Karlsruhe American High School, Paul Revere Village, Germany: 1965-67
After yesterday’s posting I have continued to think of my past living as a young boy in Karlsruhe, Germany, actually finding and emailing and making contact with a good friend from then. Incredible. This piece that follows, with some revisions, was originally posted in December, 2012:
In writing recently about my Little League baseball career, I was reminded of my time in Karlsruhe, Germany, where I played at the American base there, the Paul Revere Village. It is also where I attended school, and I have been looking through my one yearbook from that time, Der Kavalier ’67.
I am by nature obsessively nostalgic, and I think this is largely because I had an interesting time growing up. In the past few days I have actually been on a few ‘Karlsruhe AHS’ or similar sites, posting a comment on one, and emailing a hopeful acquaintance from the past through another. This acquaintance was one of a number who wrote messages in my yearbook – the tradition at the end of an academic year – and she was an older student who used to hang out with me and others at the ‘yellow building’: one of the Army apartment blocks opposite the school where we all used to meet in the morning and smoke. I was 12 and hung out with the older students, by and large. I was also a ‘cool-head’, an appellation I even autographed on my own photo and which was applied to me, I am nostalgically proud to say, in a number of those wonderful messages.
I say ‘wonderful’ because I was struck by the thoughtful, hopeful and articulate thoughts for my future, especially those from friends my age. More articulate I’m sure than I was at that time. Again, it was a tradition, but one which on reflection I read now as very positive, purposeful – and intelligent. There are many references to the ‘yellow building’, being a ‘cool-head’ [obviously a group of us concerned with our appearance] and ‘purple day’. I was into fashion and wanting to dress differently to others, especially the many Ivy League Americans at school [I would read magazines focusing on London hippie/psychedelic fashion, very much in vogue, as well as English slang – and this is hilarious: I do recall a magazine printing a glossary of ‘Beatles’ words, and one was narked, which was damned unusual if you were a yank, and so a few of us used this for a time, feeling now genuinely ‘cool’…..].
American schools do not have school uniform, but on ‘purple day’ there must have been a relaxation on what was allowed to be reasonably worn because I went to school in the most amazing purple corduroy flared trousers with a fluorescent yellow nylon shirt, both bought in Karlsruhe [I have no idea how my conventional American parents will have allowed that, but they did]. On that day at least, I was more than cool – I was far out!
In the photo above, I am with my friend Bob, both members of the Pep Club, and note he is wearing a Beatles hat – now that was damn cool in those days, trust me! Damn cool. Ironically, I appear quite Ivy League in my turtle-neck and sweater, so I hadn’t quite made the sartorial shift…..
One of my favourite teachers at that time was my English teacher, Ronald R Voeller, and he signed my yearbook with the following: May you continue to explore the newest in fashions and suaveness. Now how special is that?! Naturally, I had to look up the word ‘suave’ in the dictionary, but I thought that was the neatest thing to say at the time, and I now fully appreciate what he was doing with that expression way back then. Indeed, another teacher also wrote a fascinating comment in my yearbook. This was my German Language teacher Gertraud Schlegel, and I spent a lot of time standing outside her class for my talkativeness [not in German either….] and she wrote, with considerable foresight for my ability to appreciate this in the future, these lines from Goethe: What is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves. It could seem a sarcastic comment on my lack of discipline, and there may have been a minute element of that, but here was a teacher who I’d like to think saw I had some ability to progress and mature and understand important ideas in the future. As with later teachers, these two and others at this quite ordinary but also excellent High School, clearly had their positive influence on my future career as a teacher.
I have always loved music and have written elsewhere about probably my earliest genuine appreciation which was my own second-hand hearing of my older sister’s listening to rock’n’roll [Orbison, Presley, Vincent, Mineo et al] as well as for me just after, The Beatles. Living in Germany was a time of musical transition [personally and globally] and therefore the development of my own tastes. I first learned to play the guitar whilst in Karlsruhe. A friend whose brother had his own band had an electric guitar himself and taught me my first two routines: the bass line for The House of the Rising Sun over which he would play the chord sequence and sing, and then as I progressed – a relative term – the chord sequence to Gloria [EAC] which was quite tricky as it was a quick run.
In fact I lie: the first chord I learnt to play was G – that’s with the thumb and middle finger on respectively the bottom and top E strings on the third fret. That was easy!
