Maybe my hormones are out of whack, or maybe I’m just getting more sentimental as the years go by. Or both.
There must be a logical explanation as to why I found myself choking up recently while watching and listening to The Buckinghams sing “Kind of a Drag” on a PBS special called “Cornerstones of Rock.” Right?
Chances are you’ve seen a similar program on PBS. They usually air during pledge months and feature music stars from the ’50s and ’60s singing their hits for their fans, who look a lot like the crowd at an AARP convention.
Sometimes it’s doo-wop groups. Sometimes it’s soul artists. “Cornerstones of Rock” featured pop groups who hit the charts in the 1960s, including the Ides of March, The Shadows of Knight, the New Colony Six, the McCoys and the Buckinghams.
As is usual on such shows, many of the groups have just one or two original members. For example, while original McCoy Rick Derringer played guitar and sang “Hang On Sloopy,” the bass player and the drummer looked young enough to be his sons.
It hardly matters. When I watch these shows, I’m often surprised at just how good some of these old men and women still sound. Of course, Paul McCartney still sounds great. He’s been at it nonstop for nearly 60 years. But some of the folks on these PBS specials haven’t sung outside the shower for 40 years.
Sometimes it shows, but often these guys can still rock, even if they retired 10 years ago after 35 years as a tax accountant.
The reason PBS airs such programs during pledge weeks is because they strike a chord with baby boomers, the folks most likely to watch, and donate money to, public television. And the reason we boomers enjoy them is simple. It’s nostalgia, not to be confused with neuralgia, though there’s plenty of that to go around too.
I enjoyed hearing “Hang On Sloopy” and “Things I’d Like To Say,” but they didn’t throw my hormones out of whack. No, I blame the Buckinghams for that.
When they launched into “Kind of a Drag,” I was right back at the Hook’s Drugstore snack bar with my buddies, flipping the metal pages and pushing A-12 on the little jukebox controller on the wall. The only song we might have played more than “Kind of a Drag” was “96 Tears” by ? & the Mysterians.
Hey, man does not live by Beatles and Stones alone. It’s the one-hit wonders that add spice.
But the Buckinghams had several hits. When they sang “Susan” on the PBS show, I was suddenly back in my dorm room at Indiana University, nursing a broken heart. It was the spring of 1972, and I was in love with a girl named Susan, who didn’t love me.
Still doesn’t as far as I know.
Susan, do you have to be confusin’
I ask myself whyyyyy, you’re saying goodbyyyyye
I must have played my 45 rpm version of the Buckinghams’ ode to my beloved Susan a thousand times. I would have played it even more, but the guys on my dorm floor took the record away from me and hid it. It could still be somewhere in Read Hall for all I know.
So I went out and bought The Buckinghams’ greatest hits LP. I still have it, and it still has the big red wine stain on the cover, put there the following fall by an overzealous partygoer.
Any number of things can trigger memories, good and bad. To this day I can’t smell Brussels sprouts without thinking of my junior high paper route and the couple whose house always reeked of the stuff when I went to collect.
But for me, music has always been the preferred vehicle for cruising down memory lane. And I’m thankful to PBS for bringing all these older musicians back so we boomers can remember the good times and marvel once again at just how quickly they passed us by.
Who knows? In another 40 years maybe PBS will be raising money by trotting out 75-year-old Beyoncé or 79-year-old Kanye West. Wouldn’t that be great?
Maybe, as long as I’m dead and don’t have to watch it or listen to it.
Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.