Tom Ekwurtzel writes to BtP:
I know where I was when I heard that Kennedy was shot. I was a twelve-year-old teen. I know where I was when my third baseman for my championship 10–11 year-old Diamond back baseball team drove a single through the infield to stage a 9–8 'walk-off' victory after trailing 8–2 with one out left. I was a 49 year old manager. Last year, 'twas.
I'll remember both events on me deathbed. Both events bring a tear to my eye. One a historical event, and the other, merely a personal moment. Somewhere lying in my personal timeline is the first time I heard A Whiter Shade of Pale.
I tripped over your impressive website and struck up a pleasant round of e-mails with Roland. I mentioned that I can close my eyes and 'see' the moment when I heard the 45 coming across a car radio. The car was a Rambler American 1959, two-tone with push-button transmission. Other than that, I have to think a bit and embellish. Roland said to go ahead and elaborate. So, what can one really report 30 plus years later?
It's Connecticut, USA, and it's 1967 – could be July. Sunny and quite warm. I'm 16 and the car was grandma's. Grandma had recently died and I'm driving a Grandma-mobile. At 16, ya drive anything.
I so distinctly remember being on Robbins Avenue, driving from a hardware town called New Britain. I am driving toward Newington. I am approaching Willard Avenue. I figure I had just traveled into New Britain after visiting a cosmetic-type doctor. This quack probably assigned a prescription for tetracycline (acne). I sported a Beatle haircut that wreaked havoc on my skin.
I'm worried about my skin, worried about Laurie Bassen, worried about ... you get the picture. The radio is on 1410 WPOP, must be mid-afternoon. What the hell is that – what the hell is that! A big ol' church organ and some black guy hollering – wha' ... um ... 'a miller told 'is tale' ... 16 – what? Virgins? ... That organ – my god what is this ... Who is this? ...
I remember pulling over- I knew the WPOP request line by heart – dedicated Be My Baby to Ms. Bassen once even – the deejay is Danny Clayton ...
'Danny, what was that! This is Tom from Newington – where can I get that 45? WHAT IS IT?'..."Hold On, man, I got an ad coming up"... I hold on a while but hang up and drive home and my heart is pounding.
I called Clayton back to request it. I recall him telling me it was NOT on what we would call today a 'heavy rotation' list. I would imagine at that time Dandelion (Stones) and Light My Fire (Doors) and Reflections (Supremes) were on such a list. He said he could only play it again in about four hours. By the end of the week, it was in heavy rotation.
The snapshot remains with me. For some reason, I see this simple view out of windshield – lazy, hot summer afternoon. I can conjure up other moments of hearing a piece of music for the first time – it has a way with a teenager, especially in 1967 and am radio in the States.
Maybe it became even more vital because there was so little about the song other than this name Procol Harum. I learned a bit from this trade rag called Go magazine. One picture, no tour, certainly no album to scarf up ... just 4 minutes and 5 seconds of this tune roaring out of the radio.
An impact on my life? Well, for whatever this accounts for, I suppose. I never spoke to my mom much in those days. She was an organist and concert pianist-Bach, Gershwin, Chopin, Schumann – we did discuss the 45 when I brought it home later. It caught her ear and we shared in enjoying the piece (as well as others in later years).Looking back at that, I do owe a sense of gratitude to Gary and Matthew.
Listened to it again on a CD I bought (their first plus ten cuts) the other day, reacted to it, met a new acquaintance thousands of miles away through this cyberworld that wasn't around in '67 ... so, yeah, an exercise of sorts.
Hey, it's only rock n roll, but a nod of thanks to them boys in the band. It still sounds fresh as I look out of a windshield on to Interstate 85, Atlanta, Georgia, 2001, July – hot, lazy summer afternoon.
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