This morning, southbound on I-65, my satellite radio was tuned to "The Sixties on Six" with Phlash Phelps, the sun was a brilliant yellow against a flawless blue sky, and the interstate miles were melting away like a Dairy Dip vanilla swirl cone on a muggy July afternoon. And let me tell you something that I suspect you already know: it's doggone hard to feel down when you've got the Sixties up and blasting from eight, nicely balanced Bose speakers. You know what I'm talking about.
Humanity has been obsessed with time travel since the beginning of, well, time. And who doesn't know that the best conduit for traveling through time is music, and I just happen to be irrevocably connected to the Sixties. Call it my hamartia. Call it my passion. Call it living in the past.
Where else can you begin a decade with Chubby Checker's "The Twist," peaking at number one on the Billboard 100 on September 24, 1960 and listen while it fades into static with The Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Women," Billboard's top hit on August 23, 1969? And, oh my goodness, think about all the chock-full-of-greatness in between.
It was a Remember When kind of morning.
Percy Faith's violin-y rendering of "The Theme From 'A Summer Place'" finds a skinny, freckled face kid lined up at the Lincoln Theatre waiting for a ticket to see a steamy movie, at least by 1960's standards. Then emerging from the cool, dark theatre a couple of hours later, a little wiser but a lot more confused. What did my innocence just witness? Adultery and teenage sex? Pregnancy out of wedlock? Whew! All that education and I have to return to the seventh grade at Robert E. Lee on Monday? Couldn't get that boathouse and Sandra Dee off my mind, though. Sandra Dee. Oh my. Blonde, beautiful, and promiscuous. Where do you go after Sandra Dee?
A year later, "Runaround Sue" (I wouldn't find out about those hussies for a few years yet) and the bompa-bebomp ding a dong dang of "Blue Moon" in 1962 found my inner adolescent and my outer teenager duking it out for control of my mind and my body. I don't remember the victor but I recall the casualties. (And I thought my parents were the ones with a problem.)
The summer of '63 arrived and Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs (why don't we have names like that anymore?) introduced me to a crazy little shack beyond the tracks. I'm not sure that I was suave and debonair enough to know about coffee houses and expresso, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't have minded meeting that barefooted gal in black leotards, given the chance. Yeah, whoa baby, I gotta get back to the Sugar Shack. And Sandra Dee? Sorry, sweetie, go back to Troy. You're ancient history.
If you're still with me on this little time travel, and age appropriate, you might agree that the music of 1964 was a perfect match for the angst and uncertainty that stalks a high school freshman. Let's face it, we've got the Beatles coming at us across the Atlantic like a fully armed destroyer, wanting, for some strange reason, to hold our hands. Then you've got our homies, The Righteous Brothers, striking back with one of the world-class slow dance anthems, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," the Animals introducing us to a New Orleans brothel in "House of the Rising Sun," while the Drifters and the Four Tops are trying their best to keep us stateside and focused on basic colonist rock and roll, with "Under the Boardwalk" and "Baby I Need Your Loving." Slowly losing ground to the Hermits, the Zombies, and the Kinks. (I'm telling you, there's something in the names!)
That year and the following, 1965, were landmark years for a teenager battling raging pimples and rampant testosterone. Out with Post Office and Spin the Bottle (Google it, Millenials!) and in with heavy petting and fogging up the windows on the pep bus. Those were "first real girlfriend" years. Well, maybe "first real girlfriends" years. The invasion from England was going full force with a new mop-headed group almost every week. It was tough dancing to "I'm Henery the Eighth, I Am" and "Do You Believe in Magic," but we tried. February, '65 finds me California bound in the back of a gold Cadillac thinking "I'll Never Find Another You" and "Save Your Heart for Me" as my first "first real girlfriend" fades in the rearview, not realizing that my second, third, and fourth "first real girlfriends" were waiting for me 2000 miles to the west. Where The Beach Boys were already extolling the virtues (or lack thereof) of "California Girls." Sandra who?
My senior year in southern California hurtled by like a goofy-footed surfer on a runaway wave and suddenly it's May, 1966 and graduation night at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. An up and coming group calling themselves The Association (sounds like a prequel to the CIA) previewed their first hit, "Cherish." Then as the clock struck midnight and the dancing got slow enough and close enough to make the chaperones loudly clear their throats, Percy Sledge began to wail "When a Man Loves a Woman." Whew! Hey, is it possible to be seventeen and NOT in love? Or at least in lust?
Back to Tennessee in the same gold Cadillac that spirited me away (after a surprise layover with a busted radiator hose in the Mojave Desert about sixty miles outside of Barstow), being serenaded by Neil Diamond, The Mommas and the Poppas, the Troggs, and Question Mark and the Mysterians (I ask again: why don't we have names like that anymore?) Older, just slightly wiser, and ready for the next adventure.
For those of you still with me, I don't know about you, but for me, '67 and '68 were blurs. The Beatles hit their Magical Mystery Tour days. Jefferson Airplane freaked us out with "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love." The Doors lit our fires and Jimi Hendrix added a little purple to our already thick haze. I surrendered to my hormones and became a newlywed, a fact that I'm certain still causes my first wife to have rapid eye blinks and night sweats. Can't say I blame her. You can only get so much mileage out of "Dedicated to the One I Love."
1969 marked the end of the decade and the end of my prolonged childhood. I'm pretty sure at age 20 I was past due some growing up, so Uncle Sam sent me a letter and took me to live with him a couple of years. Lots of people grew up at the end of the glorious Sixties. The war in Vietnam raged on even as the Fifth Dimension were clamoring for peace to rule the planets and for everyone to "Let the Sunshine In." The Beatles continued to hang in with "Get Back" and "Come Together" while, who would have thunk it, Elvis Presley gets up off the mat in the 15th round with "Suspicious Minds" and "In the Ghetto." That year managed to mesh everything that had happened during the nine before it. It was a hodgepodge of musical styles, a cornucopia of musical tastes: the sexy rasp of Bob Dylan on "Lay, Lady, Lay," the nostalgic "Hurt So Bad" by the sweater-wearing Lettermen, the sticky sweet bubble gummy "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies, the hippie ballad "Hair," and the futuristic, eclectic "In the Year 2525." It was something for everyone, as if the decade was making a peace offering and leaving everyone a nice parting gift. Wrapped tightly and sealed by a groovy little happening on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. Goodbye Sixties. You did it up right.
But back to this morning...fifty years later...on the interstate...Sixties on Six...the miles melting, the memories flashing, fingers tapping, shoulders snapping. Oh, did I dance in my car a little bit! Yeah, baby. I did! Watch this. A little Swim, a little Jerk, a little Boog-aloo. Dancing like nobody was watching. Uh-huh...until I glanced over at the fast lane and saw someone was watching. A trucker. Watching and laughing. Uncontrollably. But, not to worry. It's all good.
Like I said, for a Boomer, the best pick-me-up is solid dose of the coolest music this side of heaven. You can keep your anti-depressants, postpone the therapy session, and open the flaps on the sweat lodge. Instead, I'll take a dozen CCR, a couple of Tommy James and the Shondells, and a six-pack of The Temptations. Then you can throw in a little Strawberry Alarm Clock and Vanilla Fudge for dessert, and I'm there, baby.
Yeah, baby... Strawberry Alarm Clock and Vanilla Fudge! Now those were the days!
By the way, have I asked why we don't have names like that anymore?