Monday, July 24, 2006

Red Red Wine, Stay Close to Me

In the summer of 1983 I was 11 years old and new to Rochester, NY. Return of the Jedi had come out in May, right around my birthday, and I spent most of my days zipping my Star Wars figures through our hedges on invisible forest speeders. There were neighborhood kids around but at that point I hadn't yet made too many friends. It was a difficult time, and the more I think about it, the more I realize it was difficult for more people than just me.

When I wasn't outside I was in my room above the garage. I'd put plastic airplane models together, emerging from my room light-headed after hours of inhaling Testor's model cement (I'd later be terrified yet impressed by the edgy guys at school who did this on purpose). When I wasn't doing that, I was sorting baseball cards or having vague and confusing daydreams about semi-clothed women.

No matter what I was doing, however, if I was inside, my radio was on. I mostly listened to WPXY ("98! P-X-Yyyyy!"), which at that point was the only station I could find that played rap. They didn't always play rap, mind you, but they played it more than other stations and that was good enough. I remember hearing "Shackles" by R.J.'s Latest Arrival among other early '80s hiphop classics.

Later that year, sometime in the spring of 1984, I heard a song that changed my entire perspective on music, a phenomenon that wouldn't happen again until I heard Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" almost ten years later. The song I heard in my room one rainy Saturday afternoon had a cool beat (I'd later learn it was reggae), oddly wistful lyrics, and this effing earth-shattering moment when the music stopped except for someone rapping over the drums.

I suppose by this point in our modern lives even a Bangladeshi street urchin knows what it means to "break it down." But at 11 years old the first breakdown I'd ever heard was an absolute effing epiphany. The song, obviously, was UB40's "Red Red Wine."

I bring this up for two reasons. First, because I cracked into a bottle of pinot noir left over from my graduation party tonight and it's as tasty as it's ever been, perhaps tastier. Second, because after months of finding the edited version without the breakdown on iTunes, I tried again tonight and - holeee jayzus - they had it.

So now I'm listening to that song over and over and over again, and thinking about Rochester, and wishing I could somehow time travel and tell that kid everything would turn out alright.

1 Comments:

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Rosellen said...

Sweet Man,

What an achingly lonely time that must have been for you. Being 11 can be such a confusing time, and you had more than your share of issues complicating your life.

I agree; if you could only time-travel and help him see the neat adult he will be in 20+ years.

 

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