Three Coins in the Fountain
(of Music and Love)
by Rainer Klauss
“If music be the food of love, play on…”, Twelfth Night, Shakespeare
Two of the songs I’ve selected on the virtual jukebox are associated with young ladies I had crushes on in the 8th and 9th grades, the early springtime of teenage years. With my 10th grade amour, our lives were filled with music, and she “came into my heart so tenderly.” She, too, merits a special song.
Miss H. came to Lee from California. She was one of the attractive arrivals from the West Coast that year, one of those girls the Beach Boys would be singing about a few years later. Seeing her in the halls, I was smitten. I thought she looked like a brunette Sandra Dee. Then I heard it through the grapevine that she liked me. Who me? We had no classes together, but later in the year I shifted into a study hall with her. With only a vague rumor to motivate me, though, I was too shy to make the sensible move of sitting next to her and signaling my interest. Instead, I pined for her from across the room, while doing homework or perusing Hot Rod magazines with Ron Blaise. I was surely an ambiguous suitor (practically non-existent, actually).
At the height of my infatuation, Percy Faith’s “Theme From a Summer Place” became popular on the radio, and I linked the ardor of its romantic arrangement with my feelings for Miss H. (The song starts with piano and flute creating a waltz rhythm; then a string bass adds a lilting variation in support. Violins sweep in with the theme, joined by sonorous French horns. And that’s just the start of this fine melody.)*. In the years since, I’ve realized that the song’s lush sound was totally at odds with the reality of my desultory pursuit of Miss H. What can I say? I was young and foolish. There was a song in my heart, but I could not overcome my self-consciousness. I was new to this boy-girl business and let the chance--if there ever really was one—slip away. The crush ended when I saw her circling the Lee auditorium on the morning promenade with a fellow that had won her favor.
Miss C. was a Hoosier, another lovely transplant. We had a class together and became friends. After a while, I heard: she likes you. This time the message came from several insistent and authoritative sources, girlfriends of hers. Better yet, each school day started and ended with Miss C. and me talking and flirting on the school bus. How much more evidence did I need? I was falling for her. Did she really have affection for me? I was determined not to be passive this time. I worked up the courage to call her one evening. An awkward conversation ensued. She told me that she had a steady boyfriend “back home in Indiana.” “Oh, thanks for telling me. Well, uh, goodnight.”
During the course of this affair, I spent part of my weekends at the Ice Palace, my favorite skating venue. One of the songs serenading us there was Billy Vaughn’s “Tracy’s Theme.” After a brief rhythmic introduction, the theme begins as a solo for alto sax: high, pure, and haunting. Then the tune builds instrumentally with the voicings of strings and more saxes (part of the Vaughn “sound”). It closes with a return of the lone sax theme, accompanied by diminishing accents from the violins and saxes. It could be a love call, a song of longing. The arc of the tune, with its long and simple melodic line, in the relative quiet of the ice rink, made for dreamy skating. Later on, after I had been frozen out by Miss C., I glided over the ice somewhat plaintively for a while.
This last song “is dedicated to the one I” loved—Miss S., wherever you may be. We found each other in a world history class in the 10th grade. We began with teasing, moved to flirtation, and then we realized that something more meaningful was happening. It came about so naturally. We were bandmates. One of the shining moments of my young life occurred on a band bus trip back from some out-of-town game. For the first time, Miss S. and I sat together. We talked, but what I recall most vividly is her head cradled on my shoulder. It was heaven—the beginning of love.
We began going steady the summer before the 11th grade. One evening we discovered that we had briefly been in the same 1st grade classroom at Fifth Avenue Elementary. (My family moved, and I transferred to East Clinton). Often we sat in her living room and talked, played records, or did what healthy, curious teenagers normally do. She put up with my love of Broadway musicals and the Ray Conniff Singers. Her parents sat in the next room, trying to watch television. Only a thin accordion-fold door separated us; the music blared through it, unwelcome soundtracks to the comedies or dramas. Mercy, were we drowning out Lawrence Welk? Her folks were tolerant people.
Miss S. and I stayed a couple through the 11th and 12th grades. The summer after graduation in 1964 we both had jobs in town. She began work as a secretary at Redstone Arsenal, and I picked up my engineer’s aide slot at Brown Engineering. We knew I would be going to Auburn in the fall, but I don’t remember us ever talking about what that would mean for our relationship.
