Rick Watson headliner
Have you ever had a song get stuck in your mind like an audible tattoo?
The other morning when I stepped out to feed the chickens, the grass was so thick with dew that my shoes looked as if I’d been wading in a creek. After filling the feeders with cracked corn and laying mash, I walked over to the fence to survey the morning sky. I had stood there a long time lost in thought when I realized I was humming the tune to “California Dreaming.” I hummed or whistled it all day long.
Just thinking about that song is like stepping into a time machine with the dial set to August 1967.
I was 16 the first time I heard the Mamas and Papas do that song. We didn’t have a record player then, but my sister had a Sylvania transistor radio the size of a brick and the color of the setting sun. It had a tan leather case with a long strap so you could carry it over your shoulder.
She let me listen to it one night in the summer of 1967. I laid down that night with the radio on my pillow. It was turned down low so not to disturb the family, but “California Dreaming” came pouring through that tiny speaker loud and clear.
I was not a rebellious kid, but hearing that song made me want to pack my belongings into a bag and hit the road for San Francisco.
My wife, Jilda, said she was 15 when she bought her first copy of that record. She played it so much the needle of her phonograph practically wore grooves through the vinyl. By the time we married in 1974, it had been played so many times, I think I could have seen through it had I held it up to a decent light.
Fast forward to this past week – our yoga buddy Janie bought an old CD by the Mamas and Papas at a yard sale. She brought it to class on Monday night and gave it to Jilda as a gift.
On the way home, my spouse put the CD in her player and jacked up the volume so loud my nose bled.
All the leaves are brown,
leaves are brown,
And the sky is gray,
the sky is gray
According to Rolling Stone magazine, “California Dreaming” is one of the most popular songs of all time. So it would seem a lot of people had the same reaction to it as I did.
It’s a mystery to me why some music resonates and other music is forgotten quicker than the junk mail that comes in the mornings.
“California Dreaming” happened to come along during a time in my young life when I was full of expectation and angst about what I wanted to do with my future. I knew I wanted to go places and do things that were well beyond the vision of the future my mom and dad shared for me.
They wanted me to go to school, find a job, get married and buy a house nearby. A yard full of grandkids would have been icing on the cake. But at 16, I wanted to do something remarkable.
The song became a part of my life story, and that’s why I still carry it with me after all these years.
Rick Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.