Do you ever hear a song from your past come on the radio or on your Spotify feed and it instantly transports you to another time ?

I was driving on the weekend and Springsteen’s I’m On Fire came on the radio.

That sparse guitar intro….and the lustful vocals from Bruce.

“Hey little girl is your Daddy home….”

I always thought this was a dark dark song….to be played a night. He’s lusting for someone, but we don’t really know who.  The Johnny Cash inspired rhythm makes it sound like a train…

At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wetspringsteen
And a freight train running through the
Middle of my head

I was instantly back in 1985…all edgy and dull. 30 years disappeared in an instant.  God, we’re getting old aren’t we ? What were you doing 30 years ago ?

30 years ago I was 19. I was never going to get old. I was working on the radio at 3NE in Wangaratta in North East Victoria. It was my 4th radio job. I thought I knew what I was doing on the radio. I didn’t.

I had left my home state of Western Australia in mid ’84 and I was just a wide eyed kid, a long way from home. I was learning about life, about girls and about me. I did the Drive shift at Wang, so that’s 4pm – 7pm on weekday afternoons. In addition I was running a local rock band called Xavier. If that ain’t living the dream, I don’t know what is.  Now, when I say I was ‘running the band’, I mean they came into the radio station one day to drop off a demo tape.  I listened to it and quite liked it. I asked them what they were doing to get shows and they shrugged their shoulders and eventually replied that they were pinning their dodgy business cards to hotel notice boards.

“So would you like me to get some shows for you ?” 

“Sure…why don’t you be our manager ?”  “Done.”

wangaratta-003Xavier was made up of some young lads from the tobacco fields of Myrtleford. These boys were all Italian. Mullets and flannelette shirts. I think they wanted to be Bon Jovi. I had a blast messing around with these guys. We didn’t make any money but it was fun. We pulled some money together and took out a loan to buy a crappy van and before too long we were driving around the country going to gigs.

I briefly had an Italian girlfriend from Myrtleford….Sonia Zamperoni was her name, and the boys from the band taught me some basic Italian to help me with her ‘old man’. It didn’t help me at all.

I drank far too much VB in that year.  I lived in a little flat on Appin Street which was so completely bogan. I’ll tell you how bogan. I can remember stacking the empty VB cans against the wall to make sort’ve feature wall in the lounge room. I drove past the address for the first time in 30 years earlier this year. I can’t believe I lived there now.

In 1985, I worked on the radio with Hilton Donaldson, Brian Mazoletti and John Tregard.  Hilton went on to work with me in Adelaide years later at 5AA while Brian ended up on the racing station in Melbourne where he can still be heard. John was the dinosaur doing the breakfast program.  He was straight out of the 70’s…which I guess was no real surprise because the 70’s had only been over for 5 years.  John put on a big radio voice and did jokes from a joke book….as well making up his own jokes usually denigrating homosexuals.  It’s hard to believe it was only 30 years ago, but this pivotal announcer on the radio station would continually drop gags about ‘shirt lifters’, ‘pillow biters’ and ‘poofters’….and it wasn’t that he was a particularly nasty man, quite the contrary, it was just a different time.

Springsteen’s Born in the USA had actually been released in the winter of 84, but the album just kept on hanging around on the charts and the singles kept on being released. I’m on Fire was the last of those singles…I think, in early 85.  Dire Straits also dominated the airwaves with the Brothers in Arms collection and Madonna’s Like a Virgin was a monster. The Reckless album from Bryan Adams was everywhere and the Hooters and Tears For Fears were pretty big as well.

This was the end of a era in terms of the way that we consumed music. The CD was still a couple of years away and iPods and music streaming had even been dreamt of.

For me, the song that really defines that year is not from any of the albums that I mentioned thus far.  For me THE song of 85 was Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer. Wangaratta is an inland city. It’s nothing like the place portrayed by Henley, but it just captured the moment for me back then….and still does now.  Dunno why. I think it played on my inferiority complex, in that Donny seems to believe that he’ll play second fiddle to the Boys Of Summer when they’re in town.

How good is that opening guitar line ? That’s how to start a song.