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5 Summer Music Memories: Part II

Two summers ago, I posted an article titled "5 Summer Music Memories."  The other day when I was mowing the lawn and listening to some music, I thought now would be a good time to break out Part II!     

I'll never be called a "music person."  People I work with can rattle off names of albums or band members like a grocery list, and some have even told me they spent weeks perfecting their "playlist."  Recently, there were three of us discussing items from the 1990s, but when music came up, I laid out and let the other two talk.  I had nothing to offer except, "Yeah, that's a good song!"   

I like the music I like, and if I'm lucky, I can tell you who sings it.  If I really like the song, I may even know the words! 

Ok, that's a little dramatic, but let's just say I'm happy to put my favorite songs into Pandora and listen to songs like it.  Yes, I still use Pandora... I know.  The "kids" I work with are disgusted when they hear I use Pandora and not Spotify or some other trendy Gen-Z app.   

Either way, in the spirit of the original 5 Summer Music Memories, the following list is an additional five songs that make me think of moments during my summers as a kid.  It's more of a personal blog post than anything, but I occasionally enjoy documenting moments from the past should I ever forget them.

Are they great songs?  Maybe some of them!  I can certainly sing along with them now, and I'm sure you can too since they were insanely popular songs, as any good summer song is.  For anything to be considered a summer song, I think it needs to be upbeat, fast-paced, and played heavily on the radio during the summertime.  Since nobody listens to the radio anymore, I have no clue how kids today have memorable "summer songs," if they even do.  

Also, like any good song, it provides a soundtrack to our life.  When we hear it, it gives us that instantaneous memory of events, places, and people.  

On to the list!  (in no particular order)

1.  1997 - "MMMBop" by Hanson 

The 7th grade school year was coming to a close in June of 1997.  While it wasn't technically summer yet, it was still mid-to-late June (somewhere between the 16th and 18th, to be exact), and the chart-topping song was "MMMBop."  That late into June, there were only a few days left to the school year, and we were all getting the itch to start our summer.  The last class I had every day was Earth Science, and my teacher, Mr. Hurley, was one of the "cool" teachers, so he, too, was eager to start summer.  

On one particular afternoon, it was hot and humid, and nobody was paying attention.  The school wasn't air-conditioned, and the open window did little to keep us comfortable.  Eventually, Mr. Hurley gave up trying, put his feet up on his desk, and took off his sock tie.  He always wore these knit square-bottomed neckties that my friends and I referred to as a "sock tied around his neck." A sock tie.

I know it was somewhere between June 16-18, 1997, because the first "Subway Series" between the Mets and Yankees was taking place, and the entire tri-state area was focused on it.  Mr. Hurley turned on WFAN, the big sports station in New York, and we all settled in to finish the school day listening to the recap of yesterday's ga, the pregame show, or whatever else the hosts had to say about the game later that night.  Eventually, the show went to commercial, and Mr. Hurley flipped around the dial until he found a music station that would calm the classroom.

Suddenly, the girls all squealed and began singing along to a song I had never heard before.  It was "MMMBop" by Hanson.  I'll admit it was catchy, buI t suddenly realized by the reaction of all the boys in the room that I should not admit to enjoying the song.  Mr. Hurley indulged another song or two before flipping back to The Subway Series talk, and eventually, the bell rang to send us home.  That summer, I heard the song more than a few times, but even today, whenever I hear MMMBop, I think of Mr. Hurley and that first Subway Series.

2.  1999 - "Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears

I'll admit that, more often than not, this song was never more than a punch line to me.  "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time" was a tagline, joke, or insult for many of us back then, but when I think of the song now, I'm instantly transported back to the summer of 1999 and the passenger seat of my brother's car.  

Matt had just graduated high school, and I had just finished my Freshman year.  All I wanted to do was stay home and be on AIM chatting with my friends, reading pro wrestling websites, or playing DOOM or some other game we had on our computer.

My brother?  He was OBSESSED with "Austin Powers 2:  The Spy Who Shagged Me."  That summer, he must have seen the movie five or six times, and I went with him two or three times to keep him company.  Plus, the first time we went, he told me it was Rated R, and he would be happy to get me into my first R-rated film without my parents, so I was all in.  I quickly discovered it was only PG13, but we still had fun.

On the first trip to the theater, the skies opened up and poured rain.  He was driving, and if I recall correctly, he still had his silver Ford Contour.  I remember wishing he'd slow down or at least pay attention to the road and the driving rain, but he was busy fiddling with the radio as we went around the looping off-ramp from the Palisades Parkway onto the New York Thruway at what felt like 112 mph.  

