Popcorn is Music to my Ears

After writing last week’s blog about popcorn, my wife and I reminisced about how it has evolved over the years. As we recalled the favorite movies we enjoyed with popcorn, a new realization popped in my head. Popcorn was also tied to the music of our times, often accompanying the many favorite songs and movie scores we heard since childhood.

In the 1970s, “Live and Let Die” was the theme song to one of the James Bond movies that my Dad took my brother and me to see at the old Sheridan drive-in theater. No opening theme song was complete without several bags of rich, salty, buttery popcorn.

To celebrate our birthdays, Dad drove us to Ford City to see such films as “Patton” with its stirring, patriotic score; “Papillon,” featuring silky smooth instrumentals and “The Sting,” the timeless, entertaining adaptation of Scott Joplin’s ragtime music. In the darkened cinema, we munched happily on the pricey, yellow popcorn they served in 32-ounce tubs. It went very well with gum drops and Cracker Jack, another popcorn favorite, sold at the concession stand. We washed it all down with ice-cold soda.

Friday nights featured Jiffy Pop popcorn in front of the TV, watching the Brady Bunch sing “Time to Change,” and the Partridge Family perform their hit “I Think I Love You,” followed by the grand finale theme to “Love American Style.” The 1970s ended with the blockbuster “Star Wars,” which I saw three times at the theatre, enjoying its dramatic theme song during the opening credits, of course with a tub of popcorn.

In the early 1980s when I was a college student at U of I, music videos were all the rage. We all enjoyed  Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean,” Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and the theme to “Flashdance.” The music of that time was punctuated by the air-popped popcorn served by friends in their dorm rooms. A sure way to be popular in the dorm was to have plenty of popcorn on hand to pop in that air-popper during study breaks. In fact, I was studying in my dorm room when my girlfriend rushed in to break the shocking news that John Lennon had died. Saddened and horrified, we popped an extra-large batch of air popcorn for some solace.

The fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in the 1990s. The historic event was commemorated by Roger Water’s production of Pink Floyd’s classic album, “The Wall.” I watched the video with a bag of microwave popcorn, an even easier way to enjoy the snack. And no late-night snack attack following a night of barhopping to hear local bands was complete without a trip to the convenience store for an enormous bag of cheese popcorn along with a slushy drink and pack of cigarettes.

My wife, a veteran local-band groupie, recalls the exact moment in Y2K when she officially became “old.” She met friends at a local club where heavy-metal bands performed. After paying a hefty cover charge, and wading through thick clouds of cigarette smoke, she finally found her friends – scarfing down a huge bowl of popcorn. Tired of deciphering conversation amidst the deafening bass, she merely smiled and nodded when addressed, even when her best friend broke the news that she was fired that day. Each new song triggered a startle reflex so severe that her friends teased her. With stinging eyes and a raging headache, my wife headed home . . . at 10 p.m. Outside in the quiet and fresh air, she recalled all the times her mother screamed, “Turn down that damn stereo!” With great reluctance, she had to admit that her mother was right. Settling down in her smoke-free home, she nuked a bag of microwave popcorn and listened to soothing jazz.

A dear friend, Patt Bailey, recently invited us to see her husband’s band, The Chicago Kingsnakes, perform at a trendy wine bar, which served Skinny Pop popcorn in small portioned-sized bags. Without the distractions of cigarette smoke and ear-shattering volume, this seasoned band delighted us with their renditions of Chicago Blues favorites such as “Take Your Time,” “I Don’t Want to Wait,” “Get out of Memphis,” “Hip the Gip” and the title track of their newest CD, “Southside Soul.” Led by Jim “Ang” Anderson’s lively guitar rifts and roaring vocals, veteran band members Mike Bailey (Bass and backup singer) and Gus Gotsis (Drums and backup singer) delivered a sizzling performance. Very special guest Terry “Sonny Lee” Tritt played a mean saxophone while Jeff “Wally” Walroth wowed the audience with his melodica. Former band member Mike Boyle took his turn on stage playing bass.

Sadly, the Chicago Kingsnakes will be disbanding this summer. Their grand-finale performance will be held on Saturday, July 14, in Harvard, Illinois, located about one hour northwest of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Details of this event along with their remaining show dates may be found on http://chicagokingsnakes.weebly.com

From movie theaters to TV, to college, to night clubs to trendy wine bars, music and popcorn have gone together in many forms and many ways. No doubt, this trend will continue with the so-called Amazon effect, where music of any time or genre is streamed directly to our televisions as nostalgic movie-theater tubs of unpopped microwave popcorn are delivered directly to our doors. Now there’s progress for you.

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