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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Daily Boom 80's Throwback: Bruce Springsteen - 'Born In The USA'

Who else


I get up in the evening, and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning, I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired, man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help 
You can't start a fire, you can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire even if we're just dancing in the dark

As I cracked open the creaky screen door of my best friend Carrie's grandma's house and stepped out onto the front porch I was bursting with excitement. It was a Friday night unlike any other. Usually, at this moment I'd be desperately searching for a reason to call my dad to beg for a little more time but tonight, well I couldn't wait to get in the car. I stood on the porch in the summer humidity, watching shadows dance around the streetlights as Carrie and I discussed what was going to happen next because we were thirty days away from the coolest adventure ever. It was one of those night's where absolutely everything went right and instead of hiding it from my parents, I was going to need my dad's help. 

Spending Friday evenings at Carrie's grandma's house had become the highlight of my seventh-grade life. She always slept over on Friday and since her grandmother lived only two blocks from my parents, as soon as I finished helping to clean up after dinner I was out the door. My mom liked Carrie, in spite of her not being a religious kid, so with a little bit of encouragement from dad, she would let me go.  

The house was usually bustling with activity because her two aunts, both in their late twenties, were still living there. I always arrived just as Aunt Debbie and Aunt Sandy were getting ready to go out with their boyfriends. They always had two bags of Middleswarth Barbecue Potato Chips on hand, one for them and then the other for Carrie and I to share later on. She and I settled in at the kitchen table next to the big boom box while her aunts fought over the bathroom mirror and took turns ironing their Friday night outfits. 

The kitchen was tiny, like the rest of this house. To say that Carrie's family had a nightly routine would be an understatement. After dinner, her grandma would settle herself in front of the living room television and drift off to sleep until she decided to go upstairs to bed. Carrie's grandfather owned a luncheonette and every evening he sat at the dining room table counting money and wrapping change to take to the bank the next morning. Once finished he would join his wife in the living room.  

The kitchen, well that was ours. Carrie and I would sit in there for hours listening to our very favorite radio station, Q-102. The evening DJ, a guy who called himself “Mr. T.” was our very favorite and we were pretty positive that he kept those request lines open just for us. We called constantly. We requested Madonna, Prince, Cyndi Lauper- the list is endless. When Mr. T. said “Request lines are open if there's something that you want to hear” it was our cue to blow up Q-102's phone if we could get through that is. It seemed that in 1984 everyone was glued to their radio listening and requesting so the phones were always busy. When it finally rang a guy named Dave would answer and take our requests. He was probably only a little older than Carrie and I but already he was cool enough to work as an intern for a radio station so I kind of worshiped him.  

This house was the scene for a lot of “firsts” for the both of us. We would take the boom box out onto the front porch to hang out with Mike and Dave, the boys that we liked at the time. Sometimes it was a planned meet up but other times it was kind of a no-brainer. On Friday night kids our age generally just walked the neighborhood together. “Going out” meant trolling the streets and pooling money to maybe be able to grab a cheap pizza. If we sat outside long enough then Carrie and I usually ended up seeing all of our friends and even a few of the mean girls that we would rather not talk about. We were also allowed to hang out in Aunt Sandy's room once she left for the night. We both wanted to grow up to be as pretty and cool as Sandy so being allowed to raid her glitter make up while listening to her big stereo was just awesome. I'm not sure if Sandy ever realized that we had also stumbled onto her stack of Playgirl magazines and her collection of X-rated cards from her boyfriend. I mean, she must have figured that we'd look under her bed eventually, right? 

Anyway, this particular night began as every other Friday night had all summer long. Radio- check. Chips- check. Pepsi- check. Carrie and I were positioned in the kitchen, ready to make our requests when Mr. T. announced that Q-102 would be giving away albums all weekend long. You had to be the tenth caller to score one and we decided to try and win. It wasn't the first time. There had been a few instances in the past when the phone rang and Dave answered to tell me that I was caller number three or six or anything but the winner. Steve Perry's Street Talk was up for grabs and we realized that Carrie's grandfather had the telephone in the dining room. Carrie jumped up in an excited panic, grabbed the phone and walked back into the kitchen dialing frantically. Just like that, she got through on the very first try, and won! 
Dave told her that she was caller ten and then passed the phone to Mr. T. so that he could declare her the winner on-air. “Q-102, hey Carrie guess what? You're caller number ten! You've just won a brand new copy of Steve Perry's Street Talk!” Oh, the joy, we were both screaming and we loved the song “Oh Sherrie” that Q-102 played constantly by Perry so, in a nutshell, my best friend was really lucky. After she hung up the phone we both knew that there was only one option for me, I had to win an album too.  

