Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 78: How Many Brain Cells Are Devoted to Backstreet?

193EF4D975E1562B676CF81CADCCF1The 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.

RomanceShelley Ann Clark is the author of Have Mercy, out now from Loveswept. You can find out more about her at


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