Lyrics quotes in this book are assigned to the singer (or singers, or group) most commonly associated with them. This may offend the purist who feels that a song lyric belongs more to the writer than the singer. What you have done, the purist might argue, is akin to ascribing the works of Mark Twain to Hal Holbrook. I don’t agree. In the world of popular song, it is as the Rolling Stones say: the singer, not the song. But I thank them all, writers and singers – most particularly Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson… and Jan Berry, of Jan and Dean. He did come back from Deadman’s Curve.
Getting the necessary legal permission to use lyrics is hard work, and I’d like to thank some of the people who helped me remember the songs and then make sure it was OK to use them. They include: Dave Marsh, rock critic and rock historian; James Feury, a. k. a. “Mighty John Marshall”, who rocks my little town on WACZ; his brother, Pat Feury, who throws oldies hops in Portland; Debbie Geller; Patricia Dunning; and Pete Batchelder. Thanks to all you guys and may your old Coasters records never warp so bad you can’t play ’em.
This is the story of a lover’s triangle, I suppose you’d say – Arnie Cunningham, Leigh Cabot, and, of course, Christine. But I want you to understand that Christine was there first. She was Arnie’s first love, and while I wouldn’t presume to say for sure (not from whatever heights of wisdom I’ve attained in my twenty-two years, anyway), I think she was his only true love. So I call what happened a tragedy.
Arnie and I grew up on the same block together, went to Owen Andrews Grammar School and Darby Junior High together, then to Libertyville High together. I guess I was the main reason Arnie didn’t just get gobbled up in high school. I was a big guy there –
yeah, I know that doesn’t mean donkeyshit; five years after you’ve graduated you can’t even cadge a free beer on having been captain of the football and baseball teams and an All-Conference swimmer – but because I was, Arnie at least never got killed. He took a lot of abuse, but he never got killed.
He was a loser, you know. Every high school has to have at least two; it’s like a national law. One male, one female. Everyone’s dumping ground. Having a bad day? Flunked a big test? Had an argument with your folks and got grounded for the weekend? No problem. Just find one of those poor sad sacks that go scurrying around the halls like criminals before the home-room bell and walk it right to him. And sometimes they do get killed, in every important way except the physical; sometimes they find something to hold onto and they survive. Arnie had me. And then he had Christine. Leigh came later.
I just wanted you to understand that.
Arnie was a natural out. He was out with the jocks because he was scrawny – five-ten and about a hundred and forty pounds soaking wet in all his clothes plus a pair of Desert Driver boots. He was out with the high school intellectuals (a pretty “out” group themselves in a burg like Libertyville) because he had no specialty. Arnie was smart, but his brains didn’t go naturally to any one thing… unless it was automotive mechanics. He was great at that stuff. When it came to cars, the kid was some kind of a goofy born natural. But his parents, who both taught at the University in Horlicks, could not see their son, who had scored in the top five per cent on his Stanford-Binet, taking the shop courses.