Wimoweh … the Epilogue

[The focus this week is how the creative work of Solomon Linda was exploited by numerous music industry sharks over many decades. Linda definitely performed the first version that was recorded, but does that mean he necessarily created it? Perhaps it was a traditional chant for hunter or ceremonial celebration. Several of Bob Dylan’s best known tunes were tavern tunes that he claimed as his own. The point is, sometimes the line between original and “influenced-by” can be fuzzy.

Changing gears … This music video below is the perfect soundtrack for this next post. Listen to it for several minutes, get a warm-up on your coffee, before scrolling down to read. It will put you in the perfect mood to understand this historic moment when the rhythms of Africa met the streets of Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1964. PS- the video continues for more than 47 minutes. Don’t feel obligated to listen until the end. SB SM]

For the first time I have stumped the Internet. I went to Google Images and searched on “turtleneck with necktie”. Sure, there were images, but I couldn’t find a single example of a turtleneck shirt with the neck flapped over the necktie knot. It really was an original idea … not necessarily a good idea, but original.

My cousin David and I were going to the Tete-a-Tete Coffeehouse, above the Avon Theater on Thayer Street in Providence. David was 19, a student at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. I was 17, still in high school, but ready to bust loose. David had already busted loose. His hair was long, his clothes were weird. He was hovering between the Beatniks, the Folkies, and the embryonic hippies. I was, in every direction, a wannabee.

The Beat Generation: The Beatniks
A reasonable facsimile of the Tete-a-Tete Coffeehouse

More than anything, we wanted to be cool. We were hovering at the doorstep, but we certainly had not walked inside the temple. He wore a beret, because that’s what the Beat generation did. So, I wore a beret, too, acquired to look Parisian on the family’s trip abroad two summers ago. And we both wore black turtlenecks, part of the uniform. We would fit right in at the Tete, but we didn’t want to fit in; we wanted to stand out. I suggested we wear neckties with the knots hidden under the folded down turtlenecks. All we needed to complete the look was sunglasses and a Gauloise, but I was still in high school and getting caught with a cigarette meant getting kicked off the sports teams, and I couldn’t chance that.

We entered the Tete and found ourselves a table. We ordered one of the elaborate, fruity, whip-creamy drinks, then settled in to have an intellectual conversation. That didn’t last long. Now what? There was no live music that night, no poetry readings, the main diversion was the jukebox.

Beats or Beatniks

The juke box was not loaded with Top 100 pop hits. It contained jazz classics, folk artists, some comedy records, and a few select pop songs. Plays were $0.10 or 3 for a quarter. David had an inspiration. “Do you have any quarters?” he asked. I had two. “I’ve two, too. I’m going to the jukebox and play The Lion Sleeps Tonight 6 consecutive times. You go up a few seconds later and do the same thing.” I got it immediately; the plan was hatched. Luckily, there were a few other songs in the playing queue before our quarters took hold.

The impact took hold by the third repetition. Groans. The pauses between record changes became elongated and tense, the moments when the needle engages, but the music has not yet begun, interminable, the tension palpable, then … the executioner’s bullet, Ground Hog Day, the lead singer’s increasingly dreaded falsetto! The groans morphed into anger, although for David and me it was muffled sniggers. Didn’t want to give ourselves away. No telling what this crowd might do to us. Goddamn beatniks, schmeatniks.

3000 Beatniks and the Right to Free Speech - Village Preservation

By play six people were dicking around with the jukebox. Management was now involved. The machine was unplugged, then plugged in again. The falsetto returned! Finally, the machine was left unplugged. We shared the silence until things had calmed sufficiently for us to make a quiet exit. Once outside and safely away from the coffeehouse, however, David and I, two cool dudes wearing berets and neckties under our turtlenecks, burst the proverbial gut. We chortled all the way home and for many decades thereafter.

[Feel free to continue, but you now have permission to stop the video. SB SM]

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