Approaching 40: Do you know the way to San Jose?

Do you remember your first 45?

If you are older than I am, the answer is likely to be yes. But if you are even a few years younger than me, the answer is likely to be “Huh?”

I don’t know where it came from, but the first musical (as opposed to story) 45 I ever had was Dionne Warwick’s “Do You Know the Way To San Jose?” single. I’d guess I was five or six at the time. I don’t ever recall listening to this song at home, but I recall quite vividly listening to it at my grandparent’s house in Spring Valley, New York. Whenever I hear the song, I am back there in that apartment, with the patio that faced Old Nyack Turnpike and the light filtering in through the blinds just so. I can see the furniture as it was in 1977 or 1978. I can feel the stringy carpet on my feet. And in the background, I can hear the crisp sound of this song playing on the record player with all of the pops and clicks concomitant with the device.

I had no idea where San Jose was of course. (Since then, I’ve been to San Jose countless times.) But I knew it was in California. I also knew that San Francisco was in California. Back then, there was a commercial on TV for Rice A Roni. “The San Francisco Treat,” the slogan went. The commercial showed a cable car cresting a hill in San Francisco. Somehow, the two became intertwined in my head so that I cannot hear “Do You Know the Way To San Jose” without thinking of Rice A Roni, and I cannot see a box of Rice A Roni without hearing “Do You Know the Way To San Jose” in my head. Strange how those things work, isn’t it?


  1. I was 9 or 10. Herman’s Hermits. “I’m Henry the Eighth, I am.” Flipside was “The End of the World.” Still know both songs by heart.

    However, in the late sixties I got a reel-to-reel tape recorder for Christmas. Shortly after, Warwick guested on The Carol Burnett Show and they sang it as a duet. I recorded it and played it continuously, singing along at the top of my lungs until dad threatened to take the recorder away.

  2. I’m a few years older than you. The first 45 I remember was Tina & Ike’s cover of “Proud Mary”, because it got me in trouble.

    When I was little, I liked to take out Mom’s albums from the rack at the bottom of the living room stereo, scatter them across the hardwood floor, hop from album to album in time with the song through the slow intro, then stop on whatever album I’d landed on when the tempo changed and crazy go-go dance throughout the rest of the song.

    I broke two Steppenwolf albums that way (a copy of /Born to be Wild/ and its replacement).


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