For years, the realization that July had become August produced a Pavlovian sense of dread in me.
As a kid, August was the month in which we were herded back into the educational system. The first day of the month made that impending event palpable to me.
Sure, there was still a few weeks of warm days spent idly doing nothing at all, but – deep down – I felt the awful truth that it was over.
Wimbledon and the 4th of July – two signposts of summer for me – had already happened.
If we had gone somewhere on vacation it would have likely been in July. By August 1st, the trip seemed as if it had happened a lifetime before rather than mere weeks (at most).
August turned me into a dead man walking as I shuffled toward the first day of classes.
Not this year, though, not this summer.
This summer, there is absolutely not one fiber of my being that has twitched reflexively at the approach of August.
Each morning, I sit drinking coffee in a state of early-morning confusion. The local news is on the television where it remains until the weather forecast has been delivered (at which time, it’s ESPN2 and Mike & Mike In The Morning).
Usually, I halfheartedly listen to the weather, mostly making sure that there isn’t some impending weather disaster headed our direction.
This has been the ritual.
But, the past few weeks my attention to the weather report has been increasingly focused. The extended forecast causes me to marshall the limited powers of concentration I possess at 5:10 a.m.
I study the forecasted daily highs like a hobo that has spent his last dollar on a pick-6 ticket and shake my head.
I welcome August this year because August is next to September and – unless this is the year that summer never ends – that means that the temperatures have to abate.
Ten weeks ago, the marque outside a high school on my morning commute heralded the end of the school year. A week later it wished all to “Have A Great Summer.”
This week, I noticed that a couple letters were missing.
Here are four songs that accompanied me back to school in Augusts past…
John Denver – Annie’s Song
from The John Denver Collection
As six-year old starting school in ’74, I knew John Denver. He had one of the biggest hits in the country with Annie’s Song. Mostly, though, I knew him from his television specials.
There he was – granny glasses, floppy hat – traipsing around in the mountains communing with nature, animals, granola-munching girls in bell-bottomed jeans with long, straight hair. I dug the guy.
I still think Annie’s Song is lovely (if a bit melodramatic).
Joan Jett – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
from Bad Reputation
In August of ’82, I was fourteen and headed from the comfortable confines of grade school to the unknown petri dish of high school. It was a fairly seamless transition as I had Will, my best friend from our neighborhood and a year older than me, as a guide.
Music had really gotten it’s hooks in me that summer. My interest having reached critical mass after simmering for about a year or so. It was mostly radio or mix tapes of songs I’d taped from the radio since I owned no more than a dozen cassettes.
One was Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll which had been massive since winter -when the title song became an ’80s anthem – and throughout the summer with a version of Crimson And Clover.
By August, I was catching up to her solo debut and another stellar cover song.
Godley & Creme – Cry
from The History Mix Volume 1
Three years later, August brought the beginning of senior year. It was a good time, but it had been hyped in the “86”s scrawled on notebooks and spraypainted on bridges since fifth grade.
That August, Godley & Creme’s video for Cry was causing a sensation on MTV. The duo of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had split from 10cc and become acclaimed producers of videos.
(Duran Duran’s Girls On Film, Asia’s Heat Of The Moment, The Police’s Every Breath You Take, Wrapped Around Your Finger, and Synchronicity II, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes…)
Cry was a groundbreaking video and the song is hypnotic.
Tom Cochrane & Red Rider – Boy Inside The Man
from Tom Cochrane & Red Rider
I didn’t realize that Red Rider was relatively unknown in the States until lead singer Tom Cochrane had a solo hit with Life Is A Highway. Growing up in the Midwest, the band got a lot of attention from several rock stations I listened to in the ’80s.
I was the buyer for a large record store in another part of the country when Life Is A Highway became a hit for Cochrane. It seemed clear that, unless they were more than casual music fans, the customers searching for the hit were generally unaware of Cochrane or Red Rider.
But, five years earlier in August, 1986, Cochrane was still a member of Red Rider and, as I prepared to head of to college, I was hearing the band’s Boy Inside The Man on the radio.