The greatest hits on the high-school jukebox

I suppose I am hopelessly dating myself by talking about a time when there were jukeboxes in high-school cafeterias. In this age of iPhones and iTunes and everybody’s individualized playlists, it seems completely kooky that once upon a time, when people such as myself were in high school in the middle 1970s, music was not so easy to come by and thus a jukebox in the cafeteria was deemed a good and entertaining and useful thing.

Hey, come to think of it: do jukeboxes even exist any more?

Anyway, I digress. What I want to tell you about on this Friday night – Friday being my favourite night for musical posts, because it is the beginning of the weekend and thus a time to celebrate and tap one’s toes (or, should one so choose, shake one’s booty) – are the Greatest Hits of the CHSS Jukebox, Circa 1973 to 1975.

CHSS is Centre Hastings Secondary School, the high school in Madoc that I attended for Grades 9 and 10 in the school years 1973-74 and 1974-75. (After that my family moved away from Queensborough (and the Manse) to Campbellford, Ont., where the cafeteria at Campbellford District High School also had a jukebox. Somehow I don’t imagine it’s still there.)

How many songs does (did?) the average jukebox have on it, do you suppose? A hundred, maybe? But the funny thing was, it seemed like the playlist was much, much shorter than that on the mid-’70s CHSS jukebox, because what we midday consumers of French fries and gravy – the dish of overwhelming choice in that cafeteria – heard were the same few songs over and over and over and over again. As a result, those songs are seared into my memory for all time. And if you were a CHSS student in those days, I expect they’re seared into yours too.

Take, for instance, the song at the top of this post, Let Me Roll It. It was one of many hit singles from Band on the Run, the monster smash 1973 album from Paul McCartney and Wings. I kind of think the title track of that album was the big hit everywhere else – like on the radio. But for whatever reason, Let Me Roll It struck a chord among the jukebox-playing student body at CHSS, and I must have heard that song hundreds of times in my lunch hours there. It is, in my memory, top of the CHSS mid-’70s pops.

I make absolutely no claim that my list of other hits is complete, or even terribly correct. When I used my friend the internet to look up the top musical hits of 1973, 1974 and 1975 just now, I saw tons of songs that were hugely popular and brought back lots of memories from radio play and general ubiquity – but I don’t think they were among the 20-odd (max) that whatever CHSS students had quarters to spare (all boys, as I recall) were choosing all the time in the mid-’70s. (By the way, take a look at those lists of ’73, ’74 and ’75 hits if you want a serious musical flashback.) But I could be wrong. All that I can tell you is that these songs are the ones that, when I hear them, take me right back to those fake-wood tables and benches, the view out the windows toward adjacent Madoc Public School, the smell of fries and gravy – and a time when, perhaps, more things seemed possible than they do today.

So herewith, my CHSS mid-’70s jukebox lineup. I bet you can sing along!

Radar Love:

Bennie and the Jets:

Helen Wheels:

Hooked on a Feeling:

The Loco-Motion (and I’m not talking about Little Eva):

The Show Must Go On (and I’m not talking about Queen):

I Shot the Sheriff (and I’m not talking about Bob Marley):

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (and I’m not talking about The Beatles; gee, was there a little bit of re-creating a good thing going on?):

Okay, back to (surprise, surprise) the Band on the Run album. Here’s Jet:

And a sentimental favourite, Please Come to Boston:

And finally, another one that was inescapable in that Canadian cafeteria, We’re an American Band:

Okay, your turn, CHSS students of the 1970s. What have I forgotten from that great old jukebox?

10 thoughts on “The greatest hits on the high-school jukebox

  1. Please Come to Boston… Stellar! Funny that was the very very best picture they could come up with for an album cover.

    • Well, I just did a bit of research and discovered that that was the image for the 45 single (which of course we all remember). Please Come to Boston came from the album Apprentice (In a Musical World), and you can see the album cover here.

