It Was The Summer of '68
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...