The Rock ‘N’ Roll Era: 1957: Still Rockin’, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1988
Okay, you know the routine by now, or at least the drift of these classic rock reviews in this space. The part that starts out with a tip of the hat to the fact that each generation, each teenage generation that is makes its own tribal customs, mores and language. Then the part that is befuddled by today’s teenage-hood. And then I go scampering back to my teenage-hood, the teenage coming of age of the generation of ‘68 that came of age in the early 1960s and start on some cultural “nugget” from that seemingly pre-historic period. Well this review is no different, except, today we decipher the drive-in restaurant, although really it is the car hops (waitresses) that drive this one.
See, this series of reviews is driven, almost subconsciously driven, by the Edward Hopper Nighthawk-like illustrations on the The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era CDs of this mammoth set of compilations. In this case it is the drive-in restaurant of blessed teenage memory. For the younger set, or those oldsters who “forgot” that was a restaurant idea driven by car culture, especially the car culture from the golden era of teenage car-dom, the 1950s. Put together cars, cars all flash-painted and fully-chromed, “boss” cars we called them in my working class neighborhood, young restless males, food, and a little off-hand sex, or rather the promise or mist of a promise of it, and you have the real backdrop to the drive-in restaurant. If you really thought about it why else would somebody, anybody who was assumed to be functioning, sit in their cars eating food, and at best ugly food at that, off a tray while seated in their cherry, “boss" 1959 Chevy.
And beside the food, of course, there was the off-hand girl watching (in the other cars with trays hanging off their doors), and the car hop ogling (and propositioning, if you had the nerve, and if your intelligence was good and there was not some 250 pound fullback back-breaker waiting to take her home a few cars over) there was the steady sound of music, rock music, natch, coming from those boomerang speakers in those, need I say it, “boss” automobiles. And that is where all of this gets mixed in.
Of course, just like another time when I was reviewing one of the CDs in this series, and discussing teenage soda fountain life, the mere mention, no, the mere thought of the term “car hop” makes me think of a Frankie story. Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, Frankie from the old hell-fire shipbuilding sunk and gone and it-ain’t-coming-back-again seen better days working class neighborhood where we grew up, or tried to. Frankie who I have already told you I have a thousand stories about, or hope I do. Frankie the most treacherous little bastard that you could ever meet on one day, and the kindest man (better man/child), and not just cheap jack, dime store kindness either, alive the next day. Ya, that Frankie, my best middle school and high school friend Frankie.
Did I tell you about Joanne, Frankie’s “divine” (his term, without quotation marks) Joanne because she enters, she always in the end enters into these things? Yes, I see that I did back when I was telling you about her little Roy “The Boy” Orbison trick. The one where she kept playing Running Scared endlessly to get Frankie’s dander up. But see while Frankie has really no serious other eyes for the dames except his “divine” Joanne (I insist on putting that divine in quotation marks when telling of Joanne, at least for the first few times I mention her name, even now. Needless to say I questioned, and questioned hard, that designation on more than one occasion to no avail) he is nothing but a high blood-pressured, high-strung shirt-chaser, first class. And the girls liked him, although not for his looks although they were kind of Steve McQueen okay. What they go for him for is his line of patter, first class. Patter, arcane, obscure patter that made me, most of the time, think of fingernails scratching on a blackboard (except when I was hot on his trail trying to imitate him) and his faux “beat” pose (midnight sunglasses, flannel shirt, black chinos, and funky work boots (ditto on the imitation here as well). And not just “beat’ girls, that liked him, either as you will find out.
Well, the long and short of it was that Frankie, late 1963 Frankie, and the...(oh, forget it) Joanne had had their 207th (really that number, or close, since 8th grade) break-up and Frankie was a "free” man. To celebrate this freedom Frankie, Frankie, who was almost as poor as I was but who has a father with a car that he was not too cheap or crazy about to not let Frankie use on occasion, had wheels. Okay, Studebaker wheels but wheels anyway. And he was going to treat me to a drive-in meal as we went cruising the night, the Saturday night, the Saturday be-bop night looking for some frails (read: girls, Frankie had about seven thousand names for them)
Tired (or bored) from cruising the Saturday be-bop night away (meaning girl-less) we hit the local drive-in hot spot, Arnie’s Adventure Car Hop for one last, desperate attempt at happiness (ya, things were put, Frank and me put anyway, just that melodramatically for every little thing). What I didn’t know was that Frankie, king hell skirt-chaser had his off-hand eye on one of the car hops, Sandy, and as it turned out she was one of those girls who was enamored of his patter (or so I heard later). So he pulled into her station and started to chat her up as we ordered the haute cuisine, And here was the funny thing, now that I saw her up close I could see that she was nothing but a fox (read: “hot” girl). The not so funny thing was that she was so enamored of Frankie’s patter that he was going to take her home after work. No problem you say. No way, big problem. I was to be left there to catch a ride home while they set sail into that good night. Thanks, Frankie.
Well, I was pretty burned up about it for a while but as always with “charma” Frankie we hooked up again a few days later. And here is where I get a little sweet revenge (although don’t tell him that).
Frankie sat me down at the old town pizza parlor and told me the whole story and even now , as I recount it, I can’t believe it. Sandy was a fox, no question, but a married fox, a very married fox, who said she when he first met her that she was about twenty-two and had a kid. Her husband was in the service and she was “lonely” and succumbed to Frankie’s charms. Fair enough, it is a lonely world at times. But wait a minute, I bet you thought that Frankie’s getting mixed up with a married honey with a probably killer husband was the big deal. No way, no way at all. You know, or you can figure out, old Frankie spent the night with Sandy. Again, it's a lonely world sometimes.
The real problem, the real Frankie problem, was once they started to compare biographies and who they knew around town, and didn’t know, it turned out that Sandy, old fox, old married fox with brute husband, old Arnie’s car hop, Sandy was some kind of cousin to Joanne, second cousin maybe. And she was no cradle-robber twenty-two(as if you could rob the cradle with Frankie)but nineteen, almost twenty and was just embarrassed about having a baby in high school and having to go to her "aunt's" to have the child. Moreover, somewhere along the line she and cousin Joanne had had a parting of the ways, a nasty parting of the ways. So sweet as a honey bun Arnie's car hop Sandy, sweet teen-age mother Sandy, was looking for a way to take revenge and Frankie, old king of the night Frankie, was the meat. She had him sized up pretty well, as he admitted to me. And he is sweating this one out like crazy, and swearing everyone within a hundred miles to secrecy. I’m telling you this is strictest confidence even now. Just don’t tell Joanne. Ever.