This time it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t break it. John did.
Well, we had been meaning to replace the stereo for a while. It went on without our help, changed from the radio to a CD and would often stop playing for no reason. Other times it just wouldn’t turn off. Perhaps it didn’t like our choice in music. There was a short in it that no one could find. Well, either that or we had to admit it was haunted. We decided that broken is way better than spooky.
So that very day when I was writing about how I like to smack stuff, my husband was putting the nail in our stereo’s coffin.
You see, it was playing a song by Steely Dan. John hates Steely Dan. He hit the button on the remote, but the song continued.
Ricky don’t lose that number.
John rushed over to the stereo and pushed the button, gently the first time. Harder and harder with each successive, um, press of the button. Until it stopped. Permanently. He smacked the stereo’s power button so hard that Ricky lost the number. Ricky, in fact, would never come back, at least not through that stereo. It’s dead.
So today we got a new, shock absorbing model. And putting it onto the shelf sent me back to the last time music haunted me.
We had just moved to Geneva; it was 1997. Living full-time in a place where they speak another language makes you long for English. Passionately. Desperately. So when my new friend Allison Dornstauder informed me, a mere month after my arrival that there was an English language radio station in Geneva, I was delighted. WRG – World Radio Geneva. All English broadcasting. I knew now that I would survive my Swiss adventure.
But it was weird. Every time I turned on the radio, whether it was in the car or at home, it played the same song. It played You’ve Got A Friend. You know, the Carole King song, also sung by James Taylor? Both versions are terrific. I heard neither.
Someone else was always singing it.
At first I thought it was odd; I mean, the Jackson Five singing You’ve Got A Friend? Why would anyone want to listen to that? I heard a different version of the song, every time I turned on the radio. Roberta Flack sang it, Barry Manilow did a duet with Melissa Manchester, and Barbara Streisand belted it. Every single time I turned on the radio when I was alone, it happened.
Did you know that song has been recorded by at last count, 752 different artists. And I use the term “artists” loosely. I heard each and every one of them.
I started to get spooked. There was nobody I could talk to about this, other than my husband, who thought I was nuts anyway. That’s why he married me. But we were new to town, I didn’t know anyone yet, I had no friends. Who could I talk to about this unnerving phenomenon? There was my friend Allison, and a couple of other parents I’d chatted with at Jacob’s school. But I was not yet comfortable confiding such an eerie experience to strangers.
Finally, I did tell Allison. I tried to be casual about hearing the song so much, and by so many different artists. She laughed; she didn’t believe me. But it was true. Really it was. I honestly started to think I must be going, well, slightly, insane. But if I was, I would be damned if it would be to the generic version. Give me Carole King – it was her song. Give me James Taylor – he made it a No. 1 hit. Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack and the rest? No. Not good enough. And don’t give me Barry Manilow doing anything.
Remember, this happened before you could just look up programming online. Before you could pause and replay. Before you could record on your computer just what weird thing you were streaming online. It was the olden days. Before Google. Imagine that.
Allison started teasing me about it. She wouldn’t even humor me; she thought it couldn’t be happening. But I got back at her. Whenever it happened and I was at home, I would call her. Invariably she wasn’t home, and so I put the phone up to the stereo, and I let her know, well, Allison, “You’ve got a friend.” No message, just the song. After she was serenaded by 4 or 5 different versions of the song on her answering machine, Allison finally agreed that, well, maybe they were doing something weird with that song. We became fast friends.
So today, when we plugged in our new stereo, we tuned it in to our favorite pop station and turned it on. I heard those first few notes and thought, “Oh no.”
And then I heard it, Carole King singing
When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend
It’s good to be back in the States.