Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hit Me, Harley, One More Time

Have you ever been knocked unconscious? I don’t mean a faint from which you awoke, surprised, or a moment when you realized that maybe an hour had zipped by in a second, and you think that maybe you passed out. I mean flying through the air, landing with a clunk, and waking up sort of fuzzy.

Those TV shows where people wake up from being clobbered, and everything is blurry, and they get all squinty until the world becomes clear again, have it right. At least, I think I got all squinty, since the first thing I said was, “Where are my glasses?” Everything certainly was blurry.

No, my pre-Meltdown box of 45s did not fall on my head. I was riding my bicycle on a late spring afternoon, presumably a Saturday, since school was still in session, with my friend Bubby. (The lack of a comma indicates that I had more than one friend.) Bubby’s real name is James, but he went by Bubby when he was seven, and his twin sister was Sissy, and their older sister was Punky. (There were times when I thought it would be cool to have a nickname, but this was not one of them.) Now, I have my online name, caithiseach. That is, by the way, a word in Irish, not a scrambling of English letters.

So, Bubby and I were meandering along Dakota Street, and I am not using “meander” to be picturesque. I was, unfortunately, meandering, but a sixteen-year-old boy named K.A. was not meandering when he approached us on his Harley. No, he was driving straight and a bit fast for the conditions (sunny, dry, kids meandering in road). The accident was my fault, considering that I meandered into the left lane just as he, coming from behind, went into that lane to pass us. But the onus quickly fell upon K.A. when he kept on cruisin’.

I heard a thin “beep beep” that sounded very distant. Then, I woke up with everything blurry. I am glad my brain chose not to recall the actual ten-foot flight. I am glad my skull decided to absorb the impact without turning my brain to jelly. (Everyone who knows me must now stop saying “Are you sure about that?” or “Ah! That explains it!”) Seriously, it doesn’t take a lot to ruin your brain, so I do count my blessings, and I implore all of you to wear helmets when you ride anything.

The young lady who lived across the street from the accident site hopped in her car and chased after K.A., whom she did not know. Her sister came and stood beside Bubby, whereupon they both stared at me until I woke up all squinty. When I tried to get up, I think she told me to lie still. I crawled through the gravel to my glasses, which did not help my vision then.

She called my mom, who freaked appropriately despite her job as an ER nurse in a really rough hospital. I was transported home, where Bubby’s mom began a really rough scrubbing of my multiple road rash sites, including the ones on my head and the huge hole in my left knee that could not be sutured shut.

I had a headache, and my knee hurt, and I was lying on the living-room sofa when a sheriff’s deputy entered the house with a freaked-out K.A., who was told to look at what he had done to that poor scrawny seven-year-old boy. Man, I felt bad for him, being taken off by the cops and all that. I’m glad he was sixteen, because when I met a mutual acquaintance about fourteen years later, I learned that K.A. had experienced a brief difficulty when he was a teen, one that had passed and allowed him to mature without lasting issues. I’m glad.

My two lasting issues from the event involved music. I became rusty in my drumming, because I had to take a couple of weeks off. (Holy cow, I did miss a number of school days. Maybe that concussion was worse than I remember.) My other issue was that I temporarily lost my taste for one of my favorite 45s, “Motorcycle” by Tico and the Triumphs (Amy 835).

Golly, caithiseach finally divulged why he told this story. If the storyteller in me beat my internal editor to a pulp on this one, forgive me.

So, in 1963 I got a cutout 45 that had actually been a Hot 100 hit, achieving #99 for one week on January 6, 1962. (Whoa, when I looked up the details, I learned that my single would be worth $100 if it were in decent shape. Darn box with no dividers and no sleeves.) The song had previously been released on Madison 169 in 1961, and that one is worth $200. Dig through your box of 45s, friends.

I took an immediate liking to “Motorcycle,” because it was an upbeat tune with a peppy a cappella intro (if a cappella can include a motorcycle revving in the background). Apart from the short period of time when hearing the motorcycle engine growl made me wince, other features of the song have come to amuse me. The singer is a titch overenthusiastic about his motorcycle, and the sax solo is played on an out-of-tune contraption that only a vacuum cleaner could love. Even so, there is a charm to this number that would appeal to any three-year-old, especially a non-discriminating cutout-45 gourmet like caithiseach.

