Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- Frankie Out In The Adventure Car Hop Night
A YouTube film clip of the Dubs performing the classic Could This Be Magic? to set the mood for this piece.
By Josh Breslin
Frankie Riley, the old corner boy leader of the crowd, our crowd of the class of 1964 guys who made it and graduated, not all did, a couple wound up serving time in various state pens but that is not the story I want to tell today except that those fallen brothers also imbibed Frankie’s wisdom (else why would they listen to him for they were tougher if not smarter than he was) about what was what in rock and roll music in the days when we had our feet firmly planted in front of Tonio’s Pizza Parlor in North Adamsville, had almost a sixth sense about what songs would and would not make it in the early 1960s night. Knew like the late Billy Bradley, my corner boy when my family lived on the other side of town back then, did in the 1950s elementary school night what would stir the girls enough to get them “going.” And if you don’t understand what “going” meant or what “going and rock and roll together in the same sentence meant then perhaps you should move along. Why else would we listen to Frankie, including those penal tough guys, if it wasn’t to get into some girl’s pants. Otherwise guys like Johnny Blade (and you don’t need much imagination to know what kind of guy and what kind of weapon that moniker meant) and Hacksaw Jackson would have cut of his “fucking head’ (their exact expression and that is a direct quote so don’t censor me or give me the “what for”).
But that was then and this is now and old, now old genie Frankie had given up the swami business long ago for the allure of the law profession which he is even now as I write starting to turn over to his younger partners who are begging just like he did in his turn to show their stuff, to herald the new breeze that the austere law offices of one Francis Xavier Riley and Associates desperately needs to keep their clients happy. In that long meantime I have been the man who has kept the flame of the classic days of rock and roll burning. Especially over the past few years when I have through the miracles of the Internet been able between Amazon and YouTube to find a ton of the music, classics and one-shot wonders of our collective youths and comment on it from the distance of fifty or so years.
I have presented some reviews of that material, mostly the commercially compiled stuff that some astute record companies or their successors have put together to feed the nostalgia frenzy of the cash rich (relatively especially if they are not reduced to throwing their money at doctors and medicines which is cutting into a lot of what I am able to do), on the Rock and Roll Will Never Die blog that a guy named Wolfman Joe had put together trying to reassemble the “youth nation” of the 1960s who lived and died for the music that was then a fresh breeze compared to the deathtrap World War II-drenched music our parents were trying to foist on us.
That work, those short sketch commentaries, became the subject for conversation between Frankie and me when he started to let go of the law practice (now he is “of counsel” whatever that means except he get a nice cut of all the action that goes through the office without the frenzied work for the dollars) and we would meet every few weeks over at Jack’s in Cambridge where he now lives since the divorce from his third wife, Minnie. So below are some thoughts from the resurrection, Frankie’s term, for his putting his spin on “what was what” fifty or so years ago when even Johnny Blade and Hacksaw Jackson had sense enough to listen to his words if they wanted to get into some frill’s pants.
“Okay, you know the routine by now, or at least the drift of these classic rock reviews. [This is the sixth in the series that I had originally commented on but which Frankie feels he has to put his imprimatur on just like in the old days- JB] The part that starts out with a “tip of the hat” to the hard fact that each generation, each teenage generation that is makes its own tribal customs, mores and language. Then the part that is befuddled by today’s teenage-hood. And then I go scampering back to my teenage-hood, the teenage coming of age of the generation of ‘68 that came of age in the early 1960s and start on some cultural “nugget” from that seemingly pre-historic period. Well this review is no different, except, today we decipher the drive-in restaurant, although really it is the car hops (waitresses) that drive this one.
See, this series of reviews is driven, almost subconsciously driven, by the Edward Hopper Nighthawk-like illustrations on the The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era CDs of this mammoth set of compilations (fifteen, count them, fifteen like there were fifteen times twenty or so songs on each compilation or over three hundred classic worth listening to today. Hell, even Frankie would balk at that possibility).
In this case it is the drive-in restaurant of blessed teenage memory. For the younger set, or those oldsters who “forgot” that was a restaurant idea driven by car culture, especially the car culture from the golden era of teenage car-dom, the 1950s. Put together cars, cars all flash-painted and fully-chromed, “boss” cars we called them in my working class neighborhood, young restless males, food, and a little off-hand sex, or rather the promise or mist of a promise of it, and you have the real backdrop to the drive-in restaurant. If you really thought about it why else would somebody, anybody who was assumed to be functioning, sit in their cars eating food, and at best ugly food at that, off a tray while seated in their cherry, “boss" 1959 Chevy.
And beside the food, of course, there was the off-hand girl watching (in the other cars with trays hanging off their doors), and the car hop ogling (and propositioning, if you had the nerve, and if your intelligence was good and there was not some 250 pound fullback back-breaker waiting to take her home after work a few cars over with some snarl on his face and daggers in his heart or maybe that poundage pounding you) there was the steady sound of music, rock music, natch, coming from those boomerang speakers in those, need I say it, “boss” automobiles. And that is where all of this gets mixed in.
