Have you ever asked yourself, were the good old days really that good? In my case, the answer is yes. For whatever reasons, I’ve been thinking about my college years and what a colossal waste of time they were. I was an art major. I was, what a shock this is going to be, into abstract painting. The abstracter-er the better-er. In fact, I often “painted” without any paint, preferring crayons, tube calk, candle wax and various types of artificial lichens for my pallet. As one might guess, I have sold exactly one painting in my life, and that was for a grand total of twenty-five dollars. Bringing me right up and even in lifetime revenue with Vincent van Gogh, Impressionist/Fauvist (1853-1890). Plus, I still have both of my ears intact. And that is where my tale begins.
During my senior year, every afternoon I would head over to a fellow art student’s apartment. Her name was “Jackie” (name changed to protect the somewhat innocent). Kind of a nut case to be honest, but a good one. Or, at least not a bad one. Harmless really. Our daily ritual involved two sacred items. One was alcohol. Usually Mickey’s but often exotic intoxicas chosen, often according to color. The other was watching the “Sha Na Na” television series (1977-1981) on KTLA local Channel 5 at 3:00pm PST.
Just so we are clear, we never slept together, I think we might have kissed once by accident (and certainly not on the lips) and when by pure happenstance I saw her naked, it was disturbing to say the least. So, it was not about that. It was about something else. Something, I dare say far more lasting and meaningful.
It was about music. I remember one time when the two of us decided to go to a “blue” theme and ended up buying a fairly-inexpensive Elvis inspired Blue Hawaiian Mix to go with the bottle of Captain Morgan Rum that somehow escaped the week-end party madness normally associated with Chez Jackie. I’m not even sure either of us knew where the Good Captain had sailed in from or why it was there, but one does not look such providence in the gifted horses’ mouth right?
As the drinks and the silliness flowed, John “Bowzer” Bauman (1947-Present) flashed his trademark open mouth arm muscle black shirt silhouette sideshot and the musical extravaganza began. 1950’s doo-wop was not on the endless playlist of most of our fellow art student’s musical taste chart. But it was on ours. And we discovered gem after gem that neither of us had ever heard before. “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes (1958), “Little Darlin’” by the Diamonds (1957), and “Blue Moon” by the Marcels (1961) come to mind. Wonderful, timeless tracks of musical innocence, bliss and representing the longing for a simpler, better time when nothing more than cruising the boulevard with the radio on was the thing to do.
On this boozy-bloozy afternoon, we noticed each other’s tongues were turning blue. So, we immediately started a who has the bluer tongue contest. A drinky-poo show and tell as it were. So here were two drunk as a Trappist monk-skunk college students pulling their tongues out at each other saying, “Mine’s bluer than yours!” “Yes it is!” and of course “No it isn’t!” Setting off yet another round of down the hatch Blue Hawaii Elvis with a flower lei cheer, ever bluer tongues and an ever-fading but remarkable warm drift into semi-consciousness.
I remember the “feature” ending song of the day was Dion & The Belmonts “Teenager in Love” (1959). By this time, the two of us were both lying on the carpet, as was our common MO. Then, something sounded good. Great intro, cue the vocals. “Each time we have a quarrel it almost breaks my heart.” My head on the floor, I opened my eyes looking as luck would have it directly into Jackie’s eyes. She was a Brown Eyed Girl. Van Morrison (1967). Without a word, we both knew immediately we had found yet another musical gem. That’s when it happened. Jackie in all her soppy-sloppy barely conscious state of fermented fruit and sugar-induced prom night heaven, leaned over and said, “We should start a band.” And we did.
I could play a little guitar, Jackie picked up a light blue bass at a pawn shop, we found a drummer who couldn’t drum and the three of us became “Del Rey & The Sun Kings”. We got our first gig I think playing at a frat party. We were a hit. We didn’t know why. Not then, not now. We ended up getting one more show before the band broke up. Creative differences you know. Couldn’t decide who was better, Elvis, (1935-1977) did you know he wore size 10 shoes? Fats Domino (1928-2017), Chuck Berry (1926-2017) or Little Richard RIP (1932-2020). It was a world where the Beatles had yet to exist. Who needed the four fop-tops when you had Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps? I know, a little out of the Rock & Roll camp, but the un-deniability of “Be Bop a Lula” (1956) is, undeniable.
As with all romanticized stories, this too ends without an actual ending. Graduation came and went with all of us scattering into the Four Seasons Frankie Valli (1934-present) wind. Me? I ended up getting a day-time job in a letterpress print shop and playing in bands for the next ten years, with different degrees of whatever passed for modest at best success, mostly the cache to demand two free drink tickets per night.
So, when I say, “I don’t care what people say, ‘Rock & Roll is Here to Stay” Danny & The Juniors (1958) you’ll know what I mean. * Some memories being better than others, these I will cherish forever. Thank you, Jackie (you with the pill-box hat), wherever you are.
*I’m playing the “American Graffiti” Soundtrack as we speak.
Did you get your fill of Phil?