Classic Rock : 1968: Shakin’ All Over, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1989
Scene: Brought to mind by a the cover art on this CD of a Janis Joplin-like female performer belting out some serious blues rock in the heat of the “Generation of ‘68” night.
Josh Breslin (a. k. a. the Prince of Love, although some yellow bus wit made a joke of that moniker calling him the Prince of Lvov, some Podunk town in Poland, or some place like that) was weary, weary as hell, road- weary, drug-weary, Captain Crunch’s now Big Sur–based magical mystery tour, merry prankster, yellow brick road bus-weary, even hanging around with his “papa,” “Far-Out” Phil Larkin who had gotten him through some pretty rough spots weary. Hell, he was girl-weary too, girl weary ever since his latest girlfriend, Gypsy Lady (nee Phyllis McBride), decided that she just had to go back to her junior year of college at Berkeley in order to finish some paper on the zodiac signs and their meaning for the new age rising. Ya, okay Gypsy, do what you have to do. Moreover this summer of 1968, June to be exact, after a year bouncing between summers of love, autumns of drugs, winters of discontent, and springs of political madness what with Johnson’s resignation, Robert Kennedy’s assassination piled on to that of King’s had taken a lot out of him, including his weight, weight loss that his already slim runner’s frame could not afford.
Moreover, now the chickens were coming home to roost. Before he had joined Captain Crunch’s merry prankster crew in San Francisco, got “on the bus,” in the youth nation tribal parlance, last summer he had assumed that he would enter State U in the fall (University of Maine, for those who did not know). After a summer of love with Butterfly Swirl though (his temperature rose every time he thought about her and her cute little tricks to get him going sexually even now) and then a keen interest in a couple of other young women before Gypsy Lady landed on him, some heavy drug experiences that he was still trying to figure out, his start–up friendship with Phil, and the hard fact that he just did not want to go home now that he had found “family” he decided that he needed to “see the world” for a while instead. And he had, at least enough to weary him.
What he did not figure on, or what got blasted into the deep recesses of his brain just a couple of days ago, was a letter from his parents with a draft notice from his local board enclosed. Hell’s bells he had better get back, weary or not, and get some school stuff going real fast, right now fast. There was one thing for sure, one nineteen-year old Joshua Peter Breslin, Olde Saco, Maine High School Class of 1967, was not going with some other class of young men to ‘Nam to be shot at, or to shoot.
Funny, Josh thought, as he mentally prepared himself for the road back to Olde Saco, how the past couple of months had just kind of drifted by and that he really was ready to get serious. The only thing that had kind of perked him up lately was Ruby Red Lips (nee Sandra Kelly), who had just got “on the bus” from someplace down South like Georgia, or Alabama and who had a great collection of blues records that he was seriously getting into (as well as seriously into Ruby although she seemed slow, very slow, to get his message). Josh, throughout high school and even on the bus, was driven by rock ‘n’ roll. Period. He got surprised one day when he heard Ruby playing Shake, Rattle, and Roll. He asked, “Is that Carl Perkins?” Ruby laughed, laughed a laugh that he found appealing and said, “No silly, that's the king of be-bop blues, Big Joe Turner. Want to hear more stuff?” And that was that. Names like Skip James, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Son House, Muddy Waters and Little Walter started to fill his musical universe.
What got him really going though were the women singers, Sippie Wallace, mad Bessie Smith, a whole bunch of other barrelhouse blues-singers named Smith, Memphis Minnie and the one that really, really got to him, “Big Mama” Thornton. The latter belting out a bluesy rendition of Hound Dog that made Elvis' seem kind of punk, and best of all Piece Of My Heart.
Then one night Ruby took him to club over in Monterrey, the Blue Note, a club for young blues talent, mainly, that was a stepping-stone to getting work at the Monterrey Pop Festival each year. There he heard, heard if you can believe this, some freckled, red-headed whiskey-drinking off the hip girl, ya just a wisp of a girl, from Podunk, Texas, or maybe Oklahoma who was singing Big Mama’s Piece of My Heart. And then Ball and Chain, Little School Girl, and Little Red Rooster. Hell, she had the joint jumping until the early hours for just as long as guys kept putting drinks in front of her. What a night, what a blues singer.
Just now though Ruby Red Lips came over to him, kind of perky and kind of with that look in her that he was getting to catch on to when a girl was interested in him and said, “Hey, Janis, that singer from the Blue Note, is going to be at Monterrey Pops next month with a band to back her up, want to go? And, do you want to go to the Blue Note with me tonight?” After answering, yes, yes, to both those questions the Prince of Love (and not some dinky Lvov either) figured he could go back to old life Olde Saco by late August and still be okay but he had better grab Ruby now while he could.