Quiet Desperation

Things may drift away - but not the Drifters

Column by Craig Marshall Smith
Posted

"When the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we'll see."

Who knows where I was? I might have been in a red Rambler convertible, driving to nowhere really, maybe to drive past Ruth Clinton's house.

I did that a lot. I don't know why, or what I was expecting to see. Maybe I was expecting to see her silhouette in an upstairs bedroom.

I would have been listening to the car radio when I heard the song, and it might have made an impression. New music was pouring into my head all the time.

It's an amazing thing when you find out about something, and can't get enough of it.

We didn't have many choices. We had radio. We had LPs. We had singles. That's it.

Some of those songs were great. I really can't explain. If you are 13 or 14, you are lucky to have so many options now.

A few of the songs came along and moved into my thoughts, and they are still there.

I had a weekend thesis show in 1973, and I played the same two albums over and over on a record player that was at one end of the gallery.

I asked my father to send me the Big Bands collection that I had given to him for Christmas. He did.

And I played something else. I had a double album. It was "The Drifters' Greatest Hits."

It's wet. It's pouring rain. It's July 2014, and it never pours rain and cools off like this in July. I am listening to the Drifters.

The art show was in 1973 and I was a useless plot of something. Now it's 41 years later, and I think I finally know what is going on. It's not all good, is it?

Girls are screaming for the wrong reasons these days. New Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer are nothing to scream about. I know it's tempting. Cute boys with guitars. Look elsewhere, soon. It's marketing rubbish.

My Boys of Summer were different. By the time I met the Drifters, they were no longer boys, but, man, they came in the front door.

In 1952, they signed to be a backing group for Clyde McPhatter.

Then things got crazy. There have been 60 different members of the Drifters, so their discography gets muddy.

Ben E. King was the lead singer when they were at their best.

If none of this makes any sense, think about "Stand By Me," the film. That's Ben E. King singing the title song.

The Drifters had lots of hits. "I Count the Tears," "This Magic Moment," "Save the Last Dance For Me," "There Goes My Baby" and "When My Little Girl Is Smiling."

They recorded some hits that weren't hits with me, like "Under the Boardwalk," and "Up On the Roof."

Oldies stations play those songs, and never, ever, play "When My Little Girl Is Smiling."

"Stand By Me" was recorded on my birthday, Oct. 27, 1960. I was 13. I didn't know what that meant: Stand by me. I do now. I went off the tracks. I have some friends who are still standing by me. I hope someone is still standing by you - through thick and thin.

Are the songs as good as I think they are, or have my memories gotten in the way?

"I won't be afraid, as long as you stand by me."

I have been in a few dark corners. There have been clouds. I have spent some time with law enforcement. I have lost it, and lost my way.

On a humid night in Ohio I pushed a small red car to no meaningful reason, and heard a song that I can still hear.

"I won't shed a tear, as long as you stand by me."

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.