Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
It’s an exciting time of the year for high school kids. The nice weather reminds us that June and freedom are right around the corner.
As I listen to music on my phone at the gym, certain songs remind me of this very time of year, 40 years ago. That’s probably because I only listen to 60’s and 70’s music, unless my sons are in the truck, and I graduated in 1971 from Somerville High.
When I hear these songs it takes me back. Back to the angst and joy of my high school years. Let’s take a look back at three of the best years of my life and the music that was the backdrop of the Somerville of the 70’s.
My first year of high school was in 1969. The world was still mourning the loss of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. while The United States was fighting the war in Viet Nam. Woolworths and Grants were still thriving in Davis Square. My hair was getting longer and longer and the music was getting louder and louder.
In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans. This song made us think about the future. If anyone had told us back then that there would be T stops in Davis and (eventually) Ball Squares, we would have thought they were nuts. Oh yea, and America put a man on the moon too. That was pretty far out! We thought we were so hip and modern, even with no iPads or cell phones.
Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley. Sadly, this would be one of the King’s last hit records before his untimely downward spiral and death.
Then came 1970. A new decade of math, mayhem and music. Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney. I was amazed that I was one of the only kids at Somerville High who dared to wear bellbottom pants. I got plenty of ribbing for it until mostly everyone else finally joined in.
War by Edwin Starr. I was worried about myself and my friends being sent to Viet Nam. I was also very much into the anti-war movement, prompting me to sneak off to Washington for a huge demonstration. From his after work perch at Pat Connelly’s bar in Davis Square, and mom’s comfy chair in the living room, I hoped they didn’t see me on the news clips from that massive demonstration. I forgot which lie I told them that allowed me to stay away for an entire weekend.
In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry. Some of us had cars and took the gang, along with guitars up to hang out and swim at Breakheart Reservation in Saugus.
The Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin was a big part of my youth. By the time The Immigrant Song came out, my hair was already down to my shoulders and denim was the uniform of the day. My friends and I were full-fledged hippies. It was Beatles, beads, and bandanas.
1971 meant finally escaping from high school! In May of ’71 The Rolling Stones released Brown Sugar and John Lennon gave the world Imagine. Little did we know the extreme sadness to come. The Doors came out with Love Her Madly and Riders On The Storm, which stir up tons of emotions to this day. These songs provided the soundtrack to the summer of 1971, one of the greatest years ever.
When I hear the above-mentioned songs, I get a feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s a peaceful, soothing, happy sensation that speaks of old friends with lots and lots of hair, and big old cars with lots of chrome. It was a time when there was a lot of hope, and a lot of youth. Too bad we didn’t know that it was going to go by in a flash.
I asked my Somerville friends to name some songs that remind them of this optimistic, rejuvenated time of year and here some of them: We Gotta Get Outta This Place, Dirty Water, Smokin In The Boys Room, Blinded By The Light, Movin’ Out, Electric Avenue, Kashmir (Zeppelin), I Fought The Law, Light My Fire, Baby I’m-A Want You, Roadrunner, Lido Shuffle, These Boots Were Made For Walking, Rock The Boat, Can’t Find The Time To Tell You, Stairway To Heaven, Takin’ Care Of Business, A Dream Goes On Forever, Living In The Past, When Will I See You Again, Highway Star, Summer In The City and last but not least, School’s Out, but, not just yet!
I wonder if in 40 years (2053) the kids at the high school will have sweet memories when they hear songs by LMFAO, Flo Rida, Justin Bieber, Fun, and Lady GaGa?