#150 – Bus Stop by The Hollies
– After almost five decades of listening, this classic pop song suddenly took on an entirely new meaning for me. There was nothing about the recording that had changed. It was still the original by The Hollies, who have always been one of my favorite British Invasion bands. And I’m pretty sure most of their first generation fans still pull up images of young love at bus stops every time they hear it.
And most likely, they’re thinking of the stops where they were waiting for a school bus while listening to this one on portable transistor radios.
But those similar types of memories have taken a backseat to what I now think about whenever Bus Stop hits on my personal playlist. Usually, that’s quite often. But for some reason I hadn’t heard this 1966 Top Ten hit in quite a while. Maybe it’s because of my recent memories? Well…, that’s doubtful because it’s a great song with a catchy tune. But when I woke up with these great harmonies and raga-style guitar riff (Indian music was a fad in 1966) in my head on November 17th, it was queued up in the subliminal category of Dream Songs.
Forty-nine years after The Hollies recorded and released Bus Stop, our triple threat (actor / singer / dancer) son Dangerous Paul was going into his junior year at a highly respected music conservatory in Cincinnati, Ohio. For some reason, the genius (have you ever heard of sarcasm? I just used it…) of a department head scheduled auditions for ALL the musical productions that would be performed during the entire school year on the FIRST day the students returned from summer break.
If for any reason a student missed these written in stone auditions, they could kiss goodbye any chance for a decent lead or supporting role in every production that year. If they couldn’t return to the conservatory in time, they might as well take their high-priced tuition money and flush it into the Ohio River.
For some students, this schedule wouldn’t be a problem. But for Dangerous Paul and many others who had been practicing their craft in musical theater productions around the country, the return trek to campus for these ultra-important auditions could play out like a favorite boomer movie, The Great Race. And if you’re not familiar with this 1965 Blake Edwards classic starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, I suggest you head to your library and find a copy in the classic film section.
Dangerous Paul had spent his summer playing the role of Link Larkin in a production of the musical Hairspray. It was in a beautiful summer lake resort in Maine that had only one strike going against it. The final performance of the show was the night before his afternoon auditions in Cincinnati. Oh yeah, I guess strike two could be called because airline flights out of the area and to Cincinnati were not frequent and very expensive.
Oh… okay… Strike three – he needed his car to get from the airport to his on campus auditions, and his parents, played in this classic boomer adventure by my wife Drivin’ Deb and myself – had it with us in Chicago.
So, The Great Race was on…
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We drove the car to the Cincinnati Airport, which is actually in Kentucky. To me, that begs for a joke. But there’s really no need because the real laughs are coming soon enough anyway. Dangerous Paul and a few fellow cast members made the late night drive through the woods of Maine to an airport in New Hampshire, made various flight connections and landed in Cincinnati (okay, Kentucky) with hardly any time to spare. We were waiting for him and did The Great Race to campus where he made the auditions.
In the meantime, after delivering Dangerous Paul’s car for the school year, Drivin’ Deb and I sat in his off-campus apartment trying to figure out how we’d make it back to Chicago. We found out very quickly the airfares were outrageous, the car rental fees were ridiculous, and passenger trains didn’t seem to have a direct route (and they also weren’t cheap).
Finally, I hit on a different idea.
During our drive we had seen colorful buses that advertised super cheap fares. By that I mean, starting at one dollar and not moving that far up in price. We googled the company, found a number for reservations and purchased two cheap tickets home. The bus from Cincinnati to Chicago only made the trip once per day and our Bus Stop pick up was eight o’clock the next morning.
Drivin’ Deb and I stayed in a hotel downtown and made a night out of it at the local casino playing penny slot machines. We figured rest wouldn’t be a problem on the bus and planned to sleep during the seven hour ride to Chicago.
