It must have been the very end of the last millennium. I was a pretty unexciting adolescent who had just discovered the benefits of boredom. The TV set in my room had become one of my best friends and spent many unnecessarily late evenings with me.
I remember that one time quite well. I was listlessly thumping my way through channels late night, not quite willing to hit the hay just yet. Because that of course would mean I would stoop to sensible and thus despicable adult behaviour. No. I would stay put right here. Oh the amazement of exactly how many bad programme choices TV executives could possibly make simultaneously. An endless series of meaningless colourful images slowly but surely numbing me to sleep. Perfect.
As so often I got caught up on VH1. They would often play the old-fashioned music I would not hear elsewhere and I was up for it. I had heard Freebird the first time there. They played Stairway to Heaven in its entirety. And this time? VH1 was often my last savior before total madness. The multiplied gravity working on my eyelids told me it would be the last thing I saw that night.
This is part of the ongoing #Musicweek on Becauseiwriteso. See also: A Big Plate of Sideorders – Our first performance
A live performance. The venue not too big. Audience close to the stage. On this stage: Wait. Bruce Willis – working-class blue jeans and t-shirt, restless snow white sneakers and, comically, hair. Almost abundant, unbrucewillish hair. He says a thing or two, cracks a joke and then, what? He invites the Temptations to join him. The Temptations. And are they wearing golden suits or what. Fair enough, I am dreaming alright. That´s sweet. I am combining my favourite actor and my love for Motown. Korben Dallas and one of the best soul groups of all time in one sweet conceit. It´s what my mind does, you know, constantly coming up with new expertly shot cinema movies of often epic extent (but usually following very confusing plots) and, as in this case, with what Dr Johnson would call “the most heterogenous ideas yoked by violence together”. Well done, dream land, you have done it again. Go ahead and mystify. So the music sets in. Slow, dreamy, very 80s percussion… and Bruce Willis sings… falsetto. My dream has just gone haywire. John McCLane is doing this most competently. He is closing his eyes for the high notes and tweets like a happy teenager with a decent vocal coach. It´s like he is squeezing the notes out of his eyelids. And the harmonies the Temptations are producing on top – fantastic. Complete effortlessness. They are the Temptations after all. And those golden suits. It´s a really pleasant song too. Of course I am too asleep to move but I believe my weary head is really close to nodding to the rhythm. It´s all really catchy. Very holding-hands-at-sunsettish. The chorus sounds as if you are required to dance to it. Waltz or jive or I don´t know. I wasn´t that good at my dance course. In a small aside I interior-monologuize (yes, that would be an actual word from now on) on my mind´s songwriting skills when in Hypnos’ arms. Bruce Willis and the Temptations. Ha! And then I drift off into other songs, other dreams, other corners of that dreamland of mine that holds so many surprises for me…
The next morning I knew this had been one of my funny dreams. Everyone around me was aware of my infatuation with Willis and my current R’n’B phase. They snickered when I gave them the details but we all agreed: My dreams are the weirdest.
Months later I am making my way through my parents’ old record collection. At this stage of my teenage cocoon period I have discovered not just the art of ennui but also an absolute fascination with music of bygone times. Nothing beats the first sound of the needle touch the vinyl. They have all these vintage rock records. In fact, my old man and I might have just been back from an obscure Ten Years After concert. Where I learnt that I have become quite proficient at shredding the air guitar. Also Motown. Oh Motown. I have mightily fallen for that too. But my parents wouldn´t really have that.
In the drawer under the record shelf (which I told my brother is the only thing I really NEED to inherit once) I find a tape of a love song compilation I have never laid eye on before. With most anal diligence I move my index over the song list. Until I reach a title that sounds familiar. The Drifters – Under the Boardwalk. Under the Boardwalk? Hold. Wasn´t that in the song I dream-composed for Bruce Willis and the Temptations some months ago? Is that in the realm of possibility? So I grab the tape, I shove it into the old deck and check fast forward until I reach, sure enough, the very same song. In a different tempo than my dream version, but most definitely the same song. I have to sit down. And then jumo around. And then sit down again. As you can imagine, I was both excited I had by sheer accident found a song I thought had only existed in my mind and simultaneously disappointed I had not written it myself.
Now, this was still some time before anyone´s first impulse would be to get out your iphone and have google find the unfindable in a split second.
I still had not fully proved that my dream hadn´t been my own mashup interpretation of a song I had possibly heard somewhere before, if very unconsciously so. Which meant that I still had to do what we had to do in those times if we wanted to find out about music. I went to an actual record store. And there I had to go to Letter W and dig out the almost undiggable. Almost I say. I was a pro at that stuff. A few minutes in, and there he was. The Return of Bruno. Bruce Willis. Smiling his classic Bruce Willis I just saved the world and got the girl smile. Track 5: Under the Boardwalk. Featuring the Temptations. In golden suits. Sure enough. Incredible.
I had bought the album before I noticed it.
This was also way before Youtube would play you back any performance ever. So it took a decade or so until I would see the actual video again. You can have that faster – RIGHT HERE:
Bruce Willis. Singing. If you see this, you are awake. Trust me.
“The Return of Bruno” was Bruce Willis’ first studio album. It was recorded in 1987 – a year BEFORE “Die Hard”, arguably the world’s best action film, turned him into one of Hollywood’s biggest heroes. From today´s perspective, the music album is a surprise; in 1988, however, casting a comedy actor, famous mostly for a detective TV series, for a major action blockbuster was the real surprise. That he sang songs like Under the Boardwalk certainly added to this.