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I’m Karen, a Midwestern girl transplanted in the South, raised on 80s music, Judy Blume, and the films of John Hughes. An early preoccupation with Rock ‘n’ Roll led me to spend my twenties working my way from intern to executive in the music industry. Now I’m a married mom of two, and instead of staying up late in rock clubs, I get up before dawn and write sexy contemporary romance featuring hot heroes, served fresh.
Today’s RNRHS post (#79, by the way…I wonder if I’ll make it all the way to #100?!) is from fellow romance author Amy Jo Cousins. I don’t usually play favorites when it comes to these posts, but this one is just way too adorable for words. I think we can all relate to the ways in which a crush changed our world view, whether it was new music or old movies or some funky cuisine that we totally pretended to be familiar with while we scanned the menu for anything that looked even REMOTELY normal. My biggest leap for love in high school was deciding I would be preppy. It lasted three weeks, sophomore year. My crush was a year ahead of me and so unattainable, but I was sure that if I just started wearing penny loafers with argyle socks, sweater vests and button-down oxford shirts, that he would have no choice but to fall in love with me. Didn’t happen, that girlfriend of his wasn’t going anywhere, but he and I did become friends and realized we liked a lot of the same music. Romance thwarted, I returned to my Midwestern semi-rebellion of wearing torn jeans, Chucks, and winged eyeliner. My friends were so happy to have me back on Planet Earth.
Amy Jo Cousins
Glenbard West, Glen Ellyn, IL, Class of ‘89, Currently: Joan Wilder-ing
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: Man, I’d love to say something hip like Sinead O’Connor or Naked Raygun (both of whom I thought were weird when I was in high school…she was bald, which perplexed and scared me), but I just wasn’t that cool. If I am completely honest, I had quite a thing for musical theater and film. Especially bad musical theater and film. As in, I can still sing all of “Cool Rider” from Grease 2, because my best friend and I watched that movie about a hundred times freshman year. Also, I can do most of the songs from The Chorus Line, particularly “Let Me Dance for You” and “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three,” aka the tits and ass song. It’s funny that I didn’t think about this when writing When the Lights Go Down, because the conversations about high school/college plays could have been way more fun. “If he’s cool enough, he can burn me through and through, whoa yeah!”
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Bon Jovi, Bon Jovi, Bon Jovi! I spent a couple of years working in a karaoke bar in my early 30’s and have since been converted by the awesome performers who belted out Bon Jovi nonstop on contest nights (not to mention, Jon Bon Jovi was totally hot when he had that part on Ally McBeal), but I was not a fan in high school. My best friend was a full-on Bon Jovi groupie, so I’m not sure I ever said this out loud before now, but Slippery When Wet? Bored me to tears.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: I had a crush on this one boy all through high school. Okay, I actually forgot about him for most of sophomore year, but then my brother started his freshman year when I was a junior and he joined the gymnastic team. My old crush competed on that team too, and let me tell you…put a guy in a spandex tank top and some skintight pants and whooee! I was back in love. So, via a bit of hallway eavesdropping, I learned that my crush was a huge Jethro Tull fan. Of course, I became a huge Jethro Tull fan too. What a coincidence! (Turns out I still am. Jethro Tull is effing awesome. Locomotive Breath! Aqualung!) This was the late 80’s, mind you, so we were already late by almost two decades for the height of the band’s popularity. In any case, when they toured my senior year, I got a ticket and a whole group of us, including my crush, went to the concert together. It was at Alpine Valley, an outdoor concert venue just across the border in Wisconsin. I sat on my blanket and tried both not to stare at the albino gentleman right in front of me and not to get a contact buzz from the clouds of pot smoke. I was successful at the task requiring manners.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: That same crush of mine was also a fan of The Ramones. Having impressed him with my coincidental Jethro Tull passion, when he found out I’d never heard of The Ramones, he made me a cassette tape of their songs. Even someone as desperately uncool as I was in high school couldn’t help but recognize that “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” were classics. Think I still have that tape in a drawer somewhere.
