Monday, February 1, 2010

Out of Touch and Out of Gas

Who the hell is Beyoncé?
by Charlie Leck

One of the really cruddy things about getting old is how you lose touch. I turned to the NY Times this morning to read the important news of the world – you know, all the news that fit to print. And there was a headline: BIGGEST HAUL AT GRAMMYS BELONGS TO BEYONCÉ.

Just who the hell is Beyoncé? I hear the name all the time, but I’ve never really heard her (I don’t think). Today, in the newspaper, I got my first really good look at her. Stunning, in a crazy sort of way! So, I took a listen to a You Tube Video – Single Ladies: Put a Ring on it!

So that’s the hot music nowadays, ey? Oh my gosh! Is it as dumb as the stuff we listened to as teenagers? I remember how hot Bobby Vinton was, and how You Are My Special Angel was “our song" when I was a senior in high school! I wonder where she is today! You can hear a more modern recording of the oldie as sung by Tania Depp (to Johnny).

If you weren’t a really cool teenager, as I wasn’t, you were also listening to recordings by Perry Como, like Magic Moments (“…the way that we kissed while taking a hayride...”). Do they do hayrides anymore? My goodness! A hayride with a girl who would hold hands with you was about the end of the world when I was a teenager.

Johnny Mathis singing Chances Are was about as good as it gets. Music was soft and mellow and you could make out every word and they sent chills down your spine when you were standing near your steady girl.

When I think back – way back – on high school days, my most pleasant memories are the music as it streamed through the radio on my ’51 Ford (dark blue, with lots of chrome and skirts and with a foxtail flying from the radio antennae). You drove down Main Street, driving slowly, with the windows down, and Earth Angels by the Penguins was blaring out the window. It was cool and it was beautiful.

Elvis came along toward the end of my high school years and dominated the charts in ’57 and ’58. I liked him okay, but I didn’t want to see the mellow, soft music go away. All Shook Up was at the top of the charts for a good part of my junior year. It was radical music to our parents and they thought we were crazy – as crazy as I think the current teenage generation is.

At the beginning of my senior year, Sam Cooke grabbed the top of the charts with a song we all loved and listened to constantly: You Send Me. And boy, did I have a girl who sent me – straight to heaven on a rocket ship that was as smooth and quiet as a Cadillac, baby.

Then Roger Williams came along, playing the piano and making it sing. Kids don’t have this kind of sheer beauty in their music today. Is there anyone out there old enough to remember him playing Till? When our parents heard Roger playing they thought there was hope for us and that we’d gained back some of our sanity.

Till the moon deserts the sky…
Till all the seas run dry…
Till then I’ll worship you…
Till the tropic sun grows cold

Till this young world grows old…
My darkling I’ll adore you...
You are my reason to live…
All I own I would give, just to have you adore me…

Till the rivers flow upstream
Till lovers cease to dream
Till then I’m yours…
Be mine!
Then, as I was coming down the stretch in high school, approaching graduation day, along came Paul Anka and You Are My Destiny. I can remember traveling to baseball games in the spring and summer of ’58 and listening to this song, blasting out on the cheap radio in the front of the bus. Anka was cool back then and he was so loved that old geezers, like I, still flock to his performances in Vegas.

It all came to end about the time I graduated. Presley was huge and rock and roll took over and the soft and lovely mood songs started disappearing. Danny and the Juniors put an exclamation mark on the era-change with Rock and Roll is Here to Stay! Watch them belt out the proclamation in nicely pressed blazers, crisp dress shirts and very conservative ties. It was about to all change in a big way, but I had managed to graduate during the time of mellow!

When I turned 18, confused and wondering about my future, left broken hearted a couple of times by girls I adored, I could only turn to music for healing. The Big Bopper was singing Chantilly Lace; and Fats Domino jiggled and wiggled out Whole Lotta’ Loving; while Ricky Nelson tried to heal me with Lonesome Town.

There ‘s a place where lovers go to cry their troubles away
And they call it Lonesome Town where the broken hearts stay
You can buy a dream or two, to last you all through the years
And the only price you pay is a heart full of tears

Goin’ down to Lonesome Town, where the broken hearts stay
Goin’ down Lonesome Town, to cry my troubles away
In the town of broken dreams, the streets are filled with regret
Maybe down in Lonesome Town I can learn to forget

Maybe down in Lonesome Town I can learn to forget
I don’t get it. Times have changed too much for me. Girls don’t seem sweet and soft anymore. Guys have too hard an edge. High school was a dreamy, wonderful place where you learned to be nice and where you learned about the sweetness and softness of girls – and also a little math and Shakespeare -- and you got your heart broke-hard. I got out just in time – the Beattles had not yet landed (they wouldn’t perform in America until 1964). Rock n’ Roll was in its infancy and hadn’t taken on its hard, sharp edge yet.

I was born for music like Connie Francis singing Whose Sorry Now?

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