Friday, February 1, 2008

Pioneers Of Rock - The Early '60's

I don't think it's right to just stop with the late '50's, do you? Not when there was so much good music yet to come. I already did a whole series on the British Invasion bands, but there was actually a whole gaggle of good artists from the good old USA!

The early-to-mid '60's were good years for rock 'n roll music. There were a lot of different styles, from doo-wop to the precursors of rock & roll (singers such as Connie Francis), to the California surf sound of the Beach Boys, to the wall of sound stuff by that unsurpassed weirdo named Phil Spector, to the Jersey sound of The Four Seasons, and on to the pop stylings of producer Quincy Jones, then on to the Motown Sound, and everything in between.

One thing you can say about that era ~~ everything didn't sound the same.

So, I'm just going to throw some videos in here, with little thought to rhyme or reason, and see what you think.

CHUBBY CHECKER - THE TWIST



This song was from 1960. Interestingly, the song also hit the Top Ten again in 1962. It makes one wonder if there was a dearth of songs back then, so they had to recycle the old ones. I don't know. Anyway, this appears to be from an appearance on American Bandstand (note the lip-syncing). Plus, there is NO WAY he could dance and not lose his breath if he was actually singing. I mean, really. This song marked a new phase in dance music. Prior to The Twist, everyone was just fox-trotting around and jitter-bugging. With the advent of The Twist, people could dance all by themselves! I think we can credit this song with creating the ME generation. Who needs a dance partner? Again, also, as in Fats Domino's case, why do they call him "Chubby"? He doesn't look very chubby. I'd call him "Average Checker".

JOEY DEE & THE STARLITERS - THE PEPPERMINT TWIST


Well, what hath Chubby Checker wrought? What started as simply "The Twist" in 1960 morphed into the Peppermint Twist in 1962. I'm no historian, but I'm thinking Joey Dee was a real hipster dude who was the toast of discotheques all the way from Brooklyn to the Bronx. This version, The Peppermint Twist, is the New York take on the now classic dance number. I am loathe to point this out, but Joey is actually doing a combination of The Twist/The Mashed Potato, so he is by no means pure in Twist parlance.




DEE DEE SHARP - MASHED POTATO TIME


I don't want to be nitpicky here, but some of the dancers were doing The Jerk, NOT the Mashed Potato. I guess they thought no one would notice. Although, David St. Hubbins WAS doing the Mashed Potato, so good work, St. Hubbins! I wonder whatever happened to Dee Dee. I wonder if she's still wearing that giant brooch in her "hair" (wig). I don't know how exactly I ended up being focused on dance crazes, but I promise it will end soon.


THE CHIFFONS - HE'S SO FINE

Okay, I couldn't actually find a performance of "He's So Fine" by The Chiffons, so I substituted this one. It's the same song ~~ just ask the US Copyright Office. Only the words were changed. This is nothin' against George Harrison, but good god, man, didn't this melody ring a bell when you were writing it? Just add in some "do lang, do lang's" and you got it. Still a great melody, though. A classic, if you will. I think we should ALL write lyrics to this melody. Pay it forward, as they say.


THE SHIRELLES - WILL YOU LOVE ME TOMORROW

Unfortunately, in addition to this great performance, we are subjected to pop references from 1961. Frankly, the ones that resonate with me are Rocky & Bullwinkle and Mister Ed. Sorry, JFK. Sorry, President Reagan. I guess Bullwinkle and Mister Ed hold a higher place of honor in the history of the USA. I don't make the news; I just report it.

FRANKIE VALLI & THE FOUR SEASONS - BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY


1962; I'm thinkin' the Ed Sullivan Show. You think? You know, falsetto is kind of a lost art. One rarely sees that anymore. A pity. Cuz, if you think about it, it could get you ON BROADWAY! And you'd have a hit show, and you could just kick back and collect residuals. Not bad for a little falsetto. Not bad at all.

DION & THE BELMONTS - RUBY BABY

Bad video; great song. I still love this one, from 1962. Dion and his Belmonts did a great job incorporating doo-wop with rock & roll. This is but one example. Dion, of course, went on to a solo career, singing about Abraham, Martin, & John. This was in the late '60's, when people actually cared about that stuff. Oh, the times, they have a'changed.

