Not everyone likes the new Kid Rock song (you can see the video on YouTube). There are those who believe it’s the worst piece of dreck produced by American record companies to date. That may very well be true, but for some reason, I like that song. Kurt asked why in the world, if Kid Rock is singing about summers in northern Michigan, he references “Sweet Home Alabama.” So only people who grew up in Alabama can sing “Sweet Home Alabama”? I guess folks don’t realize how often it’s played on the radio, no matter where you live. And I can attest to it being a soundtrack of part of my own life, and none of my 29 years were spent in that state.
As most of you know, I went to college in southern Virginia, at William and Mary. Williamsburg is about halfway between Richmond, the state capital, and what is known as Hampton Roads (Norfolk, Virginia Beach, etc.).
Small geography lesson, folks: Hampton Roads is first and foremost the body of water surrounding southeastern Virginia, incorporating part of Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the mouths of the Elizabeth and the James Rivers. I love all the British references in Virginian place-names, but then I’m strange like that. I’ve always learned that when people refer to the land area as Hampton Roads, it is incorrect, but now my beloved Wikipedia is saying it refers to both areas. Hampton Roads, the land area, is made up of Hampton and Newport News to the north, and Suffolk, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach on the south. And just to make things more confusing, the commonwealth of Virginia has this oddity where a city is never part of a county. You’re either in a city OR a county, never both. So southern Virginia has no more counties; the cities have overtaken all the land south to North Carolina.
Anyhow, back to my point. So being halfway between Richmond and Norfolk et al., Williamsburg was, at the time, somewhat remote. Shopping had to be done in Newport News, which is still twenty minutes away. About the only things you could do in Williamsburg were attend university or drink. Oh, and tour the colonial area, if that was your thing.
News was gotten out of the Norfolk area in the form of what used to be called The Virginian Pilot-Ledger Star, which has been shortened to simply The Virginian Pilot, and all the tv stations were based in Norfolk.
Amazingly enough, radio stations out of Norfolk didn’t seem to be strong enough to carry all the way to Williamsburg. Instead of listening to FM99, as a good little metal-head should, I couldn’t even begin to pick up its signal. That left me with the few stations out of Richmond with a strong enough signal, and the only one I was remotely interested in listening to was the classic rock station.
This was before mp3 players, people. iPods hadn’t even been invented, and Napster was still utterly free — and free of legal complications as well. The entire college community was ripping CDs and sharing them over our intranet, but the only thing you could do with those mp3s were listen to them on your own computer. Most people didn’t even have laptops, so mp3s were far less portable than they were now. Radio was still a big deal, and that’s what we listened to.
The soundtrack of my college years features bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Doors… Every day at lunch time the dj would feature what he called The College of Rock n’ Roll Knowledge, in which he shared with us everything he knew about classic rock.
For example, in Steely Dan’s song “My Old School,” the band sings: “I said oh no / William and Mary won’t do.” Yes, they’re talking about my old school (har har), but they never went there. The songwriters chose William and Mary simply because it was a school with five syllables, and it fit into the line. And every time I hear “My Old School,” I remember that, and I listen for the line with William and Mary.
Another couple of memories from college, and both feature an ex-boyfriend. We were sitting in someone’s car, waiting for whomever it was to finish grabbing some things at Food Lion. And of course, we were listening to the radio. Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” was on, and I remember my ex getting all giddy when he realized that there was a funny line in that song. It goes, “Well we got no class / and we got no principles / And we got no innocence / We can’t even think of a word that rhymes.” That very last line cracks me up every time I hear it.
He also was surprised at a reference to the troops playing their Doors tapes in Vietnam during Billy Joel’s song “Goodbye Saigon.” I guess it didn’t occur to him that one singer would pay tribute to an earlier band.
“Goodbye Saigon” creeps me out, especially the line where he says that the Vietnamese counted the helicopter’s rotors to figure out their positions. That song is so hard for me to listen to. I can’t even imagine what a horrible time that must have been for the troops over there, fighting what basically amounted to a guerrilla war in many ways. Yeeesh.
But anyhow. So yes, my point is that classic rock forms the backdrop to all of my college memories. (It also doesn’t help that my high school class chose Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” as our class song, which irritated me highly since it beat out the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979,” a far more appropriate choice in my personal opinion, as most of the Class of ’97 was born in 1979.) Were I to write a song of my youth, I’m sure classic rock would be featured prominently, even though others of my generation would pick something along the lines of Madonna or Janet Jackson or even (dare I mention it??) New Kids On the Block.
Bring on the “Sweet Home Alabama”!!!