Just the other day I was flipping through my vinyl albums, when I stumbled across my collection of The Psychedelic Furs. I loved that band back in the day, so I gently removed their Todd Rundgren-produced Forever Now album from 1982. As I melted into the atmospherics of that album, I remembered just how much I dug this band back in the day. As this happens often with me, that afternoon listening to The Furs’ third album jump-started what has become a week-long musical obsession. And, the albums bring back so many memories.
Perhaps the song that elicits the most lasting memory is the first hit song from the band’s fourth album Mirror Moves called “The Ghost in You”. Man, that song takes me back to standing in line at the book store at college talking to people about the upcoming Bike-A-Thon race. I had just made the jump from being a full-time runner to a full-time cyclist, and my college had this five-member team race much like Indiana University’s more famous collegiate cycling race. But, back in the 1980s, Bike-A-Thon was a pretty huge weekend at Ball State. While the IU cyclists were racing on a nice quarter-mile track, we were riding this thick-framed bicycles with big balloon tires on a half-mile dirt track that was made for horse racing at the County Fairgrounds. Riding those “hogs”, as they were called, were brutal. Yet, The Furs were my preferred training music for my Walkman.
The day of the three-man time trials, one of my frat brothers was blaring “Pretty in Pink” as the team was getting ready to go over to the Fairgrounds for the trials. All of us were rookie riders, in that none of us had ever ridden in the race before. Many of the teams were loaded with “real” cycling racers. I was the first rider is the relay, meaning I was considered the fastest, so I would be compared to the fastest riders on all of the other teams. We were the second time to qualify that day out of 40 teams. 33 teams would qualify, the fastest winning the “pole” trophy and a trophy would be awarded to the fastest individual qualifier.
With “Love My Way” grooving through the neurons of my brain, I readied myself on the track, 200 yards before the starting line that would give me a “rolling start”. I had been an 800-meter runner in high school, so I knew how to pace my running. Therefore, I was determined to ride in the same manner. As I pedaled past the Start/Finish Line, I was building up speed. In track, I had been a crazy maniac who ran to the front and tried to hold on to the end. In cycling, not really knowing what to do, I simply built up my speed.
As I charged down the backstretch, I could feel my legs seemingly in rhythm with the beat of “President’s Gas” playing in my head. Still, the weirdest thing was happening to me – I was getting faster. I know the announcer was saying something about my ride, but I was hyperfocused on the ride, knowing The Furs were psychologically pulling me along. As I flew into turn three, I felt that I had much more left. So, as I shifted the gears in my legs, I knew I was flying to the sounds of “Love My Way” in my memory bank.
Now, most cyclists will tell you that to sprint on a bike, you should stand on your pedals with your butt off your seat. I barely stood. I didn’t know that at the time. But, I was told that I looked like a blur charging up the track to my exchange. As I crossed the finish line, I yelled at my fraternity brother to take off and ride hard and I hit his hand with mine as he took off for the next leg. As I hit the brakes, I could hear a prolonged roar from the crowd of riders, fans, timers and workers. After talking with our last rider, I walked over to the fence to talk to our “catchers”, the two guys who were going to stop each rider when they came into the pits for an exchange with another rider. One of the guys asked how it went. I just told him that I couldn’t believe how easy it felt, much easier than trying to run it. He replied, “Well, I think you shocked the crowd with your time.” I said to get The Psychedelic Furs on the frat stereo ready if we qualify.
Just as I was fumbling around with my Walkman, attempting to pop in Mirror Moves, a reporter from the BSU newspaper came up to me to conduct an interview. Come to find out that I had a faster time than the past couple of years’ worth of fastest qualifiers. I think I shocked him when I told him I had never ridden in a race before. My time was 59 seconds. As the day went on, I was still the fastest qualifier. That is until the fast guys from the top seven teams rode, all of whom were a full two seconds faster or less than me. It seems that I shook “The Ghosts in Them” (yuck!!!) with my time, that several of them were determined to be faster than me.
So, for that one day, I was a pretty fast cyclist while qualifying for Bike-A-Thon. Our team had qualified an all-rookie team best 13th. We finished the big race the following week in 18th place, which was a record for an all-rookie team. Not too shabby for five guys none of whom had ever raced on a bicycle before that day. That’s one of the best memories I have associated with The Psychedelic Furs, a band that many overlooked back in the 1980s. Go back and give them a listen and make some of your own greatest memories while you have The Furs music running through you head.