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'VERBAL' SOUNDTRACKS: CAN YOU 'HEAR' THE MUSIC?

August 20, 2019

When I first considered writing a novel about growing up in the 1950s,  I immediately realized  that there was no way of telling the story without including the groundbreaking music of the decade, our very own rock 'n' roll. After all, this was a time when teenagers first "owned" their own music, and we made it a vital part of our everyday life. Wurlitzer ruled throughout the decade; there was not a candy store, sweet shop or diner that didn't entice us to slip a major portion of our allowance, in the form of nickels, dimes and quarters (could I have change for a dollar, please?), into the beckoning slot, allowing us to press buttons C102 or A40 or whatever letter/number combinations related to our favorite songs.  When we weren't listening to our music, which was a rare occurrence, we were reading all about the latest hits and the singers in magazines such as Hit Parader, which actually printed all the titles and lyrics of the songs. This phenomenal music actually took control of our lives, in many ways; when Elvis hit the scene, every teenage boy "tried" to grow sideburns; when Chuck Berry first skip-hopped across the stage, we wanted pegged pants, when The Moonglows appeared to vocalize on Sincerely, we went out and bought powder blue "Hollywood" jackets, with a one-button roll.

 

Rock 'n roll almost totally dominated our personal lives. For example, if a girl carried her boyfriend's photo in the handbag, it was usually with the title of a song pasted across the top. My first "steady," Patricia, had To Know Him is To Love Him by The Teddy Bears on my picture; Carole, the steady of my friend Bobby, carried a snapshot of her "love" in her wallet, a picture of him glancing back over his shoulder. She had pasted across the top the song, A Casual Look by The Teen Queens.

 

All these thoughts raced through my mind as I started to put pen to paper (yes, my first draft was actually hand-written – as you can probably imagine, I was a latecomer to the computer age). How can I tell the story accompanied by the music which made the 50s one of the most electrifying decades in history?  After all, movies do it all the time. What's The Graduate without Simon and Garfunkel harmonizing Mrs. Robinson; what's Easy Rider  without Steppenwolf singing Born To Be Wild  or Fraternity of Man doing Don't Bogart That Joint; what's Pulp Fiction without Chuck Berry singing You Never Can Tell or Uma Thurman singing along with Urge Overkill's Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon as she's snorting heroin? I mean, this is strong stuff – not the heroin, but the music connecting with the story. And, how about Saturday Night Fever without The Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive or the classic film Diner, which, featuring  an all-star soundtrack with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Reed, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Bobby Darin, Dion & the Belmonts, The Del-Vikings, Tommy Edwards, Jack Scott, as well as the original Theme from a Summer Place.

 

It suddenly dawned on me: you don't have to "physically" hear the songs, when your cognitive powers can do it for you. Just read the words See You Later, Alligator and you can "hear" Bill Haley's refrain after a while crocodile.  Or mention, as in my book's title, Be Bop A Lula, and you hear the lyrics of Gene Vincent's classic hit:

 

Well be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula, I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula, I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby love
My baby love, my baby love

 

That was the key: a verbal soundtrack! Has it ever been done before? I really don't know, but I was certain it was the only way to tell the story of coming-of-age in the rockin' 1950s. And, hell, if Hollywood uses soundtracks to highlight their movies, why can't authors do the same? By the time I completed my bio-fictional novel, Be Bop A Lula, I had compiled a "verbal" soundtrack of 77 songs from the 1950s, plus each of the 14 chapters are named for a specific song closely related to that chapter's action. Following is a list of my "soundtrack":

 

Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets

Wake Up Little Susie by the Everly Brothers

Bye-bye Love by the Everly Brothers

School Days by Chuck Berry

Earth Angel by The Penguins

Sincerely by The Moonglows

Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace

"Blue Suede Shoes" By Carl Perkins

Blue Monday by Fats Domino

Close Your Eyes by The Five Keys

Honky Tonk by Bill Doggett

Rip It Up by Little Richard

That'll Be The Day by Buddy Holly

Daddy-O by Bonnie Lou

Ain't That A Shame by Fats Domino

Loving You by Elvis Presley

Sincerely by The Moonglows

I'm Walking by Fats Domino

Feel So Good by Shirley and Lee

See You Later, Alligator by Bill Haley and the Comets

Long Tall Sally by Little Richard

Black Denim Trousers by The Cheers

Searchin' by The Coasters

I Walk The Line by Johnny Cash

Tweedle Dee by LaVerne Baker

Ooby Dooby by Roy Orbison

Let the Good Times Roll by Shirley and Lee

Why Do Fools Fall In Love? by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

Sh-Boom by The Chords

Hound Dog by Elvis Presley

Party Doll by Buddy Knox

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby by The Tune Weavers

Too Much Monkey Business by Chuck Berry

Boppin’ The Blues by Carl Perkins

Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley

Speedo by The Cadillacs

Heeby Jeebies by Little Richard

Shake, Rattle and Roll by Joe Turner

All Shook Up by Elvis Presley

A Casual Look by The Six Teens

I'm In The Mood For Love by Fats Domino

Oh What A Night by The Dells

Cry by Johnnie Ray

Mule Train by Frankie Laine

Earth Angel by the Penguins

Hey Senorita by the Penguins

Little By Little by Nappy Brown

Ko Ko Mo by Gene & Eunice

Any Way You Want Me by Elvis Presley

The Big Break by Richard Berry

Fever by Little Willie John

The Closer You Are by The Channels

Since I Met You Baby by  Ivory Joe Hunter

Crazy For You by The Heartbeats

I'm In Love Again by Fats Domino

 Lotta Lovin by Gene Vincent

Young Blood by The Coasters

My Prayer by The Platters

Eddie My Love by The Teen Queens

The Green Door by Jim Lowe

Chances Are by Johnny Mathis

I Put A Spell On You by Screaming Jay Hawkins

Smokey Joe's Café by The Robins

Lawdy Miss Clawdy by Lloyd Price

Black Slacks by The Sparkletones

We Go Together by The Moonglows

Bye Bye Love by The Everly Brothers

Empty Arms by Ivory Joe Hunter

Long Lonely Nights by The Hearts

I'm Sorry by The Platters

Be Bop A Lula by Gene Vincent

Come Go With Me by The Del Vikings

Get a Job by The Silhouettes

Little Girl Of Mine by The Cleftones

Susie Q by Dale Hawkins

Jim Dandy by Laverne Baker

Girl of my Dreams by The Cliques

Soldier Boy by The Four Fellows

 

 

 

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