I think there is a point in everyone’s life where rock music intersects with girls. Every one I know, including me, has a CD or concert stub that can be explained using the phrase “Well, there was this girl …” Usually said intersection occurs during adolescence. Mine happened at the age of seven.
Now, I’m not one of those people who has had important popular music included in every last moment of his life. I don’t have early childhood memories of my mother playing Led Zeppelin and there’s no story about me listening to John Lennon when I was a zygote. In fact, my nursery school playlists were more likely to includesongs like “Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?” and “C is for Cookie,” and my very first exposure to popular music was through Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Released in 1982, Chipmunk Rock is a collection of late 1970s and early 1980s hits as well as a few classics, such as “Leader of the Pack,” with a cover featuring Alvin taking his place among the presidents of Mount Rushmore (a nod to Deep Purple’s In Rock album) and the jacket opened up to show the group in situations that reflected the song titles. My personal favorite of all of the tracks on the LP was the Pat Benatar hit “Heartbreaker.” There’s something about a chipmunk shredding a guitar solo that pumps the adrenaline of a second grader. Combine that with Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” and I, as well as any kid my age back then, was ready to strap on a guitar, throw on a headband, and freaking wail.
Well, maybe not, but I thought that Chipmunk Rock was just as awesome as Thriller and I decided that I wanted to share it with my friends and classmates. So one day in the second grade, I brought it into class and put it in the back of the classroom where my teacher, Mrs. Holl, had a record player with headphones that I’m sure she’d checked out of the school library because the headphones had a white headband and padded blue muffs that are only found in foreign language labs and Eastern airlines flights. And the back of the room was the perfect place for it because she had put down carpet and set aside some toys for when we had our snacktime and playtime.
One day, I was in my reading group, getting through whatever story we were reading when there was a ruckus coming from the other side of the bookshelf. It was a new girl in the class, Lynn Klein, who was listening to the Chipmunks sing Devo’s “Whip It”, dancing around and singing along loudly. It distracted everyone in the class so much to the point that Mrs. Holl quickly shushed her and confiscated the record player and my album, which annoyed me because I had been looking forward to listening to “Heartbreaker” when my free time came around.
Still, I noticed the dancing and love of new wave in a way that I hadn’t before. I barely knew Lynn and as I would find out for the next couple of months, she was at best an interesting girl. I mean, we were only seven but she was already showing signs of growing up to be one of those rougher types of girls that you inexplicably stared at because you were attracted but in a way that should be reserved for the prom queen … and then wound up dating for at least a little while to piss off your parents. Lynn at seven looked like a seven-year-old girl, don’t get me wrong, but there was definitely a suede or denim jacket and a pack of Marlboros in her future.
She was, at best, aggressive. When new kids usually showed up in our class, especially as late as a quarter of the way through the year, they were usually reserved and took some time to get the lay of the land. Lynn went in the other direction, almost overcompensating by being too outgoing. And she really seemed to like me, because according to her she was in my nursery school class. Now, even at that age I had one of those annoying memories where I could name every person place, ro thing I had ever encountered and never once did I remember meeting a girl named Lynn. But she was insistent, even going so far as to “point herself out” in an old photo album. Had it not been elementary school, I probably would have wondered if she was a lunatic, like my pet rabbit was going to end up on a stove. You know, except for the fact that I didn’t own a rabbit and Fatal Attraction wouldn’t be out for another two years.
We only played together on the weekends a few times, despite being “boyfriend and girlfriend,” or however that works in the second grade. My parents allowed it, even though I could tell that they didn’t like her because they were very reserved around the two of us and seemed to pay more attention to what we shouldn’t be doing. That was always the “code” for an unliked friend: my friend Chris and I could get away with anything as long as we didn’t blow up the house, but it seemed like Lynn and I playing tag or ball on the front lawn or hide and seek in the house was worth of the Big Brother treatment. You know, because playing hide and seek at seven will ultimately lead to knocking her up when we’re sophomores or something.
Whatever she thought was between us didn’t “last” anyway. Lynn wasn’t at my school past the second grade; I assume she moved away because she and her mom lived in an apartment and may have simply moved when their lease was up. My copy of Chipmunk Rock disappeared as well. I don’t know if I “left” it at her place or it was “donated” to my second grade classroom but when I was at my parents’ house two weeks ago, it was not among the albums my parents gave to me after cleaning out the den closet. But I don’t need the album, because even though Lynn’s thrashing around to a high-pitched “Whip It” was truly my first “wtf” moment in life, she was, well, you see … she was this girl I knew and then didn’t. Which is always how it goes, right?