When you’re sheltering in place, you begin to roll through the past. . . .
In 1982 I moved from Detroit to Rockford, Illinois, to take a job at what now might be considered a start-up, although in its case, it was an organization that was about developing ideas, not software. The move itself seemed like a good idea at the time. More or less.
For those who are not familiar with Rockford, it is “at the top in Illinois,” as the slogan had it, essentially in the middle of the state and about 20 miles south of the border with Wisconsin. It is also about 90 miles northwest of Chicago.
At that point in time the city was in flux, as it had been a town that had a lot of companies involved in making manufacturing equipment and accessories and the like, and that business was on a serious decline. The U.S. had entered a recession in July 1981 that is clawed its way out of by November 1982, and all of that clawing left a lot of companies, big and small, not unscathed. Some terminally.
Rockford is the home of Cheap Trick. And on occasion, when my wife, dog and I strolled along the Rock River in what was then the lovely Sinnissippi Park (it may still be lovely, but it has been a long time), we’d seen Rick Nielsen and his family enjoying the surroundings. What’s more, during the Christmas season in ’82 Robin Zander performed an evening of madrigals at the Coronado Performing Arts Center, and brought out his high school music teacher, as it was something of a tribute to her. Oh, and before the evening was complete, the other three members of the band came out and played as hard as they would have had they still been in high school. (Remember: this was post-Budokan. They were playing to the home town with a fervor that would have made Japanese girls faint.)
“Rockford? Rockford! How can you lose with a name like Rockford?”
—Warren Zevon, Rockford MetroCentre, February 4, 1983
Although there were some memorable concerts (e.g., King Crimson at Alpine Valley) during my time there, what continues to musically resonate is hearing on the Northern Illinois University radio station the opening chords of Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out.” There was a brightness and freshness that cut through the funk that sometimes comes when you move to a place that you think is going to be all sunshine and roses and turns out to be, at times, partly cloudy and dandelions gone to seed.
And “We are young but getting old before our time” nailed it.