While children and teenagers across the land were secretly reading books by flashlight under the covers, I was covertly listening to the radio. My parents were none the wiser, thanks to a plastic yellow box — the Sony Sports Walkman.
With the Walkman came the ability to listen without creating noise through the stereo. This meant I could lie in the darkness of my room while my parents watched television downstairs. (But don’t tell them. I don’t want to get in trouble.)
The Sony Walkman changed how we listened to music. You could be in a room full of people and individually enjoy your tunes. No one knew if you were rocking out to Henry Rollins or loving on Lionel Richie. The notes were just for you.
At night, the radio became a jungle of new sounds. Nationally syndicated shows, deemed “too mature” for younger audiences, grabbed airtime late at night. The doctors suddenly took over the airwaves — from Dr. Demento to Dr. Ruth. My local college radio station — Siena College’s WVCR 88.3 FM — turned up the heat in the evening, pulling out new songs and obscure artists.
Music isn’t just something I listened to, I devoured it. My ever-present friend whacked me over the head with the punk scene, introduced me to new wave depression and snuck in a random rock ballad once in a while.
I was able to step into a different ecosystem of music and culture thanks to Sony. While friends were bopping to Tiffany, I was hanging with King Crimson. While classmates were swooning over Wham!, I was angry with early U2. Those late night rendezvous with my Walkman radically changed how I viewed the world. It transplanted me from my sleepy suburbia to a thriving urban oasis of sound.
I can’t even imagine how my mind would have been molded without the eye-opening tunes of emerging artists and underground amateurs. So thank you little yellow box. You rocked my world.