Last week a friend since the fourth grade, Emily Sincler, posted a link to Joan Jett's rock and roll anthem "I Love Rock N' Roll." That song famously has the line "so put another dime in the jukebox, baby!" We teens of the 1960s remember well putting that dime in the jukebox and listening to good rock and roll music with our friends as we ate a burger and fries.
There was a time when one person could stroll over to the jukebox at the local hamburger joint, drop a quarter in, and pick the next three songs everyone would hear. That could be a good thing, or a bad thing. Good if they played some great songs. Bad, if they played some terrible songs.
In the mid 1960s there was a terrible novelty song. "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!" By someone calling himself Napoleon XIV, it was hideous. Either you've heard it or you haven't. And if you've heard it, you know how much it was hated. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnzHtm1jhL4
It was an annoying chant, more than a song "ho ho, hee hee, ha ha!" The local Dairy Queen had the song on the jukebox. It was bad when someone could drop a quarter in the jukebox, hit the buttons for the song three times, then walk out and sit in their car, watching the people eating inside suffer. Teen boys loved to do that to random friends and anonymous strangers.
But could it get worse? Yes, and it did. The people who made "They're Coming to Take Me Away" released the song playing backwards. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gbvcEkuFFI
It was a horror to unleash on other humans. But those boys did it. And by "those boys," I mean boys like me. It was a terrible thing to do to others, yet it was still insanely funny watching people bail out and run to their cars.
In spite of that particular curse of a song, the jukebox was a source of great joy. Sitting in a place that served food, flipping through the little jukebox substation at each booth or table, finding some songs, dropping a dime or a quarter in the slot, and playing the song or songs was a truly fun way to eat a meal. Occasionally, the timing was off, however. You might not realize someone had just dropped two quarters in and picked six songs. You might not get to your songs until you'd finished your burger. Then you might extend your stay just to hear your songs played on the jukebox.
There are still places that have jukeboxes, but they're mostly nostalgia eateries where one can revisit the good old days of soda fountains and sock hops at the local high school. They are a fond memory of teen life many years before ipods and cell phones arrived.
Copyright 2017, Jim "Pappy" Moore, all rights reserved.