Originally posted June 21, 2008
The arrival of the solstice yesterday makes it almost a requirement that one write about summer. And as the sun lingered in the western sky last evening, I sorted through songs, looking for something on which I could hang a tale or at least an emotion.
I’ve written about a few summers (or parts of summers) of my youth: working at the annual trapshoot for three years, mowing lawns and scrubbing floors at the college in 1971, the 1972 trip to Winnipeg with my pals, moving a house with my friend Murl in 1975, and most recently, recovering from the 1974 ailment that assailed my lungs.*
As I looked through lists of songs last evening, I remembered something else about 1972’s summer, the one that ended with Rick and Gary and me going to Winnipeg. I recalled the way I spent most Saturday evenings: on long bike rides.
Rick, heading into his senior year of high school, was spending more time on weekends with his classmates. And the friends I’d made during my first year of college had gone back home, most to the Twin Cities. I was working twenty or so hours a week as a janitor, which kept me mostly busy Monday through Friday, but Saturday evenings, as that summer began, found me flying solo and without a flight plan.
So I got in the habit of getting on my Schwinn Typhoon about, oh, seven o’clock each Saturday evening and heading south along Riverside Drive, down the steep hill that led to the old narrow bridge across the Mississippi. Across the river and then up a steep hill. From there, I’d wander the south side, eventually riding past the building where I spent my junior high school years and past the homes where lived two girls I’d known in high school, a couple years younger than I. (Did I want them to see me? I think so. Did they? I’ve never known.)
I’d make my way to downtown, cross the river via the De Soto Bridge and head home, concluding about a five-mile ride. Along the way, I’d stop at the municipal swimming pool. I’d lock my bike to the rack, stop at the concession stand and buy a Frozen Milkshake – a candy bar very much like a Milky Way frozen onto a stick – and sit in the bleachers by the pool for a few moments, watching without seeing as the kids splashed and swam, and listening to the music that came over the PA system.
What did I hear? I recall Malo’s “Suavecito” and the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There.” I heard “Too Late To Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose and “How Do You Do” by Mouth & McNeal. I also remember Procol Harum’s “Conquistador” and a Carly Simon tune from the previous summer, the depressing “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.”
I also recall another song from one of those Saturday evenings as I ate my frozen treat, vaguely watching the swimmers and pondering how odd my life seemed that summer. It’s a record that peaked at No. 29 during the third week of June 1972, a record that meshed perfectly with my Saturday evening thoughts.
That’s why “Isn’t Life Strange,” pulled from the Moody Blues’ album, Seventh Sojourn, is this week’s Saturday Single.**
Moody Blues – “Isn’t Life Strange” 
Note: I’m not sure if there was a single edit, but if there was, I don’t have it. This is the album track.
*As noted on the post about moving the house, that almost certainly took place in 1976 rather than 1975. But that, as I noted when I published that post on this archival site, changes nothing about the friendship Murl and I shared nor does it diminish the quality of the music I offered from 1975.
**Reader and pal Yah Shure left a comment soon after this post went up, noting that the single release of “Isn’t Life Strange” preceded by a fair amount of time the release of the album Seventh Sojourn. Saying that the track was “pulled from the album,” he said, is a bit of an overstatement. Notes added July 13, 2011.
Tags: Moody Blues