Cover Title Photo: Pexels
“Please, Mister, please, don’t play B-17
It was our song, it was his song, but it’s over.
Please, Mister, please, if you know what I mean,
I don’t ever wanna hear that song again.” (1975) Please Mr. Please Recorded by: Olivia Newton-John Composers: Bruce Welch & John Rostill
Mama’s Pizza came to my north Dallas suburb in 1976, or so. It was the first New York style pizza to land in our area and it was a true hit. In fact, my single mom and I were one of their very first customers after they opened for business. The interior was very much like the no-frills, old pizza joints in New York City. It had its dark maroon painted brick walls kissing the eight or ten booths lining the long dark narrow dining area. There were three, maybe four tables for those that preferred them. The kitchen was out in the open with its used pizza ovens. (I say “used” because they didn’t look brand new to me.) Two brothers ran the place, both from New Jersey. They were both in their 20’s and going to school. One was in dental school, the other in business studies. They often fought publicly, but it only added to the atmosphere. They didn’t care how loud they were, or who could hear them. I smile thinking about witnessing shouts of, “DON’T BOTHER ME WITH THIS!”…”I CALLED MA LAST TIME. IT’S YOUR TURN, BOZO!”…”AH, FORGET ABOUT IT!”
One of my favorite things Mama’s Pizza had, there on the far back wall, an authentic mounted moose head, possibly a caribou, hanging out from the brick wall. It’s nose was just about eye-level. A couple of friends of mine had a tradition of kissing the nose of the poor beast. Just beneath the animal’s mounted head, an old classic jukebox. My classmates and I almost wore that thing out over our high school years. It looked something like this…
From what I recall, you could select your song for a dime, or a quarter if you wanted to push more buttons for a few more tunes. It seems they had current hits from the 70’s, as well as, some hits going all the way back to the late 50’s. Zero country songs. Very seldom did you ever see a goat-roper (Our word for cowboys back in those times.) come in for NY pizza. That’s was fine with us. We didn’t like country-western music.
Mama’s Pizza hasn’t been here in many years now. I miss it.
One thing Mama’s didn’t have was this…
Photo: Dallas Memories Facebook Group
Now, depending on how you are, you might not recognize what this is. Back in the day many small diners often sported these little treasures. Although most have thrown them out as the years marched on, from time to time you can still find some table-side jukeboxes. It seems like the last one I saw was at the Lake Effect Diner in Buffalo, NY.
Photo: Lake Effect Diner, Buffalo, NY. curtinresturants.com
As a kid, and as an adult, sheer excitement would take over whenever I spotted these babies. In fact, I remember searching for songs even before picking up the menu.
I will pretend you’ve never seen one. So, allow me to describe the experience. tThere is a knob, or lever, which turns the pages of the lengthy song-list. As you scan the titles and the artists, you should have your dime ready for your selection. Suddenly, you find your favorite tune, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog” by Elvis. Next to the song is a letter or number, or both, that you would push the coordinating button for choosing. Boom, somewhere in the building is a jukebox remotely playing your selection over the speakers at your table. But usually there are speakers mounted in the ceiling for everyone’s listening pleasure…or hatred. And there’s the rub.
Like Olivia, there always seems to be a B-17 in our memory. Maybe you dislike Elvis, and there he comes, forced on your ears because some button-pushing customer in booth #3 selected it without consulting you first. What’s worse, he might have added a couple more Elvis tunes with a quarter in the slot. By the time your selection comes around, it may be time to tip the waiter and leave. Before you know it, just about the time the second verse of “Blue Hawaii” comes around, you’re thinking of taking your sliced tomato off your burger and throwing it toward booth #3. Do the math. B-17 + Communal Music = Internal Sour Notes.
For me, the heavy remains to be my personal B-17’s. You know what I mean. It’s not so much a disliked artist, but rather a song. There’s nothing like music that drags you back to a memory, whether it be a good one, or a bad one. It could be a relationship that went south and the song on B-17 in the selector was what you called, “Our Song”. Tell me about it, I know it very well. I could cry a river a few times. Maybe it was the song on the radio you were singing along with as a truck pulled out in front of you, leaving you in a body-cast for a few weeks. Someone might think of a song sung at a funeral for a loved one. That’s what happened to me with Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”. To this very day, I sink in sadness when it plays over the air. The song was performed over the coffin of my friend and mentor back in July of 1981. All these years later the song stings me. Music has Velcro. It’s the way God created it. Music stamps visuals, times, and places. So many songs do deliver sweet mental-videos of first cars, first dates, weddings, births, and graduations. If the guy in booth #3 selected one of those I might be persuaded to buy his grilled cheese sandwich.
Sometimes being in a community isn’t always a pleasant thing. Am I right? It’s all about how you handle what you don’t want to hear, or see. Maybe the group of kids in the corner booth are dropping the F-bomb for all of us to enjoy. Maybe the idiot cutting people off in traffic gets your match lit. It simply might be a neighbor with a political sign in the front yard you wouldn’t vote for. Yep, sometimes being communal isn’t always tasteful. What’s your B-17?
So Olivia is spot-on with, “Please, Mr. please, if you know what I mean, I don’t ever want to hear that song again.”
Grace, living out grace, handing out grace overcomes a lot of B-17’s in life. Biblically speaking, it means giving favor to someone, or some thing, who you feel doesn’t deserve favor. Grace fuels merciful action and thought.
“Lady” by Kenny Rogers is a B-17 for me. It brings up a life-long choice which turned out to be a youthful mistake. For many moons the sound of the song angered me, literally. However, when hearing now, I work hard on hunting for the true value the lyrics have for others, not focusing, or feeding on the sour notes of my own past decision-making. What’s history is history, grace would say. I for one, need grace all the time, every day. So glad the Creator invented it, and distributes it. It’s what’s on God’s menu for us, the consumer.
Before selecting that button, it’s wise to order-up a good warm cup of fuel for the race.
“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over–will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Jesus – Luke 6:38 (Holman Christian Standard Version)