The whole idea was for the five of us to hitchhike to Delmar with the 100 dollars we’d bummed from Tony the Source, pay for the model A coupe, get it out of the old lady’s garage and push it the ahh, 20 miles or so back to Chris’s back yard, soup the buggy up with Candy Apple red, win Hot Rod of the Year and a few important drag races, use the money to pay for college, then get high-paying jobs from which we could change the course of history to our liking. Simple.
None of this, except the hundred dollars and the garage part, was discussed or even thought about at the living edge of our teenage minds in the hours and miles we went into the darkness before we at last pulled open the creaking doors of the old garage back there among the big trees – in the movie the background music would be Maybelline by the immortal Chuck – and brought to the light the object of our odyssey on that hot summer night in 1957, but the dream was there and we all felt it to the core, it had drawn us to this place.
If the movie was made right now, we’d all be played by overage actors overdoing young in a smartass young director’s conception of what teens in the fifties – who attended the actual birth of rock’n’roll for godsake, to say nothing of all that followed – were really like, but the whole thing would be such a crock and we’d know it, sitting here graying along with the balding, paunching audience, watching our characters hitchhiking out there with the clothes and the music chronology all screwed up, what a ripoff, what do those punky hollywood whippersnappers care about getting eternity right?
‘Cause we were really there, we knew how it really was, there was just Sun records and Chess and a few others, don’t let me get too far off the track here. For good background music, just also hear Little Richard, Fats Domino, Elvis, Gene Vincent, Screamin Jay, the Coasters, Lloyd Price, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and a dozen or so others, Carl Perkins, Ronnie Hawkins, the Diamonds, Mickey and Sylvia, the Silhouettes completing the air around us On the Road to the garage way out in Delmar and back, and the adventures that befell us along our journey.
As for threads: no dumb, square, uncool short-sleeved shirts with birds or dogs on them for godsake from way back in the late forties, might as well be off by a hundred years, back when the director’s grandfather was working on his third divorce. For any up-and-coming director who wasn’t there but might really care about authenticity, for shoes we wore cordovan ducks or baby ducks or crepe-sole desert boots or converse all stars. All key style items in season. Fruit boots too. We all had DA’s and rat tails or Balboas maybe, since this was summer. Definitely no wimpy whiteside haircuts look like Eisenhower. Greasers all.
T-shirts, Levi’s or black, white or tan chinos, rat-tail comb in the back pocket. Used often. Especially on street corners. Oh yeah. Richie Valens. The Del Vikings. Frankie Lyman. The Bobettes: maybe a little earlier, but definitely there. The Beatniks were thriving down in the basements of NYC and elsewhere, wearing berets, shades, sandals and digging jazz, selling paintings on the street, getting high on pot, wine, espresso, reading poems of the cool kind in the souped-up, bebop night.
We were gonna make a world like that too, only way moreso, more like we wanted. You know how it is when you’re young and absolutely right, perfectly on track for the first time ever in history, we knew it deep in our Dreamlover hearts, as proven in the music our parents hated, which would ruin us they were sure, and in our craving the fast cars of our dreams that would take us away, cigarette packs in the rolled-up T-shirt sleeve. We were on the mark alright, but in fact we had no idea what a Model-T the world was. – Of course: Bill Haley. – And always will be, as each generation steps up to the old garage with its dreams and opens the doors on reality.