Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Music of Fourth Grade

You could say there was no music. You'd be wrong of course. On our trips to my grandmothers my parents listened to WIP. Their station. Sinatra, the Mill's Brothers, Mancini, Dean Martin. You could say in 4th grade I didn't get music and then you'd be right. I didn't. My parents bought us records of folk music and classical recordings and we'd play them on the radio/hi fi in the second living room. They had Mitch Miller's Sing a Long With Mitch and the records they bought that I guess they thought would connect me with music.
On one level it worked. I know all the words to John Henry. I know the words to Erie Canal. When I hear the new Springsteen sessions in Dublin it's like being in the living room listening to that stuff over and over. But really, I could have cared less. Music meant almost nothing to me. But it was everywhere. The Mills Brothers singing "cross the river from the Alamo was a Pinto pony...", the theme to Hatari, the distant sounds of rock and roll which to us 4th graders might well have been the sounds you hear on a tv on in a room you walk through.
We paid no attention but it was everywhere. We knew about Elvis. When we took music the teacher would invariably try to talk about Elvis but we were totally befuddled. This was a town where music, classical, folk, rock, experimental, popular was confined to background noise for young people.
My parents might be swaying to Frank. They might know about the new Tony Bennett. But me? I knew nothing. I was a knucklehead, soaking in the noise of the radio in the backseat of the Chevy on the way home from Nonny's. In the Still of the Night, See the Pyramids along the nile all sounds filling the back seat. Watching the houses as we drove home. To Wenonah.
Where we went upstairs to our rooms to listen to the crickets chirping. Buddy Holly had no place there. Not yet.
We sang in school. We heard music all the time. But none of it mattered.
In less than ten years that would all change. I imagine for some young men and women in Wenonah it had already started to change. Otherwise why would our music teacher be talking about blue suede shoes and Gene Krupa? For a little while music was only the thrum of baseball cards on our bike's spokes, or the themes of TV shows we loved. But in a few short years it would grab us by the back of our necks and drag us into a world we didn't even know existed.
Be Bob a Lula. Rock Around the Clock. I boogied in my room and I boogied in the hall, I boogied in my fingers and I wiped it on the wall. She walked up two flights two flights more. Rock around the clock tonight. Rock around the clock. Yakkety Yak don't talk back.
Next year the Beatles came to America and stuff starts to get interesting.

1 comment:

brother Ted said...

How could you forget "Famous Train Whistles" Or the day we ruined Dad's 78s? All great memories though