How many times have you been stopped in your tracks by a song? I mean, left dumbfounded, unable to speak or move? Have you ever? It’s happened to me four times and I remember them all like it was yesterday.
First time. August, 1975. I was upstairs in my room packing my bags for a third attempt at college. For Boston, for Boston, I was thinking, at last I can get out of this town and have some real fun in the city at Boston College. And then BAM, Born To Run came on the radio and stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember while listening to the song, I had something in my hand that involuntarily dropped to the floor. That’s what hearing that song for the first time did to me. Who IS this band, I thought?
Second time. Fall 1977. Most of you are probably too young to know how bad pop music was in the late 70s. Disco crap, Barry Manilow, Bo Donaldson & The Haywards; these were even bad times for the Stones and the Who for gods sake. So I was driving down Washington St (I had a Pontiac Ventura with 8 speakers installed, including 2 in the sun visors. How cool is that?) in Allston when Psycho Killer came on the radio. I had never heard anything like it before. I had never heard of “punk rock”, let alone Talking Heads and this shit was blowing my mind. I made a U-turn on Washington St, and drove straight to the record store to buy the album. My taste in music took a sharp left turn that day, turning me away from pop for all time.
Third time. Summer 1978. I had a summer job delivering auto parts for New England Speed Equipment and was getting off the Mass Pike when “Sultans Of Swing” came on the radio. I got so excited listening to this song that I actually ran a red light at a busy Boston intersection, nearly getting myself killed. And then when I pulled into Speed’s parking lot up on two wheels, my truck rammed into a car that was up on jacks, being repaired by my friend Spyder who got so mad at me that he chased me down Brighton Ave with a tire iron. He was strong. I was fast.
Fourth time. 1979. Off campus housing on Comm Ave. We had a radio in the bathroom and I was in there sitting on the throne when The Motels “Total Control” came on. I was hypnotized by that sexy voice and smokey saxophone. I just sat there and listened to the entire song. When it was over and I was done with my business, I hopped the T to Kenmore Square to pick up the record at Strawberries. I remember that Barb Kitson – yes THE Barb Kitson (R.I.P.), the lead singer of the Boston punk/pop band the Thrills (aka City Thrills) rang up the record for me and asked me a question and I just stood there, slack jawed, until I finally stammered out something stupid like “Aaaah…..yah”. It’s hard to talk when you’re under the influence of Barb Kitson and Martha Davis and trying to be cool at the same time.
Born To Run, Psycho Killer, Sultans Of Swing, Total Control. The last one is the one that probably doesnt belong on this list. The only non-classic among the four but I was still young then and I think I was overtaken by a hormonal rage at the moment.
So those are my “stopped in my tracks” tracks. Everybody has them, right?