Just as we got on the Thruway, "Hit Me Baby One More Time" began to play.  Matt immediately screamed out, "THIS CHICK IS HOT!" before spinning the volume knob up to maximum.  

I had heard the song once or twice before but never thought much of it, let alone even knew what Britney Spears looked like.  When it came out that previous winter, I was busy with hockey and wrestling or whatever else occupied my free time.  When summer rolled around, the song really gained steam, mainly thanks to the then uber-popular TRL on MTV, and you couldn't avoid it.  

Thankfully we arrived at the mall in the same amount of pieces we left home in.  On the way out, he stopped in the record store and picked up the Britney Spears CD.  What a great time.  I'll never forget my brother looking at me instead of the road during the pouring rain on our way to spend time together at the movies.  

3.  1999 - "Beautiful Stranger" by Madonna

Speaking of Austin Powers 2, Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger" is one of the songs I wore out during the summer of 1999.  That summer, I worked for a landscaping company and spent most of my time outdoors.  In Part One, I mentioned my boss, Rich, and how he would play music very loudly as we cruised around town in his pickup truck between jobs.  

Back then, the iPod hadn't been invented yet, and MP3 technology was insanely expensive.  At the time, I had a "Discman" CD player that Mom had bought me.  It had "shock technology" that made it capable of being listened to while jogging or doing physical activity.  See, kids, back in the dark ages, if you shook a CD or record player, the music would skip.  This was brand new technology, and I was amazed I could shake a playing CD and not have it skip (too much).   

Every day before work, I'd pack my backpack with a frozen water bottle, snacks, my Discman, and a handful of CDs.  While I was out trimming, I'd have my music earphones underneath the protective ear muffs.  On one of the many burned CDs I made from home was this "hopping" new song from Madonna that kept me moving.  Its fast pace and exciting beat helped push me through some exhausting summer days, especially during the record-breaking heat wave that year.  

4.  1997 - "Zoot Suit Riot" by The Cherry Poppin' Daddies

By 1997, the swing-music revival was back with success from the movie Swingers and bands like The Squirrel Nut Zippers.  Adults across the country were dressing like it was the 1940s all over again, and in the fall of 1997, my 8th-grade social studies teacher told us how excited she was to go see the Squirrel Nut Zippers in concert.  I giggled like a schoolgirl at the band's name and the thought of my nearly 65-year-old teacher cutting a rug at a swing concert.  

In any event, "Zoot Suit Riot" quickly became one of the most popular songs in the country.  Did you know it was based on an actual event, the Zoot Suit Riots?  Me either.  

I recorded this song off the radio on a CASSETTE TAPE and played it over and over again.  Some days I wish I had kept all of those cassette tapes as I'm interested to see what was on them.  

The following summer, in 1998, when we were on our annual vacation in Maine, there was one activity I looked forward to the most every year:  The Adventure Zone.  The Adventure Zone was a go-cart, bumper boat, and mini-golf place that was a lot of fun.  Once a year, as a family, we'd all go together to compete for go-kart and mini-golf supremacy. 

That year when we were racing our go-carts around the track, Zoot Suit Riot played over the loudspeakers, blasting out our eardrums but providing an awesome soundtrack to the race.  Now, on the not-so-often occasion that I hear this song, I always begin to reminisce about our times at The Adventure Zone.

5.  1998 - "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger

Those previously mentioned cassette tapes would hold a gem I'd love to hear again.  Flagpole Sitta was one of the most popular summer songs in 1998.  On the day we returned from our vacation in Maine, I was in my room unpacking my bags and dying of the heat.  It was the dog days of August, a week or so from school starting again, and because Mom and Dad didn't like to use the AC, it was pretty darn hot upstairs.  As I was unpacking my bag, I was listening to Z100 with my record-button-pushing-finger limbered up and ready just in case something good came on the radio.  

Suddenly, Flagpole Sitta started playing, and I was happy that I got the tape recording nearly immediately.  Getting the best possible recording from the radio was a skill back then, and I was proud of myself.  As the song ended, the afternoon host Paul "Cubby" Bryant, began talking in a cadence that matched the beat to the song's end.  I can still hear him today:  "Today's Best Music... Z-100... Elvis In The Morning..." Because that was caught on my favorite mix tape, Cubby's voice was driven into my head every time I listened to the song.  

Now, whenever I hear this song, I think of this ending and add it to the music in the same choppy cadence Paul "Cubby" Bryant used as if it were the real lyrics to the song.

By the way, while the nationwide enjoyment for the song Flagpole Sitta quickly waned, I stole the band's name, Harvey Danger, and used it for nearly 15 years in the world of fantasy wrestling.  If you were ever into e-feds during the late 90s and early 00s, perhaps you'll remember me and poor old Harvey.