Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Billy’s, Billy From The Old Neighborhood, View-Jody Reynolds’ Endless Sleep

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Billy’s, Billy From The Old Neighborhood, View-Jody Reynolds’ Endless Sleep

"Endless Sleep"
(Jody Reynolds and Dolores Nance)

The night was black, rain fallin' down
Looked for my baby, she's nowhere around
Traced her footsteps down to the shore
‘fraid she's gone forever more
I looked at the sea and it seemed to say
“I took your baby from you away.
I heard a voice cryin' in the deep
“Come join me, baby, in my endless sleep.
Why did we quarrel, why did we fight?
Why did I leave her alone tonight?
That's why her footsteps ran into the sea
That's why my baby has gone from me.
I looked at the sea and it seemed to say
“I took your baby from you away.
I heard a voice cryin' in the deep
“Come join me, baby, in my endless sleep.
Ran in the water, heart full of fear
There in the breakers I saw her near
Reached for my darlin', held her to me
Stole her away from the angry sea
I looked at the sea and it seemed to say
“You took your baby from me away.
My heart cried out “she's mine to keep
I saved my baby from an endless sleep.
Endless sleep, endless sleep

This is another of my tongue-in-cheek commentaries, the back story if you like, in the occasional sketches going back to the primordial youth time of the 1950s with its bags full of classic rock songs for the ages. Of course, any such efforts have to include the views of one Billy, William James Bradley, the mad-hatter of the 1950s rock jailbreak out in our “the projects” neighborhood down in Adamsville not far outside of Boston. The “projects” for those not in the know, those of you who came of age in the leafy suburbs that we “projects” boys fiercely dreamed about once we saw what they looked like on television (and the girls, “projects” girls too dreamed our dreams too although there wasn’t so much mixing of the two until later, until we, meaning we corner boys figured out that those sticks that used to annoy us as they got some shape seemed a lot more interesting that we had previously recognized)were usually poorly constructed multi-unit complexes (ours were four-unit complexes, with many, many such complexes) originally built to house house-hungry returning World War II G.I.s who needed a place to stay while they were waiting on the golden age of the American dream to hit them.

But enough of that for this sketch is not about growing up poor in the land of plenty but growing up in the golden age of rock and roll that we hungry kids and kids from the leafy suburbs could both relate to. In those days, unlike during his later fateful wrong turn trajectory days when he lost his moorings, went off to a hard scrabble life of crime, every kid, including one of his best friends, Markin, Peter Markin, me, lived to hear what he had to say about any song that came trumpeting over the radio, at least every song that we would recognize as our own. This song, Endless Sleep, came out at a time when my family had been at the beginning of the process of moving out of the projects, and, more importantly, I had begun to move away from Billy orbit, his new found orbit as king hell gangster wannabe. I was then in my 24/7 reading at the local public library branch phase unlike previously being Billy’s accomplice on various, well, let’s call them capers just in case the statute of limitations has not run out. Still Billy, king hell rock and roll king of the old neighborhood, knew how to call a lyric, and make us laugh to boot. Wherever you are Billy I’m still pulling for you. Got it.
Billy back again, William James Bradley, if you didn’t know. Markin’s pal, Peter Paul Markin’s pal, from over at Snug Harbor Elementary School and the pope of rock lyrics down here in “the projects.” The Adamsville projects, if you don’t know. Markin, who I hadn’t seen for a while since he told me his family was going to move out of the projects and who has developed this big thing for the local library and books lately, came by the other day to breathe in the fresh air of my rock universe-adorned bedroom when we got to talking about this latest record, Endless Sleep, by Jody Reynolds. You can usually depend on Markin to show up when there is some song he is not sure about blasts over the radio, or maybe when he wants to go mano y mano with me on those ill-advised times when he thinks he has an edge on me.

All the parents around here, at least the parents that care anyway, or those who have heard the lyrics screaming from their kid’s electricity plug-in blaring living room radio (that’s why they invented transistor radios-so parents wouldn’t, or couldn’t, catch on to what we are listening to- smarten up is what I say to those kids still listening on the family radio, for Christ’s sake) about the not so subtle suicide pact theme. [See lyrics above.] Yah, like that silly pact to jump in the ocean is what every kid is going to do when the going gets a little tough in the love department. Take a jump in the ocean, and call one and all to join them. Come on, will you. It's only a song. Besides what is really good about this one is that great back beat on the guitar and Jody Reynolds’ cool clothes and sideburns. I wish to high heaven I had both.

