Welcome to my new musical series for 2021, “30 Days, 30 Songs.” Follow me this year as I blatantly steal this Instagram challenge all in the name of good music and good fun. Every other week, I’ll cover one or two or more topics from the list (see here for a refresher), allowing them to percolate over musical memories, nostalgia, and whatever else comes to mind in the moment. And now, gimme a beat boys to free my soul, I wanna get lost in this rock and roll!
Day 3: A song that reminds you of summertime.
That song would be “Overworld Theme 1″ by Koji Kondo from Super Mario Bros. 3.
I don’t remember exactly when my family first got an NES. I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t anywhere near when the system was first released, and I am fairly certain that it was a Christmas present. I also don’t remember us ever having a huge cache of games for the system, but I absolutely do remember that among the games we did have for it was Super Mario Bros. 3. And boy oh boy, did I play the ever-loving shit outta that game!
I mean that in a nice way, because Super Mario Bros. 3 was my jam for most of my formative gaming years. I quickly fell in love with it on the NES, and then I fell back in love with it thanks to the Super Mario All-Stars compilation for the SNES. Although I enjoyed playing both the original game and Super Mario Bros. 2, I never found the in them the same level of comfort and joy that I attain through Super Mario Bros. 3. Maybe that was because of Mario’s racoon suit, or maybe it was all due to all the happy, happy clouds. Or maybe, and more likely, it was thanks to the game’s incredible soundtrack. If I could list all the songs here, I would, but I picked “Overworld theme 1” because it stands out to me as one of the most upbeat and sunniest songs on the soundtrack.
It also conjures up a million memories of several late 80s/early 90s summers over which me and my siblings played “pass the controller” as we attempted to beat the game one…more…time. All with our mom yelling at us to get outside and play in the fresh air! Which we did, reluctantly sometimes.
As much fun as that was, my persistently-stubborn self (a gaming trait I retain to this day) wanted to beat the game solo. This wasn’t an easy task, because when one of us wanted to play the NES, all of us did. So, one particular summer, I started seeking out times to play when I knew the NES wouldn’t be occupied, namely late at night and early in the morning. My late-night attempts didn’t take hold, because I’ve never been much of a night-owl, but playing in the very early morning before the rest of the family awoke worked out great. I was “caught” and chastised a few times by my parents, especially my mother, as she hated us spending too much time in front of the TV, but I managed to beat Super Mario Bros. 3 all myself a couple times that summer. I’d call that a victory.
When we got our Switch and had temporary access to its NES collection if games, I gave Super Mario Bros. 3 another try. And when I did, that one summer and its early, early mornings came rushing back to the forefront of my mind. I remembered the exciting of having the NES all to myself, if only for a short time. I remembered having to walk quietly down our creaky stairs, mostly so as to not scare our rambunctious dog. I remembered how wonderful to was to hear that classic Mario music and see those classic Mario shapes flash across our old TV for which the remote was almost always lost. I remembered always mixing up the NES channel with that to which the VCR was connected. Yes, I was tired. I remembered getting a lot less sleep that summer, but it was totally worth it.