There was a period of time during my media relations days where you could typically find me at some rock concert on a weekend night.
I was reminded of that last night, when I saw awesome performances from Dina Bach and Callaghan at this cool music venue in Evanston called Space. If you’ve never been there, figure out a time to go … the acoustics were amazing.
Both Dina and Callaghan sang great songs of their own, but on the way home, I couldn’t get Callaghan’s rendition of “Purple Rain” out of my head. In this day and age, if you hear a song and want to hear it again, just go to the internet.
That got me thinking about the good old days. Back in the day before iPods – heck, I’m talking 10 years before iPods – you learned your music through FM radio and MTV.
Thanks to baseball, I had the chance to do a lot of travel. Thanks to baseball, I had the chance to do a lot of work in hotel rooms – passing time until it was time to head to the ballpark. Thanks to baseball, I had to leave hotel rooms to help kill time.
Back in 1991, I learned of the existence of a new band called Pearl Jam thanks to a college alternative radio station in Montreal that rotated between English and French songs. That’s a whole different story.
The following year, back in Montreal again, I found the same station on the hotel clock radio – and once again heard a song with Eddie Vedder’s voice. This time, though, I was positive it wasn’t a Pearl Jam song. And on top of that, there was another voice sharing the lead vocals.
The song stuck in my head – and was on constant rotation. If you ever went to a baseball game at Olympic Stadium, where silence ruled the world, you know something can get into your head and never have reason to leave.
The next day, I had one of my rare WTF moments. I was determined to find out who recorded that song.
I went to the front desk and, being the ugly American, I asked for directions to a college record store. I asked in English, which was my downfall. The desk clerk looked at me blankly. It didn’t dawn on me that if I was checking out, he would have been able to ask me for money to pay incidentals.
Sadly, the only French I remembered from high school was ouest (west), est (east) and il neige (it’s snowing). So after the blank stare down, I used the only phrase I could think of – McGill University. That, he understood. He pulled out a train system map and highlighted how I could get from the hotel to the largely English-speaking campus.
Somehow, I navigated my way to the McGill area and found a record store on the outskirts of campus. Then it hit me … How the heck was I going to describe the song in my head?
I went into the store and went for it – which meant I looked as confused as I possibly could. The student behind the counter had no clue what I was talking about, but I must have been animated enough in telling my story. Another employee magically appeared with a cassette tape. The song I couldn’t get out of my head – “Hunger Strike” – was on a Temple of the Dog cassette. She started raving about it … You have to buy the album … the only radio stations who knew of this song were college alternative radio stations. I came this far. Of course, I was buying the cassette.
Of course, I didn’t have a tape player with me in Montreal, so the song was stuck in my head for the remainder of the road trip.