This song is one of my first experiences of popular music. It was 1979 and I was 13. I lived at Pacific Union College (PUC) in California and dreamed that I would be great one day and flee the shackles that bound me to a loser’s status. I was gonna rise. I was gonna be a star.
I had this conviction that greatness lay outside the Church. Happiness lay outside the church. Beauty lay outside the church. Illicit sex lay outside the church. All the great things in life lay outside the Church. But I had no desire to leave my friends and community at PUC. I wanted to be simultaneously inside and outside the Church, to take the best of both worlds, to be great and connected.
What was I obsessed about in 1979? Denise, the most beautiful girl in my class. The Dallas Cowboys football team and the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and the Washington Bullets basketball team. I ran marathons. I dreamed I could be great, perhaps at running or politics. All of these fantasies took me outside of my miserable self and when I got lost in them, I got high on my dreams.
One of my key vehicles to the greater world was through my radio. I found there were songs that instantly made me happy, such as Sing A Song by the Carpenters and Drive by Herb Alpert. I’d listen to these songs and if I didn’t have anything dragging me down, such as my parents, I’d just float away, believing there was a place for me in the wider world with the cool people.
My other regular highway to the wider world was through reading at the PUC library. I’d hole up there in the summer in particular (from 1977-1983) and go through every issue, eventually, of Time, Life, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated magazines, every issue going back to their debuts. It was a great introduction to American history and culture but it was also a symptom of great loneliness and my need to attach to something given that I couldn’t attach normally to people.
We didn’t get a TV until 1980 so I don’t think I saw this original 1979 music video above, but at the 2:32 mark, there’s a wiggle I could obsess about for hours (if I didn’t have the Torah). It has the perfect mixture of size and tone and spirit, really, everything you could want from such a move, and if I could just have a ticket to ride to that Disneyland, I know I could be eternally happy.
I never took one of those hot air balloon rides over the Napa Valley, but when I listened to the songs I loved, I soared to a happy place.