An Ode to Bellbottoms

The music blared through the speakers, and Chuck Berry
In his spirited voice, sings how it’s
Got to be rock and roll music, if one wants to
Dance with him, on the mic,
The noise dialed all the way up,
And the three boys, rolling around the neighbourhood
In their Type 2 VW, dressed in their bellbottoms,
The bellbottoms they loved, more than rock and roll itself
Maybe more than their cigarettes and their beer,
Of which they’d started finding a liking to.

It was ten in the morning, when they’d
Set out on the road, a mix tape plugged into the sound system,
And the noise, the sweet, wonderful noise,
Of the raw guitar, the beating thump of the drums
And Chuck (which would be followed by Freddy,
Then Lenon, and maybe there was Dylan, Hendrix
And Credence Clearwater in there too)
Made for a perfect, crisp morning, a morning where
The wind smelled of the ocean, a cool, fragrant breeze flowed about
And the air electrified with a current of excitement.

The sun glinted off the red hood of their van,
And the driver, a lanky redhead with thick sideburns and sunglasses
That never took off of his face, shifting gears on auto pilot,
Distracted by the thoughts of
The kiss he’d shared with this girl (whom he’d met
In the cinemas a week ago),
And the sweetness of her lips, and
The strawberry flavoured lipstick she wore,
That stayed with him all night,
Didn’t notice the speed bump ahead, and bounced the van off of it.
His friend sitting out back, drinking a soda, spilled it on
His bellbottom. The bellbottom he cherished, the bellbottom
He wouldn’t sell for even for a hundred Jimi Hendrix records.

“What the hell?” he screamed from out back.
“What, man?” Mr. Sideburns called back. “You almost scared me!” And,
When he saw from the rear view mirror Mr. Spilled Pants’ pants,
He cracked up into a hearty laughter. Tears spilling down his face,
The cackle uncontrollable, that even the ladies walking by,
In their bikinis, and their hair styled in Farah Fawcett’s flip
Walking to the beach for a day in the sun, stopped, looking
Amused. Breaking into a laugh themselves, they shook their heads,
Said, “Silly boys,” and walked away.

Chuck ended his piece, and then came on Queen.
Mercury screamed he wants to break free, because he’s
Tired of the lies.
While the third boy, sitting next to Mr. Sideburns,
In his blue bellbottoms, his hair falling behind him
In a shaggy, unkempt mullet,
Saw one of the women, as their gaggle
Passed by the row of pines along the side of the road,
Turning back, and looking at him. A demure, coy smile,
On her lips. A smile that melted Mr. Blue Bellbottom’s heart.
The smile lasted just a second, because, in the next, the womenfolk
Turned the corner, and headed to the ocean, where, slapping
Lotion on themselves, and their magazines with them,
They’d make the best of the day soaking up the sun.

Mr. Spilled Pants got up from his seat, gave Mr. Sideburns
A light smack at the back of his head, eliciting
A “Hey, what was that for?” from Mr. Sideburns.
And then he, Mr. Sideburns, unbuckled his seatbelt, and turned around
To return the favour to Mr. Spilled Pants.
Mr. Blue Bellbottom, though, hypnotized by that smile,
And the curve of that lady’s luscious lips, and the mascara on her eyes,
And the way her slender legs carried her, felt his heart flutter.
While Mercury, on the speakers, was finishing his set,
Mr. Blue Bellbottoms was singing how
He got a thing that’s called Radar Love,
And, far away from the real world,
His two mates smacking one another,
He did a dance in his seat, because, as the song goes,
The road had him hypnotized, and he was speeding into a new sunrise.

Mr. Blue Bellbottoms got out of the van,
The sun, slanting straight into his eyes, not bothering him,
Started walking in pursuit of the woman, who’d smiled
That unforgettable, radiant, majestic smile.
And, feeling like Jude The Beatles had sung about,
He wanted to take a sad song and make it better.
And, unbeknownst of the gleaming black
Vista Cruiser coming from the other side,
He started following her – and the trail of her lavender cologne –
As if in a trance. The Cruiser punched on the brakes,
The driver, a near-bald man, sporting a leather jacket,
A red and white bandana wrapped around his head,
And a more embarrassing handlebar mustache,
Barked, “Watch out, hot pants!” (clearly referring to
Mr. Blue Bellbottoms’ bellbottoms),
and blared his horn.

Mr. Blue Bellbottoms, perhaps
Heard the remark. And, thrown away by the dig on
His most prized piece of wardrobe, the bellbottoms he’d
taken an extra job at the car factory for, he turned
To Mr. Bandana, and roared at him. “What did you say?”
he shouted, and belted after The Cruiser.
Mr. Bandana, flummoxed, and
A little threatened, pressed down hard on the accelerator,
And skittered through hastily, past the diner
On the other side, from where the sweet,
Rich aroma of coffee and pancakes wafted out; and
So did the faint tunes of Sweet Home Alabama,
And, past the Type 2 VW.

Meanwhile, Credence Clearwater came on, warning its listeners
About the earthquakes and lightning, and the troubles
On the way, because a Bad Moon was on the rise,
Resonated with the state of affairs in the van,
For what was a mild scuffle between bros, had now
Strengthened into a fist fight. And, then, a punch
to Mr. Sideburns’ junk, sent him bending over the steering.
He cried out in fury, in despair, but, mostly, in
Unimaginable pain. And while the sun was out, and
Children and adults alike were basking in its glory,
On the speakers, John Fogerty gave an accurate
Forecast of the inside of the van, reminding the two
Passengers, of the impending nasty weather.

That was how much these boys, the “silly boys,”
With their youthful haircuts, harmless stubbornness,
And all the time in the world to not care,
Loved their bellbottoms, the flashy, flare-y piece
Of wardrobe all three of them had burned through
Their pockets to buy, and which
They not just wore, but paraded around.
And which, like The Job Spencer Blues Explosion, they
Thought of as “the fabulous and most groovy.”
Bellbottoms was their movement, bellbottoms was
Their identity. Bellbottoms, come to
Think of it, was
Worth fighting for. Or, why else would a gentlemen
As esteemed as the author Grant Show
Would say in one of his most quotes
That he had bought his first suit,
A three piece denim suit,
With a pair of bellbottoms?

Shaurya Arya-Kanojia authored his debut novella, End of the Rope (, last year. He is also part of the editorial team of Ayaskala literary magazine. He loves sports (cricket, mostly), eating out, watching reruns of The Office and Everybody Loves Raymond, and sitting in his balcony on a rainy day with a steaming cup of coffee.

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