Heavy Thumps As The Jukebox Played

Originally posted October 12, 2007

I was thinking this morning about a room in the lower level of my high school, the one that was called the Multi-Purpose Room during my senior year.

It might not exist anymore. It’s been thirty-six years since I walked out of St. Cloud Tech with my letter jacket and my diploma, and the school has been remodeled and expanded several times since then. I may be remembering a room that’s gone. But during my senior year, 1970-71, it was a busy place.

It was at the start of that year that the rules changed. Up until then, if a student was anywhere except in class or in either of the two lunch areas – the cafeteria on the main floor or the cold-lunch room in the lower level – he or she had to have a hall pass. If you went to the library, as soon as you entered, you had to show your pass to the librarian at the main desk and then place your pass in a little file system. You’d retrieve it as you left. The school enlisted senior boys to stand at the boundaries of the lunch areas and screen anyone trying to go anywhere else. Movement was tightly controlled.

But as my senior year started, things were different. We were allowed to be anywhere we wanted to be in the school. When we went to the library, we just walked in, and when we were finished there, we just walked out. When we finished lunch, we left, to go the library, the band room, the front lawn, the street that ran between the old school and the more recent annex, anywhere on school grounds. Of course, if a student went somewhere besides class and the teacher sent a notice to the office to that effect, the student spent the next day studying under supervision in a small room near the office, suspended for the day. But teachers frequently divided their classes into smaller groups and, say, had one group meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays and another meet on Wednesdays and Fridays, with the entire class meeting on Monday, so seeing students in various places other than class was not rare.

Where most of us went, however, was the Multi-Purpose Room, which had been called up until that school year the cold-lunch room. As the cold-lunch room, it had been pretty uninviting: lots of tables with built-in benches and a cooler at the end where one could buy half-pint cartons of milk – or a chocolate shake – from a lunch lady. As the Multi-Purpose Room, it still had the long tables and the cooler, but now the cooler had other ice cream treats. And along the wall behind the cooler were vending machines offering sandwiches, chips, cookies and cupcakes. There was also a machine that sold coffee, tea and beef bullion. (I was still about a year away from starting the coffee habit that persists to this day, but I drank a lot of bullion that year!)

And on the far end of the room from the cooler and the vending machines was another machine that, more than anything else, told us that the school’s rules had changed: a jukebox!

I think the administration learned to regret that choice fairly soon. Maybe not, as the jukebox was still in the room the following spring when I graduated along with more than four hundred other Tigers. But soon after school started, the doors to the room began to be closed during class hours instead of open. And inside, it was noisy, what with the jukebox playing and as many as, I don’t know, maybe two hundred kids inside. (The headcount was more than that, I’m certain, during any one of the four lunch periods scheduled for the 1,600 or so students.)

There were a few jukebox favorites during the year. Dawn’s “Knock Three Times” was one of them, a catchy little ditty released before the group’s name featured its lead singer, Tony Orlando. If you don’t know the song, or don’t recall it, let me refresh you on the most important part of the song, the chorus:

“Oh, my darlin’
“Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me.
“Twice on the pipe if the answer is no.
“Oh, my sweetness, (thump, thump, thump)
“means you’ll meet me in the hallway.
“Twice on the pipe (clink, clink) means you ain’t gonna show.”

And, of course, every time the song played, the “(thump, thump, thump)” was augmented by the sound of more than a hundred textbooks being slammed on tabletops. The “(clink, clink)” was generally ignored. To its credit, the administration did not have the record pulled from the jukebox; it stayed right there until it hit its peak (three weeks at No. 1) and faded, even though I’m sure the additional noise from the slamming textbooks did nothing for the sanity of the various lunch ladies who worked in the Multi-Purpose Room.

There was one other song that I recall as a room favorite: Brewer & Shipley’s “One Toke Over The Line,” a one-hit wonder that reached No. 10 in the summer and was still popular enough to be loaded into the jukebox at the beginning of the school year. Of course, our admiration to “One Toke Over The Line” wasn’t for its percussive effects; it was for its winking reference – the word “toke” of course – to pharmaceutical recreation. The reference was oblique enough to some that the record spent ten weeks on the charts, but overt enough to others that there were radio stations across the U.S. that refused to play the record.

The song was the first track on Brewer & Shipley’s Tarkio, a record that I view as a good piece of work, if not quite a classic album, in the folk-rock, almost country rock vein. (It reached No. 34 on the album chart in the spring of 1971.) It was the third album that Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley released after beginning their partnership, and it’s currently available on CD as a two-fer with their second album, Weeds. Five more albums followed in the 1970s, none of which had as much success or have ever been released on CD, and I will likely rip at least one of those and share it here in the near future.

But today, it’s the first Brewer & Shipley album, Down In L.A., that I’m listening to. Like most of the duo’s records, it’s never been released on CD. It’s not a great record, but it’s an interesting listen for a number of reasons. First, it provides a look at the duo shortly before they had their brief stay on radio’s center stage. Second, its list of sidemen is populated by some pretty famous names:

Jim Messina and Joe Osborn provided some of the work on bass. Russell Bridges (very soon to be better known as Leon Russell) played organ and electric piano. Milt Holland provided some percussion work. Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine were on drums. And one of the producers was Jerry Riopelle, whom I wrote about here.

The highlights? I like “Green Bamboo,” the hippie-ish “Keeper of the Keys” and “Time and Changes” quite a bit. The album’s closer, “Mass For M’Lady” would be on that list except for the ludicrous organ intro. Most of the rest of the record is okay, if a little unformed musically and lyrically.

(I found this rip at a while ago at a forum I frequent. I did some tinkering with it, and there is still some surface noise now and then, but even so, it’s in better shape than my vinyl, so . . . Thanks to the original poster, most likely One Bite at GF. I’ve decided, just for the heck of it, to also post a rip of “One Toke Over The Line.”)

Tracks:
Truly Right
She Thinks She’s A Woman
Time And Changes
Small Town Girl
I Can’t See Her
Green Bamboo
An Incredible State of Affairs
Keeper Of The Keys
Love, Love
Dreamin’ In The Shade
Mass For M’Lady

Brewer & Shipley – Down In L.A. [1968]

Brewer & Shipley – “One Toke Over The Line” [1970]

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