"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.
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 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 speaker cabinets. He had made
a large custom control panel that dominated the room with
its size and 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 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 (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 they covered end to end more than a few octaves.
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 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. 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 usually has romantic connotations
but each of us can still remember songs for other connections
or 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 can't count 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. Yet
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
have called it 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 song that I will always remember.
Therefore, I now identify Red River Rock
as "My Time Travel Song" meaning
this is a song with a special status in my memory banks that
can take me to another time and place.
I'm sure most people have more than one of
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 "Phonograph Recollection"
has two aspects. First, it's a personal story that relies
on memories and images that I have reconstructed around the
Our Song Phenomenon. And second, it's evidence of what
some would call sounding like a broken record. Why? Because
I am a Friend of the Phonograph meaning I enjoy all
popular culture connections to the phonograph, celebrate the
phonograph, and look for any excuse to repeat phonographia
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 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 the phone. 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 I'm sure it sounds like an exaggeration, but it's
actually true. Although I do believe, as Siegfried Giedion
wrote, "The backward look transforms its object...History
cannot be touched without changing it.
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
Other Doug Boilesen Stories
first day going to school 1955