every year, and it would be just one big family get-together.  It had its positives and negatives, but I have many more GOOD memories than I do BAD ones, and with the luxury of hindsight 20 years later, the bad ones aren't so bad. 

As he typically did, my brother would frequently blast music from the radio or CD player we brought with us.  Mambo Number 5 would get the "Repeat" button treatment, and all of us, even down at the lake, could hear its techno-reggae beat coming from our shared bedroom window.  

At the time, he was dating a girl from school named Rita, and the fourth girl named in the song was, of course... Rita.  He'd then yell out "YEAH!  RITA!" each... and... every... time.

I'll admit, I still bebop to this one in the car when I hear it, but I still think back to my brother in Maine no matter where I am.

1996 - "The Macarena" by Los Del Rios

"The Macarena" was released to the world in 1993, but it wasn't until the "Bayside Boys" created an English-speaking remix of the song in 1996 that it achieved white-hot worldwide fame.

This song brings another memory of our time in Maine.  This song was so popular this summer that even the old folks, Granny and Gramps and Helen and Woody, were talking about (and doing) the Macarena.  

My Mom would take me into town every morning because I wasn't that big into fishing.  Rather than spend the day on the lake fishing, I'd either be on the beach reading my book, trying to watch the 2 channels of fuzzy tv, or taking the boat out alone for a spin pretending to be flying a seaplane.  Most days, Mom went into town for something or the other, and I was eager to go.  I'd hope for a new toy, magazine, book, or maybe even some of those amazing Shaws donut holes, Humpty Dumpty potato chips, or the Ollie Ollie orange soda (all items that I'd kill for today.)  

Anyway, one day my Mom took me to the only mall in town.  It was, at the time, a vestige of the 80s, with maybe a handful of stores.  There was a big Hallmark store that we'd visit, plus a touristy t-shirt/souvenir store, a couple of clothing stores, a music store, and a movie theater with 2 screens.  That theater is where my Uncle and I would go once a year, where I have some fantastic memories.  I saw "Signs" and "The Village" there, along with several others.

This one time, my Mom, apparently bit by the Macarena bug, headed into the "Bull Moose Music" store and walked right up to the disinterested girl in black lipstick and pigtails behind the desk.  Mom asked her for "that new Macarena record."  The emo/goth girl stared at us like we both had 10 heads and replied with a nasty "I don't think they even make records anymore, but we probably have it on CD."  I don't know what she was more disgusted with:  that my Mom called CD's "records" or that she wanted the popular "Macarena."

I don't remember why, but I stood at the front while my Mom grabbed the CD and returned to pay.  The girl was even snotty enough to ask, "Did we have it in the record section or only on CD?"  

When we got back to the cabin, we popped in into my brother's CD player, and I was suddenly dismayed to find out that my Mom had bought the Spanish-only version and not the hit single with English lyrics.  When I complained about it, she said she had seen the two different CDs, but this one was a dollar or two cheaper and didn't think there would be a difference.  

Oh well.

1995 - "Kiss From a Rose" by Seal

I had seen the Batman movie earlier that summer with my Mom and cousin, and all these years later, I honestly don't remember the song being that big of a deal in the movie, but it certainly was an instant hit on the radio.  Every week, when we'd ride the half-hour to church and Dad had the radio on, there it'd be on Casey Kasem's Countdown.  When we went to hockey practice or games, and he had music playing, it'd be on then, too.  

For whatever reason, though, when I hear this song, I'm instantly transported back to the summer of 1995 when we arrived at our cabin in Maine.  We had been in the car for 8 or 9 hours at that point, and for the last hour or so, my brother and I had become invested in a "Top 10 Songs of the Week" countdown from the Boston radio station we could get on the drive.  When we pulled up to the cabin, the number 2 song was just ending, and my Dad was eager to get out of the car and unpack, but we begged him to leave the car running so that we could find out what the number one song was when the commercial break ended.  

I vividly remember coming down the front stairs of the cabin for another load of luggage when Seal came booming from the radio.  Of course, my brother dove into the car and cranked it to the max, and the whole neighborhood knew we had arrived.  

This song also reminds me of a Goosebumps book called "Camp JellyJam."  My Mom bought it for me that year in the book/magazine section of Shaw's grocery store, and that song must have been playing from my brother's radio while I read it when we got home.  The two are just as linked in my memory as that day we arrived at the cabin.

2009 - Poker Face by Lady Gaga

I try to keep everything on this site before my college graduation in 2005, but I'll make an exception for this one since it's over 10 years old.  