But see the pope of rock lyrics, me, can’t just leave this song like that. I have to decode it for the teeny-boppers around here or they will be clueless, including big-time book guy Markin. And that is really what is going to make the difference between us here. We had a battle royal over this one. See, Markin always wants to give big play to the “social” meaning of a song, whatever that is, you know where the thing sticks in society, where it speaks to some teen concern, at least in teeny-bopper society. Or maybe he has read some newspaper article where some highly-paid guy, a professor usually has spotted a trend and wants to warn every parent, cop and rat teacher of the consequences. Jesus. Yeah, and Markin is also the “sensitive” guy, usually. Like, for example, one time when he was pulling for the girl to get her guy back, or at least go back to her old boyfriend who was waiting by the midnight phone after Eddie split for parts unknown for some back-up love, in Eddie My Love. Or Markin had a kind thing to say about the dumb cluck of a bimbo who went back to the railroad track-stuck car to get some cheapjack class ring that the boyfriend probably grabbed from a cracker-jacks box in Teen Angel (although he agreed, agreed fully, that the dame was a dumb cluck on other grounds, on the grounds that she should have dumped a guy long before if his foolish junk-box of a car got stuck on a forlorn railroad track).

Here though I am the sensitive guy, if you can believe that. Here’s why. It seems that Markin has some kind of exception to the “social” rule when it comes to the ocean, to the sea, christ, probably to some scum pond for all I know as the scene for suicide attempts. Apparently he is in the throes of some King Neptune frenzy and took umbrage (his word, not mind, I don’t go to the library much) at the idea that someone would desecrate the sea that way, our homeland the sea the way he put it. Like old Neptune hasn’t brought seventy-three types of hell on us with his hurricane tidal waves, his overflowing the seawalls across the channel from us, his flooding everything within three miles of the coast, or when he just throws his flotsam and jetsam (my words, from school, I like them) on the “projects” beaches whenever he gets fed up. So I have to defend this frail’s action, and gladly.

You know it really is unbelievable once you start to think about it how many of these songs don’t have people in them with names, real names, nicknames, anything to tag on them. Here it’s the same old thing. Markin would just blithely go on and makes up names but I’ll just give you the “skinny” without the Markin literary touches, okay. Rather than calling the girl every name in the book for disturbing the fishes or the plankton like Markin I am trying to see what happened here to drive her to such a rash action. Obviously they, the unnamed boy and girl, had an argument, alright a big argument if that satisfies you. What could it have been about? Markin, wise guy Markin, wants to make it some little thing like a missed date, or the guy didn't call or something. Maybe it was, but I think the poor girl was heartbroken about something bigger. Maybe boyfriend didn’t want to “go steady” or maybe he wasn’t ready to be her ever lovin’ one and only. Or maybe he didn’t was to satisfy her hormonal problem if you can believe that. Some guys are like that although I don’t know any, any that would pass that kind of thing up. Let me put it this way it was big, not Markin’s b.s. stuff.

Okay she went over the edge, no question, running down to the sea and jumping in. On a rainy night to boot. Hey she had it bad, whatever it was. But see old Neptune, Markin’s friend, maybe father for all I know, was taunting said boyfriend, saying he was going to take boyfriend’s baby away. Well, frankly, and old wimpy Markin dismissed this out of hand, those are fighting words in the projects, and not just the projects either, when one guy tries to horn in on another guy’s baby when he is not done with her, maybe even after too. Like I say those are fighting words around here.

And the girl, given the cold and what that does to you when you have been in the ocean too long was forced to taunt her lover boy, trying to bring him down too so no other frail could be with him. Just like a girl. This is the part I like though, although Markin would probably take umbrage (again), the boyfriend was ready to reclaim his honey, come hell or high water. He wasn’t done with her and so old man Neptune took a beating that night. Yah, he’s taking his baby, and taking her no questions asked, back from that nasty relentless sea. A little justice in this wicked old world. Chalk one up for our side. Yes, Billy, William James Bradley, is happy, pleased, delighted and any other words you can find in the library that this story has a happy ending. Markin’s homeland sea mush be damned.

No comments:

Post a Comment