Warning: Posts in this segment may contain language that is inappropriate and/or offensive to some readers.
This is supposed to be a blog about the 1950’s era, so what does anything about my personal life have to do with that time? After all, the 1950’s were many, many years, eons even, before I was even born! But the truth is, there’s a lot more I want to write.
It Only Took Six Months
When I think about what I’m about to tell you, I want to kick my own ass. And you might wonder, if it embarrasses me so damn much, why the hell am I writing about it? I don’t know, honestly. I’m just funny that way… 🙂
So here’s the story. There’s a song called “Midnight Shift” recorded by my favorite musician of all time, Buddy Holly. I’d never heard the song before 2016 when I purchased the 3 CD-set “The Very Best of Buddy Holly and The Crickets” (incidentally, have you ever noticed how all these compilations are “The VERY Best” of whomever? The very best. As opposed to just “sort of” the best. Like that word “very” will make you realize, and on NO uncertain terms, that this compilation is, without a doubt, the extreme, undisputed BEST of that particular artist. I mean, seriously?)
I’m completely enamored of Buddy Holly’s unique style and boyish-yet-manly voice, so I enjoy listening to practically everything he ever recorded. The song “Midnight Shift” is no exception. Though truthfully, it fell under a new genre for me. I wasn’t even sure what that genre was, I just knew it was quite different from the music I was used to. At the time, my new-found love for Buddy was my greatest obsession, and I was expanding my musical horizon all because of him.
“Midnight Shift” was written by Earl Lee and Jimmie Ainsworth. It goes: “If you see ole Annie, give her a lift / Annie’s been workin’ on the Midnight Shift…”
I won’t post the full lyrics here for copyright reasons, but if you are reading this, you must look them up. Because now I’m about to tell you what I thought.
I thought this song was about a young 1950’s housewife named Annie. Annie wanted to make some extra money, so instead of staying at home and being a good little housewife, she got a job as a seamstress… or maybe some assembly line job at a factory. And, as the song title suggests, she had the midnight shift. Which made sense. Maybe she wanted to be home during the day to bake cookies and help the kids with their homework when they came home from school. And of course, she had to have supper ready for her husband after a long day at work. So the late shift was the only time ole Annie could possibly go to work.
So one evening I was packing up some items I’d sold on eBay. I decided to listen to Buddy Holly while I was working. The next items to wrap up were the lot of vintage fishing lures someone bought. Somehow, one of the lures got caught in a crochet blanket that I had on my bed. A fishing lure hook caught in a crochet blanket? Yeah. Good luck getting that little bitch out. I began to try to patiently unhook the yarn from the lure and it just kept getting worse. The more I tried to free it, the more entangled it got. “Midnight Shift” was the next song on the CD. I sighed and decided to just lay there and take a break, listen to the song, and try to figure out what I was going to do about the entangled lure.
“Gosh,” I thought. “This song almost sounds like it could be about a prostitute…” Then, it finally hit me. I shouted out loud: “HOLY SHIT, IT IS!”
Slowly, yet suddenly and all at once, the lyrics encapsulated a tell-tale vision: Annie with her hat upon her head, her painted bright red lips… and the dress “that fits her real tight” to go… where? Work on an assembly line?
I laughed at my own naivety. I tugged at the fishing lure which was now a permanent part of the blanket and buried my face. How could I have been so stupid? All that time I thought the song was about a sweet, but stubborn housewife who got an innocent little job without asking her husband (á la Lucy Ricardo). But DUH! DUH, DUH fucking DUH! She’s a whore! Of course! Annie is a whore. What the hell is wrong with me? I lived through the 90’s. I have heard, seen and endured about every overtly sexual thing that a person could possibly encounter. Yet, I still didn’t get it. It went over my head. I might as well have been 2 years old.
But after that sudden awakening, the lyrics all made perfect sense… The sneaking around in the middle of the night, asking to borrow the car, spending her money on brand new things…
Six months I’d been listening to — and singing — that song and yet I couldn’t figure out that it was about a prostitute. It took me less time to figure out “Roxanne” by The Police. In fact, once when I was real little, a friend of the family tried to tell me that “Roxanne” was about a police woman, but I still somehow figured out the truth.
But gee, that’s not so bad! It only took six months… Hey, maybe the next time I burn my hand on the stove, I’ll feel it six months later! I wonder what else I’m not figuring out from six months ago?
Alright, I already threw myself under the bus, now here’s the part where I make myself feel better. (Perhaps I should offer myself a Life Saver as well?) Buddy Holly sang this song. Glasses wearing, tweed-clad, malt-shop-hit-making, all American teen idol, Buddy Holly. Surely, he would never record a song about a prostitute. Oh no! That would just be too much of a scandal back in the Nifty Fifties. Songs about whores were left to artists who came later, like Rod Stewart and Steven Tyler and Eminem, but not Buddy Holly. I just couldn’t fathom that a good ole American boy from the 1950’s would/could/did make a song about a whore. It just didn’t compute.
As I’ve gotten to know Buddy’s work, I realize that he was a musician first, all American teen idol, second. Furthermore, his versatility allowed him to record songs in several genres, not just ones that were marketed to the good kids in Middle Class America. Plus, Buddy was a rebel. One of the very first. And yes, it took me a while to realize that his squeaky clean image was just that, an image. He was really quite bad-ass. I knew I liked him for a reason. 🙂
So there ya go. The the story of Annie working on the midnight shift and Retro Dee caught in a frustrating paradox somewhere between the 1950’s and now. As for the fishing lure, I cut it free… amazingly without destroying the crochet blanket. Now there’s something to be thankful for.
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