Here’s a midsummer night’s tearjerker for you: it’s about a long term, long distance romance between boy and song that would be virtually impossible, or at the very least, far less poetic and tragic and ultimately wonderful in this day and age when anyone can hear a song on the radio, or see it on TV, and then instantly download it from the ether and have it at his beck and call, to be enjoyed at any moment. Thanks to iTunes, it’s easy these days to take even the most obscure song for granted. There was a time when music was more elusive than that, when you might hear a song on the radio, or see it on the TV, fall in love with it, and then… never hear it again. And never hear from the band that made that song again.

So that maybe, years and years later, you might remember that song, remember the name of the song, remember the name of the band – you might only remember a shred of lyric or a hint of melody, but you almost certainly remember how the song felt – how, for four minutes, the song touched some nerve in your body that lit up some otherwise dark alley of your soul and made you feel excitement and loss in equal measure, as if it were the last night at the County Fair with the warm smell of deep fryers and livestock, the midway lit up in a kaleidoscope of colors in motion, people scrambling to get their tickets for one last go-round on the Ferris Wheel with their boy or girlfriend before the whole shebang gets dismantled and carried over to the next county or carnival. And as your memory of that sweet, sweet musical moment fades, and as further evidence of your experience of that song fails to materialize, you start to think that maybe you just imagined that song – maybe it never really existed – maybe you just dreamt it.

It was a desolate summer afternoon, the summer before I started high school, that I first encountered one such song. It was called “No Conversation” and it was by a British soul ensemble called A View from the Hill. I remember seeing the video for it aired on VH-1, at a time when both MTV and VH-1 played music most of the time, and VH-1 was mainly dedicated to music for MTV viewers’ stay-at-home moms. It was a stylish and simply shot performance video intercut with fragmented scenes of an interracial love triangle. The band was interracial too, and beautiful in both sound and vision, with three singers – two middle-aged looking men and a woman in an African turban – and the song had a chorus that gave me goosebumps: Sweet Love, that look on my face is so-orrow… And when they modulated the chorus up a key at the end, I remember choking back 8th Grade tears.

I fell deeply in love with the “No Conversation” the first time I saw it, but I never saw the video again, never heard the song on the radio – the song never charted here. I never saw another video by the group, and was never able to track down their album in a record store. My experience of the song was almost like a UFO sighting – something mindblowing and momentous that I wanted to tell the world about, only no one would believe me. A View from the Hill disappeared from my life – and perhaps, the world – as quickly and unexpectedly as they had arrived, never to be seen again.

A View from the Hill were essentially a soul supergroup formed in London in the mid-80s (at a time when “British soul” meant neatly coiffed white boys like Paul Young and Breathe’s David Glasper) by singer-songwriter Patrick Patterson, formerly of the early 70s progressive funk-fusion band Cymande, and bassist Trevor White, a veteran session musician whose resume included work with a Who’s Who of reggae artists. And their sound, so far as I can tell was a slightly exoticized adult contemporary pop ‘n’ soul vibe that appealed (or at least should have) as much to fans of Atlantic Starr as it did to fans of the Thompson Twins. (I was a fan of both.) How the song eluded the attention of radio programmers is beyond me. And what became of A View from the Hill? No clue here. But maybe that’s as it should be. This is a romance after all.

For most of the last 20 years, I’ve scoured the shelves of used record stores for anything by the band, and their debut album In Time is one of the last few albums I might describe as holy-grail unattainable even though a quick glance at shows several copies for sale on both CD and vinyl, selling for about 40 bucks a pop. At this point in my life, I’m fortunate to have the financial means to (occasionally) spend that kind of money on a single CD and even if I were back, stuck in that rural Wisconsin town I grew up in with no car, the internet has made it possible to buy a record – any record – without setting foot in a store. There’s nothing stopping me from doing it. Except, perhaps, that it might dishonor my romance with the song. Something about it makes me want to “find” it again. To be reunited. To have that moment where we see each other across a field of tall grass and run to each other and fall into an ecstatic, slow motion embrace. It could happen. Of course, I’d settle for a good reissue. Even if I had to pay import prices. (EMI, are you listening?)