Saturday Single No. 82

Originally posted July 26, 2008

One of the constants of my first four years of college was that I avoided phy. ed.

Never an imposing physical specimen, I’d had enough opportunity in high school to climb ropes, do push-ups and pull-ups – none of which I accomplished with any great proficiency or pleasure. When I started at St. Cloud State in the fall of 1971, four credits of PE were required to graduate, and men were required to take as their first course a basic PE class that most of us called Push-ups 101, made up of exactly the same sort of stuff that I’d detested in high school.

So for four years, I ignored PE, hoping it would go away. By the time the summer of 1975 came around, I knew I was going to have to deal with it. The coming fall quarter would see me clear out the last of the required courses for my degree, and I’d do an internship during the winter. If I wanted to march across the stage for my diploma come the end of February, I was going to have to confront PE. So I dug into the college catalog, and I learned that although I would still have to get four credits in PE, Push-ups 101 was not listed. No longer required, it had in fact gone away.

Relieved, I filled out my summer schedule with bowling, ballroom dancing, archery and tennis. I added two all-college seminars in sociology and the humanities that I’d also avoided for a long time, making the course load for the summer sweetly easy.

The first half of the summer, I bowled and discussed humanities in the morning and shot archery in the afternoon. My archery partner was a woman who’d lost an eye when she was young and as a result, had some difficulties with depth perception. She’d accepted her loss with a greater degree of grace than I think I could have found, and she nearly collapsed in giggles the third time that our instructor came by and urged her to keep both eyes open when she shot. “I can’t tell him now,” she said through her laughter after he’d moved on. “He’d be so embarrassed!”

The second half of the summer, my morning was taken up partly by ballroom dancing and sociology and my early afternoons found me on the tennis courts, where I learned that one of my classmates had been the girls’ champion at a Twin Cities suburban high school. During the five weeks of the summer session, we played a lot of tennis, in class and out (she won with regularity), and spent some evenings wandering through student gathering spots downtown with another couple.

It was a great summer, with my class work – such as it was – supplemented by my work on the campus-wide audio-visual inventory headed up by my friend Murl. And it was, as are all my seasons, full of music.

A look at the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1975 brings back sounds – some that were good music, some otherwise, but all of them good memories – of that summer: “The Hustle” by Van McCoy and 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love.” “One of These Nights” by the Eagles and “Listen to What the Man Said” by Paul McCartney and Wings. “Midnight Blue” by Melissa Manchester and “Rockin’ Chair” by Gwen McCrae. All of those were in the Top Ten during the last week of July that year. Falling down the chart was one of the songs that triggers memories of that season more than most: “I’m Not Lisa” by Jessi Colter.

And holding steady at No. 21 was a song that says “Summer of ’75” even more than that: Michael Martin Murphey’s “Wildfire,” today’s Saturday Single.

Michael Martin Murphey – “Wildfire” [Epic single 50084, 1975]

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