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Jewish World Review June 8, 2001 / 18 Sivan, 5761

Bob Greene

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Consumer Reports

The Swingin' Medallion view of U.S. history -- WASHINGTON | Waiting to board a plane at Reagan National Airport here the other morning, I was intrigued to see that the Smithsonian Institution has a store right in one of the main concourses.

The Smithsonian, of course, is the repository of our nation's history, so it was nice to see the Smithsonian Store -- a much more welcome sight than the standard-issue newsstands and gift shops you encounter in most airports.

I had some time before my flight, so I wandered through. Fascinating items: books about America's presidents, memorabilia from America's wars, illustrations of First Ladies down through the years, video compilations about the development of flight, reprints of old newspapers that reported on some of the biggest stories in the country's history. ...

I felt a little bit like I was in a museum, which of course made sense -- the Smithsonian is the Smithsonian. I was deciding what items to buy when I heard something I instantly recognized.

It was a song.

A particular song. "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)."

Now, "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)" was a hit by the Swingin' Medallions in the summer of 1966. "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)" made the Swingin' Medallions a one-hit wonder band; the song was....

Well, there's no polite way to say it. "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)" was the ultimate get-drunk-and-throw-up song. You heard it on every jukebox in every bar in the world.

So, as I was perusing information about America's history -- including the stories of one-hit (or at least one-term) wonders such as Benjamin Harrison and James K. Polk and Herbert Hoover -- it was disconcerting, to say the least, to be hearing "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)."

Not unwelcome, mind you. I love "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)." But this was in the Smithsonian Store.

There was only one clerk on duty, and I approached him. I said, "Do you have the radio on?"

He said: "No. Why?"

I replied: "Because of this song that's playing."

He said: "We sell this. We're supposed to play it, for our customers to hear."

The Smithsonian. Sells "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)."

"Come on," I said.

He led me over to a section of the store and showed me. Sure enough, there was a CD that featured not only "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)," but "Wild Thing," by the Troggs; "Mony Mony," by Tommy James and the Shondells; "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs; "The Loco-Motion," by Little Eva; "Incense and Peppermints," by the Strawberry Alarm Clock....

"Why do you sell this?" I asked.

"Because this is as much a part of our nation's history as the other things we sell," he said.

And I suppose he's right. If you're going to celebrate man's first step onto the moon, you might as well celebrate "The Letter" and the Box Tops' rendition of it, which is on the CD; if you're going to commemorate the end of World War I, you might as well commemorate "Hang On Sloopy" and the McCoys' rendition of it, which is on the CD....

(Although if I were the curator of the Smithsonian, I think I might have included that other transcendent 1966 one-hit wonder, "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night," by the Electric Prunes, which is sort of the Chester A. Arthur of barroom/jukebox songs.)

This is not the first time that "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)" has caught me by surprise; 10 years or so ago I heard a strings-and-soft-horns version of it coming out of the Muzak speaker in an elevator. Muzak headquarters confirmed it for me: "Double Shot (of My Baby's Love)" had graduated to elevator music.

But this ... this was the Smithsonian. Or at least the Smithsonian Store.

In a way, it's nice to know that American history can be this egalitarian; I guarantee you that you would not have found a single solitary person 35 years ago who would have believed you if you had said that some day the Smithsonian would be endorsing the Swingin' Medallions.

What a repository of the things we value. And what a country in which we live. Land of democracy, liberty, freedom, and -- as long as we're all in the mood -- a double shot of Ben Franklin's love.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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