THE ACCORDION, is chapter 7 of a 13 chapter story.
The Beatles had been around for a year or so, and playing rock and roll instruments was becoming popular. Garage bands were being formed. Both Paul and his brother wanted to learn to play an instrument. Joe wanted to play guitar and Paul wanted to play the saxophone, so they asked their parents to get them lessons.
“Okay,” said their Dad, with a long Benson and Hedges cigarette dangling from his lips. Paul’s dad smoked constantly. He even talked with a cigarette in his mouth. Paul watched the end of the cigarette bob up and down as he spoke. “You can take accordion lessons.”
“But I don’t want to play the accordion,” Joe protested.
“Me neither,” said Paul. “The accordion is a dumb instrument.”
“It’s not a dumb instrument!” Dad said, raising his voice. “You can bring it parties and you’ll be popular and make friends.”
“Yeah, maybe in Poland,” Paul answered.
“Don’t get smart with me!” Dad said raising his voice still louder.
Mom chimed in, “All musicians learn to play the accordion first. Once you learn to play the accordion, you can play anything.”
“Listen to your mother.”
“But she…” Paul started to say.
“SHE?” Dad shouted. “You don’t call your mother she, she’s the cat’s mother. You call her Mom. It’s the accordion.”
“The accordion,” Mom parroted.
So one day when Paul came home from school there was a big black case in the living room. “Go look at your accordion,” Mom said. The case had two gold clasps on either side and a handle in the middle. There already, was a thin, blue plastic label above the handle that read J.& P. Muzerski. Paul’s dad had this label making thing that would punch up the letters. He put labels with Paul’s or his bother or sisters or The Muzerski Family name on everything. On the schoolbags, the loose leaf binders, the pencil cases. When Paul was in the Boy Scots his father put these labels on all his equipment, lest someone should take it for their’s and walk off with it. He tried to lift the case. It was very heavy. Paul wondered who would walk off with this. It must have weighed over fifty pounds. “Yeah, I’m going to carry this to parties,” he thought to himself. He tilted it over and opened the case. The case was lined with brown velvet, a tan satin cloth covered the instrument. He pulled back the cloth. It had a red and white body, white and red keys on the right side , a whole lot of red buttons on the left side, one button had a a shiny glass diamond in it. It had two thick straps on the back and another on the left side. He took it out and sat on the couch with it upright on his lap. It reached from his thighs to his chin, he couldn’t see over it to look at the keys and buttons. “How am I ever going to play this thing,” he thought.
“That’s a really good accordion,” his mom said from the kitchen. “It cost a lot of money. I hope you boys appreciate it.”
Every Tuesday evening, at seven, Mr. Koloski came to the house to give the boys lessons. Mr. Koloski, an over weight, middle aged man, had a polka band that played at Polish weddings and Knights of Columbus dances. The first half hour he’d teach Joe and the second half hour Paul. They started learning scales then bland nameless tunes, over time working up to “Over the Waves,” “The Sidewalks of New York” and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” Mr. Koloski wrote the fingering over the notes of the sheet music with a pencil and then as Paul played he’d keep time by poking the pencil on Paul’s thigh.
Not only was this not the instrument that Paul wanted to play, this was not the music that he wanted to play. Mr. Koloski complained that the boys didn’t practice enough and were unprepared for their lessons. Paul asked for some Beatles music. “The Beatles? That garbage!”
His job done for the evening, Paul’s mom paid Mr. Koloski, he was about to go out the door when he turned and said, “These Beatles! Why do these kids like these Beatles? My band, The Polka Kings, we play music, not noise. But do these kids come hear us play? No! And, yeah! yeah! yeah!, That’s lyrics? “Who Stole the Kishka”, now that’s a good song! I’d like to see these Beatles play “The Clarinet Polka,” they couldn’t do it. And they’re ugly with all that hair and that Ringo is the ugliest one and who do all the girls like? That Ringo!”—with that he left.
Next week Mr. Koloski brought sheet music, transposed for the accordion, of “I Want to Hold your Hand.” Did you ever hear “I Want to Hold your Hand” on solo accordion? Imagine it. Not so good, huh? And that’s if it is played well. The fingering was difficult, the chords impossible and hard as Paul tried, he couldn’t get it to sound anything like the record.
Paul developed a crush on a girl in his class, Marlene Horton, a cute little girl with blond hair cut in a page boy style. She lived in one of the orange brick row houses in the Matthews Houses near Saint Albert’s. It was kind of far for Paul to walk to from his house, so after school and on Saturday afternoons, he’d ride his bike there. He cruised back and forth on the street in front of her house, trying to get her attention, as she sat on the stoop chatting or playing jump rope with her girl friends who were also in Paul’s class. Paul observed that girls seemed to always be in packs. You couldn’t find them alone. So it was difficult to say anything to them that was not overheard and then gossiped around by some other girl.
How it was done was; a boy would say to one of the friends of the girl he had the crush on, that he “liked her”. This friend would then tell the girl in question that “So and so, likes you.” To which, the girl in question would reply, “Does he like, like me?” The friend would say,”Yes! He like likes you.” Then the girl in question would say, “Oh, I think he’s cute,” or “Ugh!” This response would then be conveyed to the boy in question by the friend. This would be crushing, if the answer was the latter. Before you know it, everybody in the class would be laughing at you. Paul was loathe to go this route, but by hanging around he found out that Marlene liked the band “Herman’s Hermits. ”
So at his next accordion lesson he asked Mr. Koloski to get him the sheet music for the song “Mrs. Brown You have a Lovely Daughter.” Paul played it over and over and it didn’t sound too bad. It sounded like the tune. He planned to somehow, go to Marlene’s house one evening and serenade her with “Mrs. Brown You have a Lovely Daughter,” on his accordion.
On an autumn evening, after dinner, his brother and sister were upstairs, his parents were watching television, Paul carefully lifted the accordion and quietly went out the back door. He couldn’t carry it on his bike so he had to walk. It was about a mile to her house, every block he had to stop and rest. His last rest was at the Elmhurst gas tanks. Then, one more block and he was there. Good! No one was around, the stoop was vacant. Well here goes and he starts to play. Half way through the song the door opens. “Here comes my sweet bird,” he thinks. (The Beatles, in interviews called girls “birds” so Paul it was the cool to use that word.) But it was not his sweet bird, it was Mr. Horton and he didn’t look happy. “Hey, kid! Stop that crap! Get the hell outa’ here! What the hell are you doing here anyway? Go on! Get outa’ here!” Behind Mr. Horton, he saw Marlene, looking out at him. Paul packed up and hustled away as fast as he could. “Hey kid, get a monkey and a cup, ha, ha, ha!” Mr. Horton laughed after him.
“What a stupid idea. What was I thinking?” he said to himself, with tears on his cheeks as he trudged home, “they’re all gonna hear about this by tomorrow morning. I need a plan, a plan.”
The next morning, as he entered the schoolyard, Yotch shouted “Hey, senor! Out serenading the lady last night?” All the guys were laughing and Paul could hear the girls laughing too.
“Hey man! Don’t you get it? It was a joke! I hate that crappy song! It was so funny!” Paul said, standing up straight, trying to look confident. “You should have seen the look on the old man’s face!”
Would they buy it? Yup! The guys came over and smacked Paul on the back. “You got balls man!” they said. The girls went “Huh! What a creep!”
Paul had saved face with the guys, but Marlene, feeling that he had come to mock her, didn’t speak to him for a long time.
Soon after, Paul and his brother lost interest and stopped playing the accordion. Mr. Koloski stopped coming to the house and the accordion sat, untouched, in the corner of the living room.