Sadly, I can’t remember my guitar friend’s name [NB This is an important additional: researching last night, 9/8/16, I found a photo of his older brother’s band the Mojos, with that brother’s name printed on this – Silvio Bowler – but sadly I can’t recall my friend’s first name]. The Mojos would play at the AA Club [I think that’s what it was called, standing for the American Association] and it was a youth club where we would also eat our school lunch which was, naturally, hamburgers! The coolest song to play then, which his band did, was the Kingsmen’s Louie Louie, and that was because apart from its cool garage riff it had the dirtiest lyrics [the subject of an FBI investigation no less] – well, they are indecipherable on the record and certainly sound lewd, especially to the aural appreciation and reinvention of adolescent youth. Amazingly, I can’t recall any other covers his or other bands at that time played, though I’m sure The House of the Rising Sun had to be one of them.
I bought my first personal music at the PX [Post Exchange] on the army base – this was the Sears and Roebucks equivalent when residing away from the States. These were all singles. I’m sure I didn’t buy any albums until I moved to England later in 1967. I will end by listing the singles I’m confident I bought there, though I will just now mention The Electric Prunes I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night, because it does have a real significance: it was the psychedelic record that altered forever the music I and many others would gravitate to; it led to the second of the two fights I had as a teenager, both of which I lost badly, but thankfully quickly [I wasn’t a tough guy – hell, I wore purple flared corduroy trousers with a yellow shirt], and it is the basis for a poem I wrote about the music and that experience which will follow this list of singles. In compiling, I worked on the principle that any singles without a centrepiece were the earliest and therefore from Germany: then I realised some with the donut hole were early purchases from England. The surest evidence is that they had to be 1967 or before, but I haven’t checked to be absolutely sure. They are listed as they came out of the singles box, unless more than one by the same artist/s in which case I have grouped them [as well as a long posting, this really is a nerd’s exercise!]:
Germany Singles [and Collectibles]
The Marketts – Out of Limits
The Pyramids – Penetration
The Platters – With This Ring
Manfred Mann – Do Wah Diddy Diddy
Johnny Rivers – Seventh Son
The Kinks – All Day and All of the Night/I Gotta Move
The Kinks – I Need You/Set Me Free
The Kinks – Tired of Waiting For You/Come On Now
The Righteous Brothers – A Man Without a Dream
Nini Rosso – Der Clown [!]
Walter Wanderley – Call Me [and immediate above, genesis of my eclectic tastes….]
The Beatles – Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby
The Beatles – Paperback Writer/Rain
The Music Machine – Talk Talk [hugely influential garage]
Bobby Herb – Sunny
Freddy Cannon – Beachwood City
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich – Hold Tight!
The Box Tops – The Letter
The Buckinghams – Don’t You Care [gorgeous]
The Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth [first protest/political song]
Simon & Garfunkel – A Hazy Shade of Winter/For Emily Whenever I Can Find Her [15 cents]
The Mamas & The Pappas – Look Through My Window
The Mamas & The Pappas – Dedicated To The One I Love
The Mamas & The Pappas – Monday, Monday
Syndicate of Sound – Little Girl
Charlie Ryan – Hot Rod Lincoln
The Outsiders – Respectable
Tommy James and The Shondells – I Think We’re Alone Now
Shadows of Knight – Gloria
The Spencer Davis Group – I’m A Man [what a bass line]
Blues Magoos – (We Ain’t Got) Nothing Yet/Gotta Get Away
The Turtles – Happy Together
The Silkie – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away [great Beatles cover]
The Impressions – I’m So Proud/I Made a Mistake [three African-American GIs sang ISP a cappella, and brilliantly, to my older sister at the local swimming pool in Karlsruhe. She was wearing a black bikini with a net join in the middle. Very risqué at the time. And she had/has red hair. I used to have so much fun being taken around as a chaperon/little-kid-brother-safety-net for her in those days!]
The Electric Prunes – I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night [hugely influential psychedelia]
The following poem is one of a set I wrote years later, using musical influences, and the time of their making and impact on me at that time, as prompts:
I Had Too Much To Drink Last Night -1966
I was in Karlsruhe
when Lenny and
Walt Disney died
but with England winning the World Cup
the Germans seemed
In Girl on a Motorcycle
Marianne Faithfull unzipped the front
of her black leather top
half-way down her bare chest
and drove a motorcycle along
the main street of Karlsruhe, the
wind sneaking in on her breasts
like me into the film underage
but overwrought with thoughts
of sexual unrest.
I’d just pushed the jukebox buttons and
I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night began to play
when the weedy guy with glasses kept yapping
and I told him to go away
but he wouldn’t
so I threw him over the table and he
challenged me to a fight.
Once outside he put up his fists like a boxer
and kept hitting me in the mouth
and my head began to sway
but when I gave up he shook my hand
like we were gentleman
this ugly kid who was taught boxing by his dad
or Cassius Clay.