Where did Little Susie fall asleep?
October 22, 2013 9:22 AM   Subscribe

In the song "Wake up Little Susie," Susie and friend fall asleep watching a movie. Friend then wakes up and realizes what has happened, and proclaims that their reputations are now shot, their goose is cooked, etc. Where did they fall asleep?

Assuming they were really watching a movie (the movie wasn't so hot, it didn't have much of a plot), where could they have fallen asleep? I thought perhaps it was a late show on television, but I now assume that the parents of either Susie or Friend would have awakened them. Also, if they were at one of their homes, "what're we gonna tell your mama? What're we gonna tell your pop?" would be less of a concern. One theory is that they were at a drive in and it closed around them. I don't know if this is feasable, as the (modern) drive ins I have seen all really close down and put barricades across the entrances. I assume that falling asleep in a movie theater would have caused someone to wake them up as well.

So where did they fall asleep? The song is from 1957, if that helps.
posted by Sheppagus to Human Relations (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
A poorly-staffed drive-in.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:23 AM on October 22, 2013 [33 favorites]

Friend's couch is totally plausible. Friend's parents went up to bed and never checked on the kids.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:27 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

They're not in the living room. The lyrics say "we gotta go home." It had to have been a drive-in theater.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:27 AM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Wikipedia assumes drive-in as well.

And if you look at this headline/article from the New York Times in 2004, it sort of implies that the cultural assumption that was a drive-in is correct as it mentions the song title in an article about the resurgence of drive-ins.

It may just be that we can't look back on 1957 with the same viewpoint, so the song just assumes things that we might not take as fact.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:29 AM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's definitely a drive-in. My mom used to sing this song to me when I was a kid to try and get me up, and when I asked what it was about, she said it was a boy and a girl who had fallen asleep in the car at a drive-in movie, woke up to discover it was 4 AM and that they had both violated curfew, and were panicking because nobody was ever going to believe that they had just been SLEEPING:

Whatta we gonna tell your mama
Whatta we gonna tell your pa
Whatta we gonna tell our friends when they say “ooh-la-la”

Movies basically weren't shown on TV in 1957.
posted by KathrynT at 9:34 AM on October 22, 2013 [14 favorites]

Best answer: For the final say, authorial-intent wise, this Bob Green column from 1992 in which the Chicago Tribune columnist asked songwriter Felice Bryant about the meaning after a kerfuffle involving its feminist meaning in the New York Times Book review:

I guess it is about guilt, a little bit. But we weren' trying to send any messages out. Boudleaux and I just wanted to write a little song about two kids who fell asleep at a drive-in.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:36 AM on October 22, 2013 [24 favorites]

Maybe they went to a double feature at a drive in and were planning to leave after the first movie to make curfew, but fell asleep and woke up at the end of the second movie.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:09 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Wake Up Little Susie" chills me to the bone, because when the song ends, he's still pleading with her.

Little Susie never woke up.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:10 AM on October 22, 2013 [104 favorites]

If it wasn't at a drive-in, then it's seated inside a regular movie theater --- either way, they definately went out to a movie, fell asleep there mid-movie, and were not spotted & woken up when the place closed up for the night. But yeah: I've always thought 'drive-in'.

As far as falling asleep in theaters goes: I've worked in movie theaters for almost three decades, and I'd have to say the answer to that one is, It Depends. It depends on if people are actively trying to hide in the theater after closing, if someone has fallen asleep slumped down so they're not easily visible over the seat backs, and/or how diligent the manager & ushers are at doing their jobs and checking for laggards.... I'd say the song presupposes both sleeping patrons and negligent management.
posted by easily confused at 11:41 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I always assumed it was a regular movie theater. I don't think they had all that many late night movies on TV back then.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:52 AM on October 22, 2013

Little Susie never woke up.
I will never hear this song the same way again...

posted by RedOrGreen at 12:11 PM on October 22, 2013 [12 favorites]

Movies were shown on TV back then, at least in New York City. There was the late show and then later the late late show. I think they started at 11 or 11:30, they showed a lot of old classics, and some really bad movies. I remember watching them with my mom, we were both insomniacs. Listen to the theme music!

