It was mid May 1982, a time period I remember fondly even though I can’t recall the exact date.
I was a young thirteen-year-old boy in the home stretch of seventh grade and actually loved going to school. And before you go making assumptions: no, I wasn’t on drugs or suffering from some serious mental ailment.
Just hear me out.
As a student, the end of the school year is always the most exciting time of the year. At least it was for me. Worries about final exams, peer pressure and girls would soon give way to dreams of summer sun, picnics and marathon sessions playing Pitfall on the Atari.
I actually looked forward to getting up in the morning and going to school. If for no other reason than to spend the day just hanging out with my friends in class. Because let’s be honest, there sure wasn’t a hell of a lot learning going on when there was a summer itch that needed to be scratched.
The middle school I attended sat in the center of the city’s west ward. A two-story brick structure that I think doubled as an oven from May through September. The building itself had no central air conditioning and by mid morning the temperature in the classroom rose to almost unbearable levels. And there’s only so much relief open windows and small portable fans can provide to a class of two dozen antsy students.
But the heat from the unusual May weather pattern did not deter my enthusiasm one bit. On the contrary, as the sweat ran down my brow it only reinforced the notion that before too long, summer would officially arrive.
It was during one of those final hot days when I was sitting, ironically enough, in music class when it happened. As I said, there was very little left to learn and aside from each student cleaning out their desks and getting old test papers back the teacher had pretty much given us a free period. As a sort of “going away present” he even offered to let students bring in some record albums to listen to rather than to just sit in silence.
That was when this kid, who I will forever remember as Danny, put it on the turntable. As needle met vinyl the crackling hum began and it would be the first time I heard that infamous guitar riff and opening line:
I never meant to be so bad to you.
One thing I said that I would never do..
My eyes lit up and my heart began to race as a smile ran clear across my face (did you like how that rhymed?). Anyway, I think if Mom and Dad would have been there what happened next would have been justifiable cause for having my mouth washed out with soap.
“Who the HELL is this?”, I almost blurted out. Thankfully, someone else said the exact same thing to Danny and spared me the trouble of a reprimand from the teacher thus keeping my goody-two shoes status in tact.
“Asia“, Danny replied with a smile. Danny was one of those lucky guys whose parents had just gotten him the record from the first real “super group” of the 1980’s. A band formed from the nexus of YES, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and King Crimson.
Not only was the first song killer but they even had a picture of a dragon rising from the sea on the album cover. I LOVE dragons!
I resisted the urge to reach out and “touch” the record album Danny held in his hands for fear that it might appear to be sacrilege. Or at least grounds for a punch in the arm.
As Danny explained the premise of Asia my ears were glued to the turntable. The music coming from the spinning disc was different and exciting. As “Heat of The Moment” played on not only do I recall thinking it was apropos to the oppressive situation we were experiencing in the school but I also remember thinking how great my life was to be able to bear witness to this new music.
The next song was just as catchy as the first: “Only Time Will Tell”. An amazing keyboard intro and a video I would later find on the then fledgling MTV channel. You remember, the one with the girl gymnast jumping over TV sets with the bands faces on them?
Have I mentioned before how much I loved the 80’s?
I think we had just gotten half-way through the third song: “Sole Survivor” when it was time to pack things up and head out.
Although my tenure in seventh grade would soon be coming to an end the seed was planted for my love of hard driven guitars and keyboards.
It would be years before I would finally get to see Asia perform live. They are one of the very few bands from that era (RUSH, Mötley Crüe and Poison also come to mind) that are still performing with all of the original members and sound better than ever.
On July 3rd, 2012 Asia will release “XXX” (pronounced “Triple-X”) an album which celebrates three decades as the original super-group. Still with the same powerful line-up as when I first heard them in the sweltering heat of the middle school I’ll once again be able to hear new music and recall those care free days of youth.
Thanks Danny, wherever you are. Now bring on the heat.