All Shook Up
Ring, ring, ring, ring. Roughly 44 years ago (August 16, 1977, to be exact), my landline rang and Nancy was on the other end. Nancy didn’t even bother to say hello. Instead she blurted out, “Elvis is dead.” I was, and still am, a big fan of Elvis Costello, so I immediately thought she meant my Elvis. When she clarified that it was Presley, not Costello, I felt slightly relieved, but still quite stunned and saddened. My brother Tony and sister Kathy, both roughly a decade older than me, were true-blue Elvis Presley fans, especially my brother who was a super fan. So growing up in the 1960s, I was exposed to Elvis Presley’s music as well as a plethora of singers and bands making names for themselves in Rock and Pop, as well as California Beach music. I had even earned the trust of my big brother and big sister, who willingly let me, their little kid brother, listen to their albums and 45s on my own, including Presley’s music, with the caveat that I handled the vinyl with care, which of course I did. By the time I was eight years old (in 1966—please, don’t do the math), I was already a diehard music fan and discovering a slew of my own rock stars to idolize. These are the blessings of having an older brother and older sister to show one the way.
When Elvis died on that sad summer day in the middle of August in 1977, my hometown of Syracuse, smack dab in the center of New York State, was already in an Elvis state of mind. Fans were excited, some of them downright giddy, that his concert tour was making a stop in Syracuse, scheduled for later in August. My brother Tony and his wife Jeanne had tickets to see Elvis, but sadly that concert never took place. I imagine there are a lot of people here in Syracuse who still have their concert tickets tucked away somewhere in a memory box.
Now, back to that phone call. Nancy was on the line wondering whether our crew would still be doing our weekly thing or whether it would just feel too strange to go out and have a good time. There were roughly fifteen of us in our so-called crew, most of us college kids. We had a standing mid-week tradition throughout the summer of going to a disco on Erie Boulevard called Uncle Sam’s. Yes, I said disco; it was 1977 after all. Some of the crew skipped a week or two here and there, but there was a core of regulars who showed up week after week. My girlfriend Sandra and I were at the center of that core, along with the aforementioned Nancy, plus Cindy, Doug, Elaine, Artie and Beth. After a whole lot of phone calls back and forth amongst the crew, we ultimately decided we’d stick to our plans and go to the club. We danced to the boom boom boom of Disco music, drank cheap mixed drinks, and talked in shouted conversations in order to be heard over the loud music, same as always. The club had a long narrow raised dance floor with bright colorful lighting underneath to go along with the flashing lights from up above. It was a catwalk of sorts, where we could show off our best, and sometimes worst, dance moves. (Remember the Bump? Or the Hustle? Or shaking your groove thing?) So even though there was an odd feeling in the air that night, it was still business as usual: music played, people danced. Men and women flirted. Drinkers drank—some in moderation, others excessively.
Abruptly, the boom boom boom of the Disco beat came to a halt, and the deejay broke with the club’s steadfast policy of only playing Disco to play an Elvis Presley song. I cannot remember what song it was, but I do remember the uproar of cheers. People who weren’t already dancing, rushed in, overcrowding the space, with some being forced to dance along the sides of the raised dance floor. Sandra and I were on that crowded dance floor, crammed in like gyrating sardines, all of us dancing to an Elvis Presley song on the night the angels took away Rock ‘n’ Roll’s original King. Yeah, that was roughly 44 years ago.
Paul Germano lives in Syracuse, smack dab in the center of New York State, with his dog April, a beautiful, strong and lovable Pit Bull mix. Germano’s fiction has been published or is forthcoming in roughly 40 print and online magazines, including Boston Literary Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, The Drabble, The Fictional Café, Flash in a Flash, Free Flash Fiction, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Sledgehammer Literary Journal and VIA: Voices in Italian Americana. In his nonfiction adventures, Germano has worked as an editor/writer for Le Moyne College, Syracuse University and The Catholic Sun. As well, he freelanced for Syracuse New Times, The Post-Standard and Stars Magazine.
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