"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 with friends, and over the years we played pool and
played cards and we ate alot of Valentino's pizza in the
Keister rec room.
We also played the phonograph, alot.
The Keister rec room was years later remembered
as "the social center of the dateless" since most
activities were pretty much a guy thing. But we had fun and
one of my strongest memories is the sound of the 45 rpm records
playing on the RCA Victor phonograph that sat in the corner
of that room.
Dave was the oldest Keister brother and he
loved Doris Day and Petula Clark. I can still hear him playing
Doug was the middle son and had a 45 rpm
Italian version of Downtown. For some reason playing
that seemed to irritate Dave.
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, big
15 inch cones inside huge grilled boxes. He had made a custom
control panel while working at ISCO, a local manufacturer,
and it had a lot of switches and lights.
We used to kid Doug about that control panel
because it didn't seem like most of the buttons or lights
did anything. I don't remember the sound being that great
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 extremely loud 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 I remember
his collection of 33 1/3 LPs and his Harmon Kardon component
stereo system (the purchase of which is a story in itself).
I think he had all of the Association albums and I
can still picture all of his record albums neatly lined up
on the top of the upright piano in the basement.
So there was a variety of music coming out
of 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 all of 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 literally played hundreds
of times, which is one way to account for how deeply it's
embedded in my memory.
Remembering music, however, doesn't have
to be based on the number of times you hear a song. I think
everyone has associations with certain songs and that the
source of its memory is varied and can be the first time you
heard a song or the last time or any time in between.
For couples, a song is sometimes given special
status and called an Our
It's music that is remembered, often with
romantic connections or associated with a particular event
to see the full 1945 Crosley radio-phonograph advertisement,
and other "Our Song" examples
I don't know how many years we played Red
River Rock on that RCA Victor record player but hearing
it will always take me back to the 1960's and the Keister
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 fun.
So it's not an "Our Song". But
it is something special. The number of revolutions that record
turned and the countless memories that were part of that room
made me want to give it a designation.
So I now call Red River Rock a Time
Travel Song, a song that triggers memories and takes me
back, in this case with a smile, to a particular time and
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.
For anyone reading my phonograph recollection
I would ask three questions:
Do you have a song that takes you to another
time and place?
Is it a song that you share with someone
as an "Our Song"?
Does it trigger a specific emotion or memory?
Finally, like a broken record I'll repeat
the stuck refrain from the theme song of Friends of the
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
in tribute to Mari Sandoz's The Christmas of the Phonographs
Records - A Recollection")
Click here to listen to exerpt (4.8 MB) from
Click here to listen to exerpt (5.4 MB) from
I'm a Man
Click here to listen to exerpt (5.5 MB) from
Celebrating the Phonograph, ©1990 Black
Rock - Portraits on the Playa