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The Adolescent Frame: On the Loss of J. Geils

April 12, 2017

News of the death of J. Geils took me all the way back to 1980—meaning to the fourth grade at Chapel Hill Elementary, to George Brett trying to hit .400, to Wiffleball with a neighbor named Scott, the Cub Scouts, and to Jimmy Carter. The world was suddenly getting larger for me.

The J. Geils Band provided three songs that helped carry me through those years and into middle school: Love Stinks, Freeze-Frame, and Centerfold. It was just pop music, but in that period my adolescent mind worshipped snappy radio hits. Those songs, and many others, offered little bits of lousy poetry about topics I hardly understood, but the music also became a soundtrack for lazy days—the kind only kids can have.

Proof that my memory of The J. Geils was frozen in an adolescent frame is that I had zero knowledge, until last night, of their pre-1980s blues and blues-oriented music. That part of their history, evident in songs like “Floyd’s Hotel,” “Orange Driver,” and “Give It To Me,” most certainly appeals to my adult self.

The mind of an adolescent exists in the wonderful imperative of “the now.” That is its virtue, but also its vice. The adult mind can drift in opposite directions–resenting the oppression of the present, but also indulging in wasteful/restful nostalgia. The mature mind unpacks everything while wandering around its subject matter, but the adolescent mind retains a wonderful focus. What the virtues and vices of the adult mind, I’m glad to have discovered the pre-1980s music of the J. Geils Band. – TL

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