The In Crowd

 

 

“You ain’t been nowhere
’til you’ve been in
with The In Crowd.”

— Dobie Gray (lyrics by Billy Page

 

 

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Last week, a friend of mine lamented the fact that some important content she was interested in was available only on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.  The bad news was that this content happened to be the marketing material from the publisher of her soon-to-be-released book.  The problem, in her words, was this: “I don’t do social media and don’t intend to start!
After some thought, I replied, “It seems to me that everyone assumes these days that we are all is hooked up to these social-media websites; and, if you aren’t, you don’t have a clue what’s going on.    It’s like the new ‘In Crowd.’ “
And then a memory popped into my head — “Remember the song from back in the day …”

An Old Song Pops into My Head

Let’s drift back a moment to 1964.  Every Saturday morning on radio station KYA, my favorite disc jockey, Emperor Gene Nelson, would count down the “Top 30 Hits” for that week.  A lot of new songs were introduced on those Saturdays; and it was absolutely essential for us 14-year-olds to keep up with the latest music.  High school was a big change for me.  After eight years in the same school, in the same class with pretty much the same faces, the transition from being an 8th grader to being a High School freshman was intimidating.

My freshman class had ten times as many kids as my 8th-grade class had.  I knew thirty-some kids and the rest of the 300-some kids in the Freshman class were strangers.  But, even as a stranger, like other 9th-graders, I quickly realized that listening to the right music would be required to fit in to my new world.  So, I listened carefully — to the Beatles, The Stones, The Supremes, Leslie Gore, The Dixie Cups, The Dave Clark Five, Dusty Springfield — to all the music Emperor Nelson played on KYA.

With all that in mind, one Saturday morning, The Emperor introduced a new song that got my attention.  The song was “The In Crowd.”  Coming from a school where I had always known everyone, the idea of an “In Crowd” was new to me.  The big, bold voice of Doby Gray sounded like a voice of authority.

 

Here is what the song said:

The In Crowd
By Dobie Gray (recording released December, 1964); lyrics by Billy Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not all of the ideas in the song were new.  I already knew that some 8th graders were considered more “cool” than others (certainly more “cool” than I was); and “cool” usually meant exhibiting behaviors that other kids admired.  I remember a friend of mine, Michael Savage, (who had an older brother who could teach him “cool”) showed up one day in the 8th grade with “a new way of walkin’,” like the song said.  When he walked across the courtyard at school, with his slow, purposeful gait and aloof expression, he caught the admiring eye of those of us who were “less cool.”

So, back then, I suppose we 8th-graders had a sense that some of us were especially “in”;
but the following year when the song came out, to my 9th-grade ears, some of these “In Crowd” song lyrics revealed ideas that separated those who were “in” from the rest of us. Two examples:
First:  it hadn’t occurred to me that some people “know what the in crowd knows” and presumably, those were things that I didn’t know, and
Second:  apparently, the chosen few “go where the in crowd goes” and “if it’s square, we ain’t there.”
I wasn’t completely sure what “square” meant — except that I suspected that “square” included attributes that I probably had and included places that I went.  (Uh, maybe places like the library or the store where I supplied my stamp collection?  I suppose they were “square.”)

As I became more accustomed to high school, some of the lyrics were actually troubling:
the assertion that “our share is always the biggest amount” didn’t sit well with my teenage sense of fairness and I wondered, as an outsider, ‘what earned you that biggest share’ — other than trivial stuff like “our own way of walkin’ ” and “our own way of talking’.”  The song assigned behaviors to those of us who were not in “The In Crowd” that I didn’t like:

They make way day or night
They know the in crowd is ‘out of sight.’

Who said I was going to “make way” for anyone?”  On reflection (or what passed for ‘reflection’ in a 14-year-old), “Spendin’ cash, talkin’ trash” did not sound like something worthy of respect.

Evolution
As time went on, and this Freshman became a Sophomore, and so on, other bits of evidence confirmed my suspicion (and hope) that there were other ways to earn respect — things like getting good grades, succeeding at athletics, reading books, joining clubs, being a good friend, etc.  The music continued to be important to me (and I learned to keep quiet about my Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett records), but I came to realize that a narrowly defined “in crowd,” that merely imitated approved “cool” behaviors, was not particularly appealing.  I considered that a person, even in high school, could be part of more than one “crowd.”  One of my teachers had a sign on the classroom wall that I copied into my notebook.  It said:

“They laugh at me because I’m different.
I laugh at them because they are all the same.”

Fast Forward to Today
So, as I mentioned, these “In Crowd” lyrics from 54 years ago did not spring into my memory out of nowhere.  The pervasive nature of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media seems to have created a new “in crowd.”  While digital media was originally promoted as being inclusive; in fact, the “In” and ”Out” feature of digital social media seems to have grown more exclusive.  Has Facebook become a new “In Crowd?”  We have learned lately that there are things we have to give up to be a member of that crowd.

