When Hold Me Now by the Thompson Twins was released in the U.S. in February, 1984, I was nearly five years old. Most people in my age range are probably most familiar with the song as part of The Wedding Singer soundtrack. Not me. While my parents were strict about many things, they were quite lax when it came to my MTV intake. Most people have maybe a ten year window of MUSIC Television (ah, those were the days) but because I started young and ended inappropriately late, mine was about 22 years. And I’m not talking about throwing on Jersey Shore semi-frequently (that would get my window to almost 30), but rather MTV as a lifestyle.
There’s one day in particular that I remember Hold Me Now being on the television. It was definitely a Saturday in 1984 and my parents were putting blue plates (our “we’re having company” plates) in anticipation of their college friends coming over. I was always happy when the blue plates came out because it meant that it didn’t matter how they were getting along, once our guests arrived happy days were here again. When the guests were college friends it was even better. It meant Heineken, laughing, and a whole lot of reminiscing. During a listen of the Eagles’ Hotel California I swear I saw my dad and his old roommate Eggs transported back to 1977. When friends came over, my parents weren’t so much my parents but Vinnie and Betsy and I was there little buddy. It was also around this time that I discovered the best way to get crowd approval was to have shtick.
I actually don’t remember many details of this particular gathering. What I recall everyone sitting around the kitchen of our old house in Cranbury, NJ and having fun. And most importantly, I remember eating some sort of Chinese dish that was doughy. For years, I tried to figure out what it was we ate because it was so delicious. The problem was, it definitely wasn’t on the menu of the takeout places we’d order from on Friday nights. I would have asked my parents but if I asked them what that doughy thing we ate that time I saw the Hold Me Now video in 1984, I’m not certain they would have had the answer. So instead, I wandered around for years and years, knowing I was missing something great, even if I didn’t know its name. Then, about three years ago, my lady and I were having lunch at a Dim Sum dive in Chinatown with my brother and his wife when I saw something on another patron’s plate. It was doughy. As it turns out, the thing I had been searching for is a Chinese steamed bun, specifically, with a meat filling. And this whole time, all I had to do was take the short ride south of Canal street. Regardless, the doughy deliciousness is back in my life. Sometimes, I go to the less convenient A&P just because they sell steamed buns. Even frozen, it’s one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted.
Released in November, 1988, What I Am shot Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians into the public eye and for Brickell, into the arms of Paul Simon. Though Simon continues to show the lead singer love as a husband, the public has not been nearly as kind, as What I Am remains the only huge hit for the band. But what a hit it is.
I’ve always been fond of the video because it’s this great sort of mix of the 1960s and 1980s. As a nostalgic person, I love incorporating the past into the present but it’s not an easy thing to do. Take Lenny Kravitz. I like his first few albums and his ode to the 60s and 70s but by 1993, when Are You Gonna Go My Way was a huge thing on MTV and the runways featured models in bell bottoms (who didn’t look like they’d ever talk to people who sincerely wore bell bottoms), I stopped buying into it. But in the video, there are real hippies, 1980s hippies. A healthy combination of mullet and tie-dyes. And that’s what think life should be. Not specifically mullets (though I do kind of miss them; they were sort of innocently stupid) but just a series of organic moments. Woodstock ’69 was organic, Woodstock ’99 was not (with $8 water it didn’t stand a chance).
For some reason, What I Am mostly reminds me of Friday nights in the fall of 1988, when I was in the fourth grade. I remember going to my friend Steven’s house. He was Chinese and had this grandmother who looked really old but never seemed to age. After watching American Horror Story, I now realize the only logical explanation is she’s a ghost. But more than that, I remember Friday was “parents don’t cook night.” Usually that would mean takeout, which usually meant pizza from Sansone’s (who later fell victim to my Jerky Boys phase) or Chinese from one of two “ghetto” places on Route 27). Other times, we’d get a giant bucket of fried chicken from Chicken Holiday. In the cases of the Chinese joints and especially Chicken Holiday, I can’t seem to find places that match the quality of those fine locations. My dad would display the greasy bucket on our vomit green kitchen counter and I would admire it like a work of art. On the nights that I’d go to pick up the order, we’d often see our mailman who worked a second job there. There’s nothing significant about that except that he a) was such a long talker that he once was partially responsible for making my brother and I miss a flight to Fort Lauderdale and b) I am pretty sure he used to read people’s copies of Playboy before putting them in their mailbox.
On a really special day, we’d go to Chauncey’s, the friendly neighborhood bar and restaurant that I’d eventually work at (that period is a book). Back then, it was not the place where I hung out with alcoholic men who had a penchant for sleeveless shirts for any occasion, but instead a magical place where us kids ate hamburgers and our dad would unwind with a tequila shot. I remember driving in our Dodge Shadow, on our way to Chauncey’s and What I Am was playing on the stereo. Friday night, the song was loose and my parents were too. It was going to be a good night.