It could have been an arcade in any small, Midwestern town in of the early ’80, but it was all ours.
Our town wasn’t unlike the one in the movie Footloose, though we did have a bowling alley, a public pool, and a ratio of bars to citizens that I have only observed in the UK.
(any (all) of those establishments might have been verboten in Footlooseville)
And we had The Zap.
For the couple of years that it existed, The Zap was the hub of my friends and my world. It was the dingy command center for our plots, plans, and schemes.
Housed in a minimally remodeled building that had previously been home to a beauty salon on one side, an auto repair garage on the other, The Zap was a less glamourous version of the game room in Dazed And Confused on a smaller scale.
The Zap had refrigerated air and concrete floors, making it one of the few places we kids could escape the heat and humidity of summer.
(though the place was frigid in the winter)
It had video games and pinball machines.
It was about the greatest place on earth.
(provided we define earth as the six square miles that was our hometown)
And The Zap had a jukebox.
That jukebox provided some of the earliest financial dilemmas we faced as kids – burn through your limited funds playing Defender or Robotron or playing a few more songs on the jukebox.
I usually opted for more music.
As the summer began in 1984, my friends and I had our driver’s license. The sole objective most days was, somehow, to procure a vehicle and head for Cincinnati.
(and, often, such plots were hatched at The Zap)
But once you’d roamed the malls of the dirty city – been to arcades that would fill a barn – a dozen games, a few pinball machines, and a pair of pool tables is not impressive.
It was sometime toward the end of that same summer that The Zap closed.
And as we left The Zap in our dust and escaped to civilization, we often had the radio tuned to 96Rock, a station that, despite its shortcomings, was the one that meshed most with our various interests.
Here are four fairly random songs that we would have likely heard on one of those summer road trips in the year of Orwell…
Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve – A Whiter Shade Of Pale
from Through the Fire (1984)
HSAS brought together Sammy Hagar, Journey guitarist Neal Schon, bassist Kenny Aaronson, and drummer Michael Shrieve who had been in Santana with Schon. There were a few songs from the short-lived union’s lone album that I heard on radio at the time.
Their version of the iconic A Whiter Shade Of Pale got played quite a bit and I suspect I hadn’t heard the original.
(and, if I had, I doubt I could have told you it was Procol Harum)
The Pretenders – My City Was Gone
from Learning To Crawl (1984)
I got really burned out on My City Was Gone in 1984. Most of the radio stations which we listened to were located across the state in Ohio, so the song – about Chrissie Hynde’s home state – got played on all of the rock stations.
By summer, six months after the wonderful Learning To Crawl was released and radio stations had stopped playing Middle Of The Road, Show Me, and Back On The Chain Gang, My City Was Gone was still being played as if it had just come out.
(I much like the song again twenty-eight years later when it pops up)
Box Of Frogs – Back Where I Started
from Box Of Frogs (1984)
I loved the name of Box Of Frogs, but I was mostly indifferent to Back Where I Started. Like Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve, Box Of Frogs had a brief existence, reuniting three founding members of The Yardbirds.
Fellow Yardbird Jeff Beck guested on several tracks including the shuffling Back Where I Started which I really dig now.
Iron Maiden – 2 Minutes To Midnight
from Powerslave (1984)
Though no metalhead, when 2 Minutes To Midnight arrived, I was well acquainted with Iron Maiden through my buddy Beej’s brother, who was obsessed with the band, and another buddy who, if we had snagged his dad’s car, would pop in a cassette with The Number Of The Beast on one side and Men Without Hats’ debut on the other.
The scorching 2 Minutes To Midnight got played a lot – 96Rock had an odd mix that ranged from Motley Crue and Ozzy to The Fixx and Missing Persons – and it was one of the few songs by Iron Maiden that I ever heard on the radio.