Adventures in Wonderland

Spotify, the online music service, recently put its boys in the lab on the job to analyze 50 years’ worth of summer hits to come up with an exhaustive list of summer jams. And as you can expect, the list is a collection of fantastic songs, from “It’s my party” to “Ring my bell” to “Every breath you take” to “We like to party” to “Hips don’t lie” to “Call me maybe”.

Some more fantastic than the others, of course.

The full list has 130 songs on it, and according to Spotify’s team of scientists, the saddest and the slowest of them all is “Alone” by Heart, the Nancy and Ann Wilson sister act.

That’s not how I remember it.

Oh, Nancy.

Back in 1987, when the single came out, I had just got my driver’s license, and I worked in Dad’s store as a delivery guy, and unlike the summer before when I was just the helper guy who installed microwave ovens, made custom kitchen deliveries, moved refrigerators and color TVs, that summer, I got to drive as well.

So I drove a yellow little delivery truck in and around a small town in Finland, singing Heart’s “Alone”. And I was neither sad nor slow. Instead, I was pumping my fist, feeling if not the exact opposite of sad and slow, at least powerful and optimistic. And if I did feel sad and slow, I’d just switch to Heart’s “If looks could kill”, pump my fist, and sad and slow would be gone.

Anyway, “Alone” didn’t bring be down. I was fine with being alone, anyway.

Bruce Barker was the kind of friend everybody would be lucky to have because with Bruce, everything was a little bigger, a little cooler, and life had just a little bigger meaning.

Maybe it was because Bruce was a large man, a very large man, and like many large people, he dominated the space he was in. He was tall, he had a booming voice, and his belly was very, very large, which to be honest, made me feel good about myself, struggling with a few extra kilos as I was myself. Everything about him was big, including his charming girlfriend Pam.

Now, Bruce was the DJ at Rock 95 in Ontario, an FM station that combined the two coolest things I knew: sports and rock.

I met Bruce a couple of years after I had driven the delivery truck back in Finland. I had switched microwave ovens to hockey pants, and spent a summer trying to get a handle on Tackla’s inventory of pants in Canada.
Now Bruce was going to help us market the Tackla Pro Hockey School (which I also helped market by handing out flyers and sitting next to NHLers at autograph signings where nobody showed up at).

On the weekends, I drove from Orillia down to Canada’s Wonderland, to see all those bands that I had only read about in Metal Hammer, or The Rolling Stone, and that would never ever ever – ever – come to our little town in Finland. Like Tom Cochrane, Rik Emmett, Belinda Carlisle, Billy Idol – and Heart.

Usually I bought a ticket off a scalper, partly because I didn’t even know how to buy tickets elsewhere, partly because I didn’t often plan on going to shows, but instead, made up my mind the day before, and partly because it was a good deal. In the Belinda Carlisle’s show my seat was in the second row, and in Heart’s show, not much farther.

I got there early to see Heart, and then just hung around the seating area for a while, when I saw Bruce walk by the first row. He saw me, and smiled his usual big smile, flashing his backstage pass, which was even a better deal than mine.

Bruce stopped.

“Hey, going backstage now, I might get you an autograph,” he said.

“Wow, that’s fantastic,” I said.

“No sweat,” he said, and started to walk away again, but made another sudden stop

“It’s Risto, right? R-E-E-S-T-O-W?” he asked me, but before I could say anything, he and Pam were gone again, and after my initial shock over the alternative spelling of my name had passed, I forgot about the whole thing, assuming that Bruce would, too.

However, after the show, he found me again, and gave me his ticket stub. On it, it said:

“To Risto, lots of love, Nancy Wilson, XOXO.”

I pumped my fist. Not slowly or sadly. But alone.

How does that make you feel?