David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 258: The J. Geils Band (Love Stinks)

June 8, 2023

I don't know if Catholic schools in the late 1970s needed much security. Certainly St. Francis High School in Morgantown, W.V., must not have had much night time security. If they did, they would have reported teenagers screaming "Love Stinks/Yeah, Yeah" from the little observatory that stood at the corner of the school property.

The observatory was not very big, a round building with a telescope, that might fit 6-8 people comfortably. My friend, who went to St. Francis, was the President of their Astronomy Club (and maybe one of only two members) so he had a key. However, even a student from a different high school ended up with a key. Why the sisters might think letting teenage boys have access to a telescope not more than a couple hundred yards away from student housing was a good idea is beyond me? It didn't take long for a ratty old couch, a few beat up lawn chairs, and a crappy transistor radio to get moved in. Let's just say that such a cozy little environment was a perfect place for 3-6 bored high school seniors to go on a Friday night, bringing in six packs of beer bought from the local Dairy Mart (the cashier reminding us to always tell any cops that we bought it at Kroger's). Sure, we spent some time looking at the sky and talking about places like Jupiter (we were, after all, children of the space age); however, we were more likely whiling our time shooting the shit than shooting the moon through the telescope. In fact, any moon we hoped to see might have been from the Towers, a 10-story freshman (and women) residence hall just several hundred yards away. You can see it in the top left corner of the picture, taken from about where the observatory once stood.

Any cool, edgy song from 1979 and 1980 was part of the observatory soundtrack, but somehow "Love Stinks," released in April 1980, remains the main track. And how could the song not appeal to a bunch of fools too chicken to even ask girls out, let alone discover love? The booming drum of Stephen Platt and the slashing riff provided by guitarist Geils guaranteed to jar us out of any current inane revelry about the purpose of life for the purposes of air drumming, air guitaring, and singing -- poorly. (Too bad we couldn't air sing.) With about 16 unique lines, any moron can memorize "Love Stinks" and sing along, righteous in his tone that love does stink because the popular majorette loves someone else than him. (We won't bother to reach out to said majorette to see if he would ever have even been on the list.) I am not even sure we got the irony that there might be somebody who pined for us that we ignored just as the popular girls ignored us.

Plus, as an extra bonus, the band had a guy named Magic Dick playing the harmonica. Throw that on top of Uranus jokes and the St. Francis observatory was a hotbed of droll teenage boy yuck-yucks.

Count it fortunate that MTV had yet to hit big in April 1980. I am pretty sure none of those nerds in that makeshit dork den had ever seen the accompanying video, replete with Platt playing the drums using fish as drum sticks, a couple getting married while wearing gas masks, a tomato getting cut suggestively, a band member waking up with a fish in bed, someone looking like Benny Hill making goofy faces (I know, that is a redundant statement in and of itself), and a chimpanzee holding his head as the song ends. Such nuances might have made these little shits' heads explode.

It was only when one of us actually got a girlfriend that a girl might ever have been brought to the observatory. Since that wasn't me, I can't speak to that.

Now days, not only is the observatory gone, but also the high school building itself, the property sold to West Virginia University in 2005 so that a giant student health and human sciences building, a recreation center, and multiple multipurpose athletic fields could be built, all things none of these losers had when they went off to college in Fall 1980. The site of the sign in this picture is about where the observatory stood.

If they had left the poor little observatory in the corner, enterprising lads a few years later could have options between the windows of the Towers or the Natatorium, visible just past the student health and human sciences building in this picture's foreground, perhaps listening to Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl."

However, progress and evolution must go on. The high school's gone, the observatory's gone, the young losers all found love (or more accurately, to paraphrase what Peter Wolf sang, love found them), got married, and ended up, surprisingly, with important professional jobs. They've all survived the blues, the reds and the pinks.

Other songs blared from the observatory that year: lots of Cars, Blondie, and Dire Straits. Pink Floyd's The Wall was huge. (What other graduating class can claim, as the 1980 class did, to have both "Love Stinks" and "Another Brick In The Wall, Part II" as graduation anthems?) While those other songs register nary a blip in the universe of these former scamps' memories, yet still, as soon as one of them hears that smashing drum opening of "Love Stinks," wistful memories of youth and innocence, as stupid as they were, inevitably lead to some instant message, triggering some hapless writer's 258th blog. Thank you, my dear friend.

The J. Geils Band. "Love Stinks." Love Stinks. EMI, 1980. Link here.

Day 257: The Church "Grind"

Day 259: Carly Simon "Anticipation"

See complete list here.