Memories Of The Days When There Were Real 'House Parties'

Nowadays, our young people have to give a second thought to attending a house party. Thanks to social media, you are guaranteed to have unwelcome guests who are not only there to crash a party but are also there with malicious intent. It saddens me that young people today can't enjoy the days of a real house party.

The house parties in the 70s and 80s were outta sight -- they served not only as a safe place to mingle with old friends but also as a place to meet and mingle with new friends from surrounding towns. Where one could go to "fast-dance" to the groovy sounds of David Essex; Earth, Wind, and Fire; Rare Earth; The Jackson Five; James Brown; B.T. Express; Three Dog Night; the Average White Band; ZZ Top; The mighty Temptations; Joe Tex ... and the list goes on...

We lived in the era of Flower Power, the Age of Aquarius, Power to the People, and, of course, "What's Your Sign?" (Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, or Capricorn.)

There was no dress code for house parties; however, men wore bell-bottoms, apple caps, flowery shirts, dashikis, and big gold medallions peeking through unbuttoned shirts. And many of the women wore blouses with bell-shaped sleeves, (fake) suede and leather vests with fringes, along with maxi dresses, bell-bottoms, hot pants, miniskirts, and high-heel boots.

In most states, the 70s was a time when the legal drinking age was 18; although hard liquor was never served at house parties, various types of wines flowed, from Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill, Mad Dog 20/20, Cold Duck, Ripple (a favorite of Fred and Lamont Sanford), to Zapple and Annie Green Springs wine. Two punch bowls (spiked and un-spiked) were both sipped from an infamous red plastic cup that got the "P" in the party started.

There was a designated person who took charge of the record player, playing 45s and LPs. The 45s would be stacked and would automatically fall one by one. Sometimes, right in the middle of your favorite song, the record would skip--so someone would reach into their pocket, pull out a nickel or a penny to lie on the top of the handle to steady the needle, and the dancing commenced with "There is a party over here, woo-woo! There is a party over there, woo-woo!"

Oh, but when "Fire" came on by The Ohio Players, everyone in unison would yell, "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire! We don't need no water -- Let the ******** burn! Burn, ********, burn!" The expletives were mumbled or sometimes absent ... all to be mindful of the parent in the house. Yes, respectable house parties were once in existence.

Many of the house parties back east were in the basement--where a lot of people would slow-dance in the corner, in the back, in the dark, especially to the soothing sounds of the Dells, Al Green or Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and when Marvin Gaye sang, "Let's Get it On."

The musical arrangements from the "Theme from Shaft" (written and recorded by Isaac Hayes) was a bad mother (shut your mouth), can-you-dig-it song that had everyone on the floor doing all types of popular dances, from "The Funky Chicken" to "The Bump," "The Bus Stop," and "The Hustle." (Musical tidbit: "Theme from Shaft" won the Academy Award in 1972 for "Best Original Song." Hayes was the first African-American to win that honor in a non-acting category. Right on!)

The kitchen was a favorite hangout where everyone went to cool off and to grab something to eat. There was always a full spread of fried chicken, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and ribs on the kitchen counter.

And, it was not unusual to see a parent or both parents at the kitchen table having a party of their own, laughing with their friends, circles of smoke permeating the air from cigarettes, while they played and fussed over a game of Dominoes, Spades, or Tonk.

Another favorite song that everyone danced to and formed the infamous Soul Train line was The Sugarhill Gang, "Rapper's Delight":

"...I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie
To the hip hip-hop and you don't stop
The rock it to the bang-bang boogie
Say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat
...hotel, motel, Holiday Inn...
...Well it's on and on and on, on and on
The beats don't stop until the break of dawn..."

Our house parties never lasted 'til the break of dawn. When one of the parents opened the basement door and the lights that almost blinded you flooded in from the hallway, you knew it was time to get your last dance on.

When the light came on inside the basement, the house party was over!

Some folks have said that the person they met in the corner, in the back, in the dark looked quite different when the lights came on; it went both ways -- I am just sayin'.

It was all copacetic until the next house party. Right on and right on!

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