Monday, January 19, 2015

Tales of a sixth-grade tempting

I’m known for having a solid memory (indeed, a way-too-solid one at times). But sometimes, it does me wrong. This past week, that happened with a song.

In 1991, when I was 11 and in sixth grade, I listened to a lot of oldies on the radio. This was a function of riding around with my dad a lot, who always had the classics on in the car. To this day, I associate certain sixties songs with trips to my grandmother’s in Baton Rouge and others with rides home from track practice. And still others remind me of crushes I was fantasizing about while jamming along.

My sixth-grade year, 1991-92, was my peak exposure to the oldies. While I did know the new songs (in fact, that was the Christmas my brother got our first CD player along with several contemporary albums), more often than not that year, if I heard a song, it was from a past era.

Enter a song called “Tempted.” For me, that song brings back vivid memories of sixth grade — in part because that’s the only span in which I ever heard it (occasional humming in my head aside). Until this past week, that is.

I was inspired to look for it after a late-night listen of a different “Tempted,” the one by Squeeze (itself a stone-cold classic). I thought, “What about that oldies song with the same title I used to hear a lot?” I looked for it once before about a year ago (by scouring 1960s music charts), but didn’t find it. This time I did, via the magic of YouTube.

Or at least, I found what I was sure was a cover by Marty Stuart. Turns out, though, it wasn’t — what I thought was a rock oldie from the late 1960s is actually a country song released in August 1991. Huh? How was I so far off on that? And why on Earth would that have been in my orbit?

There is one rational explanation for this: My bus driver kept the radio tuned to a country-music station (with a side dose of Paul Harvey) every day that year, so it’s likely that’s where I heard it multiple times. (My odd love for “Meet in the Middle” by Diamond Rio is similarly birthed from those bus rides.)

The weird thing is, my mind won’t fully accept that “Tempted” is what it is (a damn fine country track). I have a distinct memory of listening to it in my dad’s car on the way home from track practice which, given the genre, is extremely unlikely. I also continue to hear it in my head as a vaguely psychedelic tune from the Woodstock era. But video doesn’t lie. Apparently, my mind does. It can accept a lot of stupid things, but not that a song I heard in 1991 came out in 1991.

One thing I sort of got right: I thought the song was about 24 years old when I first heard it and now it is. That’s got to count for something.

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