Best high school make-out song: I really dove into the kissing thing in college, being a shy and retiring sort in high school. But I did make out with a super sweet guy named Dwayne, because he played “She’s Like the Wind” from Dirty Dancing for me. Dwayne taught me how to drive stick (NOT a metaphor!) during the brief time we dated, a gift for which I will be forever thankful.
The kids and the hubby and I were on vacation last month, requiring a few extended stints in the car and lots of time listening to satellite radio. It was a constant battle between the kids–my son, 13, wanted Lithium, the channel that plays 90s (lots of great music, but I’m still not sure what truly defined that decade, aside from so-called grunge). My daughter, 15, wanted First Wave, the 80s channel. She comes by this preference honestly. It’s genetic. Somewhere along the way, a Wire song came on, from The Ideal Copy. I never owned the record, but I was a college radio geek when it came out. Even though it’d easily been 25 years (gah!) since I’d heard the song, I knew every damn word. It got me wondering…how much of a person’s brain is devoted to the storage of song lyrics? Is it Bon Jovi’s fault that you forgot to buy cat food again? Is it Duran Duran’s fault that you can’t remember your mother’s birthday? (Asking for a friend.) Today’s RNRHS guest, fab romance author Shelley Ann Clark, talks about her own run-in with this phenomenon, how she wasn’t a Backstreet fan in high school and they still wormed their way into her brain. Bastards!
Shelley Ann Clark
County High School in Kentucky, town of about 30,000, class of 1999, Currently a romance novelist and librarian
Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: “At the Stars” by Better than Ezra. I lived in a rural area, even though I myself lived in town. My high school was out down a bunch of twisty country roads; my friends all lived down isolated, dark, one-lane, tree-lined roads. Once I got my license, I spent a lot of time driving between school and friends’ houses and home, often late at night. This song came out my senior year, I think? I immediately related to it. Whenever I hear it, I’m seventeen again, windows rolled down, driving at night, down a curvy, hilly road, full of all the hope and despair of being a teenager.
Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: My high school boyfriend somehow managed to get me a baby tee (remember those? Oh yeah, I wore them with my Winona Ryder circa Reality Bites haircut and my plastic baby barrettes) from a Weezer concert signed by all but one member of the band.
I ALSO had my very own record player and a collection of 1970s records that I thought were super cool. Like Carole King’s Tapestry. And it’s possible I spent a little too much time talking about how some songs just sounded better on a record. I might have been a little insufferable.
Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: I came of age during the heyday of the Backstreet Boys and N*Sync. I wasn’t a fan at the time, but it turns out that now I can’t help but sing along to “Bye Bye Bye” and “I Want it That Way” when I hear them on the radio. They wormed their way into my brain.
Best show or concert you saw in high school: I lived in a small town, and the closest major music venues were in Cincinnati. My parents weren’t about to let me go to see a show on a school night and not return until two in the morning, no matter how cool the bands playing were. They would not be moved on this point. The best I could do was Lilith Fair the summer of 1995, where I saw Emmylou Harris, Jewel, the Indigo Girls, and Sarah McLachlan. Of those acts, the one I still like the most is Emmylou—who, of course, I didn’t appreciate nearly enough at the time.
Best high school make-out song: Even though it’s from two generations before mine, “Bell Bottom Blues” by Derek & the Dominos will always make me think of high school makeout sessions. The tortured longing in that song is very sexy. I first heard it when I was about fifteen, and something about the music just connected straight to my angst and lit a fire under my genitals. Plus, it’s pretty long compared to most pop songs, so if you need to sit in the driveway until it’s over, you get at least an extra two minutes of kissing.
Shelley Ann Clark is the author of Have Mercy, out now from Loveswept. You can find out more about her at shelleyannclarkauthor.com.