Thursday, September 13, 2007
The Sun and The Rainfall
Seeing that this summer marked 20 years since I graduated, a lot of my thoughts as of late have been reminiscings of that summer of 1987 when I graduated from Robert W. Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine.
Summers here in South Carolina are hot and muggy, oppressively so. That wasn’t the case in coastal southern Maine in the summer of 1987. The days could be hot, but hot for Maine was 90 with a relatively low humidity tempered by the cool ocean-fed breezes. The evenings, by South Carolina standards, were coolish at times, down to the mid 60’s.
The other day while driving home after midnight after a mind-numbing work shift, the night air held that same cool, calm feel to it that I remembered. It felt great, almost decadent, after such a blazing summer. And there, on a dark, two-lane rural road, with a 70-degree breeze on my arm out the window, I lost 20 years.
In my mind I was no longer driving on Highway 17A, but riding in the backseat of a pale blue Datsun B210 with a red and yellow “MEAT IS MURDER” bumper sticker on it from the band The Smiths. It was Selina Standish’s car, and she had invited me along to go joyriding across the river in New Hampshire with her brother Gil, his buddy Jon Saddler, and her friend Annette Sheldon, whom I started dating a short time later after we realized we each had a crush on the other. At the tender age of 18, and barely that by just a couple months, I was the oldest one in the car. It was late by my standards, close to 1AM, and there was an almost full moon out that night casting a purple sheen against the few white puffy clouds visible in a fairly clear sky full of stars.
We were listening, as per the usual, to the college radio station out of the University of New Hampshire, WUNH 91.3, since we considered ourselves far too cool and hip to listen to mere commercial radio. The station was about to sign off for the night and as the final song of the night the DJ played “The Sun and The Rainfall” by Depeche Mode. In mid-1987 the song was fully 5 years old and not very well-known in the USA, but as Depeche Mode was my favorite band, I knew the song backwards and front. It’s a quiet song, atmospheric really, and it was absolutely the most perfect choice for a quiet night along a deserted country lane. Selina turned it up at my request, and for the next five minutes and four seconds we all just sat silently and listened to the soothing melody mixing with the wind coming through the windows. All was well in the world. There were no worries, no fears, no crushing responsibilities or debts. We were all young, invincible, and would someday conquer the word.
As the song faded out and the station went silent I kept my head against Annette’s shoulder and knew that this was one of those moments that I’d always remember, and that it would be a memory that I’d look back on years down the road. Sure enough, I did. And twenty years later, with the group of us between 35 and 38 now, all grown up with families of our own and lives scattered across the country, I wonder if any of my fellow passengers remember that night at all, or if they even would recognize the song if they heard it again. Wherever you guys are, I wish you all the best, and I hope from time to time that you remember, too.
NOTE: The picture up top is by photographer Brian Griffin, and it was used as the cover for the album that “The Sun and the Rainfall” is on, “A Broken Frame”. It was named one of Life Magazines' 'Worlds Greatest Pictures 1980 - 1990' and was the cover picture for that issue of the magazine. There was never an official video for the song, since it was never a single release, but there’s a fan-made clip on YouTube that features more pictures based on the album jacket and some live footage of the band performing the song at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1982. Hopefully you’ll find the song as captivating as I do, 25 years after it was recorded.