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-Love’s Labors Lost -With The Tune Weavers’ Happy, Happy Birthday Baby In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Love’s Labors Lost -With The Tune Weavers’ Happy, Happy Birthday Baby In Mind  


"Happy, Happy Birthday Baby"
Happy, happy birthday, baby
Although you're with somebody new
Thought I'd drop a line to say
That I wish this happy day
Would find me beside you

Happy, happy birthday, baby
No I can't call you my baby
Seems like years ago we met
On a day I can't forget
'Cause that's when we fell in love
Do you remember the names we had for each other
I was your pretty, you were my baby
How could we say goodbye
Hope I didn't spoil your birthday
I'm not acting like a lady
So I'll close this note to you
With good luck and wishes too
Happy, happy birthday, baby
…damn he never should have sent that note, that short, silly, puffed-up cry-baby note trying to worm his way back into Lucy’s arms with memory thoughts about this kiss, or that embrace, about that night down at the beach searching for those elusive “submarines” in the back seat of Jimmy Jenkin’s car or this funny moment at the Fall Frolics dance when they first started taking furtive glances at each other. Worse, going chapter and verse, getting all gooey bringing up old seawall sugar shack beach nights before the step up to back seats of ocean view cars holding hands against the splashed tides, against full moons (which actually impeded any serious fooling around since even some old blind lady could see what they were up to in that light), against tomorrow coming too soon on those submarine nights; double date drive-in movies, speakers on low, deep-breathing car fog-ups on cold October nights, embarrassed, way embarrassed, when they surfaced for intermission's stale popcorn or reheated hot dogs; and, that last dance school dance holding tight, tight as hell, to each other as the DJ, pretending to be radio jockey Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsberg, played Could This Be Magic? on that creaky record player used at North Adamsville High School dances since his mother’s time, maybe hers too since they had been classmates in their time, ancient Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday times.

Damn, a scratchy, scribbly note, a note written on serious stationary and with a real fountain pen to show his sincerity, and not the usual half- lined sheet, pulled out a three-ring subject notebook, and passed to Lucy during their common study class. Notes the passing of which sometimes got them severe looks from the study monitor, Miss Green, and giggles and taunts, usually some lewd or luscious remarks fraught with sexual innuendo about “doing the do” or what exactly was she doing with her head on his lap from their fellow students, boys and girls alike, about fogged-up cars and trash talk like that who also tried to intercept those precious notes without success. Yah, “the note heard round the world” that would expose him to all kinds of ridicule, endless be-bop jive patter, and snide questions about his manhood from guys, and probably girls too, around the school, hell, all around North Adamsville and maybe already had if Lucy decided to cut his heart out and tell one and all what a square he, Luke Jackson, was when all was said and done.

He could hear it now, and could hear the words ringing in his ears. What a soft guy Luke Jackson really was, a guy known to be a love ‘em and leave ‘em guy, what did he call it, oh yeah, “doing the Eddie,” moving on with no forwarding address and no regrets like his Eddie hero of the Teen Queens’ Eddie, My Love, before Lucy. A guy, a used to be sharp guy who shrugged off more things that you could shake a stick at, not just girls, but guys from other corners who he had, or they had, beefs about, some crazed teacher who thought he had promise yakking about him applying himself, some cop trying to meet his mother quota giving him a ration of crap about his speed, stuff like that, and came back swinging. But who now was getting all misty-eyed and cry-baby just because some dame, a good looking dame in all the right places, yes, a dame all the guys were ready to pursue once he was out of the picture, but still a dame, a young high school dame, when all was said and done, got under his skin, like they were married or something.

Hell, he thought, thought now too late, to himself, that he would have been better off, much better off, if he had just left it at calling Lucy on the telephone every few hours and either hanging up before she answered or when she did answer freezing up. She knew who it was after a while, or should have, but at least he would not have left a paper trail and be the upcoming subject of locker room and lavatory snickers. But that was costing money, serious add up money, since he had had to use a public pay telephone up the street from his house because the telephone service had been turned off for non-payment as his family could not afford to pay the bill the past few months.

Besides it had been getting kind of creepy going in and out of the house at all hours, midnight by the telephone waiting like some lonely, awkward girl, walking up the street like a zombie, half mope, half dope, then hesitating before deciding to make the call, making it, or not, and then scurrying like a rat from the public glare of the booth. Christ, one time the cops looked at him funny, real funny, when he was calling at about midnight. And he had to admit that he might have called the police station a few times too after he looked at himself in the mirror upon returning home.

