In The Time Of The Be-Bop Baby Boom Jail Break-Out- The “Boss” Car
Introduction by Zack James
Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Eddie Cochran performing Somethin' Else.
Bradley Samuel had a thing for cars, old cars, old cars when he was young in the 1960s and so ‘49 Hudsons and ‘50 Studebakers drove him crazy and a few years later when his buddy Steve Cadger had one after his father turned his in for a newer model, a ’57 Chevy. Even later he went ga-ga over Mustangs (and Mustang Sallys, listen to the song of the same name on YouTube if you want to know of what I speak). Any city, say Boston when he ran around that town in the early 1970s would find him running over to the famous Larz Anderson auto museum in Brookline to ogle those beauties. On the West Coast when he lived there in the 1980s when there was still a small audience for alternative journalism with a bit he would run down to San Diego and go crazy over the autos there but really more the motorcycles which included his favorite, the British-built very fast, very, very fast, Vincent Black Lightning (a bike that Richard Thompson, a Brit and a folk-rocker wrote about extolling bad boy outlaw James Ardie and his red-headed girl who came to a bad end-one of the great modern working-class love songs). Still out on the Coast he would occasionally wrangle an assignment to cover the elite expensive automobiles auctioned off at Pebble Beach near Carmel every year or so.
All of this “hot car” interest, by the way, from a guy who did not get his license until he was twenty-one not because he didn’t want to get the damn thing but because he had failed the Massachusetts state driving test three times and was “ordered” to wait (and go to driver training school) before trying a fourth time. All of this by a guy who for big chunks of his life did not even own an automobile, any, sometimes because he couldn’t afford one and sometimes he lived in cities like New York where car ownership is akin to being robbed on a daily basis. All this from a guy who needed instruction to find where the gas cap was and how to get it unscrewed in order to put gas in the damn car. Forget about any minor maintenance like changing oil or tires. So there is no accounting for tastes but I would take a big slice of what he has to say about his youthful adventures with cars-and with girls which go symbiotically together. You are forwarded.
By Bradley Samuel
This review will get around to be about cars, “boss” cars as we used to say in Riverdale where I grew up but let me explain what the general assignment was about and place the thing in context. I wrangled a small assignment (they seem to be getting smaller these days as the print medium is taking a beating in the digital age and the natural constituency that would read what I have to say is dying off (or following the young going to the digital age too, if not the digitalis age as well) from West Coast Automobile, a journal geared to classic cars but also to the music of the times of the classic cars since a number of its advertisers are (or maybe were) record companies who dealt with putting out nostalgia CD compilations to what in the business is called demographically-targeted niche audiences (and financially as well with some discretionary income to buy their products for those who thrown or otherwise lost their youthful purchases when buying records at places like Sidewalk Sam’s Records was considered a sacred duty).
I had thus for several months been on a tear in reviewing individual CDs in an extensive classic rock ‘n’ roll series (now classic, then just our music). A lot of those reviews had been driven by the artwork which graced 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, to the themes expressed in those artwork scenes. In this review we have the latter, the not fit in part, for this reviewer anyway. The latter is the case here although the cover art was simplicity itself- the rear view of an aerodynamically-contoured rear fin (yes, fin) of a “boss” (yes, boss) 1950s automobile of unknown provenance (but we can guess, right?)
Yes, and that slight description is all that is needed for those of us who came of age in the “golden age of the automobile” in the speed and thrills-craving aftermath of World War II when restless Americans, young and old, more young as it turned out, went into spasms over the latest “boss” (yes, boss) vehicle coming out of Detroit, the motor capital of the world then. Of course the cars kind of sorted themselves out- you wouldn’t, if you were young, dream of driving something that your father drove. So if you got his hand-me-down after he decided that he needed, just absolutely needed, that much more power in his automobile in order to keep up with the Joneses, you would move might and main in order to transform that old clunky dad car into a respectable tool. A rocket-like tool to fit the age, to ride and to ride with some sweet honey at your side, on those hot sticky, sultry summer nights down by the seaside, or at the drive-in, either to see a movie or for some late night food (a whole dissertation could be written, maybe has, on onions, hamburgers, French fries, sodas, and the etiquettes of those Friday and Saturday night hot dates with some youthful Laura), your choice.
Yes, and this is why even a mainly a “not fit in no car boy” like me, from a mainly no car family, could (and maybe still could) stare his eyes out over some boss of the bosses ’57 Chevy charging down the be-bop night boulevard, or a lanky turbo-driven long-line Lincoln, or a rebuilt Cadillac or a tear-up Thunderbird. Relics from a high cubic volume engine age when your twenty-nine cents a gallon gas took you about three feet per gallon. But still, come on now, they looked, well, boss.
Oh, yes, and of course you needed to amp up that boss wagon car radio, previously set exclusively to some father business news station (jesus), booming out the latest rock and roll hits about cars, especially West Coast car legends and their chicken runs, girls (East coast or West coast, hell, even the Mid-West Coast if they have one), girls and boys in trouble, in love, out of love (ditto on that geography thing), chasing that sunset ocean-flecked dream. But mainly, when the dust settled, you had to worry about how and who was going to front that dough to get that new back chrome fender you just needed, absolutely needed, needed like crazy to keep up with the Jones’ son.
But on that boss car radio you were likely, very likely, to be cruising to (even if only riding shotgun in some buddy’s boss car cruising that boulevard looking for, what else, girls who just that moment might be in need of some seaside company, or wanted to go the drive-in, you know that movie or food thing, their choice) many of the tunes reviewed in that series. Stick-outs on this fin tail art beauty included: For Your Love, Ed Townsend; Silhouettes, The Diamonds; Somethin’ Else, Eddie Cochran (totally underrated in the classic rock scheme of things after he died in a car accident, naturally, especially his classic Summertime Blues that was a rite of passage each summer vacation); and, as always when you talk 1950s rock, the serious stuff, the serious riffing guitar stuff from the place where rock met the blues, Chuck Berry on Almost Grown, not his number one, A-list material but good in this company. Enough said.