All Sound and No Fury
Summer in the City and we were Movin’ Out, making that East End Run for two months of complete contentment. There was a Summer Place where the season before a group of cousins had strolled along together holding hands singing something about La Plume de ma Tante in New York City accents that unexpectedly elicited laughter from behind the large Evergreen hedges that fronted the stone-faced house closest to the beach. Time after Time we returned to that beach and Day by Day summers passed on a clock with a Slow Hand. There was the summer of the Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini, followed by the one where everyone seemed to be having fun Sitting in the Back Seat huggin’ and a-Kissin’ with Fred. We were Barefootin’ and didn’t have to guess Who Wears Short Shorts.
The music didn’t end with our return to the city. We made the short walk to Gershwin Hall to see Santana and then Delaney and Bonnie. There were subway rides into the Fillmore to see John Mayall who experimented with an interesting idea. His band intentionally lacked a drummer and the beat was kept by the bass guitar and the singer’s percussive vocalizations into the microphone- a pioneering attempt at “Beat Boxing. We returned to that same venue for The Flock and It’s a Beautiful Day with Joe’s Lights. Friends went to the Academy of Music to see the J. Geils Band. There were two opening acts: Captain Beefheart and newcomer Billy Joel, who had the lowest billing. I Heard It Through the Grapevine that Beefheart was booed and Billy Joel stole the show with vocal impersonations of Stevie Winwood and Walter Brennan among others.
The music continued playing when we returned to the East End that summer. The Young Rascals were at the Barge in Hampton Bays and the unknown Twisted Sister opened for the Good Rats at the O.B. I. Twisted Sister’s appearance had to be one of the strangest things any of us had witnessed. The band took the stage chained together, dressed in what we would have called drag, if we knew what drag was. The lead singer, Dee Snider was in full make up with long blond curls. Even by the end of the evening few of us, had Grown Accustomed To his Face. Additionally, that summer Buzzy Linhart appeared at a local bar in our small town which was in the middle of Nowhere, Man. Apparently he was looking for a few new Friends, as he attempted to solicit funds to produce a new record from anyone who would listen.
At around this time we were warned not to trust anyone over forty. I wondered if this admonition extended to taste in music. I remember my father’s reaction to The British Invasion in general, and the Beatles in particular. He said that there wasn’t enough variety created by three guitars and a drum kit. He suggested that they needed a piano and some horns if they were ever going to make it big. The only piece of music he ever heard me listening to, upon which he commented favorably, was Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are and his praise was restrained. He said: “Who’s this? He’s not bad”.
One evening we were gathered in front of the TV at a friend’s house, anxiously awaiting the appearance of Joe Cocker on the Ed Sullivan Show. Just as the singer began his awkward gyrations, the patriarch of the home descended the stairs, walked between us and the television, glanced at the screen, then looked back at us and said: “This is the first man I’ve seen whose managed to capitalize on his affliction”. In June, there was a small Celebration at Our House for my Graduation Day from high school. Many of my relatives attended in addition to a few of my friends. My uncle who had played the trumpet in the army during WWII was there. He dabbled in jazz and could interpret the strange language spoken by jazz musicians. He had a friend who, to me, looked like Burl Ives and he visited yearly, toting a large acoustic bass. These things combined to qualify uncle Frank as our expert witness, judge and jury in matters musical. My friends and I were particularly interested in getting his reaction to the music of the Band whose brown album had been well received at colleges earlier that year. We played a selection for him and when it was over we didn’t have to wait long for his evaluation. Shaking his head back and forth he said, “Not even making contact man”.
The summer that followed was a perfect storm of drivers’ licenses, legal drinking ages, independence, foolishness and false bravado. Perhaps in a way it was a Cruel Summer because we realized that This Could Be the Last Time we would enjoy such freedom together. Also, it was followed by my first semester of college. On campus, I had occasionally heard a song on the radio station that referenced something about everything being all right Come Monday. I didn’t know who the singer was but I knew I liked the song. The internet wouldn’t debut for another twenty-five years, so it was difficult retrieve the information I needed. A similar situation presented itself during the fantabulous summer that had recently ended. I heard someone singing something about a marvelous night for a moondance. For a moment, I was Brian Wilson (minus all his talent) hearing the Four Freshmen for the first time. This song was like nothing I had ever heard before. Again, without the internet, it took some time to find out that Van Morrison had written and sung it. I was also able to determine that Come Monday was by Jimmy Buffet and was pleasantly surprised to learn that his songs described a milieu with which I was familiar. He often wrote and sang about beaches, boats and bars. Hearing the lyrics to Come Monday on a crowded urban campus was particularly painful because I was beginning to feel that everything would be alright for me, only if I could somehow get myself closer to a beach, some farm land, the threat of Lyme Disease and a parking spot.
Through the Years summers had adhered to a predictable pattern; following a Caravan of overloaded station wagons to the east when school ended in June and west around Labor Day. I rarely stepped foot in the place during a month whose spelling required an “r”. However, a germ of an idea was beginning to develop. Would it be possible to break the strictly held pattern and spend time out east during the off season? Was spending Another Winter in a Summer Town a realistic possibility? Two of my aunts had broken our unwritten rule after the age of seventy. At separate times, they extended the season through September into October and decided to Stay in the little house up the farm road from the creek- simply because they preferred A Quiet Place. They stayed alone without heat or the benefit of a driver’s license. I was fascinated by the idea. What did a Tuesday Afternoon in Indian Summer look like one hundred miles from New York, New York? The place was pulling me harder and harder.
Then the City began to push. I was becoming less enamored with The Streets of New York. Questions regarding the safety of our neighborhood began to arise. Some relatives and friends had left and they had been what helped Keep Me Hanging On in the first place. Should I stay just a little bit longer or try to realize this idea that had been several years in the making? To make any Changes, I would have to Get a Job closer to the East End and chances of that seemed Less than Zero. I had been fishing for a few years and was shot down in May and every other month but That’s… .
With the passing of time dreams changed and taste in music evolved. With regard to the realization of my dream, I’ll drop a hint. With regard to music, right now the singer who’s really making contact is Tony Bennett, whose CD Here’s to the Ladies is getting worn out by my CD player. Also with regard to my current listening habits, around the middle of August I switch to a disk with titles like, Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Gonna Take a Miracle in anticipation of an annual event in East Hampton. Then there’s an abrupt change in early September, showing a preference for CD in my collection whose jacket I’ve lost, making the names of the songs difficult to identify. September Mornings while Homeward Bound from the beach, I drive past that stone-faced house and listen to that CD. One song in particular offers some consolation. It sounds to me as if they are singing something like: Dan’s Ink In The Dark!