That note, sent the day before and probably in Lucy’s plotting hands right now, was a minute, a quick minute, brain-storm that he had thought up when he was just plain miserable, just plain midnight telephone tired too, and anyone could make such a rash decision under love’s duress, teenage love’s duress. Right then though all he could think of was all the notes, the cutesy, lined-sheet paper school-boyish notes, that he had sent her when love was in full blossom, full blossom before Jamie Lee Johnson came on the scene, came on the scene with his big old ’59 Chevy Impala, his money in his pocket, and his line of patter and stole his “Sweet Pea” Lucy away from her “Sugar Plum” Luke. And that picture sent him back to thoughts of when he and Lucy first met, when their eyes first met.

“Let’s see,” Luke said to himself it was probably at Chrissie McNamara’s sweet sixteen birthday party that he first laid eyes on her. Hell, who was he kidding, he knew that it was exactly at 8:32 PM on the night of April 25, 1962 that he first laid eyes on her, big almost star-struck staring eyes. Or maybe it was a few seconds before because, to break the ice, he had gone up to her and asked her for the time, asked in his then bolder manner if she had time for him, asked her to dance, she said yes, and that was that. Oh, yah, there was more to it than that but both of them knew at that moment, knew somewhere deep down in their teenage hearts, they were going to be an “item,” for a while. And they were indeed sweet pea and sugar plum, for a while. Although Luke would get mad sometimes, fighting mad, fighting break-up mad, when Lucy teased, no, more than teased, him about his not having a car so that they could go “parking” by themselves and not always be on some clowny double-date down at the seashore on Saturday night (or any night in the summer). And Luke would reply that he was saving money for college, and besides sitting on the seawall (and sometimes in love’s heat down beneath its height), their usual habit, was okay, wasn’t it.

That simmer, that somehow unarticulated simmer, went on for a while, a long while. But Luke had noticed a few months back, or rather Lucy had made her Sugar Plum notice, that now that they were high school seniors sitting on the seawall was nothing but nowhere kids’ stuff and why did he want to go to college anyway, and wasn’t going to work down at the shipyard where he could earn some real dough and get a car a better idea. 

The real clincher though, the one that telegraphed to him that the heavens were frowning on him, was the night she, no bones, stated that she had no plans for college and was going right to work after graduation, and maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t be able to wait for him, wait for him to finish college and maybe he would find some slow-slung college girl who might “curl his toes” like she had been doing, Lucy chancing that she might get in the family way and have to go off to some faked Midwestern aunt and then where would she have been. Even if that had not happened then what about her needs, her need to get out from under her own “from hunger” family household complete with drunken slob father, her need to have a few things before it was too late to appreciate such things. So most recent date nights had been spent not in her “curling his toes” but in arguing the finer point of their collective future. And after a succession of such nights that’s where things started to really break down between them.

Enter one Jamie Lee Johnson, a friend of Lucy’s older brother Kenny, already graduated from North Adamsville two years before and working, working steady with advancement possibilities according to the talk, as a junior welder down at the shipyard making good dough. Making drive-in movies and even drive-in restaurants good time dough, and driving that souped-up, retro-fitted, dual-carbed, ’59 Chevy, jet black and hung to the gills with chrome to make a girl breathless. And before Luke knew it Lucy’s mother was answering the phone calls for Lucy from Luke saying that she wasn’t in, wasn’t expected in, and that she, Lucy’s mother, would tell Lucy that he had called. The runaround, the classic runaround since boy meets girl time began, except not always done over the telephone. And while Lucy never said word one about breaking it off between them, not even a “so long, we had fun,” Luke, although not smart enough to not write that sappy note, knew she was gone, and gone for good. But see she had gotten under his skin, way under, and well, and that was that.

Just as Luke was thinking about that last thought, that heart-tearing thought, he decided, wait a minute, maybe she didn’t get the note, maybe he had forgotten to put a stamp on it and as a result of those maybes he fished around his pocket to see if he had some coins, some telephone coins, and started out of the house prison to make that late night pilgrimage creep, that midnight waiting by the telephone creep. Walking up the street, walking up the now familiar night street-lighted against the deathless shadows Hancock Street he noticed a jet black ’59 Impala coming his way, coming his way with Jamie Lee and Lucy sitting so close together that they could not be pried apart with a crowbar. Luke thought about that scene for a minute, steeled himself with new-found resolve against the love hurts like in the old love 'em and leave ‘em days, threw the coins on the ground without anger but rather with relief, turned back to his house wondering, seriously wondering like the fate of the world depended on it, what pet names they, Jimmy and Lucy, had for each other.

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