  2. Ah, well that gives me a time frame reference between you and I, without pulling out yearbooks. The cafeteria jukebox was also a huge part of the scene when I attended CHSS from 1977 to 1982, and, yes, those songs are still worthy of being cranked up and enjoyed in this household! Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” will forever evoke in me the memory of fries and gravy with a side of chocolate milk! Recently I went to a roadhouse type restaurant with my son and there was a strange machine in the corner that I discovered is some type of digital “jukebox”. I didn;’t fully understand the explanation (picture my 15 year old son rolling his eyes), but I do remember that it also took photographs! Pretty sure it doesn’t only cost a quarter!!!!! 🙂

    • Oh boy, I am certain I would have been at least as mystified by that digital jukebox as you were, Wendy! As for the CHSS cafeteria, I’m glad you mentioned chocolate milk – another of the essential food groups in that place back in those days. And Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, wow! I was in Grade 13 at Campbellford District High School by the time it was released, and one could just not escape it anywhere. Of course, in the previous two years Rhiannon had been equally inescapable. Stevie Nicks was on quite a songwriting roll…

  3. I didn’t have a jukebox in my school, but there was a little coffee shop near where we lived, which was the only place for teenagers to hang out and therefore, the popular spot, and it had tabletop jukeboxes, like this:
    And one or other of my older brothers (the teenagers) usually had to drag me along with them and buy me a cream soda. That younger me, in those late 1950s, couldn’t get enough of Terry Stafford’s ‘Suspicion,’ and at the same time ‘The Purple People Eater’ was getting lots of play.

    • Oh yeah, tabletop jukeboxes – weren’t those great? There used to be a little coffee shop/greasy spoon in Campbellford that had them, and I found them fascinating. As for The Purple People Eater – now it’s stuck in my head!

  4. Moira Secondary School, 1975 October. “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen”
    All my friends kept playing this song over and over in the cafeteria. Such great memories.
    I had one of those great big jukeboxes in my house. Since of course my parents ran a public house back in those days. My dad would switch a button on the back and you could play all the songs for free. I use to watch the little 45 get picked up and put on the turn table and way you go.. Dance like there were no worries in the world at all. I also remember just about every restaurant you went into had one on the wall at a table booth like Brenda is describing. A table top jukebox. Such great inventions. lol

    • Oh wow – those are great memories, mk! Having your own jukebox at “home” that you could play for free – that would have been heaven for a teenager back then! Thank you for sending that Neil Sedaka video – he was huge back in the mid-’70s, wasn’t he? I especially remember Laughter in the Rain. Still like that song!

  5. Tim says that CDHS didn’t have a jukebox when he went there from 83-87. He also says that the old wing was torn down and that the school has gone through many transformations. He mentioned that his mom went to CDHS and saw the Harlem Globetrotters play in the lower gym in the old wing? I’ve only ever seen the outside. Did you ever have Tom Sherry as a teacher?

    • So cool to have a CDHS connection through you and Tim, Nicole! I have a very distant memory of a Harlem Globetrotters-like (i.e. imitation) team coming to Centre Hastings Secondary School in the early ’70s and taking on (and whipping) the senior boys’ basketball team while doing a lot of jokey things, and I wonder if that’s the same thing Tim’s mum saw. If I think about this hard enough I might even come up with the name of the team. But far more importantly, yes! Tom Sherry at Campbellford District High School was one of those teachers who change your life, and he certainly changed mine. (And I know I was not alone.) How appropriate that his name comes up here on (U.S.) Teacher Appreciation Day! I mean, how often do you get a guy who only ended up not playing professional hockey because of injury, a jock to the core who became an English teacher, and who could make even the most uninterested student weep over Othello killing Desdemona? Or get deeply, deeply wound up in what’s going on in Hamlet’s head? Tom Sherry loved Shakespeare (and I expect still does), and he made us love Shakespeare too. And the fact that I’ve just finished reading the Arden Shakespeare King Lear and have now started King John, and in fact spend much of my reading time buried in Shakespeare, is a lasting tribute to a great, great teacher.

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