Perhaps each of us has had some song in our lifetime that has seemed to have moved us in some magical or emotional way during our teenage years that entrenched itself into our minds and remains a very special memory over our lifetime. There were five songs in particular that I have carried with me from those early years, age six to sixteen. Four of those songs would present themselves to me via the old acetate 78-rpm records while the last of the five would be like a morning mist riding a radio wave. Of the five the last one, the one heard only on the radio, would be the one that would end up haunting me for most of my life until last year when fate would at last relinquish its cruel hold on the whereabouts of that long lost musical treasure.
Over the years I was able to secure digital recordings of those first four songs mentioned, all of which had been recorded in the 1940’s but the illusive one was tied unmistakably to the 1950’s. The only remnants left of the song were in my mind and consisted solely of a few words of the lyrics and a haunting melody but alas, no title; no artist!
I first heard the song on the radio in 1957. I was sixteen at the time and a new genre of music was trying to get its feet off the ground. We now know it as “rock & roll” these days. One afternoon after school when I got home and got the radio turned on, the local DJ played a song that literally seem to sweep me off my feet. It was a ballad with an amazing chord sequence with a perceived haunting and unique sound. Nothing like I have ever heard before in my short lifetime. In the days and weeks that immediately followed that first encounter with the song I was to only hear it by chance a couple of more times and then, just as fast as it had appeared; it was just as fast to disappear. But unknown to me at that moment was the fact that it would never be forgotten in the many years that were to follow.
During my early twenties the song would cross my mind from time to time although by then I was beginning to certainly realize that not knowing the title of the song and even more serious, clueless as to whom the artist had been was pretty much the last nail in the coffin for any hope ever finding the song. I distinctly remember it being sung by a female and eventually concluded that it must have been some female vocal group. And in addition, even though I had only heard it those few times I had managed to remember what I “thought” was the first two lines of the song’s lyrics.
It’s easy to remember the first kiss that you gave me, A kiss explaining plainly why I love you.
Since not knowing the title was adding to my mental predicament, I had to assume that it most probably would have been titled “The First Kiss” since, based on those first two lines I thought I remembered, that seem to the primary theme of the song.
In the early sixties strong memories of the song again surfaced when Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” recording technique came into use and was first heard on records he produced from girl’s groups such as the Ronettes and The Crystals. There was just something about the sound of some of those group’s recordings that was very reminiscent of the song I had rolling around in my head.
In the mid-sixties I had become a part-time musician playing keyboards in a small rock group and I was somewhat amazed, thanks to the ability to play be ear, at the fact that I could still remember what I thought was the melody of my illusive song, although I admittedly drew a complete musical blank when it came to the melody for the bridge of the song. Amazingly enough so I thought, without ever hearing the song any more than two or three times I could still recall and play the melody used on the opening verse and could still remember the first two lines of the opening verse. Having already been some ten years since first hearing the song, it would be another thirty years before new chances to perhaps find the song emerged.
All remained lost along with any hope of ever knowing what the song may have been. Then in the early 90’s with the introduction of the Internet to the general public and shortly thereafter the ‘search engine’ phenomenon, there was once again hope that I might at last find what had continued to elude me. But even with the advent of the Internet, still nothing. But over the next few years information would continue to fill Cyberspace until on one chilly morning with my cup of coffee as my die-hard companion, something magical happened.
It was February 19th of last year and I had been doing a number of queries regarding the song on YouTube when an entry came up titled “The First Kiss” and performed by the Norman Petty Trio. Now I knew all too well who Norman Petty was but there’s no way he could have had anything to do with the song I had rolling around in my head. Just as Sam Phillips was known for his small recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee along with his relationship with Elvis, so it was with Norman Petty and his small recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico which is well known for being forever tied to Buddy Holly.
It only took less than two seconds after I hit that play button on that YouTube video that I knew the search had finally come to an end. As the saying goes, it was like coming home again! It had been lost, but now it is found.
As I listen to the song now I understand, to a degree, the sounds I was hearing in my head. In particular the “wall of sound” technique that seemed so pronounced in my memory. As it turns out, it is simply an organ seemingly being played with a lot of echo applied which actually gives one a sense that it is a chorus of female singers in the background, again very reminiscent of the “wall of sound” technique.
As to why the song had been so illusive over the years, well the song had indeed hit the Pop Charts in 1957 but only peaking in August of that year at #81. The ramifications of that poor showing on the charts would obviously have dramatic influence on the songs radio play obviously contributed to its almost immediate demise.
I certainly don’t expect anyone reading this account to be bowled over by the song by any stretch or wowed as I was. And although it is unmistakably the same song as I fell in love with at age sixteen, that moment and what I was hearing in my soul could never be duplicated in the context of this personal recollection of my quest.
Being the music lover that I am, to a great degree it pained me that I was going to have to head off to Cemeteryville not ever knowing the name of or at best, ever hearing the song even one more time that had haunted me for most of my lifetime. But now I can take up residence there, at complete peace musically speaking, knowing I left no song behind.