Archive for the ‘The Motels’ Category
I was a junior in high school when the video for this song began playing on MTV. Not long after, I went to something called, I think, a “ring dinner dance,” an informal ceremony held one evening in our school cafeteria at which we were given the class rings we had ordered at the end of our sophomore year. I say “I think” because I don’t recall any dancing, or dinner for that matter. But I do remember that along with the ring came a “memory” booklet, something printed by the ring company. It had lots of blank lines upon which you were prompted to record the names of your closest friends, the titles of the most popular movies and songs of the day, things like that. In the future, you could look back and remember what your life was like when you came into possession of your class ring. I wrote down that the Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer” was one of the most popular songs going. It wasn’t popular at my upstate New York high school, not by a long stretch. Somewhere in America, people liked it—I was always hearing it on the radio and on the sound systems of stores. But nobody that I knew liked it. Just me.
I could sense that there was something weird, in the upstate New York high school sense of the word, about my attachment to the song. I had seen the movie, based on the play by Tennessee Williams, that the song took its title from, in which Elizabeth Taylor goes half-crazy because her mysterious cousin is attacked and (preposterously) eaten by some adolescent boys in a Mediterranean village. Something sexual was going on there, I gathered that much, but the cannibalism was disturbing, and the movie put me off. Still, I liked the poetry of the title. The Motels song was breathy and charged and overwrought. It trafficked in the same extravagant emotions that I looked for when I watched old movies on television at night—a hobby that I was sheepish about. But I made the decision, as I stood in the cafeteria surrounded by my classmates, to accept my love for this lush, feminine song that I knew guys weren’t supposed to like too much. I remember writing the title on a blank line of my memory book (now lost), and feeling, just for a moment, what it was like to not give a damn.