Friday, April 21, 2006

The Best Bad Song of All Time

SCENE: The public swimming pool. Lowell, Ohio. Summer, 1982.

The FM station out of Parkersburg, West Virginia, had this on heavy rotation, crackling out of the Sanyo transistor that sat on the edge of my towel. Gnawing on a Bit 'O Honey from the concession stand, I'd basked in the sun, drip-drying after a few rounds of Marco Polo. The smell of chlorine, wet concrete. Coltish teenage girls congregating in bikinis. Dudes doing the cannonball. Probably 95 degrees out.

With "I Love You," by Climax Blues Band (right), the DJ was bringing the tempo down after, say, the jaunty oompa-loompa of the Oak Ridge Boys' "Elvira." The first low ripples of the electric piano sort of quiet the pool, blue skies shimmering overhead. A cloud passes over. An airplane in the distance. It's, what, 3:30? Check the waterproof Casio.

And then that guitar solo hit. The first stirrings of something, not sure what. The perfect lilting note, the arc of it, how it ascended, then ascended again. Woop-doo-woooooop! woop-doo-woooop! And that was it. As if the solo suddenly became a pink animated laser cutting cursive letters in air, sparks shooting off it like an arc weld and revealing a Technicolor fantasia near the deep end: Coltish teenage girls congregating in bikinis!

Since then I never looked back
It's almost like livin' a dream
Ooh I got you

I was 11 years old. After that, I don't remember hearing the song again. They don't even have it at my local karaoke bar. It's like it evaporated - poof. But like a boomerang, it returns, making me woozy in that VH1 Classics kind of way. But now nostalgia strains against reality, the burnt cursive rusting away, those coltish teenagers of yore all cossetted in their BBQ-fattened suburban enclaves somewhere far away. The song's about a twentysomething longhair who gets reformed by some lovely gal he meets (in AA?).

You picked me up from off the floor and gave me a smile
You said you're much too young, your life ain't begun, let's walk for awhile ...

There's something very Christ-like about this moment. You kind of wonder if she carried him along the beach and there were only one set of footprints. Anyway, now this song is a recommended number on, where you can "learn to love." Even the online encyclopedia Wikipedia calls this "arguably the best love song written." I should probably be embarrassed to admit it, but that's about right. Air Supply Nirvana. I admit it's prompted a slow dance or two with Dewey Dell. I do thank her for helping me not become a besotted bum. She doesn't even make me cut my hair!

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