“We'll keep on spending sunny days this way.
We're gonna’ talk and laugh our time away.
I feel it coming closer day by day.
Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly,
Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon” - Cavaliere/ Brigati
This time out, Saturday Song Selection features a favorite from my youth reflected in hazy reminiscence and awash in gauzy nostalgia. The mundane and common fable to follow may or may not be fully factual, but rather more a scenario imagined while listening to Groovin'; a pleasant reverie in the form of a fond, far distant recollection from a summer long ago. Whether the exact occasion ever actually occurred or is merely a fanciful and fuzzy compilation of childhood experiences blurred and bettered by middle-aged melancholy and an adult’s longing for the wistful romanticized charms of what seemed like a simpler time (you know, Vietnam, riots in the streets, assassinations) is as much a mystery to me as the origin of the universe, the events beyond our passing, and the appeal of Jimmy Fallon.
Summer 1967 - your blog host, nycityman, was then but 8 year old statenislandboy, and if one wished to keep creative accounts of his thoughts, opinions and deeds, he did so with pad and pen. All we knew of computers was Colossus: The Forbin Project, they were humongous, room-sized, punch-card spewing monstrosities with giant tape reels for heads, as likely to destroy civilization as to serve it.
There was still a month and a half left to go before the return of pencils, books and teacher’s dirty looks (ah, the innocent and simple blissfulness of a responsibility free summer vacation from school.) The weather cooperated, Tex Antoine and Uncle Wethbee did mostly right by us, and the backyard trees provided sufficient shade to keep the assembled uncles, aunts and very active, kid cousins cool and comfortable for the consumption of an array of grilled meats and iced sweetened beverages. There were more little Italian kids running around that backyard than would be fleeing a Vatican parade of Cardinals in Saint Peter’s Square and, thirsty from activity, we enjoyed sips from the full flavor variety of Pantry Pride soda, sugary as a Sunday Sermon and twice as gassy. We were a lower middle class clan grateful for the largesse of store coupons, and subsiding on a diet of store brand knock-offs and cheaper competitors to brand name products. Under certain circumstances, I might still shudder and quake at the mere memory of C&C Cola or Suave Baby Shampoo “almost no more tears formula.”
In a few hours when day turns to dusk, some will rush inside to catch that evening’s Mets game on the black and white portable in the kitchen with Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy announcing the inevitable loss – some things never change. But while still chaise lounging on the equal part weeds-equal part grass lawn, entertainment was provided by the 6 transistor radio, tuned in, as always, to 77 WABC, the nation’s premiere top 40 station. Each hit song was played in such constant rotation and repetition that any man, woman, child or particularly clever cockatoo within earshot would have lyrics committed to memory like the birth date on a fake ID, and could sing along like a member of the Pips. And, with the traditional talk-up introduction that continued far too long into the body of the song, DJ Ron Lundy bestowed upon his listeners the still popular chart-topper, Groovin’, the ideal number for this easy, lazy Sunday day bereft of worries, adult apprehensions and obligations.
Spring 2013 - the frequently contentious and famously feuding Rascals are convinced by Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band to reunite for a limited and triumphant run on the Great White Way (no, not the floor of Congress) their first performance together since 1972. I gleefully attended and 46 years, 100 odd pounds and millions of fewer hairs later, was still immediately and happily transported to this earlier era of my life. The success of the Tony Award nominated Once Upon a Dream precipitated a national tour with a planned return to Broadway, and I had my second set of tickets in hand. However, despite a hoped for mellowing of age, the acrimony between band members never truly ceased and plans were scrapped mid-tour, making it very unlikely that we will ever see this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ensemble play as a cohesive musical unit again. As with pleasant recollections of childhood, those of us who were fortunate enough to see this short-lived second go-round will always have our memories.
“Groovin’” earned a gold record and was a number one hit that spent 4 weeks atop the Billboard charts in 1967. For many of us of a certain age and era, it’s just one of the myriad, beloved rock and roll classics from Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli - the legendary Rascals.
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