I’ve been working on a novella (of sorts, I think) for children, and realized that although many of my ideas are amazing, they aren’t fleshed out and I hadn’t published anything in over a year. So for your reading pleasure here is one of my favorite childhood stories.
There’s a lot that you can learn about someone from their favorite music. Personally, my musical tastes have ranged all over the spectrum. From classics like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, to classics like Brahms and Beethoven, and from world music like Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, to world music like They Might Be Giants, I have loved much of it, and continue to be inspired by new songs. Even (haters gonna hate?) the “guilty pleasure” ones. However, there is nothing like your first concert to carve a special place in your heart.
If I accidentally get a few details wrong or have embellished a little, please forgive me and attribute it to being an old memory a quarter of a century ago.
I was about seven when I heard on the radio that the Beach Boys were planning a reunion concert in Houston. There was a raffle courtesy of Exxon Mobile that would give away one scratch-off ticket for every time you bought a gallon of gas. The top prize, of course, being VIP tickets and seating to the Beach Boys! My mind raced with excitement and I imagined sitting in the front row, being serenaded by those lovable beach bums, “Don’t worry babeee…”
I don’t remember exactly when I decided the Beach Boys were one of my favorite bands, I think it was around the time I would get caught jumping on the bed to Toto’s Rosanna or tearing around the living room to the Beatle’s We All Live in a Yellow Submarine.
Sidenote: I used to get in constant trouble for jumping on my bed. I would put on a song, crank it up, and just go wild. I learned to lock my bedroom door for fear that my father would catch me. This did not last long, as when he would hear the loud music he would come to my room, and finding my door locked would knock and ask, “Adaire, WHY is this door locked?” I would race to unlock it, red-faced and panting from my exertions.
“Hi Daddy.” I would greet him with my most innocent of expressions.
“Adaire…” he intoned, “Have you been jumping on the bed?”
Breathing rapidly and shaking my head vigorously I would respond, “No, Daddy. I haven’t been jumping on the bed!” My fingers twisted behind my back to negate the lie. My dad would usually then just sigh and tell me to keep the door open and turn down the music.
Another fond memory of the Beach Boys was when myself, my sister, and a couple friends from church or school decided to choreograph a dance to the classic beach tune Kokomo. Ranging in ages from 4 to 8 we all put on swimming suits (and in one girl’s case, an old ballet costume because there wasn’t enough swimwear) and planned an intricate dance of twirls and generally accepted “beach-like” activity. The girls got in their places as I went to put the cassette single for Kokomo into my mother’s stereo system.
Unfortunately, I was not aware that each side of the cassette played a different tune. I cranked up the volume to a level I was sure would not be approved of and got into my starting position.
A-WHOP-BOP-A-LOO-BOP-A-WHOP-BAM-BOOM! shouted Little Richard.
Claire was so startled she rolled of the coffee table she was perched on. I ran over to turn it off, to turn down the volume, to do anything, when my mom came running in.
“I wasn’t… we were just… it was supposed to be…” I started feebly apologizing.
My mom for some reason started to smile and I realized everyone else behind me was in fits of giggles. Just so you know, Little Richard’s Tutti Fruiti is also quite danceable in swimming suits and ballet costumes.
So I eventually wore my father down with a relentless stream of chatter, “I just have to see the Beach Boys and wouldn’t it just be the best thing and if I only won one scratch-off (two concert tickets per winning one) that of course I would take him if we only got two seats but if we got four seats then I guess Claire could come but who would get the other ticket? Anne, of course…” He agreed to go to a gas station and ask if we could have some scratch-offs.
I must have done a better job pleading than I thought because we ended up not only going to one gas station, but no less than eight, each time with my dad running in and darting back out with two or three scratch-offs in hand, while Claire and I awaited eagerly in the back seat with quarters to reveal our winnings. Alas, they were all duds.
The last gas station we went to my dad looked at us and said, “Girls, I’m sorry, but this is the last Exxon station I know, and it’s getting late and we need to go home. Perhaps if you go in and ask for some scratch-offs they’ll give you more.” Claire and I agreed and promised that we would be in his sight at all times as he watched from the car. I leapt from the vehicle and ran inside, my sister close on my heels.
I took the lead and approached the lady behind the counter, “Excuse me, ma’am, we know that you don’t usually give scratch-off tickets without buying gas, but the Beach Boys are our favorite band and my dad has been driving all over asking for them and may we just have a few?”
The woman looked at me appraisingly and glanced over to our father watching us from the car. Eventually she asked, “If you love the Beach Boys, what is your favorite song?”
In rapid fire succession my sister and I exclaimed,
“I Get Around!”
“Run Run Run Till Her Daddy Takes the T-Bird!”
“Help Me Rhonda!”
We had gained the attention of some of the other employes who had started to gather behind the counter. One of them asked, “Do you know… Barbara Ann?”
I know a performance request when I hear one. I launched into, “A-bah-bah-bah-bah-Babara Ann!” To Claire’s credit, she did join in some, but being a little more reserved than I, she mostly danced behind me as I wailed out the chorus. Being 5 at the time, she did admirably.
The gas station attendants applauded at the end of my short song and I beamed. They then presented us with a whole box of scratch-offs. We thanked them profusely and ran out back to the car to show our dad what we had procured.
“Well done, girls! Now, try not to make a mess back there and let’s get dinner,” he congratulated us. Claire and I immediately withdrew our quarters to begin the scratching process as Dad turned on the ignition and switched to reverse.
Just then, one of the attendants came bursting out of the shop with something in her hand. “Wait! Little girls!” She approached the driver’s window as my dad rolled it down to talk to her. “That entire box probably won’t have any winning tickets in it,” she told us. Claire and I were crestfallen. She continued, “My boyfriend and some friends and I were going to use these, but I’d rather them go to some hard-core fans.” She then gave the two winning scratch-offs she had been holding to my dad. A total of four whole concert tickets.
Claire and I squealed with glee and thanked and thanked her in very high-pitched and loud voices as we left the gas station, waving good-bye.
At last, the day of the concert had arrived. My dad, sister, best friend Anne, and I all piled into my dad’s VW Bug and drove to the city to reap our rewards. In a stroke of luck, the opening band was America, the writers of the Last Unicorn soundtrack. Anyone who has read my post about meeting one’s heroes or knows me at all will know what a special place that holds in my heart.
Claire kept up with mine and Anne’s enthusiasm for a long time, but after a while dosed off peacefully in my father’s lap. I remained undeterred, and even though it was much past my usual bedtime, I resolved to make it to the end. When the Beach Boys finally appeared and started to play I was in a state of euphoria. I knew and sang along to almost every song and didn’t spend much of my time in my seat, but danced exuberantly in the aisle with Anne.
We were close enough to see their faces, and the concert went by in a flash of vocal harmonies and surf rock.
When the four of us trundled back to the car, I was the only one still at Red Bull-esque level. Claire was being carried and Anne walked sleepily by my side. My dad asked, “Well, Adaire, did you enjoy the Beach Boys?”
“Oh, Dad, it was the best!” I replied. “But…”
My dad looked at me quizzically. “But what?”
“Daddy, I know those weren’t the Beach Boys.”
“What?! Adaire, of course those were the Beach Boys! Why would you think they weren’t?” my dad demanded, after all his efforts to get us to the concert, he was not about to be dismissed by his seven year old daughter.
I looked up at him solemnly and answered, “Daddy, those guys were old.”
Apparently I hadn’t learned that the photos from their cassettes and records I had listened to and looked at so fervently had been taken quite a few years earlier.