Saturday, February 18, 2012

You Don’t Need The Band To Perform The Last Waltz-Do You?

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Mark Dinning performing his teen tear-jerker, Teen Angel to set an "appropriate" mood for this post.

The Last Waltz, Indeed

Peter Paul Markin, North Adamsville Class Of 1964, comment:

Note: The term “last waltz” of the title of this piece is used as a simple expression of the truth. The life, or better, half-life of this sketch came about originally through reviewing, a few years ago, a long-running series of “Oldies But Goodies” CDs from the 1950s and early 1960s, the time of my coming of age time. After reviewing ten of these things I found out that the series was even longer, fifteen in all. Rather than turning myself into some local hospital for a cure and the good effects of some oldies twelve-step program to restore my soul health plugged on. Plugged on, plugged on intrepidly, with the full knowledge that such things had their saturation point.

After all how much could one rekindle, endlessly rekindle, memories from a relatively short, if important, part of our lives, even for those of us who lived and died by the songs (or some of the songs) in those treasured compilations. How many times, after all, can one read about wallflowers (their invisibleness and dread of dreads not winding up like them even if it meant casting off friendships with every known nerdish future, doctor, engineer and lawyer in town, sighs (Ahs, and otherwise), certain shes (or hes for shes) the real point of reviewing any such compilations, the crepe paper-etched moonlight glow on high school dance night (if there was any) and hanging around to the bitter end for that last dance of the night to prove... what. Bastante! Enough!

Or so I thought until my old friend, my old mad monk, merry prankster, stone freak, summer of love (1967 version) compadre from Olde Saco up in Maine, Josh Breslin. Yes, that Josh Breslin, or rather Joshua Lawrence Breslin for those who have read his by-line over the years in half the unread radical chic or alterative vision publications in this country, called me up in a frenzy just after I had finally completed the last damn review. And as usual when he calls up in the dead of night it was “girl” trouble, if that is the appropriate way to say it for sixty-somethings.

His frenzied three in the morning problem? Josh’s Old Saco High School Class of 1967 was going to have its fortieth reunion, and through the now weathered Mainiac grapevine he found out that some middle school (then junior high) sweetheart, Lucy Dubois (Olde Saco was, and is a central gathering spot for French-Canadians and French Canadian Americans, including Josh’s old mother, Delores, nee LeBlanc), was going to show and he needed a refresher on the old time tunes. More importantly, he continued on to explain why he, madcap love ‘em and leave Josh in that summer of love 1967, and beyond, including a not forgotten “theft” of my girlfriend at the time, Butterfly Swirl (ya it was that kind of time), still had a “crush” on Ms. Dubois and what was he going to do about it come reunion night. So the following is just a little mood music from Josh’s backward trek.
No question that those of us who came of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s were truly children of rock and roll. We were there, whether we appreciated it or not at the time, when the first, sputtering, musical moves away from ballady Broadway show tunes and rhymey Tin Pan Alley pieces hit the radio airwaves. (If you do not know what a radio is then ask your parents or, ouch, grandparents please. Or look it up on Wikipedia if you are too embarrassed to not know ancient history things. Join the bus.) And, most importantly, we were there when the music moved away from any and all music that one’s parents might have approved of, or maybe, even liked, or, hopefully, at least left you alone to play in peace up in your room when rock and roll hit post- World War II America teenagers like, well, like an atomic bomb.

Not all of the material put forth was good, nor was all of it destined to be playable forty or fifty years later on some “greatest hits” compilation like the ones Peter Paul has been satanically reviewing but some of songs had enough chordal energy, lyrical sense, and sheer danceability to make any Jack or Jill jump then, or now. And, here is the good part, especially for painfully shy guys like me, or those who, like me as well, had two left feet on the dance floor. Just don’t tell Lucy that, okay. You didn’t need to dance toe to toe, close to close, with that certain she (or he for shes). Just be alive…uh, hip to the music. Otherwise you might become the dreaded wallflower. I had to drop more guys from the old neighborhood over on Albemarle, the projects, who later made good just because I didn’t want the guilt by association wallflower nerd label tagged around my neck. But that fear, the fear of fears that haunted many a teenage dream then, maybe now too, is a story for another day. Let’s just leave it at this for now. Ah, to be very, very young then was very heaven.

But what about the now seeming mandatory question that Peter Paul made a point of asking in those dimwitted reviews he is so proud of, the inevitable end of the night high school dance (or maybe even middle school) song that I really want to talk about. Or rather about Lucy Dubois’ (I won’t use her married name because she still lives up around Olde Saco and has, many, many family connections around, including a couple of giant economy-sized brothers). The song that you, maybe, waited around all night for just to prove that you were not a wallflower, and more importantly, had the moxie to, mumble-voiced, parched-throated, sweaty-handed, asked a girl to dance (women can relate their own experiences, probably similar).

Here the 1960 Mark Dinning tune Teen Angel fills the bill, or filled Lucy’s bill. Hey, I did really like this one too, especially the soulful, sorrowful timing and voice intonation. Yes, I know, I know the lyrics are, well, not life-enhancing and apparently the Laura or Lorraine who ill-advisedly ran back to that car stuck on the railroad track was none too bright. Not for some cheapjack high school ring that would not survive more than few hand-washings and that, moreover, Lance or Larry had already previously given (and taken back) from half the girls in the school. Yes, I also know, this is one of the slow ones that you had to dance close on. And just hope, hope to high heaven, that you didn’t destroy your partner’s shoes and feet. Well, one learns a few social skills in this world if for no other reason than to “impress” that certain she (or he for shes, or nowadays, just mix and match your preferences). I did, didn’t you?

Well Lucy showed up that class reunion night as expected, as expected as she told me once she heard that I was coming back for the night. Damn, she still held me in thrall. Upon seeing her once again across the room I almost could smell that faint-edged scent, some lilac and dreams, bed sheet dream, scent, that always travelled around with her and drove me (and other guys too, no question) to distraction. And what song did we, Josh Breslin and Lucy Dubois, trot out to on that wintry November reunion night? Come on now, guess.
....and a trip down memory lane.

MARK DINNING lyrics - Teen Angel

(Jean Surrey & Red Surrey)

Teen angel, teen angel, teen angel, ooh, ooh

That fateful night the car was stalled
upon the railroad track
I pulled you out and we were safe
but you went running back

Teen angel, can you hear me
Teen angel, can you see me
Are you somewhere up above
And I am still your own true love

What was it you were looking for
that took your life that night
They said they found my high school ring
clutched in your fingers tight

Teen angel, can you hear me
Teen angel, can you see me
Are you somewhere up above
And I am still your own true love

Just sweet sixteen, and now you're gone
They've taken you away.
I'll never kiss your lips again
They buried you today

Teen angel, can you hear me
Teen angel, can you see me
Are you somewhere up above
And I am still your own true love
Teen angel, teen angel, answer me, please

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