The physical impact of this song has never left me, the blow it delivered has left red, raised scars on my psyche that are still tender to the touch to this day.
It's the spring of 1982 and I'm all of twelve years old, sitting on the concrete steps of my junior high school. I'm all alone at this moment but that's okay because amongst the group of older kids a few feet away from me someone has a battery-powered radio. The radio's owner fiddles with the static until the sound of an acoustic guitar being rocket-propelled by a crashing drum and bass begins ricocheting around the concrete overhang before being flung out towards the cool blue sky. The dial fiddling stops. Muttered conversation resumes but I'm all hearing, leaning forward like Matt Murdoch perched on a gargoyle high above Hell's Kitchen.
Weaned as I was on folk music, I tune first into that hard-strummed acoustic, then as a lyric devotee I listen to the explosion of words and images but of course it's the chorus with its persuasive count-in ("And I've got 1-2-3-4-5 - senses working overtime") that leaves me struck dumb. I stay still in my sun-lit corner as the song races from fever pitch to fever pitch - it is a song about a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown - till the the song ends and the DJ says, "that was the new XTC song, "Senses Working Overtime". I file that information in my brain, not knowing that it will take up residence there and never leave.
I like to think every music fan has such a never-to-be-forgotten moment, whether it came from Duke Ellington, Willie Nelson, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Radiohead. Hell, if it came to you while listening to Mandy Moore, I say treasure that fucking instant because there's only a too-brief window in a person's life where some piece of music can reach past intellect, experience, fear and social conditioning and just punch your lights out. Believe me when I say that I still hear songs that hit me on a purely visceral level and that music can still be transcendental but moments where the doors of possibilities are battered down and the sun shines enough to warm your face but not enough to burn belong to an earlier, more formative times.