After only a few hours of shut eye in the hotel bed, we grabbed our bags, took a cab to the designated bus stop corner and found a long queue already waiting. And yes – I’m borrowing the British term for “line” used in the Hollies song because it fits with this topic. With the wait lasting past our promised time of departure, a car finally pulled up and stopped. A woman got out and announced – for whatever reason – the new bus stop has been moved to a corner across the street. Along with our fellow queue members we dragged our suitcases to the designated promised land, and again waited.
Probably about an hour after it had been promised, our transportation arrived.
At this point, it should be noted this was a late August day in Cincinnati. We’re talking southern Ohio where it’s not unusual for the temperature to ride in the high nineties with enough humidity in the air to turn the outdoors into a steam room. By the time we started boarding the bus, all I could think about was getting off and taking another shower – after taking a needed nap, of course.
I don’t remember if it was a general announcement made to everyone, or someone had overheard the bus driver talking on his phone. Either way it doesn’t matter because the next glitch in our travel plans was this colorful bus having a broken air conditioner. The options were to sit by an open window or wait for the next bus – which wouldn’t be until the next day. Most of our group decided to sit on the upper level of the double-decker that had air vents – similar to car sunroofs. At least we could feel the rush of air over us as we traveled up the highway.
But we also could (almost) feel the brush of a big tree limb as our driver pulled out and knocked a few branches off a large tree. And yes, a few leaves fell into our upper deck through the open air vents.
Then the fun really started – as in rain. As we whipped up the highway toward Indianapolis, the sky grew dark and a steady rain began falling. And yeah, that included falling into our upper deck through the vents. The heat was stifling, and it seemed the humidity wasn’t going to break anytime soon, despite the rain. So rather than screaming for the bus to stop and close the vents, Drivin’ Deb and I dug through our suitcases for hooded sweatshirts (with the college logo) and used them to cover our heads and faces to block both the wind and the rain.
Yeah – you’re right. It really sucked.
After picking up more passengers in Indianapolis, who must have truly been miserable stuck sitting on the lower deck of the bus without air conditioning or an open air vent, we were back on the highway headed north to Chicago. But it wasn’t as easy as it might sound.
In fact, it really sucked.
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere Indiana, our bus broke down. It rolled to a stop on the side of the highway. The driver could be seen walking outside talking on his phone, while someone else that seemed to work for the company (perhaps joining our no-so-magic bus ride in Indianapolis), appeared in the upper deck and told us we might be more comfortable outside since the rain had stopped. With the heat turning the doomed bus into an easy bake oven, we exited to wait alongside a busy highway for what the bus company might have in store for us next.
Drivin’ Deb and I were part of a motley crew of bus travelers that had been subject to extreme heat, wind and rain for hours, and were now stranded on the side of an overpass built over a small creek. Trucks and cars zoomed past us, with a few blasting their horns, which made it sound like they were taunting us. More than a few times I saw the middle fingers from some of our fellow motley crew passengers respond to the blowers.
Okay, to make a bad story come to a quick end, eventually a state police car pulled up behind our broken down bus and turned on the police lights. Calls were made and within a couple hours a replacement bus rescued us. We had a quick stop at a nearby McDonald’s for lunch, paid for by the bus company. Yeah, that might sound good – but it didn’t make the food taste any better.
A few hours later in an air conditioned bus, we had caught up with the rain and followed it all the way to downtown Chicago. Drivin’ Deb and I dragged our suitcases over the wet sidewalks to the train and eventually to the airport where we had parked our car. After picking up our family member Snickers from the doggy hotel, where I’m sure he had been much cooler and dryer than we were during our bus ordeal, we made it home.
Bus Stop? Yeah – I love the song by The Hollies.
Bus Trip? I’ve just given you the entire story of our Great Race home, starring Drivin’ Deb and myself. And as I’m sure you will agree, there was nothing about our bus trek that deserved to be put to music. And if it was, I’m sure the song would suck also.
Here’s a video of The Hollies performing Bus Stop in 1966 – with a great stereo remix. Enjoy!
To purchase Greatest Hits by The Hollies with Bus Stop, visit Amazon.com.
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