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The Animals, in 1965.

BOB GRAY: Outta this place

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By Saturday, Apr 27, 2019 Life In the Berkshires

Housatonic — On a Saturday in November, 1965, three of us were at Freddie’s house laying over on a trip to Staten Island for a football game. We hung out, drinking beer, talking trash, killing time, winding up tight before we tripped over to the Fore and Aft bar, a college hangout.

The joint was already jammed and rockin’. And moments after we got in, dozens of girls from a nursing school up the street flooded the place. You wanna dance? Just ask.

But a lot of kids didn’t bother with partners, but primed by liquor, or by something more exotic or edgy,they whirled, wiggled, and even writhed on the floor as if they were possessed, driven by the devilish spirit of the thumping, power-chorded, heavy, baseline music. Dancing without inhibition. Dancing without rhythm. Dancing because we could.

A couple of songs before last call, the band banged out a Sixties’ anthem: The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” Everyone in the bar shouted the refrain:

We gotta get outta of this place,

If it’s the last thing we ever do,

The war was just cranking up, but we were still three deferments from reality.

Swift time had fogged our memories of assassinations and riots.

Being grown up, mortgages, kids, the corner cubicle or the corner office weren’t yet on the map.

Mortality and whether you had a soul or not and to where and how it might journey to its terminus were fodder for earnest debate in dorm rooms hazy with Middleton’s Cherry Blend tobacco puffed from our self-conscious pipes,

There was no harm at the Fore and Aft.

Knowing what I know, what many of us of a certain age might know and realize now, getting out of that place might have been the last thing we’d have wanted to do.


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