Monday, April 04, 2005

Make Her Your Own

It was Spring 1965, and after a nice hot breakfast of malt-o-meal and toast, I would walk with my neighbor and buddy Ken Holstrom to Franklin High School, where we were both juniors, first along Southeast 60th Avenue, past the many bright pink flowering Japanese Plum trees planted by The City of Portland. The fragrances of Spring enhanced our cheerfulness, as we continued down Lincoln, discussing our homework assignments and the latest developments on our varsity basketball team, where Ken was starting center, and I was a reserve guard. For other amusement, I can remember taking turns whistling different songs, silly little arrangements, tongue trilling, dramatic renditions of songs like “The Happy Trumpet”, to make the other person laugh. My favourite was Ken’s very special version of “Alley Cat”, which always cracked us both up, and he seldom made it past the first line of the first verse, before we would be in stitches, tears of laughter streaming down our faces, at 8 a.m.

When at home, I had been a busy little songwriter, accompanying myself on a tiny blond ukelele my grandfather had bought for me, that is, when I wasn’t on the phone with a girl, and man, I was just crankin’ out one hit after another. Songs like, “Time Heals Many Wounds”, “Second Love”, “What Can You Say”, and the topical “Surfin’ Song”, for which I would strum a bed of Am/C, Am/C, then on to the more haunting Am/Em, and sing the ever so poignant.....

“One day....if I can get away...
I’m gonna take my board.....
And make it to the surf.....
Wax my wood and
Rope it to the hood”

That last line always gets me, in it’s cleverness and precise imagery, and of course the song’s melody was brilliant, and catchy, in a monotonal kind of way. I would sing it for my friends, and girlfriends, whether they wanted to hear it or not, when we were just hanging out, or on one of the many beach trips we took in those days, with our 3 or 4 month old official Oregon Driver’s Licenses, and our parent’s car. Serious stuff, bein’ a surfin’ man, and waxing poetic about your life.

I admit, I do get a kick out of recalling these songs, and lyrics, and even making light of how ridiculous they sound now.

When I was a junior in high school, I was, of course, first in line for the talent show, held in the auditorium and featuring everyone with any semblance of talent, from the class comedian to the class singer-songwriter-surfin’ man. So I got up there, with my pal Ed Nylander on bongos, and crooned out a couple tunes, “Today (while the blossom still clings to the vine etc.)” and an original titled ”Make Her Your Own”, which, unfortunately, I could still sing and play, and began....

“If you love a girl
And you want her so
Just call her up, take her out
And make her your own”

When we finished, for reasons I have never been able to comprehend, the entire auditorium exploded into standing applause. I wonder if my sister Elaine remembers that moment. It’s embarassing, these days, to reveal that I have actually sung “Make Her Your Own” to a large group, and even stood with a serious look on my face and acted as though I knew what the fuck I was doing. But I must still admit that it was a defining moment. I knew right then and there that rock stardom was right up my alley.
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Pacific Beach, Washington, United States