|by Natasha Theobald
Where were you in '62? I have no idea where I was, as that is twelve years before I was born. It was the year my sister was born, though, a year to the day from my parents' wedding, in fact. AMERICAN GRAFFITI means something to me -- the movie and, more particularly, the music, because it sings to me across the decades about the time and place in which my parents fell in love. In my mind's eye, I see my mother in her poodle skirt and my father behind the wheel of his '57 Ford Fairlane Convertible, turquoise and white, maybe in his Navy uniform. My mom has admitted that the beautiful car was a first part of the attraction, the same car they had to sell to afford my sister, funny enough. This is the music that would have them dancing around the kitchen; these are the artists whose names they would speak with such gravity, with respect for time and memory. I put this soundtrack in the CD player when I want to remember, too, the way they would remember and dance and fall in love all over again.
For those who haven't seen the movie, music is essential to American Graffiti. It is a character, a plot motivator, a constant. On this night, as the kids cruise around, they are listening to Wolfman Jack. He has an unforgettable voice and demeanor, and the things he says and the music he shares seem to touch them all in some way or another. According to the liner notes written to accompany the original LP, the music was chosen to give the film a certain atmosphere rather than for its accuracy. While a couple of the songs were released in '62, the music in the film reaches back to the birth of rock'n'roll itself.
The soundtrack to American Graffiti consists of two CDs with forty-one songs. There is no Elvis; they just couldn't afford him. But, there is an amazing breadth of talent from Chuck Berry to Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys, The Platters, Fats Domino, and The Big Bopper. If any of those names are unfamiliar to you, you need to buy this soundtrack. Don't buy a '50s compilation disc from some former veejay. This is the collection you need.
There is really no reviewing a soundtrack like this. You don't dissect the classics. You keep your mouth shut with the proper awe and respect. So, instead, I'm gonna throw some titles and artists your way, give you enough of a lyric to know the song, I would hope. Then, you can be the judge as to whether this soundtrack deserves a spot in your collection. I think you know where I stand. If this music doesn't move your body, if it doesn't move your soul, just a tad, with its wide-eyed innocence and voracity for life, I don't know what I could say to help it along. It's bubble-gum fun and slow dancing in the dark. It's pony tails and real vanilla cokes. It's a summer night at the drive-in with no intentions of going home.
(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock -- Bill Haley and The Comets
Sixteen Candles -- The Crests
As I walk along, I wonder what went wrong with our love, a love that was so strong....I wonder, I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder.... Runaway -- Del Shannon
Why Do Fools Fall in Love? -- Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
That'll Be the Day -- Buddy Holly
Surfin' Safari -- The Beach Boys
They asked me how I knew my true love was true....I, of course, replied something here inside cannot be denied.... Smoke Gets in Your Eyes -- The Platters
Tell me, tell me, tell me, oh, who wrote the Book of Love -- The Monotones
You made me cry when you said goodbye.... Ain't That a Shame -- Fats Domino
Johnny B. Goode -- Chuck Berry
My love must be a kind of blind love; I can't see anyone but you.... I Only Have Eyes for You -- The Flamingos
Love Potion No. 9 -- The Clovers
I don't have plans and schemes, and I don't have hopes and dreams. I don't have anything...Since I Don't Have You -- The Skyliners
Oh Baby, you know what I like....Chantilly Lace and a pretty face and a pony tail, hangin' down, a wiggle in her walk and a giggle in her talk make the world go round. Ain't nothing in the world like a big-eyed girl to make me act so funny, make me spend my money, make me feel real loose like a long-neck goose, like a girl - oh Baby, that's a-what I like! -- The Big Bopper
And many, many more.
There is enough teen angst and sublimated sexuality in these two CDs to power high school dances around the world. I can't help but fall under the spell of something so specific to a space in time. It is pop culture history writ large, our forebears haunting us with a sweet and lingering melody. More personally, it hangs in the air as a sort of backdrop to my parents' romance, testament to their sweet beginning and ultimate satisfaction, one's lifetime of lasting love.
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originally posted: 12/16/04 05:01:39
last updated: 12/17/04 00:49:14