I needed a job for the summer of 1983, so I participated in a series of interviews that could allow me to spend the summer being a counselor at a summer camp. Most of these camps were sports camps. I was hoping to parlay my basketball, track & field, cross country, cycling and/or baseball backgrounds into a summer job. While I was interviewing for those kind of jobs, I was interviewed by a resort barely across the Wisconsin/Illinois state line. Once again, I was trying for a sports activity director job. Instead, I was offered a job as a waiter/busboy. Since I could make more money, I took the resort job.
Needless to say, the job was interesting. There was a definite “look” the employers were going for when you were hired for a position. Case in point the sports activity directors were some of the least athletic people I had ever met, but they looked athletic. The intelligent/cynical people were put in the dining room. I worked with young people from all over the Mid West, like Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, etc.
The work was demanding. Some weeks, your patrons were very demanding and simply enjoyed watching the workers jump through hoops. But, most were laidback and tipped you well. Of course, I got to know a group of people who were musicians. One young man in particular, his name was Ted, was a DJ as well as a musician. I loved talking with these people about popular music. They all believe there was two types of music: good and bad. If it moved you, it was good. If it sounded as though a small group of people were exploiting the talent and/or the listener, the music was bad. Simple enough. Now, I could intellectually justify sticking with my love of Styx all the while backing the whole punk movement. It was all pop music.
At the time, my favorite artists were The Police, Talking Heads, Tom Petty, Prince, Cheap Trick, Bruce Springsteen; you know, pretty much everyone I still listen to today. One day Ted came up to me, holding a cassette tape in his hand, yelling, “This is the greatest album of all time.” Now, I roomed with another blonde-headed guy whose name was Scott, so I was known as “Sid” up there. Ted continued, “Sid, pop it into your cassette player.”So, I popped the cassette in and pushed play. We were listening to an album from 1975 called Shake Some Action by a band called the Flamin’ Groovies. What I heard was a pure power pop album with all of the nods being made to ’60s artists such as The Kinks, The Who, Small Faces, and, of course, The Beatles. This album was true manna. I was hooked. How could I have missed this band? Well, radio didn’t play it, of course. Later, he introduced me to Big Star, Raspberries and so many other Power Pop bands, that music began to make sense to me. No longer was I in pursuit of the bands with a new sound, but bands that were able to take old influences and make them new.
A couple of weeks later, Ted came running up to my room yelling about another album that will blow my mind. This one was a compilation of ’60s songs done by artists who basically sounded like all of the current punk, new wave and power pop bands we were listening to that summer. The album was called Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968. All of a sudden I was hearing songs that had been played at my parents’ schools during the sock hops I stayed for after my dad’s basketball games he coached. Memories came flooding back, along with sounds that were eerily similar to bands today. My transformation was complete. I was back to being a pop music aficionado and less of a classic rock person.
So, there you have it – my evolution as a music listener. I no longer was going to limit myself to what Q95 played. After that summer, I was diving headfirst into Motown, English Mod music, soul music, disco, funk, west coast hardcore punk, and all kinds of other types of music. My listening has become so much more pleasurable when I don’t limit myself. Hmmmm, maybe that should be my philosophy of life. 1983 was my year of enlightenment, I guess.
Ted, the greatest song of all-time is not the Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”. I still say it’s the Raspberries’ “Go All the Way”. Agree to disagree, oh well.