Ah 1994. An interesting year for me. It was my first year post university, and thus my first year of being unemployed.
I had finished an Honours degree in Economics the year before (just finished paying that HECS debt off this year!), and of course the job offers just flew my way. Alas I got down to the last two a couple times (one, a dream job as a research assistant at Flinders Uni they gave to someone else because they said they thought I’d get bored) but I seemed destined to be caught in that wonderful Generation X nexus of too qualified to do normal jobs (like work in a bank), but not qualified enough to do what I was qualified to do (work in an investment bank).
I remember going for one job interview as a kitchen hand at some restaurant on The Parade in Adelaide, and the guy looked at my CV and said, so do you really want this job? I had to admit I hadn’t grown up wanting to be a kitchen hand.
So it was a year of buggering around, drinking coffee, writing out job applications, doing some meaningless work (I worked as a courier for a couple months). All in all it was a lot like uni, except there wasn’t any study. The dumb thing was I could have been studying. I had deferred an Honours in Politics course so I could do the Economics course, and I promptly forgot about the deferment until I received a letter around Easter informing me the deferment had lapsed.
This was one of those mistakes which probably altered my life, as had I, in some Sliding Doors style way remembered the deferment and done an Honours in Politics, I am sure things would have turned out rather different – mostly because I was much better at politics than economics (where I struggled to comprehend the mathematics of the statistics in the econometrics). It was no surprise that the only subject I scored Distinction in my Honours year was Political Economics, in the tutorials of which I fought a lone hand of the Keynesian against the money hungry Milton Friedman worshipping Monetrists. But some of them knew what they were talking about – one of my ex-colleagues is now director of investment at a pretty large private bank, and is no doubt earning a tad more than I.
But I digress.
Music that year was pretty 1990s:
1. LOVE IS ALL AROUND - WET WET WET
2. I SWEAR - ALL 4 ONE
3. ALWAYS - BON JOVI
4. IT'S ALRIGHT - EAST 17
5. THE SIGN - ACE OF BASE
6. POWER OF LOVE - CELINE DION
7. I'LL MAKE LOVE TO YOU - BOYZ II MEN
8. PLEASE FORGIVE ME - BRYAN ADAMS
9. TOMORROW – SILVERCHAIR
10. ALL FOR LOVE - BRYAN ADAMS, ROD STEWART & STING
11. 100% PURE LOVE - CRYSTAL WATERS
12. SLAVE TO THE MUSIC - TWENTY 4 SEVEN
13. GIVE IT UP - CUT 'N' MOVE
14. MMM MMM MMM MMM - CRASH TEST DUMMIES
15. SHOOP - SALT 'N' PEPA
16. WITHOUT YOU - MARIAH CAREY
17. SWAMP THING - THE GRID
18. RIGHT IN THE NIGHT (FALL IN LOVE WITH MUSIC) - JAM & SPOON
19. BABY, I LOVE YOUR WAY - BIG MOUNTAIN
20. BREATHE AGAIN - TONI BRAXTON
Lots of songs by bands that aren’t the best they did; lots of songs that you struggle to remember (“100% Pure Love”??), bands that you can’t recall (The Grid???), and great one hit wonders (“Mmm mmm mmm mmm”). It’s almost the 1990s music encapsulated.
My song of the year didn’t make the top 50 of the year, in fact it peaked only at number 18, but it was a song that got a lot of play on my and my friends’ tape players. It was perhaps the greatest beer drinking song of the 1990s (heck it has the line “let’s go drink till the beer runs dry”). My friends – some still at uni, other just finished, were still young and carefree enough to sit around on Wellington Square in Adelaide, play a bit of touch footy, drink Coopers Pale Ale, and just generally enjoy fun Saturday afternoons.
We didn't do it a lot, and I’m not sure if this song was playing when we did it, but when I hear this song now, it sure as hell feels like that was the case. It is also a great driving song. I have it on a few mix CDs, and went it comes on, it’s time to crank the volume up, pretend I’m driving some convertible, and feel young. I think its only match for a great driving and summer and drinking song is the classic 80s hits, “Boys of Summer”.
The best music is music which stays with you as you age – music that doesn’t care if you are now closer to 40 than 20. This song is one of those. I don’t feel stupid singing along to it in the car or shower in a way that I would feel stupid should I ever catch myself singing say Silverchair’s “Tomorrow”. It was an ok song, but very much targeted at kids who weren’t quite old enough to be Nirvana fans; and when compared with Silverchair’s more recent outputs, it comes across as the juvenilia that it was.
“American Life in the Summertime” thus does the two things a good song must do – it transports you back to when you first heard it, but remains relevant even without those memories.
After this year I left Adelaide, and moved to Cairns (as you do), so this was in many ways the end of a chapter year in my life.
Music after this time would begin to have less resonance, and I lost access to decent radio stations, and thus depended more on my own CD collection.
So this song is not just summer and drinking and relaxing and laughing. It is also perhaps the last song of my uni years (which of course is intractably linked with drinking and relaxing and laughing).
The official video isn’t available on youtube, but I found this rather clever amateur one done by someone using the Sims 2 game to link with the song; it fits quite well: