It's a well known fact that I cannot be in the same room as an idling jukebox.
Decades ago, Robert would notice me twitching, and lean forward to tell me:
"Don't worry. There's always some nervous fag who'll put money in the jukebox."
To which I learned to reply:
"Uh, Robert, that nervous fag is me!"
Well, times have changed, I haven't been with Robert in years, but I'm still the man taking charge of the jukebox.
Now, this has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a total control freak.
Wait, that's a lie!
It has everything to do with it. It's a well known documented fact. It took Tim mere months to announce that he found me overbearing. I still am. He's just gotten used to me. Or maybe I've just mellowed some.
But I digress.
Just as music often serves as a trigger to remind one of a special event or circumstance, to this day, some songs remain completely emblematic of the bars, restaurants and eras I first heard them in. Some of these songs were in the popular rock and soul idioms of the day, some show tunes (I am a middle-aged gay man, after all!), and a few of them are old hits that never went away.
The original jukebox that Robert and I discussed was in a small, dark bar/burger bin called One Potato, which stood on the corner of 10th and Hudson Streets up until a decade ago. Robert and I would head there on Thursday nights, way back in 1976, to start the weekend off properly. We'd often meet up with our pale friend Richard, drink several beers, pump the juke box and devour burgers at tables fabricated from old whiskey barrels. A waiter took to referring to us as The Men when we'd arrive. I'm not quite sure I understand what that appellation separated us from, as the room was invariably filled with only men, and the occasional sympathetic sister. The bartender soon upped the ante by announcing us as the Father (Robert was about to turn 36), the Son (I was 21) and the Holy Ghost (yes, Richard was that pale). The nickname stuck. I loved it.
The songs I heard there were Linda Lewis' helium voiced rendition of "It's In His Kiss", The Supremes singing "Stoned Love" and "Up The Ladder To The Roof", Melba Moore's "This Is It!" and songs from the first productions of Chicago and A Chorus Line, which were fresh and new then.
It's as if these songs are date-stamped or time coded, their association cemented with a specific venue in another time, another place.
Other Jukeboxes, Other Rooms:
The machine in the student lounge at the School of Visual Arts, where I was chided for playing David Bowie's "Changes" back in 1972. Too gay, apparently. I made the acquaintance of the kid who programmed the box and by the end of the semester it was stocked with New York Dolls tracks, as well as my very own T.Rex 45, "Ride A White Swan".
The jukeboxes at Village gay bars such as the Ninth Circle, Ty's and Keller's where I hung out from 1973, onwards. Endless Lou Reed, Rolling Stones and David Bowie's Aladdin Sane album bring the Ninth Circle crashing back, while the Ronettes "Walking In The Rain" and the Shirelle's "Chains" revive Keller's for me. The small jukebox at Ty's seemed to play the obscure Cy Coleman instrumental "Chloe" all the time.
Years later, a restaurant called 103 Second Avenue opened, amazingly enough at that very location. Periodicals of the time never failed to comment on the cool humans that provided the service there. If they didn't know you, or like the looks of you, service could be sketchy at best. It was next door to the entrance of The Saint, and had a bit of that element to it, but it managed to combine the remnants of the punk scene, the nascent New Wavers and neighborhood types like myself. It was a favored hangout, and we'd head there after long sleepless nights to drink coffee, have some breakfast and come down from whatever substance we'd been ingesting all night. On that jukebox I would play Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" and "Duel" or Femme Fatale" by Propaganda, or "Dazzle" by Siouxie & The Banshees. One of the minor highlights of my life to that point was stumbling into the restaurant at dawn, only to be handed money by the owner, and told to play the pretty morning music.
Which brings us to today. A wildly popular blogger who shall remain nameless has threatened to out me as a jukebox nerd. He's discovered that I have a pocket full of crib sheets when I arrive at the Dugout on Sundays, and he's looking to make the most of it. It's true. I am a nerd. I take notes. There's no way I can contain in my head all the songs I think to play during week. I write things like REM: "It's The End of The World As We Know It" and ABC: "The Look of Love" on my old business cards on a Wednesday or Thursday as the songs occur to me. Then I play them on Sunday.
I thought I better blog about this before he does.