Saturday, May 2, 2015


Years ago I was at a bar around the corner from where I worked, sharing a pitcher of beer with my brother and a guitar buddy of his. It was in downtown San Diego, and the area was just starting to get cleaned up. Across the street was a relatively new mall, and we were facing the back of it, a parking structure with a bench out by the sidewalk. While we drank and were people watching, we noticed a large overweight man seated on the bench. Unkempt by some standards, really just a guy with greasy hair, a mustache, big sideburns with unfashionable clothes (the real deal, pre-dating ironic hipster style by a couple decades). He looked as though he might live in one of the cheap SRO hotels in the area. One thing we soon realized was that this guy was one of the smoothest girl watchers we'd ever seen. No comments, no interaction, no gaping, no mouthing "oh my god", none of that. This dude showed some class. It was all glances, just glances. So stealth that it felt like a gift to be seeing it, that we were witnessing a master, and it was something that probably nobody else was seeing. He wasn't even aware we were watching. We were voyeurs, checking out a voyeur. We were just on the cusp of questioning our own behavior when my brother started singing the Four Lads' "Standing On a Corner" and we just lost it. The juxtaposition of the song, the guy's appearance, and his studied approach was just too much. We howled on and on.

We knew the song because it was in heavy rotation on a short lived AM radio station, the late great KPOP, that specialized in the music of our parents and grandparents. Swing, vocal groups and an occasional swinging instrumental by someone like Perez Prado. The sort of stuff that sounds better if your parents aren't pushing it on you as some sort of cool of yore.

As long as we're on the girl watching theme, here's another, the O'Kaysions "Girl Watcher". Tepid as it sounds, it was a hit in 1968. Serious. You could hear it back to back with "Sunshine of Your Love" or "Piece of My Heart", both of which were hits the same year. That's how inclusive the top 40 charts were back then. Keep patting yourself on the back for your eclectic tastes. The general public, when given the chance, proved long ago that having varied tastes and being a music snob are not inextricably entwined.

The Four Lads - Standing On a Corner mp3 at Stan's Area 1956
The O'Kaysions - Girl Watcher mp3 at LZ Center 1968
Cream - Sunshine of Your Love mp3 at LZ Center 1968
Big Brother and the Holding Company - Piece of My Heart mp3 at LZ Center 1968

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