Bam Ba Lam

Old lady singing into a large microphone

“Oh, God!” said my high-school boyfriend.

Me: What?
HSBF: You know that song, ‘bam ba lam’?
Me: Yeah?
HSBF: It came on the radio today and MY MOM WAS SINGING IT!!!

Oh. The, Horror.

It was a little funny, except that I never met his mom. So I didn’t have much perspective. Come to think about it, I never met his dad. Or his brothers. In 30ish months of “going together,” with our ancestral homes separated by about a mile, I never met his people.

My mom introduced me to the Beatles. She would play Meet the Beatles and Introducing The Beatles. She had a bunch of old records we’d listen to, like Limbo Rock. I grew up with people listening to music. People had records and also listened to music on the radio. And sang along.

My folks gave me my first AM radio when I was about seven. I used to listen to CKLW [the motor ciiitttttyyy] like church. Detroit radio introduced me to the Stones, Supremes, Little Stevie, Smokey, Aretha, Clapton/Cream/Stevie W/Traffic, Zeppelin, The Who, Kiss, Prince, George Clinton and GrandMaster Flash.

When I was ten, I got my first turntable. It also had a radio that included FM! I bought my first LP–Elton John’s Greatest Hits. In high school I had a job in a record store. I always had music on–in the house, in the car, via my portable FM radio and eventually on my boombox.

On school mornings, I’d get up, pad into the kitchen and turn on the radio to eat breakfast. We’d listen to the AOR station (I’ll be the roundabout). I guess my Mom listened. She didn’t turn it off or tell us to turn it down. She’d be in the room, so I guess she listened or at least heard.

So, like who cares that your mom knows your song?

Maybe that’s why I didn’t know his mom and family. He cared that his mom knew his song. As if only we teens owned the public airwaves. As if it was unacceptable that his mom was part of that public. What if he was embarassed of his family? I didn’t know them so maybe they were embarrassing. That said, they couldn’t be much worse than mine, and he was over our house all the time. What if WE were the embarrassing ones–lacking even the most basic self-awareness that we were embarrassing?

I know that I resemble an embarrassment to my spawn. Rolling into the Boys and Girls Club after summer camp with Get Low blasting from the minivan is certainly cringe-worthy. Or when a millennial colleague caught me on my headphones and asked me what I was listening to. Don’t judge an old book by it’s cover, I say.

So I’m thinking about HSBF’s mom, enjoying music. And hope that she looked like this:

And for the record, these Black Betty induced memories were triggered as the Big Guy blared it from his phone, followed by some Creedence. He ain’t no fortunate son. He came by it honest.

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