"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 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.
Over the years we ate alot of Valentino's
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 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 rec room.
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
his 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 speaker cabinets. A large control
panel he had made dominated the room with its size and switches
The Control Panel, circa 1966
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 as great as its size 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 all the
way up by Doug at the end of the song.
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 were stored on the top of the upright
piano in the basement and there was quite a selection (The
Association, Beatles, Beach Boys, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana
Reading Look magazine and listening
to Kim's Harmon Kardon with Dave Clark Headphones, circa 1966.
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 still embedded
in my memory.
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 be given special status
and be called an Our Song.
This designation usually has romantic connotations but all
songs can trigger memories of a particular time or place.
to see the full 1945 Crosley radio-phonograph advertisement,
and other "Our Song" examples
I can't count how many times we played Red
River Rock on that RCA record player but hearing it will
always take me back to the 1960's and the Keister basement.
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 great record.
I'm also certain that none of us would ever
think of it as an "Our Song". We were a group of
teen-age boys in the 1960's and Red River Rock was
really just one of the records we played.
But it is a song that has connections and
Therefore, I call Red River Rock one
of my "Time Travel Songs", i.e., it's a song that
has a special status in my memory banks
that can take me back in time.
I'm sure most people have more than one of
these 'tunes' in their head.
Think about yours:
What are the songs that take you to another
time or place?
Do you have an "Our Song"?
In the end my "Our Song Phenomenon"
story was written for two reasons:
First, I think it's interesting that certain
songs have this 'sticky' quality that can take us back in
time or place
even if we only hear a few bars of the song.
And second, I wrote this "phonograph
recollection" because I enjoy all popular culture connections
to the phonograph, celebrate the phonograph and its legacy,
and look for any excuse to repeat my phonographia truisms
(to the point of sounding like a broken record).
So let's repeat that 'record' one
The Phonograph is an invention that
began a revolution of sound.
The Phonograph created for each of us
seat in the house. Forever"©
On December 6,
take a moment and wish Edison's Phonograph a Happy Birthday!
Its magic is alive.
It's a revolution still turning.
Celebrating the Phonograph, ©1990 Black
Rock - Portraits on the Playa
A Phonograph Recollection, named with a tip of the
hat to Mari Sandoz's The Christmas of the Phonographs Records
- A Recollection
Original Valentino's pizza restaurant, Lincoln, NE 1957 (courtesy
of Valentino's). Val's pizza didn't have delivery service
so before any of us could drive there was a significant dependency
of an adult picking it up on the other side of town. Ordering
was also a challenge. It was common on a Friday or Saturday
that we would start dialing around 4:00 pm to put in an order
and we might get busy signals for an hour or more. There was
a phone in the Keister basement (rotary phone) so this meant
dialing, getting a busy signal and then redialing until we
could get through. There was no auto redial on telephones.
And at Val's there was no putting us "on hold" option.
We actually would take turns doing the dialing until we got
through. Even when we got our order placed it might not be
ready for several hours. In retelling
this pizza ordering process story I'm sure it sounds like
an exaggeration, but it is a true slice from the past. Although
I do believe, as Siegfried Giedion wrote, "The backward
look transforms its object...History cannot be touched without
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
here to watch the definitive example of someone incorporating
memories with their record albums. In the movie High Fidelity,
Rob (played by John Cusask, a record store owner) decides
to reorganize his record albums. How does he do it?: "Chronological?
No...Not alphabetical? Nope...What?...Autobiographical"
- Note: Scene rated R for language
Place in a Song Phenomenon
Other DB Stories - TBU