I promised myself I would not write about my Staples reunion this weekend. But: I can’t help myself.
Sugar pie, honey bunch…
Of course. Anyone of a certain age (mine) knows without thinking that those are the only words that follow “I can’t help myself.”
Just as everyone at our reunion — or any other one, anywhere, from that era — understands instinctively that the only thing boot heels do is “wander.” And — as Doctor Doctor Mister M.D. says — all you really need is good lovin’.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
One of the many highlights at Saturday’s reunion was the band. All were members of our Staples Class of 1971. Billy Sims, Rob McClenathan, Bubba Barton — each with non-music jobs now — joined Mike Mugrage, Brian Keane, Jeff Dowd, Billy Seidman and Charlie Karp to play some of what Cat Mother and the All Night Newboys know is “that good old rock ‘n’ roll.”
Mike toured and performed with James Brown, Ronnie Spector and Orleans. Brian is a multiple Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer. Jeff is an opera singer based in Germany. Billy teaches music at NYU.
Charlie never graduated from Staples. He dropped out a few weeks into 10th grade, forsaking algebra and gym for touring and recording with guys like Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles. He’s now back in this area, playing with great bands like Slo Leak.
These guys sometimes played together at Staples. They were in different groups too.
On Saturday night — with the addition of former Orphenians Bonnie Housner, Margaret Hart, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, Kim Plaut, Linda Satin and Carissa Simon as singers, all of whom had the “Stop! In the Name of Love” hand motions down pat — they brought us back to a time when music was not only real and good, but a shared experience.
Everyone who went to school in the 1960s and 70s listened to the same songs at the same time. We heard them on transistor radios, car radios, turntables at parties.
Just a snippet of the most obscure tunes — “I’m Your Puppet,” “Hitchin’ a Ride,” “Indiana Wants Me” — brings back powerful memories of precise places, people and the funny/outrageous/bizarre/typical/illegal things we were doing at those moments.
So as I listened and danced Saturday night — Mustang Sally, you been runnin’ all over town — I said to myself: “Man, you are one lucky guy to have grown up when you did.”
And then I thought about music today. When the Class of 2011 has its reunion, they will not have actual music to listen to.
Nor will they have classmate bands from high school to play it.
Nor experience the joy of growing up sharing the same music, at the same time and place, during a transformative time in their young lives.
I threw this sad fact out at a friend from Burr Farms, Long Lots and Staples — a guy I haven’t seen in decades, but who because of our time together long ago, I’d reconnected with instantly.
He didn’t buy it.
His kids — in their late teens and early 20s — love the Beatles, Doors and other groups we also loved, he said, back in the day.
Suddenly, I felt fine.
In 2051, I realized, alums attending their own 40th reunions will listen to the same music we did.
Eighty years before.