Back in my college days, Ball State really only had three big weekends. The first two took place in the fall and the other in the spring. During the fall, you, of course, had Homecoming in October, which could be a crazy weekend. The other fall event was an event sponsored by a fraternity called Watermelon Bust. Finally, the spring event was Bike-A-Thon, a bicycle relay race similar to Indiana University’s Little 500. Of course, there were other activities, but these were the Big 3.
My junior year there was the funnest year of my life. It spanned the years 1983 and 1984, but nothing compared to it for sheer selfish behavior. Upon my return to BSU for that third year, a group of guys asked me to join their Watermelon Bust team. Of course, I had participated with a team my sophomore year and knew what I was getting myself into. You see, this event is simply a reason to party with watermelons. The big event is a team of five people join together to compete in five four-man relay events with watermelons, along with a watermelon-eating contest with your fifth member.
Now, our team consisted of four guys all around six-foot tall, three of us former guards and track runners and the fourth a small forward/football quarterback with our watermelon eating wonder another smaller guy who could eat like no one else his size. The night before the Bust, we stole some dorm sheets, dyed them green and pink, thinking they’d like watermelon togas. Of course, the five of us were taking shots as we did our artwork. The next day, we got each other up at 10 AM for a little “pre-game” drinking to get ready for this thing which was starting at noon. Of course, we had a nice pre-game breakfast of beer over cereal. Not your normal game day meal, but, hell, we were stupid college kids.
So, now that we were warmed up, we put on our togas and headed to the Duck Pond (a retention pond) where there used to be an open area for the Bust. When we got there, we met up with the emcees, a hot new pair of DJs in Indianapolis on the most popular radio station by the names of Bob and Tom. That’s right. Those old guys who still have a coast-to-coast show that still broadcasts from Indy. Anyway, those guys, who were hammered as well, immediately started making fun of our togas, saying we looked like strawberries, which we did. Throughout the day, the verbally hassled us on the mic as they emceed the Bust.
Remember, our team was a bunch of former basketball players, and the relay events were basically basketball skills done with a watermelon: running with the watermelon held between your legs, rolling the watermelon across the ground, pushing the melon with your forehead, etc. Well, after we won the first two events, Bob & Tom began the trash talking about us, continuing the strawberry taunt. When we won the third and fourth relays, Bob says, “And the Strawberry Fairies win again!” And, we embraced the nickname, instead of using our dorm hall name even after they refused to sponsor us.
Now, the championship was in our sights. But, we wanted complete domination. That’s when our watermelon eater, also named Scott, comes running over to us to tell us he won that event too! His secret was to bite big hunks of watermelon, squeeze all the juice out of the bite and swallow, seeds and everything. He said he dominated. Now, we knew we had this thing in the bag.
The last event was to push the watermelon with our heads in relay form. We started with a walk-on track guy Glenn, followed by another former track guy Smitty. The third leg was my roommate and former QB1 Bruce, and I anchored, only because the guys said I had to anchor because I could push the melon with my large nose. I’d like to say it was close, but it wasn’t. But the time I got the melon, we had half-a-straightaway lead. But, since I am such a competitor, I went controlled but fast. When I crossed the finish line, I picked up the watermelon, walked over to where Bob & Tom were, and smashed the watermelon right in front of them. Of course, that delighted the DJs to no end and continued to egg us on. They immediately gave us a melon that had been soaking the entire three hours of the event with vodka in it. It goes without saying that the five Strawberry Fairies tore into it, making an Animal House-like spectacle out of it.
You know what? We won this four-foot tall trophy for being the overall campus champs. No kidding! Of course, now, the damn dorm wanted the trophy to display it forever. And, we refused to give it to the dorm until they met our three demands. First, we wanted our fifty dollar entry fee reimbursed. Next, we wanted our team picture, which I cannot find, displayed with the trophy. Finally, we wanted a guarantee from the Dormitory Advisor that our dorm room parties would not be busted for the rest of the quarter, which meant 10 weeks of hassle-free fun. Quickly, the dorm council said they would met our first two demands but were never going to agree to the third demand.
