Champagne Jam

Atlanta Rhythm Section

1978: PolyGram/Polydor 829 662-2

  1. Large Time
  2. I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight
  3. Normal Love
  4. Champagne Jam
  5. Imaginary Lover
  6. The Ballad of Lois Malone
  7. The Great Escape
  8. Evileen

For years a number of tracks I used to hear on the radio while growing up in Walla Walla have found their way back into my head like patient ghosts, knowing that now thanks to the Internet I could both find and acquire copies of most of them. One of these was “Imaginary Lover,” and another was “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight.” What I didn’t know was that they were both by the same group, as are probably a couple of others I’ve always distantly known and liked; I had the same reaction to getting the Gerry Rafferty “best of” CD Clowns to the Left, Jokers to the Right a couple of years ago. “HE did THAT song??”

My attachments to those two songs are distinct from each other, as was the memory of the tracks. “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight” struck a sympathetic chord in me, I suppose, even then, but now I have a stronger attenuation to it…not only that, but I find that when I sing it myself I have an almost cathartic experience in singing the line “and the rats keep winning the rat race,” even though the days of that cutthroat inhumanity in business have faded a fair amount in the days since this song came out (and believe me they got far worse in the 1980s, after this). To even merely acknowledge frustration via song can be a huge relief sometimes.

As for “Imaginary Lover,” not only was it a cool, dark, grungy song, but it was gender-neutral. And that, I suppose, helped my teenage ears mishear one bit of the lyric that could furthermore be read at least a couple of ways. What was sung in the chorus was “Imaginary lover / imaginary lover / you’re mine, anytime.” But my ears heard “you’re mine” as “your man,” resulting in an interesting and never necessarily resolved relational dynamic I still quite like. Am I hearing it sung to/about me by some fantasy man? Am I singing it myself, voiced by Rodney Justo here, to someone? Or is it some entirely unrelated, abstract scenario, as is probably the case? The cocktail of possibilities and responses keeps this track a personal favorite with me.