The Pixies Three by
50
(79 Stories)

Prompted By Concerts

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The Pixies Three at Grossingers

I didn’t often attend Friday night “Rec,” the biweekly dance held in the Multi-Purpose Room at Clara Barton Junior High School. I was a socially awkward 13-year-old—a redundant phrase if I ever heard one—and at that age, one or more of my friends were likely to be bar or bat mitzvah on a given Friday evening.

The drab, cavernous room reeked of sweat and hormones. Then the DJ mounted the steps to the stage.

But in early 1964, the Student Council was tirelessly promoting a particular Friday Rec through posters and announcements. And for good reason: It would feature a live appearance by a celebrated girl group, The Pixies Three. Fresh off their hit “Birthday Party,” the trio of Philadelphia high school students had recently released a new single, “442 Glenwood Avenue,” that was climbing the charts.

Why The Pixies Three would come to our little junior high school—and not, say, the high school, four times its size—still puzzles me. The appearance was sponsored, and also being promoted, by one of our local rock and roll radio stations as part of a tour through the Detroit area. Although I didn’t listen to these stations, preferring classical music and disdaining pop, I knew the Pixies from that endless series of bar and bat mitzvah parties.

So of course I showed up at Rec that night, along with virtually all of my schoolmates. It started out like any other Rec: dim lights, recorded music played too loud to converse, a few dancing couples, girls dancing together, boys hanging out on the periphery, mouthing the words while they tried to summon the courage to ask a girl to dance. The drab, cavernous room reeked of sweat and hormones. The chaperones tried to remain inconspicuous and kept a wary eye out for concealed flasks, cigarettes, uninvited guests, and couples that got too close.

After about an hour, a radio DJ climbed the steps to the small stage, took the microphone, and began his patter, mostly about his station, which apparently played more hits per hour than the competition. Finally, after a long build-up, he introduced … The Pixies Three!

Pixies Three single

Photo credit: Brian Lee’s Color Radio.

Music blasted from the speakers and the curtain opened on the three girls, all dolled up with big hair, lip-synching one of their hits. By now everyone had stopped dancing and crowded around the stage. The girls were just a few years older than we were, but they seemed incredibly glamorous and sophisticated. There was simple choreography to go with the singing, and I still remember how, in unison, they held up four, four, and two fingers to illustrate that famous address on Glenwood Avenue; and how they pantomimed knocking twice on the door, the signal for admittance.

They only sang three or four songs—presumably they had other appearances to get to—and we gave them a standing ovation. (Well, we were already standing, but we clapped long and hard.) Then they left, and the DJ left, and we were back to recorded music and sporadic dancing, just like any other Friday night. But we felt that we had been part of something very special.

I do remember one other group playing live at Friday night Rec, but it was just some 8th-grader who liked to sing and play the guitar, so he formed his own rock band. I had no fondness for him since he was going steady with a girl named Carol for whom I had nursed a crush since 6th grade. Not that I had actually expressed my affection to her in any way, or would know how to react if she reciprocated it. I couldn’t really blame Carol for choosing a cute, cool 8th-grader with his own rock band over a nerdy 7th-grade classical music snob.

I had to admit the band wasn’t bad, for a bunch of 8th-graders. But this kid was no rock star like the Pixies Three. He was wasting his teenage years strumming a guitar when he could be studying to get into a good college. What was his name again?

Oh, right. Glenn Frey.

Profile photo of John Zussman John Zussman
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.


Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wow, I remember the song like it was yesterday, John. How funny that they played at a dance at Barton! Your description of the multi-purpose room smelling of sweat and hormones is pungent and perfect. And I love that the not-half-bad 8th grader was Glenn Frey. Wonderful surprise ending. Would we ever hear from him again, do you think? Rest in peace, Glenn.

  2. Suzy says:

    Fabulous story, John! I don’t think I have ever heard of the Pixies Three or that song, but very cool that they came to your junior high. And what a spectacular surprise ending! I did NOT see that coming. If you had to lose out on a girl you liked, how perfect that it was to Glenn Frey. What became of Carol, do you know?

  3. Alexander says:

    When I saw The Pixies Three as your most memorable concert, I thought, Wow, this guy needs to get a life. But wait. You went to school with the late, great Glenn Frey. Great twist and overall fun story to read. Really captured the spirit of the times.

  4. Lutz Braum says:

    Great story arc and ending! What a nice surprise. Might be a great writing prompt: ‘Celebrity encounters’. 🙂

  5. mike7353 says:

    Wow – the Pixies Three from Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour? Pretty thrilling for your very own school. Great story. And I can’t remember that band Glenn Frey was in…

  6. muzziesgirl says:

    What a terrific story. I remember being at dances like the one you described. We didn’t even have DJs. We just had records playing and chaperones who made sure we weren’t dancing too close. Never any live music for us. I loved your ending. What a surprise. Sometimes I forget that celebrities got their starts they way all of us do. Trying out our wings in junior high and high school. I enjoyed this piece a lot.

  7. bateginger says:

    I love the ending! I heard my first Pixies’ songs tonight. As a nerdy, 7th-grade, classical music snob, you have performed amazing music, too. This is middle school/high school: “The drab, cavernous room reeked of sweat and hormones. The chaperones tried to remain inconspicuous and kept a wary eye out for concealed flasks, cigarettes, uninvited guests, and couples that got too close.”

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