We were headed to a party being thrown by a friend of a friend and Otto never turned down an opportunity to show this Hoosier how they got down in the east. I’d been his Sundance Kid in the past, but these days I wasn’t going to be the sidekick I once was. I’d gotten older, calmer, and married. Otto knew that. He’d tease me that the Midwest had made me soft. He might have been right, but I’d been a Midwesterner all my life I didn’t really know any better. Though I will admit, Brooklyn and the rest of the NYC boroughs and villages and burgs were exciting, but much too fast of a living for an Indiana kid like me. He thrived between rows of concrete and I was just fine with rows of corn.
Otto tapped his black Chuck Taylor’s along to the beat of whatever song was playing through his earbuds. I raised an eyebrow and he extended an earbud in my direction. I happily obliged and was instantly greeted with a galloping, catchy-as-hell baseline that immediately drove me into the passenger seat of a ’55 Chevy. Before I could fully envision and immerse myself into my favorite scene from American Graffiti, a throwback voice sung out, “My tank isn’t full and I ain’t got a spare/But I know that I’ll make it cause I know you’re waitin there/You’re waitin there/So I roll down the window turn the radio on/Elvis and me singin at the top of our lungs/Top of our lungs.”
The song is titled “Into the Night” and it’s by Jeremy and the Harlequins, a five-piece rock band from New York City. Fusing every kind of sound and jangle that our daddies and granddaddies jammed to, this is a band that flawlessly draws influence and executes precision from classic ‘50s and ‘60s rock & roll.
As the song pumped into my ears and my excitement began to soar, we crossed into Jersey. I watched Otto watch me and I felt, for a dignified moment, like I belonged here – on the train, between the buildings, to the east coast with a red bandana tucked into my back pocket. I felt that by sitting on this train, tapping my broken-in Clarks in rhythm with this song, I was shedding my cornhusk cocoon and undergoing a Garden State Baptism. I could feel the smile forming at the corners of my mouth – parenthetical lines meant for singular moments just like this – as if I was on the verge of something epic – even if it was just a front porch party in Hackensack.
It’s 4 in the morning but I feel alive,
Like I could take on Goliath and still be with by 5,
I would survive,
Cause the feelin’ you give me makes me strong,
It’s supernatural baby, and that can’t be wrong
Yeah that can’t be wrong
And for a few hours, while sitting in the ripple effect of a Jersey sunset drinking beers and swapping stories, I felt boundless. That’s precisely what “Into the Night” does – from the title to the lyrics to the melodies and arrangements of this song, everything has been created with the mythology of rock’n’roll in mind. Yet at the same time, this song is for the present day, a universal tale of being alive.
I got a rosary hung from the rearview to my right side,
I got a picture of you taped over the hazard light,
With a half cup of coffee, passin’ highway signs,
Between yellow lines, my knuckles turnin’ white,
But I keep drivin’ deeper into the night