Sunday, May 22, 2011


This month, back in '58...that's what, fifty-three years? I think so, but I ain't so good at math. Anyway, back in '58, May saw the release of the classic (or cult classic) Robert Mitchum movie, Thunder Road.

And I was eight years old. That one I can figure out okay. Old enough to know what was going on, sort of.

The movie was a hit around our house. Well, I had a flock of teenage siblings, so of course! My older brother loved the cars. No wonder -- he was a bona fide hot rod fanatic. My older sisters mostly cared about the fact that it was, well, Robert Mitchum. 'Nuff said there.

I'll not debate how good the movie might have been, only note that it was a Mitchum tour-de-force (in a two-door-Ford), with Bob co-writing, co-directing, starring. It's certainly well enough realized to be taken seriously as art as well as entertainment.

Mitchum also co-wrote and sang (though not for the movie) the song, The Ballad of Thunder Road. Not to be confused with Springsteen's piece by almost the same name.

Me, I never saw the movie until years later. But the song was on the radio and I loved it. My first real taste of rockabilly fever. 'And there was thunder, thunder, over Thunder Road.' Yeah, I sang along.

It sure beat most of what I remember hearing on the radio at that time. Or don't remember hearing, perhaps I should say. Although I know there was good music around, very little made an impression. And what did wasn't exactly exciting, just catchy enough to get ones attention. Thunder Road was a different bottle of 'shine, that's for sure.

Maybe I liked the story it told. Certainly I loved that hooky chorus that I could sing along to. I know, looking back, that the verses were pretty uninteresting, music-wise. Very little in the way of a melody and at times more nearly akin to a dramatic reading than a song.

But then, that just helps set up the chorus when it comes 'thundering' in. Thunder Road's really a classic bit of songwriting, of the more country sort. These days, that would be alt-country I reckon.

I do think that it may have been the first song to ever reach in and grab my heart. Make it beat a little faster. Show me that music is not just happy stuff, not just radio fluff. That it can be dramatic, that it can mean something.

That's part of growing up, I suppose. We all will have our milestones and one of mine just happened to be along Thunder Road.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

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