Sometimes…no, make that often…when I look at Teen Angel it’s like looking in a mirror. She acts so much like me it’s scary. The way she puts that hand on her hip and barges ahead with her opinions, refusing to believe she’s wrong has “me” written all over it. It gives me a really good idea of how I appear to others and how I behaved when I was her age. Almost on a daily basis I have a “conversation” with my daughter and then am inclined to run to the phone and apologize to my mother for my teenage years. Lordy, I must have been a pain in her backside. Why she didn’t duct tape my mouth and drop me off at the nearest bus station is beyond me. The woman is a saint. I can only hope to handle Teen Angel half as well. Watching my daughter navigate these difficult years reminds me of all the turbulent, emotional trials of being a teenager, but it also reminds me of the fun stuff, too.
This week she was questioning my latest iTunes purchases, Blue October’s 18th Floor Balcony and Barry White’s I Just Want to Make Love to You. “Those don’t have anything in common”, she said. “Sure they do.” “No, they DON’T”, she insisted and proceeded to explain why. I was surprised at her understanding of the wistful Blue October song and instantly reminded of how much music means to young people, especially girls. As I stepped into the shower I couldn’t help but think about how much I loved pop music and the radio back in the mid-70’s when I was just starting to mature.
My crush on the radio started near the end of fifth grade. I looked like this.
The weather was kind of like it is now; cool in the mornings, warm and sunny in the afternoons. We bravely wore shorts to the bus stop, topped off by long sleeve jackets. My jacket was yellow with black trim. Super Cop later wore it. Our days were filled with math, reading, kickball and milk breaks. The summer of 1975 was just around the corner, and my friend Kandi got a new transistor radio. She was three years older than me, and her reading on the cool meter was always higher than mine. She had a 10 speed bike. I had a one speed. She had long blonde hair. Mine was brown. She had a white radio that was a ball on a long silver chain. I had none. I loved that radio. We dragged it all over her yard, and I wanted one so badly. By the time we were paroled from Franklin Elementary for the summer, I had gotten a radio. It was plain and black, not cool and round, but a radio nonetheless. I carried it everywhere.
It sat at the head of my bed when I was reading or supposed to be asleep. It hung from the handlebars of my bicycle while I pedaled around country roads. It sat on a blanket while I lathered myself in baby oil, Coppertone and QT and unsuccessfully sunned myself in the backyard. I dragged it with me when we went places in the car, holding it up to my ear and barking at Super Cop and Handy Man to shut up while we fought over our boundaries in the backseat. I went through nine volt batteries like poop through a goose. That radio was on ALL the time.
Back then, AM was king. FM was an experiment that most folks believed would fail. The AM stations with the grooviest DJ’s ruled the airwaves. My favorite radio station blasted tunes from Cat Stevens, Elton John, Neil Sadaka, Barry Manilow and Captain and Tennille. My favorites were ELO, Olivia Newton John and Leo Sayer. Helen Reddy sang about Angie Baby, and Terry Jacks crooned about Seasons in the Sun. I sang along as if I could sing. My hairbrush was my microphone and the whole world was my stage. I remember knowing every word to every song, feeling the pain of every singer and knowing exactly where every song stood on the charts at any given time. In between commercials for car dealers and the half hour tones to roll over if you were tanning, the songs serenaded me through that summer and several summers to follow. A couple of years later I got mad at my mom because she wouldn’t take me to a nearby park to hear Dr. Hook in concert. Listening to their drug laced songs now (I have the “Best of Dr. Hook in my CD collection) I understand why she said no. I held a grudge against her for about two years over that, though.
I have a real fondness for songs of the 70’s because they are the songs of my young summers. The tunes that filled my days along with mowing the yard, watching reruns of the Partridge Family and secretly hoping to marry Keith Partridge. I know why Teen Angel knows all about 18th Floor Balcony and the 2000 other songs that fill her iPod. Music feeds the soul at that age, and her iPod is her transistor radio. It’s almost as cool as the white ball on a chain…almost.
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