Saturday, May 31, 2014

When Will To Power taunted me from the charts

To conclude May, here's a story about a song that taunted me this month in 1988.

On May 2, 1988, the gifted students at my school took a field trip to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans (you'll understand why I remember the exact date in a bit). I couldn't wait because I loved the zoo — the prairie dogs in particular — and I had never ridden on a chartered bus before.

(Tangent: I was the only child not wearing a white shirt with art I'd drawn on it for the trip. My teacher deemed my design sketch too complicated and wordy, and I forgot to bring a shirt the day we transferred them anyway. I was too arty for art, it seemed.)

At the time, I was in second grade, and just six days short of my 8th birthday. Speaking of short, I was the second-shortest kid in my class (we'd measured), more wiry than some wires and was prone to emotional outbursts. But not on this day. This day was going to be glorious.

And, for the most part, it was. The ride over was a blast. I sat in the rear triple seat with my best friend (the shortest kid in my class) and a chaperone, who was a very cool guy. I had my new favorite book, Chocolate Fever, another kid's game of Uno, pals and scenery to keep me occupied. I was also particularly fascinated with the toilet stall, which no one had told me was a thing on a bus. 

Also, there was the radio, which blasted an excellent playlist of chart-toppers that I associate with the trip to this day. Among them:

• New Sensation — INXS
• Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car — Billy Ocean
• Wishing Well — Terence Trent D'Arby
• Girlfriend — Pebbles
• Shattered Dreams — Johnny Hates Jazz
• You Can Call Me Al — Paul Simon

The song this story is about was not among them. It hadn't hit the charts yet, which is why I felt like it was taunting me when it did. Given what I did at the tail end of our zoo trip, I had it coming.

As we boarded the bus back to Lafayette after a long and fun day of visiting the animals, I made the mistake of telling a friend that I had a crush on a girl in our class. Well, actually, I made him guess, and he went through every girl he knew in both of his classes before saying the right one at the very end out of exasperation, right as we passed through the bus aisle:

"I don't know, Milena? Who?!!"

"Yeah, Milena. I like her."

Other classmates heard this.

You can about imagine what happened for the next 100 miles.

"IAN LOVES MILENA! IAN LOVES MILENA!" sang by an entire bus full of high-pitched and oddly harmonious first- and second-graders, nearly all the way back.

I bawled. The chaperone with me patted me on the shoulder and assured me it was OK, but other than that, not one adult did anything about this.

I recall composing myself long enough to talk with a girl sent by Milena to relay her response: "She says you're too skinny."

"Tell her I'm 36 feet wide," I blurted, clearly on top of my game.

"Emilie wants to see you in a bathing suit, though," she said. OK, small victories.

Soon after that, the chorus resumed, and didn't stop until we pulled up to the school parking lot. It was interrupted by a teacher on the PA: "Is everything all right back there?"

"Oh, good," I thought. "Maybe she'll finally stop this."

"I hope you all had a good time at the zoo!" Damn.

I've never fully gotten that chorus out of my head. What probably cemented it was the song that began playing on the radio almost immediately thereafter. "Say It's Gonna Rain" by Will to Power.

The opening notes of this song, as well as the title vocals, sound exactly like "IAN LOVES MILENA." It hit the charts on June 18 and dropped off local radio by the end of summer, which meant it was in my life at the exactly the perfect time to taunt me, and never a moment longer. In fact, I only heard the song again after searching for it a few weeks ago. I never knew the title or artist (though I've long loved Will To Power's other hits), recalling it only as "IAN LOVES MILENA." Thanks, Internet!

(Aside from the taunting, I loved the song and even taped part of it off the radio at the time. Is that weird? That's weird. But isn't love?)

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