My friend, Manfred, who lives in Nuremberg, Germany, said during our last visit, "You know we had the best music. Even our kids will say that."
Well, Manny, I believe you’re right.
When you listen to the music of the ‘50s and ‘60s, you’re listening to the birth of rock ‘n roll. It was an innocent age and the music was fun, even if the lyrics were pretty much nonsensical. But, they didn’t have any filthy four-letter words, either.
Like many kids growing up in the 1950s, I became obsessed with the music. My parents bought me a record player for Christmas when I was 12 and I literally wore it out. I spent every dime I could muster on two things: 45 rpm records and baseball cards. Sometimes it was a tough decision just where to spend the money.
Both the records I bought, and the baseball cards, have survived more than half a century. Often to relax, I’ll put some old records on a turntable (I now have 200 record albums, or more), sit back, and just listen.
Kids of the 1950s could go nuts over music that told us about a real cool bird with the lyrics that said "Rockin’ Robin, tweet, tweet, tweet, Rockin’ Robin. He rocks in the treetops all the day long, rockin’ and a boppin’ and singin’ his song." And, we believed every word when Bobby Darin sang, "Splish, splash, I was takin’ a bath. How was I to know there was a party goin’ on?"
Our parents’ generation simply didn’t understand.
Our music even became poetry on national television when Iowa native Steve Allen, hosting a late-night show, recited the lyrics in jest, noting that this was the poetry the young generation. He then read the lyrics … "Who put the bop in the bop sh’bop, sh’bop? Who put the ram in the ram-a-lama ding dong? Who was that man? I’d like to shake his hand. He made my baby fall in love with me."
My parents thought Steve Allen was funny. I thought it was good music.
My dad said Fats Domino sounded like a sick cow when he sang. He thought Little Richard’s music was obscene and forbad me to buy it. Oh, well, I snuck it home anyway, hid it and played it when dad was at work. Today, I think it’s a little strange that the first contraband I hid from my parents were a few 45 rpm records by Little Richard.
Of course, if dad ever found the Little Richard records, he’d also have found a couple of Playboy Magazines stashed away. Like most lads of the ‘50s, I got those Playboy mags for the stories, not the pictures.
Today, it’s not my parents who "Tsk, tsk" about my big collection of records. My wife doesn’t understand why I keep them, although she certainly tolerates my passion for old rock ‘n roll music. Deep down, I suspect, she loves it as much as I.
Records had nearly become obsolete, replaced by 8-track tapes, then cassettes, then CDs. Now, I understand, they’re making a comeback because they produce such good sound.
Once, when my son was a teenager deeply into heavy metal music, I walked in the door unexpectedly. He was obviously surprised. He was playing an album of Herman’s Hermits greatest hits, actually singing along with Peter Noone as he crooned, "Mrs. Brown, you’ve got a lovely daughter."
Despite his embarrassment at being "outed" at the moment, he had to agree that some of dad’s music provided pretty good listening.
Record albums, even 45 rpm records, may not be things of the past, after all.
If records can make a comeback, maybe some of the other out-dated objects we grew up with will come back, too. During a recent visit, I noted that my son now has a turntable and a stack of record albums, too. I like "comebacks."
Maybe next time I visit, he’ll want to know how to change a typewriter ribbon. I can do that, too.