Looking at this topic through the lens of today, I think we can hear these lyrics in The News that we hear every day.  We seem to be surrounded by people who want us to believe that we must be members of a particular exclusive “in crowd” or we are not properly American.  Some promote the idea that the survival of that American “in crowd” requires its members to exclude people who are different.  Are we being fed an exclusive “In-Crowd-First” philosophy?

The optimist in me wants believe that the kind of exclusive “In Crowd” behavior we saw as teenagers of 1964 eventually disappears with age and is replaced with something more sensible and grown up.  There is evidence, however, that my optimism may be naïve.  Is today’s “in crowd” mentality growing rather than receding?  Is it dangerous?  How divisive can it get?

But, I do notice that some crowds are emerging with more inclusive intentions — crowds like “Enough is Enough” and “Never Again.”  Some of the most articulate and welcoming spokespersons of those crowds are not much older than I was in 1964 and they are starting to emerge as the “grown-up” voices of our time.  And the crowds, just last weekend, have been quite large.  Do these “in crowds” offer just another short-lived “new way of walkin’ ”  and ” new way of talkin’ ” as they did in my youth?

Or is something more enduring, more inclusive, perhaps more promising, on the horizon?

6 Responses “The In Crowd”

  1. Joe Faletti says:

    This makes me sad because you explain away a lot that you did in high school as just trying to be “in”, which devalues what you did tremendously! If you played basketball just to be “in” and not because you enjoyed it, then that’s sad. Now myself, I was much more of a nerd than you were (or present yourself to have been in these articles). Despite having you as a 21-month-older uncle (who because you lived only 3 blocks away were more like a brother who went home at night) to teach me some of what Michael’s older brother taught him (how to walk, how to dance, how to dress, how to properly shake hands, etc.). You also introduced me to lots of clubs when I came along two years behind you — American Field Service, CA Scholarship club, the drama club (that we renamed the Golden Arch Players to make it more “in”!), etc. That was great, but I didn’t stick around to be “in”, I stuck around because I enjoyed what those clubs accomplished, as much as the company of the friends I made in them.
    On the other hand, I rejected the sports “in crowd” and other “in crowds” that were less savory (the knife-wielding druggies, the “hoods”, the 4Hers, etc. etc.) I discovered there were lots of “in crowds” that overlapped in various ways — the musicians among us were in band and marching band and the Music Masters, and … and we attended their performances and they attended ours, and once a year we put on a musical together. And we hung out together separately.
    If there were reasons for considering some people “out” from my point of view, it was mostly likely a lack of interest in things of value like education or music or the arts or science, etc. etc. That’s the way it was.
    But you have chosen (yes, CHOSEN!) to evict yourself from the Facebook “in crowd” and hence are continually missing out on the simplest way (for me at least) to see photos of your kids and grand kids. And now you deign to denigrate those who are in that group as if it were about keeping YOU OUT. It’s more like you are creating a new “in crowd” who reject Facebook, and then boasting that it’s the right thing to do. But it’s more like you’re OUT with the “out crowd”! There are some who want people to play games on Facebook and I choose not to. But I didn’t have to leave Facebook to make that choice. There are those who talk all day on Facebook and say goodnight to everyone on Facebook. I choose to come once in a while. I admit that’s hard to do, but it can be done. You can “come to the meetings” once in a while without devoting your life to this club. You choose not to.
    As much as possible, we in the “in crowd” go out of our way to include you via email in some of what we otherwise do in Facebook. That’s okay, I try to use chatting and texting and email and Facebook and … and … to communicate with people I want to communicate with in whatever mode they’re most comfortable. The only one that seems to have lost the battle is actually phoning them! Because it’s the only one practically guaranteed to be an interruption, to leave no record behind, and to leave everyone else out of each conversation. Sad!
    Anyway, I’ve got to head out to see a musical (“Anyone Can Whistle!” by Stephen Sondheim in a two-nights-only concert form). Wish you could join me but it’s down here in San Diego. So I’ll cut this short and maybe revisit more later.

  2. Daniel says:

    All, Richard Ward sent these links. He said:
    Dobie Gray at his very best:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqKxMtO6xFw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gr_eVcCAUXo

  3. Daniel says:

    I’m interested in your answer to that question. What do you say?

  4. Bunny Faletti says:

    Good thoughts to ponder. Have things really changed? Or have things still remained the same?

  5. Daniel says:

    Yes, Steve, I saw this. I has some good memories of those days.

  6. Steven Rubio says:

    You might like this page … scroll down a bit to find ten minutes of Gene Nelson from 1964.

    http://bayarearadio.org/audio/kya/index.shtml

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