After a month or so, I began hearing stories about the guys in her office, how friendly and sharp they were. I don’t recall being worried. Maybe I took it as an innocent response to “How was your day today, honey?”
I’ll cut to the chase from here. I left for Auburn in September, and we were still together. That was affirmed a month later when I came home for a weekend to a loving reception. No sign of the bond weakening. Several weeks later I caught another long ride back. I had called her earlier in the week, alerting her of my return. I drove to her house early that Friday evening and rang the bell. Her mother answered the door. “She’s out.” “Pardon?” “She’s gone for the evening.” I thought that over for a few seconds, looking at her mother. I was so stunned I forgot my manners. I turned my back to her, walked to the car and drove home. It was over. I can’t remember what the rest of the weekend was like.
Back in August, the Supremes had hit the top of the Billboard pop chart for the first time with “Where Did Our Love Go.” Early in November, the jukebox in the Auburn Union cafeteria took in several dollars on one song, as this lament was played again and again: “Baby, baby/Baby, don’t leave me/Ooh, please don’t leave me/All by myself.”
I read about and listened with pleasure to the jukebox selections Sarajane, Linda, Dwight, and John made. As they stated, it was a tough job weighing which three songs topped their long lists. The American and British music industries were/are robust, producing thousands of tunes for our listening pleasure--and their bottom line. Sometimes the songs attracted us in a simple fashion: “good beat, easy to dance to.” They were ephemeral. Many, many more were memorable and are cherished to this day—excellent examples of the craft or strangely appealing ones. Take “96 Tears,” for example. At rarer times, music and lyrics strike deeper and become tangled with our experiences, popular art uniting with life for enduring remembrances.
* The composer of “Theme from a Summer Place”, Max Steiner, also composed the film scores for Gone With the Wind (1939) and King Kong (1933)
Memphis, TN - Thanks to Rainer for contributing this week's feature story.
The other night on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," he read some tweets from his TV audience on the worst Christmas presents they ever received. It did not take but a fraction of a second to recall the worst present I ever received in my almost 70 years of getting presents. The present itself is still vivid in my mind, even though some of the details have become cloudy over the decades since it happened and today I find myself questioning the circumstances under which it was given.
I was either eight years old (can't remember exactly today) when I got the present. My maternal grandmother with whom I did not see as often as I did my maternal grandmother was the giver of the present. Now she was not as well off as many, but she still took the effort to get me a present, since I was one of her only two grandchildren. She had lots of nieces and nephews which she also bought presents for, but I did not know most of them. She worked at Dobson's Department store in downtown Huntsville and bought most of the inexpensive presents there.
One year she bought me a bicycle after mine had been stolen over the summer, but that was years later than the one I classify as the worst present I ever received. I remember opening the "shoebox" size present, tearing the paper off and opening the lid. Inside was a baby doll. I was eight and I was a boy and she got me a baby doll. What was worse, was it was an African-American girl baby doll. One detail I cannot remember is whether she was there when I opened it, or if she had sent it over to be placed under our tree. This was the period when my mother had just divorced her son, so I do not know if that altered the Christmas visitation circumstances. I remember big tears swelling up in my eyes when I saw what was inside the much anticipated brightly paper wrapped box. I also remember repeating over and over "She got me a baby doll, and I'm a boy."
Though I never talked to a shrink about it, I am sure I should have. Looking back, I now wonder if perhaps somehow she got my present mixed up with one she bought a niece or perhaps the gift tags got mixed up and it was never meant to be my present at all. Perhaps there was a little girl somewhere near wondering why she got a firetruck or battleship when she was a little girl. I'll never know, but I do know it was the worst present I ever received.
What about you? What was the worst present you ever received for Christmas? Send me you story.
The Virtual Jukebox
This Week's Selections By
Patsy Hughes Oldroyd
Since it is “the most wonderful time of the year,” I decided to spend my virtual quarter on holiday songs that were played constantly each December during our high school years, and these three are still popular today. These are all secular songs that have nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They were just fun songs that were played throughout the holidays. Two of the songs do not even mention Christmas, but they are still played almost exclusively at that time of the year and are categorized as Christmas music. The third song is about dancing at the Christmas hop. All three are seasonal feel good songs that get you singing and get your toes tapping. Merry Christmas to all!
These songs may have been recorded earlier than the 1960’s, but they certainly got lots of play time during our high school years. My three choices are
#1 Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes
#2 Jingle Bell Rock by Brenda Lee
#3 Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee