Growing up in the late 50s and 60s in a small town in the rural Midwest the places one could “hang out” were few. The pool hall was too adult and I was chased from, and pulled from (by angry parents), that sacred hall many times.
By the time my hormonal rich teenage years washed over me the only place for me to go was Mary’s Beehive, Dairy Bar and Sandwich Shop. It was Mecca. As soon as you stepped in the door you encountered the symbol of our age, the jukebox. Pouring out of the speakers were the songs of our time, the poetry of our time, the beat and sounds that defined us.
I was reminded of that the other day when I saw an online reference to women artists of early “rock and roll” and a specific reference to a song from the early rock and roll era by the Crystals. The song was: “Then He Kissed Me.”
I “YouTubed” the song and suddenly I was leaning up against the jukebox at Mary’s Beehive, thinking about my first kiss. I thought long and hard, was it Margaret or Lois, that first kiss, when and where?
As I thought about that first kiss, I thought about all of the songs of those days, the days of innocence and not so innocent youth. The songs that were our poetry.
The first verse of the “Then He Kissed Me,” goes like this:
Well, he walked up to me and he asked me if I wanted to dance
He looked kinda nice and so I said I might take a chance
When he danced he held me tight
And when he walked me home that night
All the stars were shining bright
And then he kissed me.
Then I thought what if we were to take the titles and first lines of some of those songs and put them all together? What would it look like?
A Fool Such as I, Then He Kissed me.
That’ll be the Day, Dream Lover, Leader of the Pack,
The Great Pretender, Devil or Angel?, Jailhouse Rock.
Donna, Paperback Writer, Save the Last Dance for Me.
Hey, Hey Paula, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
My Girl, My Boyfriend’s Back, A Hard Day’s Night,
Tears on My Pillow, Every Beat of my Heart, Poison Ivy,
Soldier Boy, Pretty Woman, Blueberry Hill,
Mr. Lonely, Chantilly Lace, and Then He Kissed Me.
Can you hear the music of these songs? Do you remember The Platters, Ritchie Valens, Elvis, Paul Anka, Bobby Vee, Fats Domino, The Drifters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Crystals, the Shangrilas, the Beatles, the Shirelles, the Marvelettes, the Temptations, Little Anthony, Bobby Vinton, and Roy Orbison?
As I was walking down memory lane, listening to the YouTube recordings of these songs and these artists, I returned to my hometown. I was there at Mary’s Beehive. I was across the street at the City Hall for the Friday night dance. I was riding up and down the Main Street. I was working up the courage to ask someone to dance. And the memories merged with the music. I watched as Mrs. Paddolla walked the dance floor checking to see if we were dancing without space between us. Sometimes she would see if a piece of typing paper would pass between us, the ultimate close test.
The faces of the teenagers of my youth passed before my eyes. The names flashed by as an endless loop, a memory associated with each name and face. And with each memory a song, a dance, a moment, frozen in time!
So I invite you to the dance floor. No matter what years you found yourself in front of jukebox, no matter what years you found yourself on a dance floor, pick up your pen, open your computer, write a story about the songs and the people you were with when you danced the night away.