If you’ve never heard of this little 33 RPM record called the Captain Zoom Birthday Song, I feel sort of sorry for you.
This thing was at once one of the great simple pleasures of my life and one of the first pieces of technology that I ever loved.
See, the Captain Zoom Birthday Song was a 33 RPM record that was about as thin as the disk part of an old 5.25″ floppy disk.
It was round (duh) and came in its own little colorful square sleeve.
That’s made it easier to slap between a couple pieces of cardboard and mail it out.
Yeah, it was a mail-order record.
And what was on that record?
Well, I’ll tell you below, where I detail the reasons that the Captain Zoom Birthday Song was the greatest birthday present I ever received.
But if you can’t wait that long or just want some background music while you read on, here you go …
It was a birthday song from the freaking moon!
You know right away when this song starts up that something special is about to happen.
Beeps and blips and rocket engine noises and then that staticky voice counting down.
And then Zoom comes in and tells you his name. Oh, my God … who is named Zoom?
“I live on the moon!”
Zoom lives on the moon. Holy crap!
And he’s come down to earth just to sing me — me! — a tune. Crap on a biscuit!
Zoom said my name! Zoom said my name!
Now get this …
Zoom wasn’t just singin’, he was singin’ my name.
I mean, seriously, Zoom sang my name right there in the song, right after he told me he was a moon man.
How could that happen? And … since he knew my name — sang my name! –did that mean he really did come down to Earth just for me?
The evidence seemed to point that way.
And if that was the case, my future was looking bright. I knew people in high places. I was going places.
Maybe even to the moon.
My hard-ass grandmother gave it to me.
My dad’s mom was part of the Greatest Generation and pumped out her obligatory two Baby Boomer kids after World War II.
But then she went back to work.
In fact, she was the breadwinner for 30 years.
By the time Zoom came to get me, Granny had been a widow for three years, and she was pretty settled into here widow ways.
It all had to be just so, and I was a silly little boy. We had some good times together, but she was tough to please, and she kept you at arm’s length.
We used to do things like drink hot tea from real china at the dining room table and go the art museum and read history books … you know, just what every preschool dude likes to do.
But when she gave me this record and I popped it on the turntable and Zoom said my name, I looked at Granny, and she was beaming.
I knew then, for sure, that she not only loved me, but she liked me a whole heaping bunch, too.
You had to put pennies on the record.
Technology is tough sometimes.
In order to make records that were customizable, wouldn’t break in the mail, printable, and still affordable for the average Granny, they had to be made of lightweight plastic.
Old Zoom was so lightweight that he would fairly fly off the turntable if you didn’t give he some help. Or at least slip like a slipstream.
That help came in the form of pennies put right up close to the peg that poked through the center of the record.
But you couldn’t just slap a penny on there willy-nilly and expect hi-fi sound.
You had to carefully balance the coins round the record to make sure the song sounded just right.
This whole setup fascinated me, and it wasn’t long before I was playing with different penny configurations to see what sorts of sounds I could get Zoom to make
I don’t think Dad was too happy with me fiddling with his stereo like that, but he cut me some slack because …
I was five years old.
This all happened on my fifth birthday, which was my last birthday before I started school. Of course, I didn’t know how profoundly the old classroom grind would change my life, but …
Well, this record helped me live like a man condemned granted a weekend furlough before his Monday execution — even if I didn’t realize it.
When you’re five, everything is new and amazing, and you trust your senses, and your family.
There is a Santa Claus.
And an Easter Bunny.
And your dad is the toughest, strongest sombitch in the whole universe.
Just ask Zoom, who definitely — definitely — came down to earth just to sing me birthday greetings.
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