I’m in a catch-all bad mood today. There’s no logical reason for it. Because of that, I’m trying to think positive thoughts. “Two negatives don’t a positive make.” Didn’t Newton say that?
When the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds album came out, I was a teenager and completely bummed out. There weren’t any Good Vibrations to be found anywhere. It was such a departure from anything done before. Weren’t the Beach Boys about fast cars, surfing, and California girls?
I almost gave up my Columbia Record Club membership. Those subscribed to Columbia Record Club knew, it was nearly impossible to unsubscribe. They’d send more LP’s–I’d listen, like them, and continue.
There weren’t a lot of surfer dudes shooting the curl in Midwestern lakes and creeks. Side B, the last cut, “Caroline No,” expressed how I felt at that time–and a little of how I feel today. Sending out Good Vibrations on a gloomy, gray day.
A car, to a boy growing up in the fifties and sixties, was as important, as cell phones are now, to kids over ten years old. I shared the family sedan with two brothers. Taking your date on public transportation was totally uncool. There was no public transportation in our part of the country, anyway. What I wanted was a sporty two door hardtop, a Chevelle or Mustang, with powerful V8 engine, and “four on the floor.” Young men with fast cars did what was natural–took their cars out to see how fast they’d go. My Dad knew that. A cool car raised the status of average looking guys. I think that’s still true. The driver needed the right techniques. …Driving slowly with the engine revved in a lower gear. …Leaning casually in the driver’s seat. …Left elbow rested on the window ledge. The wrong technique negated everything. That was the same as an old person driving a sporty car.
There are automobile enthusiasts all over the world. I don’t think there’s any other country with a car culture quite like that of the United States and Canada. …Maybe Australia? There were songs about cars, “Come ride with me Lucille, in my merry Oldsmobile.” The Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe.” I can’t imagine lyrics to “American Pie” being about “Drove my “Toyota” to the levee, and the levee was dry.” In fairness, there was a Beach Boys song, “Go Little Honda” about a sporty motorbike.
Dad was a Ford man. His cars were basic stripped down models with six cylinder engines and three speed manual transmissions. My father’s philosophy was, the more expensive the car, the more expensive it was to maintain. Buick dealers charged more for parts, because it was a luxury brand. To a certain extent, he was right. Dad tolerated Chevy owners–after all, Grandpa had a blue half-ton Chevy pickup. Other car brands he didn’t have much use for. Dad didn’t know it, but his full size ’64 six cylinder Ford sedan lost a drag race to a ’53 Ford flathead V8.
Dad helped me get my first car when I was in college–a black ’64 Ford Custom 500 four door sedan. It had a small V8 with three speed stick shift and overdrive. The most amazing thing, it had power steering and air conditioning. I kept it until my Air Force enlistment. The years have passed. I’m also a stick to the basics guy. I don’t care about touch-screen navigation, sliding sunroof, or drop-down DVD screens. Dad’s words, “It’s just something else to break down.” stuck with me. It’s cool to have a car that performs and gets good gas mileage. Through the wonders of technology, my cars six cylinder engine, is about the same size as that of Dad’s ’64 Ford, has twice the horsepower, and gets better mileage.