Retro Writes: The Music by William Walrond Strangmeyer

vintage red vehicle

At the time it was a distinction, a distinction from the movie-talking mass. I saw its grim, limited appeal at a club called The Seven Stars where the kids, the guys, sold cold-hearted serenity and sleep-walker pills.

            What held us together was the music that now we call doo-wop. All the leather jackets gathered round the record player, hair greased back and pointy shoes.

            The distinction of parts was important: five or perhaps four lines; but the figures therein were few, three or four slow, two or three fast. But any smallest variation was the point. Add satin, grit or whiskey to the tone. Add an attitude. Fake sincerity and remember:

            You dress like a saint.

            We walked in a certain way, pleading our cause. Our cause was not justice.

            But since then I have in no way felt so keenly the rightness or wrongness of any chance word or gesture and the sergeant-at-arms would grin upwards through gritted teeth in approval of the loyalty to the complicated rules of every song the same and felt by the obsessive believers to be different, maybe closer to the ideal or with some almost imperceptible, riotous twist.

            Most valuable were the long, slow high and the deft, rapid low and possession of both was a glory, but the girls didn’t get it unless they had matching party dresses. Then they might be admitted, but their game was no cult and there were fights at their parties. Too much awe, too much aww.

            A word could settle status and “Hey,cool” had many nuances. Anything could trigger anything. It was a matter of style in the longest and misaligned, grayly varicolored decade.

            Art can focus the mind on narrow details.

Bio: William Walrond Strangmeyer was born in Roanoke, Virginia, but grew up in Brofus, New Jersey, attending Rutgers University for years of switching majors. His influences are adventures in bar rooms, doo-wop, rock, Palisades Amusement Park, Paris and the usual Beaudelaire, Eliot and Pound. He has read all around Paris and some in the U.S. And has been co-editor of a literary magazine Upstairs at Duroc. His mission in lit is truth telling, however grungy the beauty of it. He loves people in the abstract, somewhat less in practice. His main character defect is loyalty.