I liked The Babys. They had a cool sort of seventies AOR thing going on that seemed very adult to an elementary schooler like me, and songs like “Isn’t It Time” were packed with hooks. In 1982 lead singer John Waite released his first solo album, Ignition. “Change,” the single off of that album, was pretty cool, too. I gave John Waite a rare “you’re a pop star but you’re cool” pass.
And then in 1984 he released No Brakes.
The album did pretty good business, but the single “Missing You” was a monster. In the fall of 1984 you couldn’t go anywhere without being assaulted by the storm that was raging through John’s frozen heart, especially Camelot Music. Steve The Manager had that cut in power rotation on the store’s turntable. He must have played it ten times every night.
“Can’t I put something else on?” I asked.
“The turntable is a selling tool. It isn’t there for your entertainment.”
“Yeah, I know, but everybody knows this song. Wouldn’t we sell more by playing something they don’t know?”
“No, people buy what they already know.”
My buddy Dan and I reached our limits. There’s only so much John Waite a guy can take, so we silently protested. Every time the words “missing you” were uttered — which was somewhere around 487 times during that three minute song — Dan and I pointed at each other and with dopey smiles lip-synched along. It didn’t matter where in the store we were or what we were doing, all work stopped for a double finger-pistol “missing you” stare down.
“Enough. You two go on break. I can’t take anymore,” Steve The Manager said.
We hustled down to Aladdin’s Castle, the mall’s arcade, where Dan was the reigning Track and Field champion and I was a Galaga beast. If aliens ever attack in orderly rows and columns I’m your guy, so keep that in mind.
The attendant stood next to the token machine. “You work at Camelot, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said, and I jammed a dollar bill into the machine.
“What’s hot right now?”
“Same old shit. Bruce, Madonna, Prince, Footloose.”
“You have that new Billy Ocean?”
“People tell me I look like him.”
“I can see that.”
“I’ll come down and check it out. I just got a tape deck in my car.”
“Cool.” I headed over to the Galaga machine, worked my way to the third bonus round without losing a ship. A hand slipped inside beside me and set a couple of tokens on the machine, the international symbol for “I got next.” I glanced at the competition, but only the attendant was standing there.
“Those are for you,” he said.
He moved closer. “You’re good,” he said. “What’s your name? I bet you’re in the high scores.”
“Jim. I’ll be looking for that. I’m Bobby.”
“You have a girlfriend?”
“How about a boyfriend?”
“Do you like guys, too?”
“Me either, but you dress cool so I thought you might.”
“I have a girlfriend, too, but sometimes it’s fun to give headers to a guy.”
“Just for fun. I’m not gay. You ever give headers?”
“No.” I crashed all of my remaining ships. “I have to go back to work.”
“Don’t be mad.”
“It’s cool. I just have to go back to work.” For the next year I played Galaga for free while Bobby tried to talk me into blowjobs.
When I got back to the store that evening Steve The Manager had finally taken “Missing You” off of the turntable, but there wasn’t much improvement. He replaced John Waite with Billy Fucking Ocean.