of the Phonograph
"Our Song" Phenomenon - A Phonograph Recollection
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.
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.
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
also played the phonograph...alot.
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.
was the oldest Keister brother and he loved Doris Day and Petula
Clark. I can still hear him playing his 45 rpm of Downtown.
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.
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 and lights.
Control Panel, circa 1966
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.
can still hear Mrs. Keister yelling down the staircase "Turn
down that music!"
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 Brass, etc.)
Look magazine and listening to Kim's Harmon Kardon with
Dave Clark Headphones, circa 1966.
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).
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.
a record that we played over and over, which is one way to account
for how deeply it's still embedded in my memory.
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
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.
here to see the full
1945 Crosley radio-phonograph advertisement, and other "Our
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.
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.
it is a song that has connections and triggers memories.
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.
sure most people have more than one of these 'tunes' in their
are the songs that take you to another time or place?
you have an "Our Song"?
the end my "Our Song Phenomenon" story was written
for two reasons:
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.
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
let's repeat that 'record' one more time:
Phonograph is an invention that began a revolution of sound.
Phonograph created for each of us the "Best
seat in the house. Forever"©
December 6, take a moment and wish
Edison's Phonograph a Happy Birthday!
magic is alive.
a revolution still turning.
the Phonograph, ©1990 Black Rock - Portraits on the
A Phonograph Recollection, named with a tip of the hat to
Mari Sandoz's The Christmas of the Phonographs Records - A
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.
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
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 changing it.
here to listen to exerpt (4.8 MB) from Red
River Rock, Johnny and the Hurricanes
here to listen to exerpt (5.4 MB) from I'm
a Man, The Yardbirds
here to listen to exerpt (5.5 MB) from Downtown,
here to listen to Italian version of Downtown, Ciao,
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
Our Song Phenomenon
Place in a Song Phenomenon
DB Stories - TBU in DB_Stories