Rarely do I ever drive around with a window rolled down in the car. I prefer the climate control offered by the air conditioning unit.
So, it was rare, indeed, that I was heading down Hickman Road the other day with the driver’s side window rolled down. I suppose it was a way to head back in time and I had my left arm resting on the door, enjoying the warm breeze and dreading the 90-degree temperatures to come later in the day.
As I drove along, I suddenly heard the sound of an engine revving as the driver gained speed, and roared past me. The sound of the engine made me chuckle. It was a car obviously powered by a four-cylinder engine, yet the driver had obviously equipped the car with mufflers that would allow him to show off the power under the hood.
Just for an instant, before he passed me, I found myself looking for someone atop a riding lawnmower on the highway. That, too, caused a chuckle.
Oh, how times have changed.
Just as soon as I’d returned home, I raced toward my record player and began digging through what my wife calls “too many, way too many” old albums. There, among hundreds of old LPs, I found several albums by the Beach Boys. Taking the vinyl from its protective cover, I placed one on the turntable and, voila, the room was filled with the familiar sounds I’d sought.
One after another, I played each song only part-way through, opting instead to play part of another, some on the same album, some on others. First, though, I found the song I’ve always considered the greatest car song ever recorded – “Little Deuce Coupe.” I’ve always loved that song by the Beach Boys, a group I traveled across four states to see in person in the 1960s. The lyrics – “Just a Little Deuce Coupe with a flat head mill, but she’ll walk a Thunderbird like she’s standin’ still” – aren’t meant for their poetic grace, but they told a story of a generation of muscle car enthusiasts.
For more than an hour, I went from album to album, listening to such hits as “Shut Down,” “409,” “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” “Dead Man’s Curve,” “Fun, Fun, Fun” and other motor songs from other artists, like “Little GTO” by Ronnie and the Daytonas.
Of course, playing those songs took me back a half century when cars were almost more important to a generation than life itself. I remembered my first few cars, a 1955 Chevy two-door hardtop, a 1963 Monza Spider and a 1958 Chevy convertible. I remembered the 1960 Corvette with a 327 engine that could beat just about everyone on the quarter-mile strip marked off on a blacktop north of Slater … until Corvette came out with the Stingray model. Oh, well, you can’t win ‘em all.
Soon, I’d exhausted my collection of car songs. More correctly, I’d tired of playing those old vinyl LP records about fast cars and problems with parents and girls.
So, I dug a little more and found a few albums by the so-called girl groups of the 1960s. That was a short time in music history, but it provided some great songs, too. Groups like The Shirelles, The Chiffons, and The Ronettes all recorded hit songs, And, The Supremes were just as much a part of the music scene of the 1960s as were the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, recording songs that have endured more than 50 years.
I settled on a couple albums and played “He’s So Fine” by the Chiffons and a couple of songs by the Shirelles – “Soldier Boy” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” That Shirelles album was one I thought was worthy of transport with me when I was shipped overseas in the Army. In fact, I played the album so much that I literally wore it out to the point that, today, it’s so scratchy you have to love the songs even to simply put it on the turntable.
I played “Our Day Will Come” by Martha and the Vandellas and remembered the meaning put into those lyrics by my generation just starting out in the world.
Finally, I came to my afternoon musical finale. I laid the record by The Crystals gently on the player, sat back and listened as the group sang, “Met Him on a Monday and My Heart Stood Still. Somebody told me that his name was Bill …”
Okay, that’s another story for another time.