It’s 1974 and a major milestone occurs in six-year old John Hughes’s life — he gets his weekly allowance, one dollar, for the first time.
That first dollar was precious. It could have been spent on four(!) comic books or some candy or a cheap toy. Instead, young John held on to that dollar until the next time his mother went to Clarkin’s Department Store in Elyria, Ohio. Because that’s where little Johnny knew they sold 45 RPM records for 99Â¢ each. That weekend, John’s mother drove him to Clarkin’s, where John found that record he wanted so badly, the one he heard on the radio over and over, the one that he finally had enough money to buy.
Only to discover the concept of “sales tax.” The sales clerk rang up the 45 up and said, “That’s $1.04, please.”
I remember that moment as if it just happened. I stood, frozen, not sure what to do since my mother was in the clothing department — she might as well of been miles away. My eyes must have welled up with tears, because the cashier almost immediately realized I didn’t have anything other than that dollar and said, “Oh, that’s okay, honey. Don’t worry about the other five cents,” and handed me a bag with my precious new purchase tucked inside — “Save the Last Dance for Me,” by the DeFranco Family featuring Tony DeFranco.
A remake of the Drifters’ 1960 number one, “Save the Last Dance for Me” was the third Top 40 hit for 14-year old Tony and his siblings. They had burst into the top 5 the year prior with “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat,” a song that tried to out-Partridge the Partridge Family and mopped up the floor with the Brady Kids. “Heartbeat” put the DeFrancos next to the Osmonds in every issue of Tiger Beat that year and on every AM hits station nationwide. The Ontario, Canada, teens followed that up with “Abra-Ca-Dabra” that same year, scraping the lower reaches of the Top 40.
But those songs couldn’t hold a candle to “Last Dance,” a song that I strangely took a liking to. Not only was it my very first record purchase, a record of my very own instead of one of my parents’ Beatles or Elvis platters, it was a record I played over and over and over again, watching the 20th Century Records logo spin and spin. Many moves and many, many years later, that record was lost to me, but I happened to find copies of both DeFranco Family LPs a few weeks ago and snatched them up instantly.
It was the best $4.32 (with sales tax this time!) I’ve spent in quite some time.
Here’s the DeFranco Family performing a quick snippet of “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat” on Jack Benny’s final TV special in 1973.
“Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat” peaked at #3 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart in 1973.
“Abra-Ca-Dabra” peaked at #32 on the same chart that same year.
“Save the Last Dance for Me” peaked at #18 on the Pop Singles Chart in 1974.