It Was 30 Years Ago: ‘Stand By Me’

stand by meIt’s hard to believe that it’s been 3o years since I sat on the front row of the movie theater – the worst seats in the house – and watched the drama, humor and camaraderie of Stand By Me unfold before me in larger-than-life cinematography.

Stand By Me was a typical guy movie – most men have memories of camping with their friends and discussing important questions that life threw at us – was Goofy was a dog? Had any of us kissed a girl yet, and if so, what was it like?  Granted, in Young Harris, Ga., there were no dead bodies we were hunting for as there was in Stand By Me; we weren’t on a quest. We usually just found an empty spot in the woods and parked there for the weekend after school closed for the summer.

One thing we had in common, besides the adolescent philosophical discussions, was music.  In the movie, the radio follows the four kids everywhere, playing the hits of the day. On our camping trips, we made sure we not only had our jam box, but plenty of D batteries to keep the tunes playing. I remember hearing “When Doves Cry” and “Sunglasses at Night” for the first time on a camping trip. I even got my first dose of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” soundtrack.

It was a true bonding experience, and I think we knew at the time that it was. We were as close as friends could be, and the music and deep discussions brought us closer together.  We sat around the campfire, listening to the radio and eating our weight in Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies.

I must admit, with the exception of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” and the aptly-named “Mr. Lee”, I’m not crazy about the soundtrack to Stand By Me. Many fifties songs sound moldy and primitive (e.g., Yakety Yak). The title track by Ben E. King has been covered ad nauseum and has challenged “My Girl,” ‘Hotel California” and “Stairway to Heaven” as one of the most overplayed songs on oldies radio.  But the soundtrack simply set the context for the movie – yes, it took place in the 50s – and it shows the importance of music in the kids and their friendships.

Twenty-five years later, Stand By Me ranks up there with Dead Poets Society and Field of Dreams as movies that really hit me in the gut and made me think about my life.  I plan on showing Stand By Me to my kids soon; being girls, they may not get all the potty humor and guy bonding, but I want them to see it, and tell them, this was me when I was your age. It’s a way of connecting with them.

In 2016, our camping trips are less frequent, with families taking center stage to our bonding trips. But when we do manage to steal away for a weekend, it’s as if the 30 years has melted away and we’re still talking about girls and Goofy.

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Peter Lee

One Comment

  1. Reading this confession of Stand By Me pinched the deepest nostalgia nerve in my soul. Such a happy time in your lives and mine too. Thank you.

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