The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era: 1963-Still Rocking, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1989
I have recently been on a tear in reviewing individual CDs in this extensive Time-Life Rock ‘n’ Roll series. A lot of these reviews have been driven by the artwork which graces the covers of each item, both to stir ancient memories and reflect that precise moment in time, the youth time of the now very, very mature (nice sliding over the age issue, right?) baby-boomer generation who lived and died by the music. And who fit in, or did not fit in as the case may be, to the themes of those artwork scenes. This 1963 CD is a case of the former, of the fitting in. On this cover, a summer scene (always a nice touch since that was the time when we had at least the feel of our generational break-out) we are at the drive-in, the drive-in movies for those of the Internet/Netflicks/YouTube generations who have not gotten around to checking out this bit of Americana on Wikipedia, with the obligatory 1950s-early 1960s B-movie monster movie (outer space aliens, creatures from the black lagoon, blobs, DNA-damaged dinosaurs, foreign-bred behemoths a specialty) prominent on the screen.
Oh sure, everyone of a certain age, a certain baby-boomer age, a generation of ’68 age, has plenty of stories to tell of being bundled up as kids, maybe pre-set with full set pajamas on to defend against the late sleepy-eyed night, the sleepy-drowsy late movie night, placed in the car backseats and taken by adventurous parents (or so it seemed) to the local open air drive-in for the double feature. That usually also happened on a friendly summer night when school did not interfere with staying up late (hopefully through both films). And to top it all off you got to play in the inevitable jungle jim, see-saw, slide, swing set-ladened playground during intermission between the film while waiting, waiting against all hope, for that skewered, shriveled hot dog, rusty, dusty hamburger, or stale, over the top buttered pop corn that was the real reason that you “consented” to stay out late with the parents. Ya, we all have variations on that basic theme to tell, although I challenge anyone, seriously challenge anyone, to name five films that you saw at the drive-in that you remembered from then-especially those droopy-eyed second films.
In any case, frankly, I don’t give a damn about that kid stuff family adventure drive-in experience. Come on, that was all, well, just kids' stuff. The “real” drive-in, as pictured in the cover art here is what I want to address. The time of our time in that awkward teen alienation, teen angst thing that only got abated by things like a teenage night at the drive-in. Ya, that was not, or at least I hope it was not, you father’s drive-in. That might have been in the next planet over, for all I know. For starters our planet involved girls (girls, ah, women, just reverse the genders here to tell your side of the experience), looking for girls, or want to be looking for girls, preferably a stray car-full to compliment your guy car-full and let god sort it out at intermission.
Wait a minute. I am getting ahead of myself in this story. First you needed that car, because no walkers or bus riders need apply for the drive-in movies like this was some kind of lame, low-rent, downtown matinee last picture show adventure. For this writer that was a problem, a personal problem, as I had no car and my family had cars only sporadically. Fortunately we early baby-boomers lived in the golden age of the automobile and could depend on a friend to either have a car (praise be teenage disposable income/allowances) or could use the family car. Once the car issue was clarified then it was simply a matter of getting a car-full of guys (or sometimes guys and gals) in for the price of two (maybe three) admissions.
What? Okay, I think that I can safely tell the story now because the statute of limitations must have surely passed. See, what you did was put a couple (or three guys) in the trunk of that old car (or in a pinch one guy on the backseat floor) as you entered the drive-thru admissions booth. The driver paid for the two (or three tickets) and took off to your parking spot (complete with ramp speaker just in case you wanted to actually listen to the film shown on that big wide white screen). Neat trick, right?
Now, of course, the purpose of all of this, as mentioned above, was to get that convoy of guys, trunk guys, backseat guys, backseat floor guys, whatever, to mix and moon with that elusive car-full of girls who did the very same thing (except easier because they were smaller) at the intermission stand or maybe just hanging around the unofficially designated teen hang-out area. No family sedans with those pajama-clad kids need apply (nor any sane, responsible parent get within fifty paces of said teens). And occasionally, very occasionally as it turned out, some “boss” car would show up complete with one guy (the driver) and one honey (girl, ah, woman) closely seated beside him for what one and all knew was going to be a very window-fogged night. And that was, secretly thought or not, the guy drive-in dream. As for the movies. Did they show movies there? Enough said.
Oh, except that at said drive-in, before the first show started at dusk, between shows and on the way home, girl-matched or not, you were very liable to hear many of the songs in this CD on the old car radio. The stick outs here include: Heat Wave (not as good as Dancing In The Streets but good), Martha and the Vandellas; Just One Look (make that look my way, please, even if you are munching on pop corn) Doris Troy; Wild Weekend (just in case you wanted to dance during intermission rather than watch the screen clock ticking off the time until that next film began), The Rockin’ Rebels ; and, Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby (ya, you have got that right, sisters), The Cookies.