I was listening to NPR’s All Songs Considered and it reminded me of a particular summer and the music that came with it. In 1986 I was a sophomore in college and took a job at Mo Ranch. Which is past Hunt, Texas – which you might otherwise think was the last thing on Earth if you were driving off the end.
We had 16 or so summer staff living in one large cabin. I was working maintenance, groundskeeping, and life guard. The schedule was: wake up, eat breakfast, labor harder than i ever have (leaving me at 165 lbs.), lunch, half the time: labor in the afternoon, the other half life guard, dinner, kill 6 hours before midnight and bed time. We had no chaperones or house rules, we were all college kids able to patrol ourselves. Yes, I could write a whole book about that summer, pre WWW, pre cell phone. But for now, just the music.
I often spent time in a truck with one of the regular maintenance workers, i forget his name. [Edit: after chatting with a friend from that summer, we’ve decided: Richard.] He also often spent time in the evenings at the low water crossings with us. Almost every night included lots of beer, sometimes with a claw foot bath tub full of ice. Usually with us hanging out in the water. (We ran the water moccasins out the first week.) Infrequently, I and one or two others would end up at his house. He had a single cassette tape that had two albums on in, depending on mood it was on one side or the other.
The B-52’s Wild Planet. Released in 1980, I was a definitive part of my high school years. It’s got so many iconic songs on it, that if you were being lazy at a party (and in high school we still played records at parties) you could just put this album on an leave it. Party out of Bounds kicks it off and sets the mood, and Quiche Lorraine, Strobe Light, … it doesn’t contain their biggest hit, but it’s a full album full of good stuff. I think I sang Private Idaho a 100 times that summer.
“Get out of that state,
get out of that state you’re in.
You better beware.”
The year before this the guitarist Ricky Wilson had died of AIDS. This was still a new and uncommon disease (it would be another year before president Reagan even mentioned the word.) It wasn’t clear if the B-52’s would survive that death.
Most summers are filled with recent releases. Especially up to that point in my life. But this one was marked by two album’s of the past. This one: early 80s. The other: early 70s. And when the summer was dominated by local radio (the way it never will be again), it was usually about singles as well. But this one was about albums. Just these two.
Frank Zappa & The Mothers’ Over-Nite Sensation. An EP released in 1973, it was the first popular output from that band. This was my first extended exposure to Zappa. Later that fall Zappa would sit in front of congress, quote them the first amendment and excoriate them about the PMRC. I so wanted him to run for congress. We lost more than a musician when he died.
There was one song that often got fast forwarded to when we were on a short trip in the pickup truck: Montana. It became my favorite track on the album and it definitely was my co-workers. In retrospect, a man living in rural isolated hill country, two songs titled after rural states both with overtones of a spartan life.
An interesting and unique summer for me, 1986. And some great music to bring it all back.
“Movin’ to Montana soon
Gonna be a Dental Floss tycoon”