In 2009, the movie "The Hangover" was going strong in movie theaters and made Las Vegas a hotspot for the young crowd.  As a nerdy teetotaler, I'm more a fan of Vegas' family-friendly run in the 90s when they built pyramids and castles, and held friendly pirate shows, rather than the current "nightclub" vibe of the city.  

During the summer of 2009, I was unemployed.  My first airline struggled to stay afloat during the "Great Recession," and I was laid off in January.  Funny enough, my wife and I had been on vacation in 2008 in Las Vegas the day the stock market crashed.  Every time we walked past a TV in a casino, it was just more devastation, and we walked back to our hotel and spent the rest of the day in bed watching an "MTV True Life" marathon.  We knew the economy was about to take a dump, and it wouldn't be good for either of our careers, so it kind of put a damper on the rest of the trip.

The following year, in 2009, Lauren was in China on a school trip for her Master's Degree.  I still had flight benefits from my first airline for a few months before they cut them off, and while Lauren was in China, my friend from kindergarten and I had been flying around in small airplanes to stay busy.  In June, we had been flying when the news broke that Michael Jackson had died. That was also the same day we decided we'd go to Vegas while Lauren was out of town.

We snagged standby first-class seats for free and a last-minute room at The Stratosphere for dirt cheap.  We were only going to be in Vegas for 2 nights but it was his first trip and he wanted to "do it up."  

I'm sure I was a pain in the ass to my friend, who just wanted to enjoy his first Vegas trip, but I kept trying to find a way to check my email to see if Lauren had written me back.  She was 12 hours ahead (or behind) and would often write me a quick email at midnight my time, and I'd wind up writing her midnight her time.  Before smartphones, it was tough to get email unless you lugged a laptop around, which I didn't.  We found a public computer in the gift shop of The Stratosphere, and my friend discovered really quick when you purchased time on the internet in 10-minute increments, they gave you little strips of paper with a password on them.  When I purchased my first 10 minutes, he saw the stack of paper strips in the open drawer and took mental notes of several of the basic passwords.  The two of us had free internet for our whole trip!  I'm sure the statute of limitations has passed, right?  Again, though, I'm sure the last thing he wanted to do was hang out at the internet cafe so I could check my email.

We rented a car and drove out to the Valley of Fire State Park, which was fun, but he was more interested in driving our rental car 120 mph down the lonely desert roads than anything.  With "The Hangover" making Vegas "hip" again, he also wanted to lay by the pool rather than casino hop like I liked to do.  I am definitely not the poolside type and kept wanting to leave after sitting still in the sun for a few minutes.  I'm sure he was annoyed with me, but we stayed poolside for about 2 hours, and we must have heard Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" 20 times.  

I don't think I ever heard the song before that trip, but I could sing the lyrics by the time we flew home the next morning.  Now, when I hear the song, I think of being poolside at The Stratosphere.  

2000 - "She's So High" by Tal Bachman

In the summer of 2000, I spent my time working as a landscaper for a guy my Mom hooked me up with.  I was the grunt labor, using the blower, trimmer, and edger while he casually walked behind the mower and drove the pickup truck.  

He paid cash, $20 an hour, to be exact, so I couldn't complain.  Back then, that was A LOT of money.  We had one heck of a heatwave that summer and had a string of days nearing or over 100 degrees.  I never prayed for rain so much as I did that summer, hoping to get that call at 8am telling me he didn't need me because of the rain.  That way, I could stay inside all day in the air conditioning at Granny's house rather than be out in the heat, becoming, as she would say, a "grease spot."

If I heard "She's So High" once, I must have heard it a thousand times during the summer of 2000.  Rich, the owner, would drive around in his big white Ford pickup truck with his windows open and radio blasting Z100.  In New York, Z100 was the biggest pop station and would play the "hits" geared towards young adults and teens.  

I can still picture him, shirtless, in the driver seat screaming off-key with the wrong lyrics to this song.  And that's what pops in my head when I hear this song.

All that said, I do have to thank Rich for one thing.  During the prior school year, in 1999, I helped him do some Fall leaf pick-ups before he hired me full-time for the spring and summer in 2000.  That first day with him, he had "Opie and Anthony" on in the truck.  I had never heard the show before, or anything like it, but after one more chance encounter finding O & A on the radio after school one day a month or so later in my friend's old Monte Carlo, there would only be a handful of days after that when I would miss an episode.