I am going to admit something pretty embarrassing, and I hope you don’t judge me too harshly for it. Here it is: I only just recently realized that Marky Mark, of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, is Mark Wahlberg. I thought I knew Mark Wahlberg pretty well, hell, I’ve seen him in his underwear!
After that, I felt like there weren’t many secrets Mark was keeping from me. Little did I know that he was once a Billboard sensation of a different kind.
“How could you have missed this,” you might ask. “Do you live under a rock?” No, but I did live under a roof where we only listened to one radio station: Oldies 100. So until 1996, when I got my first Sony Dream Machine clock radio, pop music was lost on me.
For the first ten years of my life, I was completely oblivious to the music that was shaping the childhood of everyone around me. “Do I like Salt-N-Pepa? Yeah but I usually don’t need to add it to my food because my mom cooks with plenty of flavor already.” I’m sure my ignorance of pop music was embarrassing at the time, but I didn’t even know that I didn’t know it, so I didn’t mind. Once I started understanding that people were making references to things I had never heard of because I was too busy listening to The Temptations, I started to worry. It felt a little like waking up from a ten-year coma and having no idea what had happened. Except I didn’t even have a coma to blame my ignorance on, just my love of Doo-Wop and Motown.
So I’d do my best to play along by smiling, nodding, and quickly changing the subject before I could say something stupid. Even after years of playing catch up, I still haven’t fully recovered my lost knowledge of 90s pop culture. My dark secret comes back to haunt me every time a 90s classic plays at a party or bar. “This is how we do it,” rings through the air and a collective gasp of excitement and joy escapes from the crowd. Except for me. I’m thinking, “Aw, crap,” as I brace myself for four minutes of some dodgy lip-synching and wonder why the DJ couldn’t have played “Kokomo” or “The Loco-motion” instead.