The small advertisement appeared as a nugget of nostalgia between the like-new drum set and the antique piano: “1970s jukebox. Works sometimes. $100 or best offer.” For a brief, irrational moment, I considered buying it. Then I remembered that my smart phone contained more music than a jukebox, and it fit better in my pocket.
Jukeboxes are unwanted relics of an ancient era, the true Happy Days. Our generation turned out the lights on our parent’s bugle boys as they wrapped stardust melodies with a string of pearls. We preferred the uncomplicated, steady beat of “Louie, Louie” and could buy it from a Wurlitzer with bubbling lights. Now the ability to instantly download any song at any time means that people miss the memorable magic of the jukebox experience.
I remember plunking in coins and pushing the buttons to hear songs from the 1960s. As teenagers wearing loafers and sweater sets, we eagerly watched as a vinyl record was mechanically pulled from the stack and placed on the spinning turntable. Then the needle swiveled over to latch into the grove to produce the sound. For farm kids in Wendell, this was as close as we would ever get to the live band.
On the checkered tile floors in the crowded cafés of our youth, we danced the Pony and the Twist and the Watusi as our pony tails bounced and dour chaperones scowled in disapproval from the sidelines. We never questioned the inane lyrics of “Wooly Bully” from Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and we wailed with Lesley Gore singing “It’s My Party.” Everything changed when disco assaulted our rock and roll senses with mirrored balls and jerky movements. But, still, we danced.
During the early 1970s, we rode in the backs of pickup trucks with the music blaring over portable radios and we vowed to never get old. When we danced, we shouted “Hot Stuff” along with Donna Summer. Our luckier friends owned cars with 8-track tape players, and we traveled further away from our collections of scratchy vinyl records and electricity-dependent jukeboxes.
The 1980s tempered our free spirits as many of us married and had children. When we had the opportunity to dance, it was to the music of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” The jukeboxes were relegated to collectors and antique stores, and our cars replaced cassette tape players with CD players. Those of us with small children suffered through ghastly songs from a demented dinosaur named Barney and sweet songs from Raffi until we rebelled and taught our kids classics, such as “A Horse with No Name” by the band America.
Dance music lost its way during the 1990s when the most popular song was the “Macarena” by Los Del Rio. It was stupid and we refused to do it. Things didn’t improve in 2000 when hip hop substituted rhythm and lyrics with noise and profanity. Yes, we were aging and becoming the old farts we used to pity. Most of us just wanted the simplicity of good dance songs, and we were sustained with ageless musicians, including Elton John, the Rolling Stones, and Tina Turner.
The husky tones of a new voice brought hope in 2010 when Adele introduced “Rolling in the Deep” and Katy Perry ignited the air with “Firework.” We could dance to those songs.
We don’t ride in the back of pickup trucks anymore, and we’ve broken our pledge to never get older. By now, some of us resemble the shape of the old jukeboxes. But, we still refuse to be the grumpy sourpusses muttering in the corner. We want music and we will dance. A little slower now, but we will dance.
Today’s blog was fueled by a splendid 2010 Rombauer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. The excellent wine was a gift from my daughter and her husband at a celebration that included wine, laughter, and dancing.