Monday, June 1, 2015

Sibling Assignment #164: The Birth of My Love of Top 40 Music

Christy assigned this Sibling Assignment.  Since she's moving back to Kellogg, next door to Mom, in the neighborhood we used to live in, she assigned this:  "Write a memory of hanging out with people from the hood during childhood."

Christy's post about Halloween in our neighborhood, here and Carol wrote about the Sunnyside Bike Gang, here.

I realize I can't be trusted to get all the dates and facts correct, but I'm writing memories here, not a news story, so I'll write what I remember.

If anyone reading this wants to fact check me, go ahead -- for your own pleasure, but I'm going to stick with what I remember.

This story really begins in the summer of 1964, not in our neighborhood, but on a family vacation.

For some reason, that summer, Mom and Dad (well, probably Dad) decided that we would take our annual summer trip to Orofino, ID via Missoula, MT and spend a few days and nights with Ron and DeerDeer (I don't know if this is how she spelled her name).

Carol was barely a year old and Christy and I were in grade school, about the enter the fourth and fifth grade.

On the drive from Missoula to Orofino, on the gorgeous Highway 12, the car radio was on and the Drifters came on singing "Under the Boardwalk".

For some reason this song arrested my ten year old attention and, as I look back, it was my come to Jesus moment for Top 40 music.

I began to listen more and more intently to Top 40 music on Spokane's main Top 40 station, KJRB, when allowed to tune in to it in the car and whenever I could at my Grandma's house in Spokane.

It was in the late summer or fall when it sunk in that the Fabulous (now Silver) Valley's lone radio station, KWAL, played Top 40 music in the early evening.

Each week, on one of the days of the week, KWAL did some kind of countdown of the top five or three songs of the week -- I don't know whose list they worked from, but anticipating the weekly top songs became as suspenseful and exciting to me as reading the baseball box scores and standings in the morning and afternoon newspapers.

And I wasn't alone.  I know the Absec boys were into this.  And I think Valerie was and Claudia and Ricky and Ronnie and Cheryl and Christy and Marcia and Jim and I'd like to include Chris and Vicki and there had to be others.

We rooted for songs to hit the top of the charts.

Someone had a transistor radio we could listen to outside and for what seemed like 100 weeks in a row, the top song was "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison.

Now, here's where my memory is probably playing tricks on me, but there were other songs like Lorne Greene's "Ringo" and "Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-Las and The Beatles were a force, of course, and when we weren't singing "I saved the life of Ringo",  or "Where or where can my baby be/The Lord has taken her away from me" or "I wanna hold your hand" or "Dead Man's curve/ It's no place to play" or "We'll have fun, fun, fun/Now that Daddy took the T-bird away" we were having arguments about which songs were the best and should be #1.

You see, we didn't realize that the #1 song was the best selling song.  We thought these songs were voted on or something, based on which song was best.

It was a source of great disillusionment for me when I learned that sales dictated a song's rank.

We gathered under the streetlight on the corner outside Mr. Anderson's house and across the street from the Absecs and the Kenyons.

Our parents let us be out together, without supervision, as long as we came home when we were called from our porches to come home and get a bath and, possibly, do our homework.

A sponsor of KWAL's Top 40 radio program was Gamble's in Wallace and the 45s were sold upstairs.

The only reason I ever looked forward to going to the dentist in Wallace was because sometimes I got to go to Gamble's and go upstairs and buy a 45 or two.

The first one I ever bought was a favorite song to sing under the streetlight, a song about a way of life far away we knew nothing about:  it was Petula Clark's "Downtown", a song I seem to remember reigning as #1 for a long period of time.

The other record I remember buying in these fresh new days of my conversion to Top 40 music was the Kinks performing "All the Day and All of the Night".  Did my neighborhood friends and I sing "The only time I feel all right is by your side"?

Maybe we did, but what I hope I did was hold an air guitar in my hands and play Dave Davies' awesome riff, the riff that converted me, right there on Riverside and Utah, for life, to the power of the electric guitar.

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