Update 03.15.15: after I posted this yesterday, I found out the craziest small world fact about Brenda K. Starr: Turns out, my sister knows her and worked with her. She lives in the town where I grew up and people who still live there know her and her daughter – and they say see also has a great voice. What in the world are the chances of that? As my friend said: Mind blown!” Indeed. Just so darn cool.
I know this isn’t groundbreaking in any way, but I’m still amazed at the power of music, specifically how hearing a song can bring you back not only to a specific time but a specific moment.
And I’m not talking about fogging up the windows in the back seat of a dark blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, or some similar vehicle, I’m talking about just regular everyday life.
Today, my Spotify Ultimate 80s playlist stopped at “I Still Believe” by Brenda K. Starr. Clearly this is a relationship song, but for me it’s 1988 all over again and I’m working at Redemption at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J. Redemption was the creative name for the Skeeball arcade, and redemption referred to cashing in tickets and tokens for amazing prizes like pencil erasers. This is where all the tired parents came with their amazingly-behaved children to let them run around unsupervised.
During one of those rare moments when the prize counter was empty and I had a break in trading 10 tickets for one fluorescent plastic spider, there was a boom box on the shelf tuned to some FM radio station. It is was almost always static-y because we were in a giant metal tent in the middle of the New Jersey Pine Barrens almost exactly halfway between New York and Philadelphia. I was a big fan of 104.5 WSNI because it played great 80s music, which was of course current music back then. My manager, Tony – I can’t remember his last name – loved the new Q-102, Philadelphia’s hottest hits. And hottest hits meant nothing but R&B. Whenever I wonder where Tony is today, I like to imagine he’s hogging the satellite radio in the car and driving his kids crazy.
So what does all this have to do with Brenda K. Starr? I remember one day in 1988 when Tony switched the station right in front of me and played the manager card. Not like I didn’t have anything better to do, but when I was about to lift his fingers off the down arrow button as he flipped from 104.5 to 102.1, that new song called “I Still Believe” by Brenda K. Starr came on. And I remember him saying something very close to “Oh, this song is ok.”
And now I remember that moment every time I hear that song. That particular year wasn’t my favorite year, either. I was bullied in high school. The girl I loved was being abused by some drunk idiot she met at a party. The job, despite all the musical benefits, was so much more stressful than enjoyable. But despite all that, I love 80s music. And 27 years later – oh my god 27 years – I never thought that day would forever be associated with this song.
And after all this time
You’d think that I, I wouldn’t feel the same
But time melts into nothing
And nothing’s changed.
Sing it, Brenda.