Doug Boilesen  

Memories of the Phonograph

The "Our Song" Phenomenon - A Phonograph Recollection (1)


By Doug Boilesen

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 pizza (2) in the Keister rec room while we played pool and played cards and played board games.





We also played the phonograph...alot.

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. He called it "The Machine." The speakers were Voice of the Theatre,15 inch cones inside two huge speaker cabinets. The large control panel Doug had made dominated the room with its size and numerous switches and lights.


The Control Panel, circa 1966


We use 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 alot of Watts 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 (e.g., The Association, Beatles, Beach Boys, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, etc.) and he played them on his Harman Kardon component stereo system (the purchase of which is documented by Kim as a story in itself).




Reading Look magazine and listening to Kim's Harman 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). (3)

But if I was to name one song that I connect with those record playing days and nights it has to be the 45 RPM 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.


"You been playing that SAME record ALL DAY!"

Harvey, October 1970



"You kids musta played that noisy record a million times!!"

Kathy, August 1961

That embedded sticking of a tune, often called an "earworm," doesn't have to be based on the number of times you hear a song. Associations we have with certain songs can have many sources.

For couples a song can be given special status, an Our Song. This designation usually has romantic connotations but all songs can trigger memories of a particular time or place.


Click here to see the full 1945 Crosley radio-phonograph advertisement, and other "Our Song" examples


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 for me it's a song that has connections and triggers memories and takes me back to the Keister basement.

I call Red River Rock one of my "Time Travel Songs"; not an "Our Song" or a my song, but a specific song 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"?

I wrote The Our Song Phenomenon - A Phonograph Recollection for two reasons.

First, I think it's interesting that certain songs stay with us and take us back in time or place even if we only hear a few bars of the song.

And second, I enjoy all popular culture connections with the phonograph, celebrate the phonograph and its legacy, and look for any excuse to repeat, like a broken record, my phonographia truisms.

But of course I am a Phonographian.

So I'll play my broken record truisms yet again:

The Phonograph is an invention that began a revolution of sound.

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!

Its magic is alive.

It's a revolution still turning.


Trumpeting the Revolution ©1990 Black Rock - Portraits on the Playa







Click here to listen to exerpt (4.8 MB) from Red River Rock, Johnny and the Hurricanes


Click here to listen to exerpt (5.4 MB) from I'm a Man, The Yardbirds


Click here to listen to exerpt (5.5 MB) from Downtown, Petula Clark


Click here to listen to Italian version of Downtown, Ciao, Ciao


Click 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 this scene rated R for language)


The Our Song Phenomenon in Popular Culture


The Place in a Song Phenomenon


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