GENE PITNEY - TOWN WITHOUT PITY


DISCLAIMER: THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS. It's from 1961. The net tells me that Gene himself wrote this song. If so, KUDOS, Gene! I don't know if I trust that info, though. It sure sounds like a Burt Bacharach song to me, but I could be mistaken. A little known fact: Gene was the first pop singer to perform at the Oscars. I really kinda miss Gene Pitney. I really liked him. Not to ruin the moment, but in this video, he really reminds me of Anthony Perkins, of "Psycho" fame.

CONNIE FRANCIS - EVERYBODY'S SOMEBODY'S FOOL


For those who don't know, Connie Francis was HUGE in the late '50's/early '60's. And she's a good singer who deserved her fame. I'll always remember Connie especially from that classic tearjerker, "Where The Boys Are". Have you ever seen this movie? It's a camp classic. First of all, you can't beat a cast that includes George Hamilton, Dolores Hart, Jim Hutton, Paula Prentiss, Frank Gorshin (what?), Yvette Mimieux, and, of course, Connie herself. It's about these "kids" (who look approximately 35 to 40 years old) who go to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Well, all kinds of bad things happen: love is found, love is lost, love is found again, George Hamilton gets a tan. I understand that in real life, Dolores Hart went on to become a nun, to atone for actually getting paid for starring in movies such as "Where The Boys Are".

BRENDA LEE - FOOL #1


The gals were really popular in the very early '60's. Brenda Lee is another great singer. I really like her. She has a big voice for someone so very, very, very tiny. I'm guessing she's about 8 years old here. Okay, maybe not. But she's about 3 feet tall. Not that there's anything wrong with that. One nitpick I have about this video: she is lip-syncing the song. That's the only quibble I have, however. I think she's great, and the song is great.

RICK(Y) NELSON - TRAVELIN' MAN


He started out as "Ricky", and later became just "Rick". But that's really beside the point. This is widely credited as being the very first music video. It tells the tale of Rick(y) traveling all over the place - apparently to Mexico, then to Alaska, then to Hawaii, and on to parts unknown. The incredible part is that he (apparently) did all this traveling by BOAT. Wow, Rick(y) must have had a lot of free time on his hands. But I guess air travel was kind of pricey in 1961.


THE DRIFTERS - SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES


I picked this one from the Drifters, because I like this song, and I haven't heard it in ages. Sorry about the Karaoke titles - but hey, feel free to sing along! The Drifters had many hits in their day. Also sorry for the lip-syncing. There are not a lot of good Drifters videos out there. Again, I hate to even point out things like this, but man, their choreography BLOWS! I've seen my dog do better footwork than this. But they still had great songs.

THE TOKENS - THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT

Okay, here's the deal ~ I know this is not the "classic" black & white video, but I have to admit it ~ I never knew these guys were WHITE. Seriously. I never knew this. As I reel from the shock, I do want to say that I don't appreciate Disney & Company appropriating this song. The song was NOT done by animated lions; it was done by real people. And stop stealing our nostalgia.

We'll close out this segment with a GREAT rock song from 1961, one of my all-time favorites:

DEL SHANNON - RUNAWAY


This is a classic song. And is that a wicked organ solo or what? Somewhere, some dude is sitting around telling his grandkids that he played the organ solo on that record. And they're saying, "Yea, whatever, Grandpa". Kids are rude. As a side note, on this video, did you note that all the "running/dancing" girls had the same hairstyle? I'll let you in on a little secret ~ that was NOT their real hair. We had something back then we called "falls". They were clumps of fake hair that you pinned to your head to make you look like you had long hair. And they were made of the cheapest synthetic crap ever. You wouldn't want to try to brush it out. It would be a nightmare. Thus, you just pinned that crappy plastic hair to your head that had been sitting around on your nightstand for a fortnight. And off you'd go, off to run/dance to the latest songs on the hit parade.



More to come. MUCH more to come.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Great post! No, Gene did not write "Town Without Pity", but neither did Bacharach. It was from the movie of the same name starring Kirk Douglas and written by Dimitri Tiomkin. My fave Pitney cut was "I'm Gonna Be Strong", but "Every Breath I Take" is a close second.

Dan H.

richfarmers said...

Thank you, Dan, for clearing that up for me. I didn't think Gene wrote the song, but I couldn't find anything on the net that actually stated who wrote it. I appreciate your comment!

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