On the first weekend of the summer it was ritual to “check out” the jukebox. The pinball guy stocked the box in the first week, before school let out. If you were among the fortunate few whose parents decreed the last waning days of the school semester “unnecessary,” then you were an early colony arrival, in the enviable position of programming some of the summer’s music. The pinball guy knew from pop music like we knew from Vivaldi, and he anxiously solicited our suggestions. “Can it!” We exclaimed, filtering out little played garbage of summers past, seeking to refine and construct the “perfect” soundtrack for the ensuing two months.
The old jukeboxes, before the days of cassettes and CDs, held 100 45’s, 200 songs. It was ten cents a play, three for a quarter. Then, midway through the summer, we discovered the “switch” on the back of the box that registered “free plays,” and from that day on the concessionaire was puzzled as to why his jukebox revenue fell off by a full half.
So many songs, so many summers, so many hours spent lounging over a vanilla malted with a pretzel rod, or a boat of fries, banging the pinball machine, chalking a cue stick, sitting backward on wooden chairs, in damp bathing suits, and always the soundtrack… The Rascals-“It’s a Beautiful Morning,” “Good Lovin’,” “A Girl Like You,” and, of course, “Groovin’.” Neil Diamond, “Holy, Holy,”, “I Am I Said.” Melanie, “Lay Down, Candles in the Rain.” The Vanilla Fudge, “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Otis Redding, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” Tommy James and the Shondells, “Money, Money” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” Zager and Evans, “In the Year 2525.” Elvis, “In the Ghetto.” The Beach Boys, so many Beach Boys tunes, especially “Good Vibrations.” Morrison and the Doors, “Hello, I Love You” and “Light My Fire.” All the old Four Seasons tunes. EVERYTHING by the Beatles.
Those songs echo still, bringing back the endless days of being young and irresponsible, all dressed down with nowhere to go.