Friday will mark 10 years since I got into the blogging game. Based on my current level of output, this would probably be a fine time to quit … but nah, not yet. Here’s a J. Geils-related post from the old blog that ran in January 2011. The story that inspired the first half has since been taken down by the TV station that hosted it, so you’ll just have to take my word for things.
I’m always interested in the ways that pop songs trickle into our collective consciousness through means other than the radio, CD player, iPod, MP3 download, eight-track, cassette, etc.
I wrote about one such case right after the death of Gerry Rafferty, reminiscing about how I associated “Baker Street” with an up-all-night movies-and-comedy TV show I used to watch as a kid. (Edit: I don’t think that one’s been reposted on Neck Pickup, but I oughta, one of these days.)
Here’s another example I learned about while trolling the Web today:
This week in 1978, a major thunderstorm walloped the Midwest, with heavy weather stretching as far south and east as Louisville, Kentucky.
The news director at Louisville TV station WHAS was faced with an extraordinarily long list of closings to scroll across the screen.
Rather than run it over five minutes of dead air, he made an on-deadline search for appropriate background music.
He selected Chuck Mangione’s “Bellavia,” for no greater reason than he liked it and it worked well enough.
(This would have been a few months before Mangione reached a broad nationwide pop audience with “Feels So Good.”)
An inspired improvisation turned into a tradition.
It became standard operating procedure — and apparently still is — for the station to run its school and community closings over “Bellavia.”
And countless Kentuckians (and Indianans, just across the river) came to associate Mangione’s gentle fanfare with weather interruptions.
(One commenter on the page linked above – Edit: that is, to the story that’s not live any more — tells the story of how her parents played a tape of “Bellavia,” and she leaped joyfully out of bed, thinking she must have a snow day since that song was playing.)
I love the notion that anyone who spent time in one major American city has an instant emotional connection to that song, totally beyond any anticipation by its composer.
Something vaguely similar happened in my (and Chuck Mangione’s) hometown a couple of years later.
I was never really a hockey fan when I was a kid, but I grew up in a hockey town.
And no daily reader of the Rochester sports page, as I was back then, could be ignorant of the hometown Rochester Americans’ hockey heroes — names like Randy Cunneyworth, Bob Mongrain, Geordie Robertson and Jim Wiemer.
(I knew a fellow Rochester expat in college who used to sing “Jiiiiiiiiiim Wiemer” to the tune of “Dream Weaver.” But that’s not where I’m going with this story.)
During the team’s march to the 1982-83 Calder Cup, the local station that sometimes televised Amerks games got the bright idea of using the organ riff from the J. Geils Band’s recent hit single “Freeze-Frame” in their ads promoting the games.
The connection between team and song — and really, team and riff; it was all about that organ — caught on immediately.
“Freeze-Frame” was as closely connected in the public mind to the 1982-83 Amerks as “We Are Family” to the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates or “Tessie” to the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
My older brother even knew a kid at school who honestly thought the song was “the Amerks theme” — as though it had been written for the team, and had somehow jumped from the Rochester War Memorial to the American Top 40.
To this day, I can’t hear “Freeze-Frame” without picturing the Amerks in general, and one image from the commercials in particular — that of the team’s goalie (probably Phil Myre) skating out to receive his teammates’ congratulations at the end of a win.
Every so often I go trolling for those ads on YouTube. Haven’t found one yet.
But someone out there has tape, I just know it.
Coda: One commenter on the original post mentioned that the Chicago Cubs used to use the opening synth riff from Van Halen’s “Jump” as a lead-in to game broadcasts, and even now, when she hears “Jump” she thinks: “It’s time for the ballgame!”