Friday, July 24, 2009

Those were the days, my friends

Here they are, 10 songs that defined the Whitehall High School Class of '69. Let them be argued tonight at the Dodge Street Grill (which was the Pix Theatre back in the day) on the eve of our 40th reunion.

It's a shame the chosen beers of our proud Wisconsin heritage -- Blatz, Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon -- won't be flowing along with the conversations. Sadly, they've gone the way of the old picture house (well, except for Blue Ribbon, but that was the choice of the Polaks, anyway). Miller Lite? Now this will age us: the first keg wouldn't be tapped until after our five-year reunion!

These sensory-triggering songs are listed chronologically, just the way we heard them as seniors. From the fall of 1968, returning for that final year at Memorial High School to the chants of "Orange and Black Fight Fight!'', through another cold Wisconsin winter where a warm car heater was as crucial as a sturdy AM radio antenna. (I'd argue the radio was MORE important. Our asses were already frozen; might as well have some ''mood'' music to drown out the sound of chattering teeth.)

And then, finally, spring. There always seemed to be a memorable song to wash away another gritty winter and help launch a blessed new summer in the heartland. The Mamas and Papas provided the bridge for us as freshmen with "California Dreamin'". The Young Rascals set us up twice, as sophomores and juniors, with "Groovin''' and "Beautiful Morning''. And, fittingly for our graduation sendoff, it was "Aqauarius/Let the Sunshine In'' by the Fifth Dimension.

But here are the 10 songs that mattered most during our senior year at WHS. There will be arguments about "Stand By Your Man'', the purest country song ever recorded, because not everybody in our class of 84 students was listening to country (which is to say not everybody was camped out like me in the Walgert Hotel Tap Room. Hey, I was just mopping the floor there to earn my college tuition money!)

The truth be known, "Stand by Your Man'' probably got more juke box play in Whitehall (pop. 1,446) than all the others combined. Ask Ed "Rico'' Dubiel, whose parents owned "Johnnie's & Connie's'' just around the corner from the theatre, where you could hear fiddles and steel guitars bursting through the screen door on summer evenings. Or Sharon Sosalla, whose folks frequented that beer drinking palace before opening their own "Hank & Ann's'' on Main Street, across from the bowling alley.

Lists like this can't be limited by genre. In fact, you could argue that Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley P.T.A.'' -- a true crossover No. 1 in September of '68 -- deserves inclusion.

1. Magic Carpet Ride, Steppenwolf
2. Hey Jude, Beatles
3. Hush, Deep Purple
4. Abraham, Martin & John, Dion
5. Stand By Your Man, Tammy Wynette
6. I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye
7. Crimson and Clover, Tommy James & the Shondells
8. Everyday People, Sly & the Family Stone
9. Touch Me, Doors
10. Proud Mary, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Sentimental favorites: "Fire'' by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, "Who's Making Love'' by Johnnie Taylor, and "Oh Happy Day'' by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

They might lobby for: "Build Me Up Buttercup'' by the Foundations, "Traces'' by the Classics IV, "Time of the Season'' by the Zombies.

Wish we could forget: "Dizzy'' by Tommy Roe, and "1, 2, 3 Red Light'' by the 1910 Fruitgum Company.

Hardest songs to keep off the list: "Born to be Wild'' (more of a summer remnant from Steppenwolf), "Worst That Could Happen'' by Brooklyn Bridge and "Those Were the Days'' by Mary Hopkin, because, my friends, those were the days...

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