***The Roots Is The Toots-The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night – Doris Troy’s Just One Look
You know it’s funny how a kid, a guy kid I will let the gals speak for themselves, picked up the various signals, the various nods and looks relating to being cool back in the day, back in the late 1950s, early 1960s day. Cool with guys and cool with girls for they were two very different things. Probably each generation develops out of necessity, or self-defense, its own set of signals but while I was reviewing an “oldies but goodies” rock and roll compilation from the early 1960s I latched onto Doris Troy’s Just One Look to get me thinking about the ways we rather silently communicated what we were about.
The strange thing about the signals, let’s just call it that but I mean nods and looks, was early on when you were just a wet-behind-the-ears kid, say around elementary school no later, your signals tended to be straight up, you liked this or that, didn’t like this or that, thought he or she was a dope, etc. and that was the end of it. Or maybe not the end of it if in your honesty some bigger kid decided to take umbrage and box your ears to show his or her displeasure in a more visceral way. Then almost by osmosis, or maybe design, I am not sure which, you curbed your tongue a little and began with the silent signals.
The first one I clearly remember from down at the old Adamsville housing projects neighborhood was when my best friend in elementary school, Billy Bradley, stopped telling me I was his best friend but instead when we saw each other in the hallways during school he would just give me a slight nod of his head. At first I thought he was putting the freeze on me or something until I asked him about it after school one day. He said he had learned from his older brother, Prescott I think, that guys did not just keep going around saying they were friends when they got older but gave the nod to acknowledge that fact. And so the nod. Once I picked up on it that was that. All through school until graduation, maybe later, the nod became the way guys, guys who thought other guys were cool, addressed each other. Especially guys you did not know well, maybe just played pick-up ball with, maybe just hung around the soda fountain at the drugstore listening to the juke-box, maybe just saw walking down the street and maybe had nothing to say but giving the nod expressed your appreciation of other guy’s guy-ness.
Of course guy-girl signals were in another universe. No way you gave a girl, I think any girl whether you liked her or not, whether you cared whether she lived or died or not, the nod. No way, first they would not be privy to what that nod meant probably thinking you had some neck problem but as usual with girls you needed a much more elaborate signal system whether you were trying to score or not. Here too there was a shift around late elementary school, right around the time girls went from being nuisance sticks to, well, interesting. Before that time you would just say something unkind and they would do the same in turn, or they would beat you up depending on their mood. But thereafter to show your interest you had to develop your best furtive glance. There were variations on this but the basic idea was that if you were trying to hone in on some lovely say hanging around that drugstore listening to the jukebox with everybody else you casually shot a slight glance her way, enough for her to see that you had glanced her way but not enough to think that you were so uncool as to stare at her with your tongue open. The trick though was to see if she was also going to take a peek your way. If so then the game was on, if not then if you were called on it, although this rarely happened, you could use that neck problem thing to bail you out. Such were the ways of young love. However the older you got the more signals you developed which one Doris Troy, blessed Doris Troy gave us the ABCs on.
See here is how it worked out in the trenches. Out in the drive-in movie night once those furtive glances paid off, or promised to pay off. A whole galaxy of options opened up. I remember being struck but the appropriateness of the cover artwork on that CD that I reviewed that “spoke” exactly to this drive-in night. I had been on a tear in reviewing individual CDs in an extensive commercial rock and roll series called Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die. The artwork which graced the covers of each item, both to stir ancient memories and reflect that precise moment in time, the youth time of the now very, very mature (nice sliding over the age issue, right?) baby-boomer generation who lived and died by the music. And who fit in, or did not fit in as the case may be, to the themes of those artwork scenes. The one for the 1963 CD compilation was a case of the former, of the fitting in. On that cover, a summer scene (always a nice touch since that was the time when we had at least the feel of our generational break-out) we are placed at the drive-in, the drive-in movies for those of the Internet/Netflicks/YouTube generations who have not gotten around to checking out this bit of Americana on Wikipedia, with the obligatory 1950s-early 1960s B-movie monster movie (outer space aliens, creatures from the black lagoon, blobs, DNA-damaged dinosaurs, foreign-bred behemoths a specialty) prominent on the screen.
Oh sure, everyone of a certain age, a certain baby-boomer age, a generation of ’68 age, has plenty of stories to tell of being bundled up as kids, maybe pre-set with full set pajamas on to defend against the late sleepy-eyed night, the sleepy-drowsy late movie night, placed in the car backseats and taken by adventurous parents (or so it seemed) to the local open air drive-in for the double feature. That usually also happened on a friendly summer night when school did not interfere with staying up late (hopefully keeping awake through both films). And to top it all off you got to play in the inevitable jungle jim, see-saw, slide, swing set-laden playground during intermission between the films while waiting, waiting against all hope, for that skewered, shriveled hot dog, rusty, dusty hamburger, or stale, over-the-top buttered popcorn that was the real reason that you “consented” to stay out late with the parents. Yah, we all have variations on that basic theme to tell, although I challenge anyone, seriously challenge anyone, to name five films that you saw at the drive-in that you remembered from then-especially those droopy-eyed second films.
In any case, frankly, I don’t give a damn about that kid stuff family adventure drive-in experience. Come on, that was all, well, just kids' stuff. The “real” drive-in, as pictured on that cover art just mentioned is what I want to address. The time of our time in that awkward teen alienation, teen angst thing that only got abated by things like a teenage night at the drive-in. Yeah, that was not, or at least I hope it was not, you father’s drive-in. That might have been in the next planet over, for all I know. For starters our planet involved girls (girls, ah, women, just reverse the genders here to tell your side of the experience), looking for girls, or want to be looking for girls, preferably a stray car-full to compliment your guy car-full and let god sort it out at intermission.
Wait a minute. I am getting ahead of myself in this story. First you needed that car, because no walkers or bus riders need apply for the drive-in movies like this was some kind of lame, low-rent, downtown matinee last picture show adventure. For this writer that was a problem, a personal problem, as I had no car and my family had cars only sporadically. Fortunately we early baby-boomers lived in the golden age of the automobile and could depend on a friend to either have a car (praise be teenage disposable income/allowances) or could use the family car. Once the car issue was clarified then it was simply a matter of getting a car-full of guys (or sometimes guys and gals) in for the price of two (maybe three) admissions.
What? Okay, I think that I can safely tell the story now because the statute of limitations must have surely passed. See, what you did was put a couple (or three guys) in the trunk of that old car (or in a pinch one guy on the backseat floor) as you entered the drive-thru admissions booth. The driver paid for the two (or three tickets) and took off to your parking spot (complete with ramp speaker just in case you wanted to actually listen to the film shown on that big wide white screen). Neat trick, right?
Now, of course, the purpose of all of this, as mentioned above, was to get that convoy of guys, trunk guys, backseat guys, backseat floor guys, whatever, to mix and moon with that elusive car-full of girls who did the very same thing (except easier because they were smaller) at the intermission stand or maybe just hanging around the unofficially designated teen hang-out area. No family sedans with those pajama-clad kids need apply (nor would any sane, responsible parent get within fifty paces of said teens). And occasionally, very occasionally as it turned out, some “boss” car would show up complete with one guy (the driver) and one honey (girl, ah, woman) closely seated beside him for what one and all knew was going to be a very window-fogged night. And that was, secretly thought or not, the guy drive-in dream. As for the movies. Did they show movies there? Enough said. And enough too of furtive glances…for now.