23 April 2016

Summer of '84

If we've learned nothing more this week, we've been reminded just how powerful music and the memories it evokes is.

Upon hearing of the sudden death of one of music's (add your own superlative here) most talented artists, Prince, earlier this week, I took to the Facebooks and posted this:

Summer of 1984. The 'Purple Rain' soundtrack. The best summer of my teenage years.

Through the lens of hindsight, I can see that the summer of 1984 was everything to me. It began with my liberation (graduation) from a lengthy four year sentence of awkwardness and ennui that was the hellscape that is high school. I got my first taste of world travel when I made my first trek to Europe, which confirmed what I had always suspected, that there was so much more to the world than what I'd known growing up in the artifice that was Scottsdale. As soon as I returned from that trip, I settled into another bubble behind the Zion Curtain and, with summer term, began my college career at BYU.

That summer was, quite simply, was the best summer of my mostly painfully awkward teenage years. Every day seemed to be better than the next. It was the glory days of the Reagan years, wherein our collective belief in America's exceptionalism was highlighted by the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles and our absolute trouncing of well, everyone there. Of course, the Russians had boycotted those games (thanks, tit for tat) so things were a little lopsided. Seriously those Games looked more like a very special episode of Battle of the Network Stars than it did the Olympic Games. We'd crowd around someone's little black and white TV in one of the late, great Deseret Towers dorm rooms at night, catching the highlights of the day's events as we were getting ready to hit the Palace. The Star Palace.

This was the summer of 1984. This was the summer of the Star Palace. This was the summer of mousse. This was the summer where the "Purple Rain" soundtrack blared at 11 as we got ready to dance (badly) the night away at the aforementioned and long gone Palace. Prince's music was heavy on the playlist at the Palace as well. From his 1982 album, 1999, "Delirious" and the eponymous title song sent the denizens of the dance floor at the Palace into a frenzy. In the heady, silly summer of 1984, celebrating the end of the millennium in 1999 wasn't just 15 years away, it was a million years away. Once "Purple Rain" was released at the end of June of that year, it was all you heard. It was transformational. One of the tracks from that album broke me out of my timid bad dancer shell too.  In my white pants (let's not speak of it again) and my striped rugby shirt and well-moussed hair, I jumped up on one of the platforms at the Star Palace as I heard the first notes of that song. It was "I Would Die 4 U." On that platform, I danced wildly and badly, to that song, including the corny hand actions. Those of you of a certain age know exactly the actions to which I'm referring (think someone fluent in ASL having a full blown seizure while trying to explain that they are, in fact, dying). It was so liberating and so much fun. I did not care how silly I looked. The music was awesome. None of us cared how silly it all was. We were surrounded by friends. For most of us, it was our first summer away from home. We were getting as wild as observant Mormon kids got in the summer of 1984. It was, in a well-worn word from the era, awesome.

It's been thirty two years since the summer of 1984. As I've revisited the music of the late Prince this week, I've been transported back to that most memorable summer. What a summer it was! So much of what that summer was is long gone. Deseret Towers, demolished. The Star Palace? The last I checked it was the home to yet another Provo marketing scam, scheme, I mean business. Mousse? Passe. Besides my hair is too short to even hold a dollop of that stuff. At least the music of Prince lives on. And so will the memories of the summer of 1984.

No comments: