GILBERTINE & THE EXCHANGE (Volume One) — Chapter 8, Part 3: “One Nation, Under Rock” (4 August 1964)

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But beyond all else, we both live for rock, for the three-minute rhapsodies thundering over the radio or record player.

Away from home, we listen on transistor radio speakers or, if we’re were very lucky, if an adult’s in a good mood – through the car radio. Charlie, like a lot of kids around here, is into the upbeat, largely American sound of Channel 98, “Colour Radio” KFWB.  I’m still largely into KRLA. But Frank’s into the new station in town, 1500 “Big 15” KBLA, at least prior to sunset – and sometimes after, if he can receive it – though he usually can’t, and tends to alternate between Charlie’s and my stations.

Reminds me of when we used to tune-in Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline, and I get a bit nostalgic. Sometimes at night, I even find myself alternating between stations now when I’m not with him. Other times, when I miss those times back in England so much I keep the radio on KRLA, close my eyes, and imagine I’m back there again.

No matter which, the music lifts me, like tongs attached to a lifeline. Frank too – we fly from the holes in which we find ourselves, blasting away gloomy gathering storm clouds, renting the shadowy fabric of uncertainty that still seems draped over us all like a shroud, then pouring down a new euphoria and ecstasy in their place.

Instead of The Diskery or ABC Edgbaston, the three of take a bus to Old Town, two or three times a week.

We take in a double feature one of the times, usually at the old Fox Theatre, but on the others we’re usually at Grimshaw’s Record Emporium on Second and Chadbourne. That’a the place that looks like it stepped out of Main Street in Disneyland inside and out.It opened in 1908 as a Victrola dealership; recordings (disks and cylinders) were a profitable sideline, nothing more.

About 30 years ago, that reversed: the phonographs were phased out and the place became exclusively a record store.

The classical section takes up the far eastern section of the shop – all 25’ by 50’, and is partitioned off by a wall of frosted class an inch thick, with art deco images – mostly ersatz Greek or Egyptian – etched into the glass. It stands from floor to ceiling & runs the entire 50’ to the back of the shop. It was put in shortly after the shop turned exclusively to records, and is considered part of Old Man Grimshaw’s legacy.

“Young Grimshaw” – now a few years one side or the other of 50 – started out selling & demonstrating phonograph needles, and filiing Glen Miller, Benny Goodman & Louis Armstrong records, & now ocersees day to day operations. Ten years ago, he gutted the upstarirs office (leaving Old Man Grimshaw doing office duty at home) to create “Jazz Loft & Café”  (the latter free espresso from a small, self-serve machine).

It’s in the far western end of the shop. Espresso & jazz: his legacy, I daresay. The rest of downstairs – all 160’ by 50’ – has soundtracks, show tunes & standards, of course, as well as polka, and country & western.

But, thanks to “Baby Grimshaw,” said to have opened & filed the first box of 45 rpm records ever delivered to the shop, and now in his mid-30s, the shop also has a great rock section – including imports from the UK. We’re always on alert for the latest, greatest beat bands, surf rock, garage rock, frat rock, folk, r&b, soul, Motown, ballads or other sounds from either side of the pond, leaving with five or six new singles each time.

Sound familiar?

There’s a stall or a stand, like a lunch counter, only instead of food, there are about 10 turntables at the customer’s disposal to listen on headphones to new records in-store. There are also a few enclosed listening booths, but the lights seem to stay off, even when occupied, and the way the occupants move around, a lot of us wonder just how much actual listening is going on.

We also sit around – usually in the music room at my house – singing and playing this stuff on guitar (we all play).

Frank and I are even starting to write snippets of songs – rather lame, just now, but I think we eventually might have something, if we keep at it.

Face it, we’ve all faced so much recently: The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Profumo Affair, the Kennedy assassination. Who knows what tomorrow might bring? But none of it has power over us the instant this music begins. We’re free, inviolable, invincible, rock’s “the irresistible force” liberating us from all the seemingly “immovable objects” weighing us down. It no longer even matters what part of us is American and what isn’t. When this music plays, there are no nationalities, “tribal” identities or ethnicities.

We’re all one thing and one only: One Planet, One People, Under Rock.

Yeah – OK – I know – I sound like a complete tosser. Even I’m cringing a bit as I read it back.

But, I’m not being pretentious – not really. Humour me, this is how I truly feel just now. I’m sorting a lot, I guess and, even with new friends here in the States, I’m so lucky to have all of you back home – yes, I still consider it “back home” – to sound off to, knowing you’ll listen and understand.

God bless you all.

Friends, mates and comrades forever and ever,

Reggie

 

 

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