Amy Records was not as feeble as it sounds, considering that you probably don’t own any Amy 45s or LPs. It was one of those labels that printed silver ink directly onto the recording medium, rather than spring for the cost of labels. Amy was split off from Bell Records, which we all know from the Partridge Family and the 5th Dimension. Top 40 hits on Amy included “Keep Searchin’” by Del Shannon, “Working in the Coal Mine” by Lee Dorsey, and “Midnight Mary” by Joey Powers, one of my favorite singles that I forgot completely until it showed up on the sound system of a mall store. (There are a number of such songs.)

And the gentleman who waxes too poetic (somewhat stridently) about his motorcycle went on to have a career for the ages. Not as Tico, let me tell you. Many of you know who he is. For the rest of you, give the song a dozen listens or so, and report to me via the comment feature who you think the singer is. Don’t peek on Wikipedia or a search engine. I promise to let you in on the facts for my Saturday post, which will present the flip of the single and a lot more information about the singer of “Motorcycle.”

I have to approve all comments (an anti-spam step I took), so I will approve all wrong guesses, acknowledge correct guesses privately, and publish the right ones on Saturday, when my post goes up. Remember, if you guess wrong now, you’ll have a lot more fun if don’t look up the song and are amazed on Saturday.

I don’t have a pristine recording of the record; my 45 is somewhat gritty, and I have a RealAudio version that is considerably compressed. Take your pick for listening. And no peeking!

Saturday, the revelation and the other song. See you on the flip side!

Tico and the Triumphs, Motorcycle 45

Tico and the Triumphs, Motorcycle RealAudio


Lizzle-ba-Dizzle said...

Bubby, Sissy and Punky? Wow. I was upset that my friends insisted on shortening my name when I was young, but at least that was still a name. Wow.

Anyway, I have to wait until I can get at my home computer before I can download and listen to the song, and I stink at guessing this sort of thing... but I'll guess anyway. :) And then I have to wait until SATURDAY? Ugh.

whiteray said...

I had brothers-in-law once upon a time -- all male -- with the nicknames Bink, Bunny, Wibby and Tuffy. They lived in rural north-central Minnesota, and they all owned rifles.

former lurker said...

Okay, now it's possible that my guess is swayed by the fact that the only music my dad ever played in the car when I was a kid was the Beach Boys, but I'm going to guess Brian Wilson.

Without looking anything up, I want to say that the Beach Boys were probably popular enough by 1962 that he wouldn't have been singing with other groups, but... that's my best guess.

And I have to figure that if he was so big on 409s and T-Birds and Deuce Coups, motorcycles would get the thumbs' up, too. :D

former lurker's aunt said...

Okay, my niece votes for Brian Wilson. I think he's a possibility, but *I* vote for Paul Simon. He fits the bill in terms of timeline - probably not big by '62, but got and remained popular enough that at 24 and 51, my niece and I both know him.

The only problem there is that we both have a hard time imagining the guy who sang "The Boxer" singing "Whooooa, whoa, motorcycle!", although to be fair, neither of us has heard much of his voice beyond "Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits". Feel free to judge us. :)

Anonymous said...

It's annoying that I recognize the voice but can't put the name to it. I will be annoyed at myself on Saturday. Thanks a lot.

Yah Shure said...

Thank you for the important safety lesson. From now on, whenever I take a ride in the barber chair, I'm going to wear a helmet.

You got it right about the Amy-Mala-Bell family of labels and their habit of inking the label copy directly onto the styrene surface sans paper. The label execs must have thought that to be a brilliant cost-cutting move on their part, but their customers got a raw deal for two reasons: one, when stacked on the record changers of the day, the contact with other 45s quickly wore the ink off of the records, often obliterating titles, artists and other identifying marks. Two: paper labels provide added strength to 45 RPM singles, particularly to the more brittle ones pressed out of polystyrene, rather than vinyl. Without that extra strength, it was far easier for those Amy, Mala or Bell records to suddenly snap in half while cleaning them (which happened to my first copy of the Box Tops' "I Met Her In Church.")

Whiteray, I think I've put the pieces together (and no, not of the Box Tops 45.) Bink, Bunny, Wibby and Tuffy... all owned rifles... you HAD brothers-in-law ONCE UPON A TIME... all owned rifles... all males... all owned rifles.......

caithiseach said...

Yah Shure, my copy of "Motorcycle" is a black-label advance copy, and the silver ink is smeared. Another issue was that a lack of paper labels meant that the bump that kept the playing surfaces apart was not there, so such 45s deteriorated more quickly in all ways.

As for whiteray's erstwhile brothers-in-law, maybe we weren't really supposed to point out what might have happened to them, with all those rifles sitting around. But his use of the past tense is unnerving, isn't it?