"Our Song" Phenomenon - A Phonograph Recollection*
I grew-up in a suburb of Lincoln, Nebraska
called Eastridge. Our house had a basement with a recreation
room, more commonly called the rec room. We had shuffleboard
"triangles" inlaid into our tiled basement floor
and it provided occasional entertainment. But the real fun
was up the street at the Keister's.
There were three Keister boys and their ages
were all within five years of each other so it was easy for
me to knock on their door and find someone to play with. It
was the 1960's and you would play with friends, not
hang out with friends, and over the years we ate alot of Valentino's
pizza in the Keister rec room while we played pool and
played cards and played board games.
We also played the phonograph.
The Keister rec room at the time could have
accurately been called "the social center of the dateless"
since most activities were pretty much a guy thing. But we
had fun and one of my distinct memories is the sound of 45
rpm records playing on the RCA Victor record player that sat
in the corner of the basement.
Dave was the oldest Keister brother and he
loved Doris Day and Petula Clark. I can still hear him playing
his 45 rpm of Downtown.
Doug was the middle son and he also had a
45 rpm record of Downtown. However, it was an Italian
version of Downtown and for some reason playing that
record seemed to irritate Dave. Which is obviously why Doug
liked to play it.
Doug's bedroom was in the basement and in
that room he had built what you would have to call a monster
sound system. The speakers were Voice of the Theatre 15 inch
cones inside two huge grilled boxes. He had made a large custom
control panel that dominated the room with its size and many
switches and lights.
We used to kid Doug about that control panel
because it seemed like most of the buttons and lights didn't
do anything. I don't remember the sound being that great either
but it had power and he could crank it up, much to the displeasure
of his parents. As I recall the Yardbirds' I'm a Man
was always turned up to the extreme by Doug at the end of
I can still hear Mrs. Keister yelling down
the staircase "Turn down that music!"
Kim was closest to my age and he had a quite
a few 33 1/3 LPs that he played on his Harman Kardon component
stereo system (the purchase of which is a story in itself).
I remember his albums (The Association, Beatles, Beach Boys,
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, etc.) at one point were
neatly lined up on the top of the upright piano in the basement
and it covered more than a few octaves.
All in all there was a variety of music heard
in that basement: "de gustibus non est disputandum"
as the Romans would say (there's no accounting for taste).
But if I was to name one song that I connect
with those record playing days and nights it has to be the
45rpm Red River Rock by Johnny and the Hurricanes.
It's a record that we played over and over,
which is one way to account for how deeply it's embedded in
Remembering a song, however, doesn't have
to be based on the number of times you hear it. I think everyone
has associations with certain songs and why a particular song
is remembered can have many reasons.
For couples a song can even be given special
status and be called an Our
Song. This designation can be based on romantic connections
or perhaps remembered for something that happened at a particular
time or place when it was heard.
to see the full 1945 Crosley radio-phonograph advertisement,
and other "Our Song" examples
I don't know how many times we played Red
River Rock on that record player but hearing it will always
take me back to the 1960's and the Keister basement.
And it's interesting because I don't associate
Red River Rock with any special moment or the fact that anyone
in our group actually thought Red River Rock was a
I'm also certain that none of us would now
call it an "Our Song." We were a group of teen-age
boys, in the 1960's, and Red River Rock was just part
of the atmosphere.
So for me it's not an "Our Song"
but it seems it should have some destinction. Which is why
I now call Red River Rock a
Time Travel Song since it's a song that can
trigger memories and take me back, in this case with a smile,
to another time and place.
And just like selecting a record from the
jukebox, Red River Rock can be played in my head whenever
I think of it, transporting me in a way only music can.
I'll conclude my phonograph recollection
with three questions:
Do you have a song that takes you to another
time or place?
Is it a song that you share with someone
as an "Our Song"?
Does it trigger a specific emotion or memory?
And like a broken record I'll repeat the
needle stuck refrain from the theme song of Friends of
The Phonograph is an invention that began
a revolution of sound.
The Phonograph gave us recorded music that
can be replayed as often as you want.
The Phonograph created for each of us the
"Best seat in the house. Forever."
On December 6,
take a moment and wish Edison's Phonograph a Happy Birthday!
It's an invention worth remembering.
Its magic is alive.
It's a revolution still turning.
* A Phonograph Recollection, named
with a tip of the hat to Mari Sandoz's The Christmas of
the Phonographs Records - A Recollection")
Click here to listen to exerpt (4.8 MB) from
Rock, Johnny and the Hurricanes
Click here to listen to exerpt (5.4 MB) from
I'm a Man, The
Click here to listen to exerpt (5.5 MB) from
Click here to listen to Italian version of
Celebrating the Phonograph, ©1990 Black
Rock - Portraits on the Playa