Born in the Wrong Decade

I think it was D6.  Or maybe E6. 

I’m not entirely sure which slot “Sherry” by the Four Seasons occupied in the jukebox, but I think it was one of those.  I struggled to remember as I sat through last Saturday’s matinee of Jersey Boys.  And I was transported.  Not to the 60s, because I wasn’t born yet.  But instead to the late 70s and early 80s, when my childhood consisted of Saturday and Sunday mornings with my middle sister, listening to great music on the jukebox my parents had in our basement. 

Most kids watched cartoons on weekend mornings.  We listened to oldies.  For hours at a time.  And to this day, I remember those old labels my mom typed up to display the choices, and I can tell you where some of the songs were placed. 

A1:  “Since I Don’t Have You” by The Skyliners.  My dad’s favorite song ever, so it got  the top spot on the jukebox.  It’s fantastic.  I can tell you that they say “you” (or “youuu-ooo”) 13 times at the end of the song.  My dad was pretty pissed off when I told him, decades later, that Guns ‘n Roses made a little-known cover of this.

E9:  “Be My Baby” by Ronnie Spector.  I remember pressing  my mom to tell me her favorite song, and she didn’t really have just one.  But after repeated requests, she said it was this.  Which I love.  I may have been one of the few eight year-olds to know all about Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and be able to place it. Who knew he’d go on trial for murder?

G2:  “Runaway” by Dion.  Such a great song.  I loved everything he sang.

J10:  “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin.  To this day, still one of my favorites.

K — 6?  I think:  “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels.  One of the top choices for my sister and me when we wanted to choreograph a little dance.  Looking back on it, I think the material was a little over our heads to tell a good narrative.  But I hear we were cute.

There were many others whose precise location on the jukebox I can’t remember but I know we played them to death.  The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Beach Boys, Elvis, Paul Anka. 

We knew them all by heart. 

This dynamic seeped into the 80s, when my mom filled the last two columns of the jukebox with her contemporary favorites.  Which meant, at that time — oh yes — Disco. 

Burn baby burn.  Boogie oogie oogie. 

My father hated disco.  Hated it.  It had to stay contained to the right side of the jukebox.

But whatever, Dad.  We had the coolest stay-at-home-disco-queen-mom around.  She vacuumed the house to Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” album.  And when roller skating was all the rage, she didn’t just drop us off or sit and watch — she was skating.  On her very own pair of skates that she brought along (my sisters and I wore the rentals).  She skated backwards, did turns and cut the corners in that cool way that I could never really do. She tried to teach me but I was much better at playing Pac-Man in the rink.

Now I have “Instant Replay” in my head.  Sorry…


My parents’ mutual love for music was one of the greatest gifts they gave us.  They knew all the back stories of the songs and artists, all the words — and they told us all of it.  I still call one of them from time to time to name a song I can’t place. 

Our family car rides always meant listening to Cousin Brucie on 101.1 WCBS-FM.  To this day, it is the only station my sisters and I can agree on when we drive somewhere together.  It’s not just coincidence that one of my sisters ended up with a guy who is not only a musician, but one who knows all the songs we know.  One who has, remarkably, played back up for some of these very groups on their reunion tours.  Yes, really.

I do sometimes feel like, when it comes to music, I was born in the wrong decade.  It’s not that I don’t like the music of my own childhood (hello 80s), college years or even today.  I do.  But the music my parents shared with us just has a much more special place in my heart and carries so much influence over the taste I have.  Sitting in Jersey Boys last weekend, it was amazing to me how I could feel nostalgic for an era I never lived in.  But I was wistful for my own experiences with those songs, my own childhood memories of that jukebox.  For being the only second-grader who knew “Rag Doll,” “Working My Way Back to You” and “Walk Like a Man.”  Because my parents and their fabulous collection of 45s in that jukebox ensured that I knew.

I want to do the same for my kids.  I wish I had that old jukebox.  I wish I had those 45s.  I know I can get most of the songs digitally, but it’s somehow not the same.  Oh well.  I think Breakfast with The Beatles every Sunday morning on Q104.3 is a good start.  I’ll work them up to the Four Seasons and my love of Motown someday. 

And they’ll ask  me what the hell a jukebox is.

{Addendum:  My mom called me this morning after reading my post.  She pointed out that I was wrong about my “Runaway” reference above.   It wasn’t Dion.  It was Del Shannon.  My bad.  Now you see my point about the ongoing back and forth we have about oldies.  Thanks, Mom, for keeping me honest.}

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  1. Markus says:

    It’s funny sometimes how memories need the dust shaken off…this made me remember the days when I would take an AM radio and duct-tape it to the handlebars of my bicycle when I was about 7 years old. I was a genious – I invented a way so that I could take the music with me. Mind you – this was early 70’s, and the Walkman hadn’t even been invented yet, forgot about an iPod. The sound was horrible – and the reception sketchy at best – but it was fantastic.

    Sometimes technology is good – but sometimes, just sometimes, I miss THOSE days…

  2. You could have been describing my childhood. My grandfather, at that time in his life, owned a jukebox/pinpall machine business. He used to give us boxes of the old 45’s, some with the photo sleeves of the Beatles, the Monkees, Dion, the Everly Brothers, etc. I grew up on Doo Wop even though I was born in ’65 and also loved listening to CBS in the car.

    By the way, my parents just went to see Baby It’s You and I’ve never seen my mom gush so much.

    • fordeville says:

      Oh wow — I failed to mention that we had a pinball machine in the basement too! Maybe we bought the set from your grandfather…
      And I’ve heard “Baby It’s You” was great — it’s on my list.

  3. Marilyn Root says:

    Memories and a tribute to your parents, as well. Clear, beautifully portrayed glimpse of your mother.

  4. When we bought our house a few years ago, the previous owner left us his jukebox! It’s in a finished family room in the basement, in perfect condition and filled with all the same 45s you mentioned. My kids are probably the only 5 and 7 year olds in the county who know 60s music!
    My husband says I was born in the wrong decade too…but he thinks I shoulda been a hippie 😉

    • fordeville says:

      Oh yay! Your kids will be so glad to know those songs. Well, at least I’m glad that they know them 🙂

  5. Kerrri says:

    You definitely listed some of my “oldies but goodies” favorites!

    • fordeville says:

      Good — now I know who to find next time there’s a jukebox in a bar and my sisters aren’t around 🙂

  6. alicia says:

    I can just picture your Mom in skates!

  7. Devan says:

    I just love this! Didn’t you love the Jersey Boys show??? I am not as connected as you are to that era of music but I absolutely LOVED that show! I laughed, I cried, I learned. What a great era. Minus the jukebox, my parents brought us up with all kinds of music! I love music. Loved this post.
    <3 Devan

  8. Susan from GA says:

    Every soong title you mentioned I sang the title instead of just reading it! How can I know that (a 1955 baby) and forget where my glasses are when they are on my head!

    I love your blog. You never disappoint!

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