10:02 a.m. - March 03, 2006
“How you doing out there? You ever seem have one of those days where it just seems that everyone is getting on your case from your boss all the way down to your best girlfriend?”
Yeah, I paraphrased it a bit, but can everyone recognize the genesis of that quote? Hands?
Ok, good, you passed Smed 101 – except you young ins– remedial iTunes for you.
Of course, that’s the opening lines to one of the best one-shot singles in the history of rock-and-roll.
“Smokin’ In The Boys Room” by Brownsville Station hit #3 in 1974, and it was all over the radio. It was also the lead track of one of my favorite compilations. It wasn’t a K-Tel album, it was a Ronco album, but I treasured that album for years during elementary school.
I was doing laundry on Sunday when that song blasted through my iPod. Liz was busy getting things ready for things to be put back into the basement for storage and then the inevitable garage sale. (Side note: you never think you’re going to be garage sale people, and then you have kids!)
I bounded into the library singing the chorus as loud as I could without waking up the napping kidlets. Liz gave a smile, a laugh, and a wave telling me, “You’re a silly, silly man, Smed!”
(Later, I did the same thing for “Roll With The Changes” by REO
Well, hearing “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” reminded me of elementary school music days. Once in a while, the teachers would let us bring music in to play to the class, either 45s or LPs.
The record players were always those big clunky things that had one built in speaker, so anything that had neat stereo effects was pretty much useless, as half the time the record would play in mono, but the otherwise it’d play just one channel. The only other things those records got used for were records that came with filmstrips (DING!) and the timed multiplication tests we had to take in third grade.
The first time we did music day was actually in first grade, and I was at New Market Elementary down in…well…New Market. I had a girlfriend (we traded strep throat – how romantic, eh? Smed was already a hep-cat at age seven) and I brought in two records, both K-Tel extravaganzas. One of them had “Nice To Be With You” by Gallery and the others had some other songs. Another kid came up to me, and said, “Oh, that has a song that has bad words on it!”
And sure enough, it did.
The song was called “No” and it was by a group called Bulldog, which was formed out of the ashes of the Rascals. The song didn’t get a national chart exposure, but was a hit regionally and K-Tel reached for a lot of things to fill out these records. The chorus, at times, said, “That’s a hell of a thing to say, she just said no!”
Now, in first grade, in 1973, in BFE Indiana, well, that’s all it took for ban-nation. The teacher overheard us and said I couldn’t play that song. That was ok, since I didn’t want to play that song, but still, the teacher wielded her supreme executive power, and it didn’t even come from a mandate from the masses (nor a farcical aquatic ceremony)!
Moving forward, “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” was a song that was basically banned from any play on music day. Of course, the teachers had an idea about that song, so in fourth grade, when I brought that album in, I was told explicitly not to suggest that one.
So I chose “Spiders and Snakes” by Jim Stafford. You see, mild sexual innuendo was fine, but smoking cigarettes, for shame!
Over time, there were other songs that didn’t pass the school teacher’s muster, and I started thinking about them.
One was “Hotter Than Hell” by Kiss, right out. A kid tried to sneak that one on by distracting the teacher, but it was nipped in the bud.
During Cub Scouts we had a performed come to a meeting and give some pantomime to some hits. One of them was “Wildwood Weed” by Jim Stafford. Yes, that rascally Jim Stafford. Now, hardly anyone remembers that one, but mind you, it’s not rather appropriate for 10 year olds, unless you want them to learn about subverting the government by cultivating ditch-weed.
Sometimes, records were banned at home. I remember when Mom bought me the Fleetwood Mac album, and she read the lyrics and said, “I’m taking it back.”
“Because one song curses in it.”
So, in an album full of deceit, lies, and adultery, she was going to take it back because “The Chain” used the word ‘damn’ in it.
Thinking on my feet, I said, “I just won’t play that one!”
The Steve Martin album “A Wild And Crazy Guy” DID get taken away from me, but I knew exactly where she hid it. I was a wily and sneaky guy as well!
One song that somehow escaped bannation was “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship. On the album version, Marty Balin slips in a line about the taste of the real world after somethin’ or other. Now, in 1975, I was 10, and not really that sophisticated. But in retrospect, holy hell how did that one slip past the teacher?
And while this wasn’t elementary school, I remember DJing a dance at North Putnam high school for some spare money. The assistant principal came up to Sid (my partner in crime) and me and said.
“We have just one request. Please, whatever you do, don’t play ‘Mony Mony’ by Billy Idol.”
Some of us older folk’ll remember a trend during the 80’s and 90’s, that after each line, everyone would yell, “Hey? Hey What? Get….”
You can fill in the blanks if you remember, and if you don’t, ask me and I’ll email you. It’s more stupid than sordid, but isn’t it always. Apparently, that had happened before and a chaperone or two got their knickers in a wad.
Well, all these songs came back to me, and of course I had to reach out to some of my favorite partners in crime. And I hope I captured their thoughts accurately.
First I emailed the wise and wonderful lap, also known as the coolest rock chick on the planet.
She came up with “Greased Lightening” right off the bat. She also mentioned that the entire “Back In Black” album was banned, especially “You Shook Me All Night Long”.
And then she mentioned, “Only The Good Die Young”, which was basically banned by her parents before she even heard the song, because they presented her, at a tender age, the lyrics of the song. Of course, she had to hear it.
(That song reminds me of Speech Team, because at times we rode with Southmont to go to speech meets and I was semi-quasi dating a girl on the Southmont speech team who was Catholic and when that some came on the boom box I always shot her the ‘over the glasses’ look and gave her the Smed-point-with-both-index-fingers.)
Then I consulted someone who works now with kids in a musical setting, the beautiful and talented Rachel.
She has a dilemma, because there are several songs that are good for her kids to dance to, but the rest of the CD is verboten. Especially the “Rent” soundtrack, and all the kids want to hear are the OTHER songs. Heh! Kids!
So anyway, what other songs do you remember being banned at school, either during days when you could all play music, or at dances, or whatever? As a parent, I find myself self-censoring a lot when Katie is in the room, because you just don’t want Katie to be quoting “Guerilla Radio” to her Papaw on a random moment. I mean, all I heard for a week was “Sticky Bubble Gum”, so I know she’s got a memory!