The summer of 1989 was truly one of the most memorable times for movies. I was 13 and can vividly remember watching many films in the theater, five in particular that were released in June. It all began with No Holds Barred on June 2 which was a big deal for WWF wrestling fans like me. Then on June 16, I got to see the return of the Ghostbusters in Ghostbusters II. The following week was the highly anticipated Batman and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (which I likely saw a few weeks later.) Then wrapping up the month was the return of Daniel Larusso in Karate Kid Part III. It was quintessentially the perfect time for a kid who was on the verge of entering high school and wanted to hold on to his elementary days for one more summer.
Of all the movies I watched that summer, Batman was the one that impacted me the most. I had early childhood connections to the original Ghostbusters and Karate Kid films, but Batman was who I watched many days after school via reruns of the 1966 TV show. Now Batman was at the movies and his logo was everywhere! Cereal boxes, T-shirts, Video games, Taco Bell cups, Toys, and Trading cards were just a few places.
And while the merchandise became more of a response from watching the movie in the theater, Prince’s Batman album and specifically the single “Batdance” was the ultimate earworm to trigger repeat viewings. Released a week prior to the movie, “Batdance” was one of the first songs (if not THE first) to feature audio clips taken from the movie itself. This ploy was perhaps the most genius marketing tool in a time when movie clips only came from At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert and Entertainment Tonight. And while I don’t remember if I did see it more than once in the theater, I certainly pretended I was the Caped Crusader while listening to the song and yelling “Stop!” at the Batmobile or introducing myself “Hi, Bruce Wayne.”
My music experience at this time consisted of a one speaker boombox and stack of cassettes. I didn’t own many albums and thanks to my mom’s love of 45 record singles, I generally bought cassette singles or “cassingles” for myself as they were cheaper. With nothing but a Batman logo on the sleeve, I went right for the “Batdance” cassingle and wore it out. The B side of the tape was “200 Balloons,” basically an extended version of the first part of Batdance’s two rhythmic elements. Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time rewinding the tape to replay “Batdance.”
At this time, I had been a Boy Scout for a couple years. Later that summer after the movie had been released, I spent a week at Camp Mountain Run with my troop who were mainly my school friends. How much did I love listening to “Batdance?” Yep, you guessed it. In my long army duffel bag full of clothes and essentials for the week, I stashed my boombox with a fresh set of C batteries and the “Batdance” cassingle. It didn’t take long for me to show off my contraband to my tentmate and before my boombox could breathe, my Scoutmaster confiscated it. That’s right, for five whole days I was bat-blocked and couldn’t “Get the Funk Up!” or laugh at Ducky “sticking the 7-inch in the computer.”
Luckily, the summer of Batman continued after I earned my wilderness survival badge and made an engraved leather belt. My boombox and “Batdance” cassingle were returned and somehow I’ve still managed to keep my cassingle after 30 years. And while I better appreciate the entire Batman album (and Danny Elfman’s soundtrack) today, “Batdance” will always stand out because it’s my conduit to that week at Boy Scout camp in the summer of 1989.
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