For Indians of my generation and somewhat older who grew up in what could be called mofussil* towns, ‘Come September’ was the very epitome of hip Western popular music.
Weddings among middle class families of Ahmedabad, who considered their tastes in “English” music international, were incomplete without the 1961 ‘Come September’ theme instrumental being played either on the vinyl record or by malnourished wedding band members. By band I mean the marching band. Notwithstanding their emaciation such band members invariably did a terrific job of playing the theme. Their performance was doubly noteworthy because they had to endure the sight of middle-aged Gujarati men flailing about in what they thought was a form of dance called twist. Twist rapidly turned into garba.
As a reward for playing ‘Come September’ the band members were given two scoops of “kaju-draksh’ (cashew-raisin) ice cream that would melt in about 12 and a half seconds in Ahmedabad’s humiliating heat. No one thought it necessary to serve the ice cream only after the band had finished playing their specific number of songs. The result was that they all drank their ice cream rather than eat it. The ice cream was either served in steel bowls with spoons that resembled mini snow shovels or in thick ‘Yera’ bowls whose thick wall acted as a magnifying glass which focused the sun’s rays on the scoops so intensely that sometimes the ice cream started to boil. (Somewhat of a literary exaggeration to achieve hopefully humorous effect).
I digressed so much because thinking of this particular composition by Bobby Darin , triggered so many tangential memories, including even that of the summer heat. There was no second helping of ice cream because it was expensive, especially the ‘kaju-draksh’ flavor. When this theme came back gushing out of an obscure corner of my brain the other day I smiled reflexively. It is a catchy composition and merely because I like it, it does not make it any less. It was such a big hit in those days in Ahmedabad and I suspect many parts of India that there were beatbox artists who would play the entire composition using their mouth and nose.
‘Come September’ was inevitably played when one of my older cousins got married in the late 1960s. The ‘kaju-draksh’ ice cream was served just about the same time when the band started playing the theme. I vividly remember being terribly torn between whether to eat or dance. I did both. A video of that would have gone viral today.
So here is to ‘Come September’ at the end of December. The song was composed the same year I was born—1961. That probably explains its draw on me.
*Mofussil used to refer to small town India of the kind I grew up in. It is considered mildly pejorative by some because it can connote a certain lack of finesse and sophistication. It does not bother me one bit.