So, the trophy was passed around our rooms for a week at a time. Since Bruce and I were the only roommates, we had that thing in our room for two straight weeks. That trophy became mostly a coat tree, underwear tree or a clothesline. Finally, after four weeks, the Dorm Council relented, unofficially to our third term. Now, we had our “get out of jail free” card. We each got our 10 bucks back, our official Bob & Tom team picture was put up with the trophy, our double-secret party pass was quietly made known to all and we became folk heroes for a quarter. We were three weeks into the 1983-84 school year and things were looking up for us. Believe it or not, it got better.
So, what were we listening to that year? Here we go!
Billy Idol – Rebel Yell (1983). If you didn’t listen to Idol back then, you just weren’t cool. Billy married the whole punk attitude and energy with metal riffs and looks, and it was perfect for the time. This was the testosterone-driven party music of the day.
Culture Club – Colour by Numbers (1983). The first time I saw a Culture Club video, I could not decide if the lead singer was a male or female. Then I stopped worrying about it and just listened to the music. When the band released their sophomore album, they became a force of pop nature. Boy George had the voice of a modern day Smokey Robinson, while the band took their Motown-lite-reggae sound to the top of the charts. Truly, pure pop for now people.
Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual (1983). When comparing Cyndi and Madonna back in the day, I would have wagered millions of dollars on Cyndi being the long-term success, mainly because she had the better voice. Well, I was wrong, but Cyndi did leave us with this terrific pop/rock album, with the college girl Eighties anthem “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Oh, and she even covered Prince (“When You Were Mine”)!
David Bowie – Let’s Dance (1983). For the first time, David Bowie wanted to be a commercial success. So, he teamed up with producer Nile Rodgers, discovered a guitar whiz-kid named Stevie Ray Vaughn and brought him on board and recorded some excellent pop/rock songs with a Bowie-bent that sold through the roof. Sure, the album isn’t his best, but, hell, even this was way better than the rest of the crowd it never mattered. One of the albums of the Summer of ’83.
Def Leppard – Pyromania (1983). I used to LOVE to make fun of the Leppard and still do, if the truth be told. But, I have to give it to the guys to follow producer Matt Lange’s lead and create some excellent glam metal. If only all the hair metal bands could have been this good. I still don’t know why we needed Bon Jovi when we had the guys.
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983). Androgyny was everywhere in 1983, but no one turned it upside down like Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics did. This was the first of two excellent albums released by the duo in 1983. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, knows the title song. But, don’t overlook “Love Is a Stranger,” which is more like the band than the former. And, don’t pigeonhole this band as a synthpop band, as you will hear on future albums.
Eurythmics – Touch (1983). The great UK duo of Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox knocked it out of the park with this album. Wow! What tremendous growth the duo displayed as the took the icy sound of Kraftwerk and melded it seamlessly with the Stax/Atlantic soul sound of Annie’s powerhouse vocals. This album is breathtaking in its depth.
Genesis – Genesis (1983). Phil Collins continued his winning streak as he assumed more creative control over the former prog rock band. Now, the most commercially successful iteration of the band was not only creating excellent albums but actually having pop hits in the USA. I would argue they were staying true to their prog background by incorporating the sounds of new wave and world music. It was prog for a new generation.
Huey Lewis & the News – Sports (1983). I am not sure how I feel about these guys. They seem like nice enough fellas, but their music isn’t challenging. But, damn, they play it with conviction. Plus, Huey’s a damn good vocalist. Oh, give them their due, Keller! These guys hit the Springsteen-lite zeitgeist at just the right moment. Wait! Better yet, they were Mellencamp-lite. No matter! They did it well on this album. Plus, “I Need a New Drug” was everywhere on campus.
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind (1983). Everyone’s favorite underground metal band of the moment hit paydirt once again. Now, with a new drummer in Nicko McBrain, Maiden’s rhythm section became much more nimble than before, allowing the band to go in all kinds of time signature directions. This is a much heavier and darker Rush people.