Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song

A trip to a supermarket gave Mister Boomer flashbacks to younger days. His supermarket is more of a neighborhood store rather than the mega-marts that have become so ubiquitous in the suburban landscape. It’s reminiscent of the kind of place we remember when we were young, and our moms would put us into the designated child seat on the shopping cart she’d push around the store; the kind of place where you knew the names of the people working there, and they knew yours. Yet this isn’t what got Mister Boomer rolling on a journey to the center of his mind. Rather, it was the music on the store’s PA system.

This store manager must be a proud boomer, because he (Mister B has talked to him, so is aware that this manager is not female), chooses to play an oldies satellite radio station. The station regularly plays ditties that Mister B hasn’t heard for 30 or 40 years. It’s almost like being back in the day, without the annoying commercials and bellowing DJ. Isn’t it amazing that after all this time, the sound of a few notes and a simple refrain can place the entire lyrics to a song in your head, not to mention a place and time in which you remember hearing it?

This clicked Mister B’s memory machine back to his pre-teen days. His father would do the weekly shopping and would take at least two out of the three kids along. Being a song-and-dance man at heart, it was not unusual for him to sing around the house, in the car, or — much to the embarrassment of his children — in the supermarket. One day is forever etched in Mister B’s brain. As a song was playing over the store’s PA, Mister B’s dad began to sing along, first in a lower tone of voice. Oddly enough, Mister B cannot remember the song. Soon enough, Mister B’s sister admonished him with the exaggerated child phrasing of, “Da-a-a-a-a-a-d!” This seemed to only encourage him, and he’d turn up the volume and begin dancing behind the shopping cart.

Here we were in the early-’60s, and the notion of surveillance cameras was a relatively new phenomenon. Supermarkets were among the first to accept this new technology in Mister B’s area. As such, signs warned would-be shoplifters that they were being watched. The signs were often placed next to or in close proximity to the cameras themselves, so the location of the spying eyes was not a mystery. This store only had two or three cameras, but Mister B’s father knew exactly where they were.

Kicking up his heels and dancing the cart around one aisle and into the next, we were all aware that we were now in the sight of a camera. Mister B’s father temporarily abandoned his shopping duties to walk directly into the camera’s field of vision, where he performed his version of a Donald O’Conner soft-shoe shuffle on the polished tile floor. Mortified, Mister B and his sister ran as far away as they could, only rejoining him at the checkout counter.

On Mister B’s current supermarket visit, the thing that triggered this memory was not the music, but the low vocals emanating from the aisles throughout the store. Not one, but several people were singing along. While no one did a dance or treated the situation as supermarket karaoke, there was a definite din heard throughout the store.

Waiting at the deli counter, Mister B couldn’t help but chuckle at the memory, then found himself, in a nearly imperceptible volume, automatically mouthing the words to the song that was playing:

Backfield in motion, yeah
I’m gonna have to penalize you
Backfield in motion, baby,
You know that’s against the rules.

He did not, however, check the locations of the security cameras.

Backfield in Motion, Mel and Tim, 1969

One thought on “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song”

  1. Worked at a supermarket named after a mythical farmer. Muzak played over the (ahem) loudspeaker. Went to the Bahamas on a class trip whereupon the same *^++•.~ Muzak was playing @ the golf cart rental!!

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