If you’ve ever done a bike tour, through hike, or some other type of activity where you’ll be traveling by your own power for hours a day, you’ll eventually get things stuck in your head. Maybe it’s a particular type of food that you now crave (and know you might not get any time soon), or maybe it’s a song. I’ve talked previously about how I had The Replacement’s final album, All Shook Down, stuck in my head in Western Montana during the Big Tour in 2011. Every time I listen to that album, I’m reminded of that particular landscape and time in my life.
And that feeling hit me again just recently: During a youtube search for music, I came across the 1983 song by Dave Edmunds, “Slipping Away”:
I hadn’t heard the song in years. I remember first hearing it as a kid when it came out, probably on the classic rock radio station my parents listened to (WPLR). I also recall seeing the video on MTV. 1983 was the year the fam got “full cable”, so as an eight year old I watched MTV a lot. But it’s not a particularly well-known song now. It scraped the bottom of the Top 40, peaking at 39. There was a lot of “hit” music in the ’80’s, so a song like this was pretty much forgotten a few years later. It’s the type of song that you’ll hear again randomly and go “oh yeah, this song”. Since it had a short shelf life, it’ll usually remind you of the time you first heard it.
But coming across the song again recently, it didn’t remind me as much about an eight year old from Ansonia, Connecticut, watching MTV or listening to 99 Rock. Instead it reminded me of a bike tour that I started on this day in 2013, my Portland-Gorge-Spokane Tour. I rode from my home, through the Columbia River Gorge, across the Palouse region of SE Washington, and ended in the capital of the Inland Empire.
At the time I felt it was an “okay” tour that had the benefit of no major mishaps. But it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing: I wanted to go to the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour instead. But I did not want to upset my partner at the time by going without her, so this bike tour was a consolation for myself.* So I was probably more harsh on it because of that. Looking back with the distance of seven years, I feel that the tour was better than I gave it credit for.
And sometime east of Hood River and probably as far as Walla Walla, I had “Slipping Away” stuck in my head. I had just recently re-heard the song, most likely during one of those youtube searches. That driving synthetic beat** was good for riding stretches of road like WA 14 and US 12, smooth tarmac and wide open sky. Maybe I’d have a glimpse of the Columbia River, a mountain in the distance, wind turbines looming on ridges, a rocky cliff. Maybe there’d be the scent of oleaster blooming, that distinctive sweet-but-minty smell. At the time, this section felt a bit monotonous, but right now, I wouldn’t mind the monotony of traveling somewhere else. And hearing “Slipping Away” transports me back to that time, that place.
With hindsight, I realize how ironic that a song like “Slipping Away” got stuck in my head. My relationship with April was deteriorating, even though outwardly I didn’t admit it. Two months later, after another bike tour*** we would be done. Maybe my subconscious was telling me something? Maybe that’s why I had a black cloud over my head for the first few days?
I told myself I probably wouldn’t do a tour like that again. But seven years later? Yeah, I’d do it again, but differently. I’d explore more of Eastern Washington, maybe head north from Walla Walla first, or maybe continue east along 12 until I hit Idaho, then north. There’s a lot more to explore out there. And I haven’t been to Spokane since that last tour. It would be nice to go back.
“Slipping Away” would be the last time Dave Edmunds cracked the American charts. He still continues to play to this day, but I’m sure fans would rather hear “Girls Talk”. Me? I like being reminded of good moments. The Portland-Gorge-Spokane Tour was toward the end of my “touring machine” era, when my body was conditioned to touring after many years of doing it. I was ready for long-mile days and climbing long mountain passes. And it was during the last year of me going near and far on my beloved Surly Long Haul Trucker. So “Slipping Away” will be my fave Edmunds track. And right now, I’d just love another opportunity to travel by my own power for hours a day, so I can get another song stuck in my head,
*The ultimate irony, as you’ll see, is that we split up two months later. So not going to Pepin to keep April happy was ultimately pointless. In retrospect, I could have just gone to Pepin no matter what. But I’d eventually go to Pepin anyway, so in the end it doesn’t matter.
**I think another reason why the song seems to be forgotten because of how atypical this song is for Dave Edmunds. He was/is known as a roots-rocker, so this blatant stab at 80’s hit making with 80’s synths and rhythms, aided and abetted by “Mr. Electric Light Orchestra”, Jeff Lynne, was probably not taken that positively by his fans.
***This was the Central Oregon Cascades Tour, a week-long jaunt that began after July 4 and starting from the wedding of Timo and Esther. Despite a major setback (trying to tackle Windigo Pass) it was a really good tour. I just never properly wrote about it because the break-up happened a few days after I got home. I feel like I should properly write it up, as it deserves it. Maybe now would be a good time?