Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It Was The Summer of '68

Ned wants a vintage bike. Blue is tempting him.

Seeing that video and hearing the tune reminded me...

That summer I turned 11. I heard that song for the first time on a beach in Rhode Island. We were on vacation. Hippies everywhere. My parents were as cool as two second-generation Italian depression-era parents could be, which wasn't very cool at all. They certainly didn't approve of the long hair on boys.

We were at the snack bar area. Maybe a boardwalk. I have a vague picture of the scene in my mind, but it was a long time ago now. There was this one couple. Probably 19 or 20 years-old. The guy had cut-off shorts and hair down the middle of his back. (I still want to wear cutoffs today. Real shorts weren't cool, and those balloon bathing suits that were around labeled you as a real idiot back then. I swore off bathing suits and regular shorts at about 12. I had to admit about ten years ago that I looked the fool at 40 in cutoffs, so now I wear those lame docker shorts when it gets hot and a real bathing suit when I go swimming.) The girl was wearing a tiny bikini, and had long, dirty-blond hair. Both were wearing love beads and both had ankle bracelets. My mother said, "look at those two."

But I was already looking. Except that while my parents perceived them as a freak show, I secretly wanted to be them. I wanted to be the guy, and I wanted to, er, have a girlfriend like that. There was no way in hell I was ever going to be allowed to have long hair as a kid. I didn't know that at the time, and in retrospect it was the single, most argued over issue of my teen years. My parents were who they were, and they were great parents - but they got that one wrong. I think that I'm still a little mad about it, even at 50.

In any event, we were on vacation, and I was of an age where a vacation with my parents was still fun. We were at the beach snack-bar, which for me was way better than a restaurant. I could get a hotdog or cheeseburger and some fries, and a coke. (We were not a "coke" family. We had cokes on birthdays and holidays, and when we were out for lunch or dinner, which was a rare treat. I'm glad of that now, and that's how I raised my kids too. That shit is no good for kids, or adults for that matter. I hate it when I see some 7 year-old tearing it up at 9:00 P.M. with his clueless parents saying things like "I don't know what gets into him" in the same breath as "have another coke, Logan." And, apparently, the artificial sweeteners in the diet sodas actually interact with your brain chemistry and make you hungrier.)

I remember there was a radio playing, and "Born to Be Wild" came on. I was stunned. I couldn't make out the words, but I guessed it was about motorcycles. It sounded like a song about riding around on choppers with sissy bars. I LOVED it. Not only did I want to be a hippie at 11, but I wanted to be a biker. I guessed correctly at the name of the song, and decided that I was going to buy the 45 as soon as I could. And I did. I used to crank it up on my little scratch-box record-player with a tone-arm that weighed in at about 3 pounds and get psyched. I'd hop aboard my stingray bicycle and fly over the "motorcycle bumps." We called the spot on driveway entrances from the street where the curb tapered down to ground level forming the break into the driveways "motorcycle bumps," and the slope of some of them could get quite steep. We'd get our bikes up to full speed on the road and then hit those little moguls and pull up on the handle bars and leave the ground. And for that moment, I was a biker, with that song playing in my head.

Born To Be Wild
was the song of that summer, and now when I hear it some 40 years later, it still brings me back...


Blogger XTCfan said...

Ah, the summer of '68. I was 9, but I do remember it well. Like you, I could never have long hair throughout my teens, and so I grew it as soon as I got to college -- and subsequently got to be known as "the guy with the long hair," since by then it wasn't really "the look." Still, it was a look that certain women still liked...

I was happy to let my son grow his hair as long as he wanted to, but after a while, at his age(11), too many people were mistaking him for a girl, so we suggested a cut. He did get it cut about a week ago -- it's still quite long, but boy-long -- and all parties are happy. You're right, Al, it's the kind of thing that makes no difference, and if your kid wants it, why not?

1:05 PM  
Anonymous blue girl said...

What a great post! And pretty funny....because when I found that youtube video, I kept thinking -- this song is so *over* -- one of those songs you've heard a million trillion times and are kind of sick of. Kind of. I'll still crank it up sometimes when it comes on the radio. Anyway, I kept thinking -- don't know why I didn't write this -- everyone should remember when they *first* heard it.

Glad you felt those vibes, Al!

I was 4 in '68. Don't remember much about that year, unfortunately. I do have a funny picture of me from that year though. I'm all sad and pitiful in it because we were at my cousins house and he was making me tapes of 1950s songs. And my parents said we had to go home and he was done making my tapes! It's hilarious.

I think I'll do a post on that.

Great post, Al.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous blue girl said...

Typo. Should've been....He *wasn't* done making those tapes. I wanted those tapes!

And I still don't have them. He taped almost every great 50s song out there. My dad's got 'em in his basement in TX. I need to write him and get that box of tapes!


1:16 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

No time to write down the reminiscences, but you did prompt me to do a little searchy-linky myself.

Lovely post ...

2:03 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

I was eight in the summer of '68. This song, like a lot of others, is not remembered by me in any kind of "first time I heard it" way. The songs just showed up and became familiar; they were part of the atmosphere at the time.

For me, the music that had the biggest impact was in '66 and it was soul music. "Barefootin'" and "Land of 1000 Dances," etc. I still love 'em all.

7:40 AM  

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