But yeah, I think it's the drive-in. However, teenagers who wanted to make out would often sit way in the back or in the balcony of movie theaters, and it's possible they were sunk so low in their seats that they got overlooked when the theater closed.
posted by mareli at 12:11 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I wrote a book about the Bryants as well as a DVD and used lots of their interviews. Here's what they had to say about "Wake Up, Little Susie":

Boudleaux and Felice on how “Wake Up, Little Susie” was written:
Boudleaux: We persevered with “Wake Up, Little Susie” for many hours. I started writing one night, kept trying to get my ideas down, but it just wouldn’t happen. Felice took one listen to what I had so far achieved and came up with the final touches that I couldn’t get.
Felice: After “Bye, Bye, Love,” the Everlys were looking for a song to record as their second single. Boudleaux was working on this song called “Wake Up, Little Susie.” I was upstairs and I heard him working on it. We had just moved into our new house and there was no rug in the living room yet. The acoustics were fantastic in that living room. Boudleaux was sitting there with a guitar and was going for a guitar gimmick, like the one Don had come up with at the front of “Bye, Bye, Love.” So he started playing that brisk rhythm and then just came out with “Wake up, little Susie, wake up . . . .” I just burst out of the bedroom and said “That’s great!” But he was headed in the wrong direction because the lyrics were too risqué. He had these two kids doing mature things. I ran downstairs and told him “Boudleaux, that’s not going to work.” I told him to put them in a drive-in with a boring movie and have them fall asleep and get home late. Our boys fell asleep at the drive-in all the time, so I knew that was feasible. So that’s what he did and it became the Everlys second hit single. But the Catholic Church banned it, anyway. They just didn’t listen to the lyrics. They must have heard Boudleaux’s original lyrics by telepathy!
Boudleaux: The Everlys liked the song but, like me, they had problems getting it right when they got in the studio. They worked a whole three-hour session on that one song and had to give up. They just couldn’t get it right. We all trooped back to the studio the next day and got it down first take. That’s the way it happens sometimes.
[“Wake Up, Little Susie” did what it was designed to do—it showcased the Everlys’ harmonies, appealed to the growing teen pop market, convinced fans that the Everly Brothers weren’t just a one-record act, and became an across-the-charts hit.]
posted by Jenna Brown at 12:46 PM on October 22, 2013 [39 favorites]

I've never given this a second thought because I assumed they'd fallen asleep in the balcony of a movie theatre and the ushers cleaning up just skipped checking the upstairs.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:55 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Us old farts know it was a drive in movie.

Because....things could happen there. Wink, nudge.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:53 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, and Things Happening In The Drive-In is why their reputations will be shot and they will be In Trouble--because everyone always assumes the worst.

And then apparently Susie DIED?!
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:24 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

The worst case scenario here is a pregnancy and a shotgun wedding... nobody died!
posted by HuronBob at 9:21 PM on October 22, 2013

Cars today are much more reliable than cars in the 50's, it might not have been unusual for there to be cars that stayed at the drive-in after the last movie was over.
posted by yohko at 1:38 AM on October 23, 2013

Little Susie never woke up.

She has a clear conscience that she's done nothing wrong, so why shouldn't she sleep soundly? It's the boyfriend who's going all drama queen here.
posted by La Cieca at 4:34 AM on October 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Excitable Boy, they all said.
posted by hawthorne at 6:18 AM on October 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

So he started playing that brisk rhythm and then just came out with “Wake up, little Susie, wake up . . . .” I just burst out of the bedroom and said “That’s great!”

That's really how songs get written?!? Reminds me of this old Carol Burnett show sketch where Harvey Korman and Tim Conway are a couple of down on their luck songwriters desperately trying to come up with a good idea, they just need that one hook that will become the inspiration for a hit song. And one of them (Conway?) starts talking about his fears for their career and how he wishes things were different for them, and he starts dropping in lines from Somewhere Over the Rainbow. And by the end of the sketch he's recited damn near the whole song, while Korman just nods and says stuff like "Yeah, yeah, I know how you feel."

And finally one of them goes, "Well, I guess we better hurry up or we're going to miss our bus." And then they both look at each other, thunderstruck, and go into a creative frenzy writing a song that starts "Well, we better hurry up" beat, beat, "or we're going to miss our bus!"

Why the hell do I remember that like thirty years later? What in god's name is wrong with me?
posted by Naberius at 8:40 AM on October 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

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