I heard this old song on the radio this morning that instantly took me back. It was a song from my youth. Do you have those memory jogging songs that take you back to a particular place and time? The song was ‘Back in the Saddle‘. The record that it came from was Aerosmith ‘Rocks‘.
I was so taken back by this song I thought I might do an album review! What’s that? Album? Maybe even change the whole format of this blog to record reviews? I am kidding of course.
What’s so special about this record? This is probably my favorite Aerosmith record. it was their fourth effort and probably the hardest rocking one they ever put out.
More importantly, to me, it was released in May of 1976. I listened to it. My friends listened to it. It was quite the edgy record in 76. And its songs catapulted me into the one of the best times of my life!
Yes, Back in the Saddle and Rocks reminded me of my best summers ever, the summer of 1976. This was the year I spent most of the summer with my best friend in Stone Harbor, NJ in his house right across from the ocean.
I was 14 years old and just completed my 7th grade. Stone Harbor is on the south Jersey shore, close to Cape May. There is no Snookie. It is filled with nice kids and great families from the Northeast who were fortunate enough to have summer homes on the coast. More residential then touristy, the coastal retreat had a small town feel while still being on the edge of the tourist section in New Jersey.
Previously, MY family made the trip to the coast for one week each year. These were the things, along with Christmas, that I looked forward to each year at that young age. That year, however, I was able to spend about half the summer in an ocean front house with my best friend, John Himes, and his family. I was officially a beach bum!
What a summer! It was a summer of excitement and a summer of discovery and new experiences. It was a taste of ocean front coastal living with a family that was not on a budget. And what an impressionable age to experience these new things! As you can tell, it made a lasting memory!
The age when we were realizing what summer meant, being a kid, getting a little more freedom, more mobility and independence to roam, a little bit more money in our pockets to spend how we wanted. At least he did. We wore our favorite pair of faded jeans, cut off and frayed to the bottoms of our pockets (it was the 70’s after all) and our perceived coolest tank tops. We also were starting to notice all the other types of Junior High girls out there!
It was the Year of Summer Hits like: ‘Silly Love Songs’, ‘Afternoon Delight’, and “If You Like Pina Coladas’ remind me of this summer too. Peter Frampton had his Live album and ‘Baby I Love Your Way’ and ‘Do You Feel Like We Do’ filled the airwaves. There was ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy’ and forgettable songs like ‘More, More, More (how do you like it)’, ‘Fly, Robin, Fly’ and (gulp) ‘Disco Duck‘. It was the summer of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ plus this cool 4th record from that new group, Aerosmith, called ‘Rocks‘. And it was the summer of JAWS! Imagine seeing Jaws while spending the your summer at the beach.
This summer was playing all day under the warm summer sun in the ocean, playing in the waves over our heads, riding the waves, perfecting our body surfing to a fine art, noticing the cute girls on the beach our age, and then coming home to a refrigerator full of new snacks. I ate my weight in Bugles that summer! We took pride in toughening up the soles of our feet across the hot street to the ocean for the hot beach sand and getting the deepest, darkest tans we could under the hot summer sun.
It was the summer of our nation’s Bicentennial. Remember that? There were festivities planned all summer across our nation climaxing to a fun and spectacular July 4th week, weekend and evening celebration. There was so much to do and Red, White and Blue was everywhere in every conceivable fashion, manner, trinket and souvenir. Their were so many festivities that year; more than this old boy can recall.
It was that summer I lined up on the right field foul line to race other kids my age to the other end of the field for some 4th of July festivities. I won that race. My buddy John came in second. To this day that trophy is still the biggest trophy in my trophy case.
Later that day was the Home Run Derby. Here, I was looking forward to showing everyone my little league skills from back home. Plus, Shawn, the friend of Carol, who was the friend of John, was at the HR competition. I spied Shawn a few times on the beach that summer with Carol. Shawn might have been the cutest girl I had ever seen! (to that point in my young life) Summer days were somehow brighter when she was at the beach. Had she noticed me at the HR Derby? Did she remember me? I was the fast kid earlier that day. I had my name called over the PA system at the awards ceremony earlier that morning.
So at the HR Derby I tried to hit the ball so hard I that I barely hit it at all. I glanced over at Shawn in between each pitch to see if she was watching me. While I didn’t win this time I thought I heard Shawn and Carol cheer encouragement for me. She must have known who I was I thought! And that was enough intrinsic rewards for me.
That summer, we would walk 20 blocks downtown to see the other kids staying in Stone Harbor all summer. They were short blocks and we had fun the whole way down and back. Once downtown, I was instantly accepted by these kids because John knew all of them, he was bigger than most of them, and I had that dark summer, live-at-the-beach tan (and the way cool cut-off jeans).
We played roof top miniature golf, went to lots of places I had never been before, and walked in all the summery souvenir stores. I fantasized about owning all the trendy t-shirts, with the decals ironed on them, back to school in the fall as my badge of honor to what I did that summer. It was on those walks home from downtown that I discovered the full moon never moved from its position over the ocean, no matter how far north or south we walked. How could anything be so big I thought?
We would walk over to the ocean front hotels and look around. We saw other families on the go, trying to fit their summer vacation into one week. We walked around, pretended we were older than we were, went to the places only the locals knew and felt about as important as any 14 year old could feel.
And then we would wake up early, to the sound of tennis balls hitting the neighboring tennis courts, eat English Muffins on the deck while watching seagulls sit atop the beach pylons and live the life of a kid at the beach all over again.
This was the summer that persuaded me to pursue a degree in Hotel/Motel Restaurant management and then move to the beach after graduation. Have I mentioned I am a bit of a beach bum?
Which brings me back to the summer-sun setting on this post, back to reality and back to the brink of this year’s summer season.
Please let this post be my WordPress Summertime V-card to all of you. I really hope you find a memorable, fun and exciting summer this year too. Make it happen! Make it one of your favorites and one of your best. Make some summer plans, try new things, stay fit, fun and fabulous, meet new people, reacquaint with your best friends from your past, stay optimistic in what you can do, and take time to notice the great things all around you. Its summer after all! Have a Stone Harbor summer! I hope it ROCKS!
What has been YOUR favorite all-time, Aerosmith Rocks summer?