As a kid, the NBA championship meant that summer had arrived.
School would have ended a couple weeks before the title series, so staying up until the wee hours watching tape-delayed broadcasts of playoff games on late-night CBS was a seasonal ritual in the early ’80s.
(as was sleeping in ’til mid-morning)
We had an NBA franchise within a short drive, but all of our media was from Cincinnati, across the border and as the city no longer had a team, pro basketball received scant coverage.
With no abiding loyalty to our local team because they were mediocre at best and boring with no superstar, my friends and I were fans of individual players and, by extension, their team.
Everyone loved Dr. J, so the Sixers were popular.
The Lakers had Magic and the Celtics had Larry Bird, our state’s greatest gift to the world, so both of those teams had their loyalists.
I dug, George Gervin, the rail thin, guard for the San Antonio Spurs who was the best pure scorer in the league.
No one was more chilled on the court than the Iceman and one thing he could do…was finger roll.
Unfortunately, Ice would end up on summer vacation before I would. There were a couple seasons during which he managed to get the Spurs to the brink of the finals but no dice.
I’ve been watching a lot of the NBA playoffs this spring and Oklahoma City’s superstar Kevin Durant – Gervin 2.0 – has made me think of watching the Iceman as a kid.
And, as I did as a kid, I’ve been watching this season’s final series.
It’s been compelling and, whether you’re a fan of his or not, if you know basketball at all, you know what an epic romp through the playoffs and championship LeBron James had.
I didn’t stay up late, though, shutting things down most nights during the third, maybe early fourth quarter.
I no longer sleep until mid-day.
And the end of the series is no longer a marker, a sign post noting that for the next ten weeks you were mostly unfettered.
The summer of 1983 began with the Spurs losing in the conference finals. It would be the last time during Gervin’s seasons with the team that they would get so close to a championship.
It would be the last summer that my friends and I would lack driver’s licenses, but it was also the last summer that most of us were unencumbered by jobs.
I have no idea how George Gervin spent that summer, but I spent it with a lot of music. Here are four songs that I was hearing as the summer began in 1983…
Hall & Oates – Family Man
from H2O (1982)
Hall & Oates were in the midst of a ridiculous run of hit singles as the summer began and Family Man hit radio. Dark and paranoid, the song was a bit of a departure for the duo with its edgy guitar and New Wave vibe.
Family Man was a cover of a song by Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells fame and, despite its darker feel, followed Maneater and One On One – H2O‘s previous hits – into the Top Ten.
The song seems to have been lost in the wake of all of those other hits from Hall & Oates during the early ’80s as I’ve rarely heard it on the radio in the past thirty years.
A Flock Of Seagulls – Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)
from Listen (1983)
1983 was also the year when I began to really build a music collection and few releases were as eagerly awaited by me as Listen, the follow-up to A Flock Of Seagulls’ debut from the year before as I had adopted them as my band. Heavier on its use of electronics than its predecessor, the album initially disappointed me.
I did love the first single, Wishing, which would become the last of the A Flock Of Seagulls’ three Top 40 singles in the US and possibly their finest effort.
The dense, swirling cascade of multi-layered synthesizers and guitar gave the song a wall of sound for the New Wave era feel not surprising given that the band’s best-known song, I Ran (So Far Away), had apparently caught the ear of legendary producer Phil Spector.
The Kinks – State Of Confusion
from State Of Confusion (1983)
Despite the bulk of their success coming before we were born, The Kinks were one of the most popular bands among my friends and our schoolmates. It wasn’t just the classic ’60s stuff, but the newer material from albums like Low Budget and Give The People What They Want.
So, it was a given that 1983′s State Of Confusion would have our attention. It turned out to be popular with a lot of listeners as Come Dancing was the band’s biggest hit in years.
My favorite song from State Of Confusion was the driving title track, a lovely mix of angst and optimism with a mesmerizing chorus.
Iron Maiden – The Trooper
from Piece Of Mind (1983)
I wasn’t a metalhead and never went through such a phase, but I was well acquainted with Iron Maiden at the time as my buddy Beej’s little brother was obsessed with the band. As we spent a lot of time at his house that summer, we heard a lot of Maiden blaring from Davy’s room.
A year or so later, once we had our driver’s licenses, another buddy, Streuss, would baffle us when he’d toss in a cassette he had made with Men Without Hats on one side and Iron Maiden on the other. I soon developed an appreciation for the band.
Though not as memorable to me as some of their songs, The Trooper is standard-issue Maiden, galloping along at a breakneck pace driven by their twin-lead guitars and Bruce Dickinson’s throaty wail.
It also might be the only song I know with the word musket in it.