Of course, just like another time when I was reviewing one of the CDs in this series, and discussing teenage soda fountain life, the mere mention, no, the mere thought of the term “car hop” makes me think of a Frankie story. Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, Frankie from the old hell-fire shipbuilding sunk and gone and it-ain’t-coming-back-again seen better days working class neighborhood where we grew up, or tried to. Frankie who I have already told you I have a thousand stories about, or hope I do. Frankie the most treacherous little bastard that you could ever meet on one day, and the kindest man (better man/child), and not just cheap jack, dime store kindness either, alive the next day. Yeah, that Frankie, my best middle school and high school friend Frankie.
Did I tell you about Joanne, Frankie’s “divine” (his term, without quotation marks) Joanne because she enters, she always in the end enters into these things? Yes, I see that I did back when I was telling you about her little Roy “The Boy” Orbison trick. The one where she kept playing Running Scared endlessly to get Frankie’s dander up. But see while Frankie has really no serious other eyes for the dames except his “divine” Joanne (I insist on putting that divine in quotation marks when telling of Joanne, at least for the first few times I mention her name, even now. Needless to say I questioned, and questioned hard, that designation on more than one occasion to no avail) he is nothing but a high blood-pressured, high-strung shirt-chaser, first class. And the girls liked him, although not for his looks although they were kind of Steve McQueen okay. What they went for him for was his line of patter, first class. Patter, arcane, obscure patter that made me, most of the time, think of fingernails scratching on a blackboard (except when I was hot on his trail trying to imitate him) and his faux “beat” pose (midnight sunglasses, flannel shirt, black chinos, and funky work boots (ditto on the imitation here as well). And not just “beat’ girls liked him, either as you will find out. Certainly Joanne the rose of Tralee was not beat sister (although she was his first wife).
Well, the long and short of it was that Frankie, late 1963 Frankie, and the...(oh, forget it) Joanne had had their 207th (really that number, or close, since 8th grade) break-up and Frankie was a "free” man. To celebrate this freedom Frankie, Frankie, who was almost as poor as I was but who has a father with a car that he was not too cheap or crazy about to not let Frankie use on occasion, had wheels. Okay, Studebaker wheels but wheels anyway. And he was going to treat me to a drive-in meal as we went cruising the night, the Saturday night, the Saturday be-bop night looking for some frails (read: girls, Frankie had about seven thousand names for them)
Tired (or bored) from cruising the Saturday be-bop night away (meaning girl-less) we hit the local drive-in hot spot, Arnie’s Adventure Car Hop for one last, desperate attempt at happiness (yeah, things were put, Frank and me put anyway, just that melodramatically for every little thing). What I didn’t know was that Frankie, king hell skirt-chaser had his off-hand eye on one of the car hops, Sandy, and as it turned out she was one of those girls who was enamored of his patter (or so I heard later). So he pulled into her station and started to chat her up as we ordered the haute cuisine, And here was the funny thing, now that I saw her up close I could see that she was nothing but a fox (read: “hot” girl).
The not so funny thing was that she was so enamored of Frankie’s patter that he was going to take her home after work. No problem you say. No way, big problem. I was to be left there to catch a ride home while they set sail into that good night. Thanks, Frankie.
Well, I was pretty burned up about it for a while but as always with “charma” Frankie we hooked up again a few days later. And here is where I get a little sweet revenge (although don’t tell him that).
Frankie sat me down at the old town pizza parlor [Tonio’s Pizza Parlor of blessed memory-JB] and told me the whole story and even now, as I recount it, I can’t believe it.
Sandy was a fox, no question, but a married fox, a very married fox, who said she when he first met her that she was about twenty-two and had a kid. Her husband was in the service and she was “lonely” and succumbed to Frankie’s charms. Fair enough, it is a lonely world at times. But wait a minute, I bet you thought that Frankie’s getting mixed up with a married honey with a probably killer husband was the big deal. No way, no way at all. You know, or you can figure out, old Frankie spent the night with Sandy. Again, it's a lonely world sometimes.
The real problem, the real Frankie problem, was once they started to compare biographies and who they knew around town, and didn’t know, it turned out that Sandy, old fox, old married fox with brute husband, old Arnie’s car hop Sandy was some kind of cousin to Joanne, second cousin maybe. And she was no cradle-robber twenty-two (as if you could rob the cradle according to Frankie) but nineteen, almost twenty and was just embarrassed about having a baby in high school and having to go to her "aunt's" to have the child. Moreover, somewhere along the line she and cousin Joanne had had a parting of the ways, a nasty parting of the ways. So sweet as a honey bun Arnie's car hop Sandy, sweet teen-age mother Sandy, was looking for a way to take revenge and Frankie, old king of the night Frankie, was the meat. She had him sized up pretty well, as he admitted to me. And he was sweating this one out like crazy, and swearing everyone within a hundred miles to secrecy. So I’m telling you this is strictest confidence even now fifty years later and long after his divorce from her. Just don’t tell Joanne. Ever.