Thursday, December 13, 2012

All Out of Love

"I can make my hair poofier than yours." 
"Oh yeah?  Well, I can unbutton my shirt lower."
"Really? Then I'm going to shrink my pants even smaller." 
"Perfect.  Now all we need to do is steal the 'Chicago' logo and 
MacGyver it for our album cover."
"Is MacGyver the 80s?"
"1985 to 1992, my man.  Rock On."

In 1980, Air Supply released "All Out of Love." It reached number two on the Hot 100 (whatever that is), and placed 92nd in VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Love Songs in 2003.

In 2011, the song was used as part of a Chinese experiment to drive foreign visitors slowly, and steadily, insane.  Here’s the backstory: last year, four of us traveled to Beijing to spend Christmas with Emma, who was studying abroad there. We secured rooms (sounds so Jane Austen-ish that I just had to say it) at the Marriott City Wall, where I would remain for the next 17 days.

While 17 days is a long time to spend with anyone, even the people you love most, it’s a really, really long time to spend with Russell Hitchcock, Air Supply's lead “vocalist.” (I cannot make those quotation marks ironic enough, so use your imagination.) This breathy Australian’s greatest vocal triumph was chart-leader on the 10-song loop that was played, loudly, through the speakers at the little club area reserved for us at the Marriott.

I had mixed views about the club. On the plus side, it wasn’t my hotel room, which I was already sick of. And since I woke each day at 5 a.m., did yoga in the hotel gym, and then found myself with five hours on my hands until the teens woke up, I really appreciated a spot to have a cup of coffee and make my way through the no-compromises journalism represented by The South China Daily, or, if I was lucky, an old USA Today that someone had tossed away.

Newspaper, coffee, quiet … no, hold that last part. No quiet. Russell started up at 7 a.m. each day, and kept up a steady pace til lights out at 11 p.m. It started to have an effect on me, and I eventually found myself talking in the rhythm of the song: “They’re all out of breakfast, they can’t even serve you, I think I was right, you’re sleeping for too long, now we’re out of time, let’s get to Pearl Market, we can’t be too late, or you won’t get that knockoff.”

And just when I thought I could not stand it for one more minute, my captors changed it up a bit, just to mess with my big white head.  On Christmas Eve, when I entered the club, Russell was gone. Instead, I heard my man, Frank Sinatra, offering his trenchant observation that oh by gosh by golly, it was time for mistletoe and holly.  What a refreshing change! It IS time for mistletoe, Frank! We all smiled.

That was Day One of the By Gosh By Golly Torture Period. The song did not stop after Christmas, or even after New Year's. Eleven days after I first heard it, when I finally stumbled into the cab that would take me to the airport, I wondered if an MRI of my brain could detect the songs that had been imprinted on my grey matter by the ruthless brainwashers at the Marriott City Wall. Oh by gosh, by golly, they were a heartless bunch.

My experience in China has made me hate Muzak even more than I did before I went there. Sometimes, it even has an impact on my work.  I often have occasion to do freelance assignments for a lovely local company, and their on-site employee amenities include a cafeteria. I’m sure they are certain that the soft rock pouring from the speakers is the perfect added touch, like extra bottles of Sriracha sauce on the tables. Especially after last Christmas, I’d prefer to pour the sauce directly into my ears than to hear that music.  I didn’t listen to 80s music in the 80s, so being subjected to it now is big-hair-and-shoulder-pads horrible.

I recently ran into a colleague one morning, as we were gathering warm drinks and sustenance for our 9 a.m. meeting. As I chatted with her, I tried to swat away the wailing I was hearing in the background, which, for some reason, was making me especially twitchy that day.

Our meeting included planning for an upcoming event focused on an African charity. Someone suggested themed music, and another person revealed that she knew how to access the sound system and change the tunes. “Is there a way to turn it off?” I begged. “Can you show me the switch?” 

My friend piped up. “I like that music down there,” she said with a big smile. And then she began to sing the tune that had been playing while we’d been waiting in line … “I’m all out love …”

Russell Hitchcock, stop following me.  

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Julie, I feel your pain. Today I finally decided to tune in to a local radio station that has been playing nothing but holiday music since before Thanksgiving. I've been avoiding it because it has felt too soon for me to indulge. Sadly, I quickly realized I'm still recovering from the overdose of jolly Christmas cheer from last year. Yep, less than two weeks to go until Christmas and it's still too soon for me!