I wasn't even going to be picky, I just had to win something. I mean, I was raised on radio, Billboard magazines were on our coffee table at home and I still remembered going to the studio of our local rock station with my dad. If Carrie could win then so could I. Plus I already kind of understood how radio worked. I knew that there was a schedule and at the same point in time every hour they were giving albums away. I was ready. I didn't win the next hour but I was determined to make it happen. 

Two hours after Carrie won her beloved Steve Perry album I called in to try and snag a brand new copy of Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. It had just come out but the video for “Dancing In the Dark” with Courtney Cox dancing on stage with the Boss seemed to be on MTV every hour, making it one of the biggest songs of the summer. I dialed. “Q-102 you're caller four-try again.” I dialed again. “Q-102 you're caller seven-try again.” My fingers slammed the buttons on the phone, I had to win even if I wasn't a huge Springsteen fan. “Hi Q-102 who's this?” 

Oh my god, I was caller ten. Dave put me on hold and then I heard Mr. T in my ear, “Q-102, Hi Catie guess what- you're caller ten! Yay Catie you've just scored yourself a brand new copy of Bruce Springsteen's new album! What do you think of that?” What did I think? Oh, so many things. I actually was the tenth caller! I won an album to add to my growing collection. Most importantly, this was now one more way that Carrie and I were alike. Another thing in common. Winning something off of the radio was the most normal thing in the world so maybe it made me normal too? In truth, my scramble to win was probably more about proving that I could fit in and be like everyone else more than it was about wanting my own personal copy of Born In the USA.  

I could always pick out the headlights of dad's Buick Skylark from halfway down the block and once he pulled up I jumped into the front seat of the car screeching, “Guess what?!” As I told him the details about Carrie winning and then how I was on a personal mission to do the same dad started to chuckle. He knew all about giveaways, phone lines, and crazy callers. He was a few years removed from radio, leaving in favor of a better paying job, but the music was still his life. He had a room upstairs in our house devoted to stereo components, huge speakers, albums, and tapes. His vast music collection was completely in order and cross-referenced so that he could find absolutely any song in under thirty seconds. He would test it saying, “Give me an artist or a song to look up.” and I would watch him flip through index cards and find exactly what I suggested in a matter of seconds. Dad was proud of the fact that his music room resembled a radio station and honestly it was probably better organized than most stations of the eighties were.  

As I sat in the front seat filling him in I realized we weren't driving right home. Instead, dad had just continued driving because my excitement had hit a nerve with him, a good one and so we kept talking. I probably gave him the same details several times over but he seemed to be just as excited as I was. The albums weren't actually available yet, it would be few days. But, and this was the great part,  we had to drive to Q-102's station to pick them up! Carrie and I had already decided that we needed to do it together. We started this radio journey together and now we were going to meet Dave and Mr. T if we're really lucky anyway. Dad taking us was only natural. Of course, he would because it was a new station for him to check out. The minute I told him that we had to pick up our records he happily blurted out, “I'll drive you guys.” 
Of course, he would. That was my dad. When not derailed by mom he was the guy that everyone loved. Always helpful and kind. Nothing excited him like the music though and so this moment in the car felt special. It was just the two of us and the music. As dad turned onto our street “Dancing In The Dark” started to play on Q-102 and instead of pulling into the driveway he kept going. “I guess this is your song now so let's listen to it,”. 



Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA became pretty much an instant hit thanks to the advance buzz created by the first single, "Dancing In The Dark". The summer of 84' was a tough one on the charts with so many heavy hitters taking aim at the top spot. Both Duran Duran and Prince sat in the number one position for weeks making it impossible for "Dancing In The Dark" to hit any higher than second but that didn't stop Springsteen's fans from multiplying like Cheerios.

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