Showing posts with label lesley gore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lesley gore. Show all posts

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Delight Of A Fluffy Pop Song

Pure pop music is as old as music itself. When I was a kid, what I called rock music wasn't truly rock. It was pop. But I didn't know better. KRAD was our local station and it called itself "rock 'n roll", even though it played everything -- everything -- from Dean Martin to Bobbie Gentry to the Beach Boys to Roger Miller, to every possible incarnation in between. If I heard a song by a new group like the Supremes, I thought, hmm, that's different. I inherently knew that someone like Roy Orbison was rock (at least some of his songs), but I wasn't quite sure why. My brother bought me an album by the Yardbirds and I hated it. That was rock. I considered the Beatles, who magically appeared on the earth in 1964 to be a rock group, but in actuality and hindsight, they really were pop; just a bit more amped-up pop. Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, who were a tiny bit before my time, were more rock than the Beatles.

Pop isn't easy to define, but like obscenity (I guess), you know it when you hear it. A pure pop song should be bouncy. A repeating refrain is a plus. Even if the lyrics are sad, the music should be uplifting. Often it means nothing (which is how I generally prefer my songs, to be frank). Most lyrics that try to be deep are instead insipid. "Deep" songwriters miss the joy of music. I like my music fun; not studious, and especially not angry.

The first pop song I fell in love with, when I was eight years old, was "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore. I was in fact obsessed with it. I used to stand atop our picnic table in the backyard and frug and sing this song a cappella.

By the time I reached the mature age of ten, I liked this:

Time moved on (okay, by one year) and by then music had changed. Now it was visual as well as aural.  Granted, the guys were cute, but leave it to Neil Diamond to write an almost perfect pop song:

It was hard to find a good pop song in the seventies. It was hard to find anything good in the seventies. The seventies was a dreary decade. But every era has at least one thing to offer, and as for pop music, the nineteen seventies offered ABBA.

Conversely, the nineteen eighties were rife with pop. I could get into a whole sociological explanation of why people felt better in the eighties and more open to happiness, but it's really quite evident.

This song is glorious in its pop-ness.  

It's almost as if Lesley Gore had been reincarnated, but more blissful.

Sheena wasn't the only one.

Come on, admit it. You liked this song. You really, really boogied on down to this song. Rick Astley was an eighties god:

If you want to just feel good (and who doesn't?), peruse the nineteen eighties pop catalog. I could include another twenty tracks here, but I won't. Springsteen might bemoan how awful President Reagan was; yet he still recorded "Glory Days", so there you go. Sometimes as hard as one tries to be miserable, circumstances budge their way in.

Even as I began listening to country music again in the nineties, I was drawn (albeit reluctantly) to poppish confections. Hate it if you want, but just try not to dance to it:

I submit that pop music is the salve of mankind. 

It's time someone gave pop music its due.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Revisiting Music Before My Time - Top Hits of 1963

It's not that 1963 was technically before my time. I mean, I was alive. But I had very little cognizance of music at that time. Really, it was only later that I caught up with '63's top hits.

The sixties was an odd time in music. The decade could be cut into thirds. One part schlocky, one part innovative, and another part angry and angsty.  Just like with country music, in the early sixties record producers were not convinced that "roots" music was acceptable, so they proceeded to ruin it, mostly by adding strings and background chorals. By roots music, I mean Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly. By "ruin it", think Elvis Presley.

The advantage to catching up with a year's music after the fact is that one doesn't have recurring nightmares of the world's worst songs blaring through their transistor's speaker. We can separate the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, when I peer at Billboard's Top 100 list for the year, the flashbacks wash over me. My sister graduated from high school in 1963, so I was exposed to her favorite tunes, not only on the radio, but during Saturday afternoon's broadcast of American Bandstand, where all the girls wore wide skirts, mohair sweaters and "flats"; and the boys were decked out in sports coats, skinny ties and ducktail hairdo's (it was a much more formal time, I'm assuming).

The number one record of 1963 was this:

I've tried to put my finger on why this song reeks. Some things are hard to describe, so let me just say I find this to be "icky". Maybe it's the misplaced flute flourishes. Maybe it's the fact that Jimmy, while singing about "getting back to that girl", in fact sounds like a girl himself. No offense.

Nevertheless, I'd listen to Sugar Shack all day, given the choice between that and the number two record of the year. Let me tell you why this track is so hateful:  Well, at age eight, I couldn't understand why Bobby Vinton was so obsessed with the material of the dress his girlfriend wore. I still can't, really. It's rather creepy -- his fabric fetish. It seemed to me that he missed the dress more than the girl.

The number three single of the year was better, but it did contain a recitation, which was another big trend at that time. Shoot, Jimmy Dean made a whole career out of recitations (think "Big Bad John"). This was an odd producer choice. So, the song isn't good enough "sung", so let's talk it! Recitations had their heyday in the early sixties and soon fell out of favor, when singers realized they were expected to sing. The number three song brings to mind my other sister, who was a titch older than my American Bandstand-loving sibling. I don't have a lot of memories of my oldest sister from that time, because she graduated from high school, moved out, and promptly got herself married. I do remember that she liked this song, though:

I suddenly had a flashback regarding this next song. I remembering corralling two school friends and lip-syncing to this song in front of my third grade class. It must have been show-off -- I mean show and tell day. I did lots of outlandish things before I finally realized I was a real pain in the ass. 

This song is most remembered for the fact that George Harrison cribbed it for "My Sweet Lord". In George's defense, however, so many songs could be composed from those first three notes. 

Girl singers were all the rage in 1963. Alas, it was a different time, in that, record heads felt the need to ascribe adjectives to their singers. Thus, "Little" Peggy March:

I don't know how "little" she is. Hang on -- okay, four foot ten. That is little -- speaking from one who is apparently semi-little at five foot one and one-half. 

Speaking of girl singers, who would today be referred to as "singers", this next song played a seminal role in my ascension to "singing wanna-be", because I loved it so much and I perched atop our picnic table in the backyard and sang my lungs out along to:

Before I get too far into 1963, I want to make sure I include this next song. In my two-second research, I learned that this is a traditional folk song. Thus, I imagine it was recorded by many artists. However, none could do it better than Bobby Bare. Some songs are timeless and this is one:

And, aside from the Sugar Shacks and fabric-obsessives, there were a few truly innovative artists who scored hits in 1963. If you were to ask me who the best singer of all time is, I am pretty sure I'd need to go with this next one. My older brother had an LP of this artist's greatest hits, recorded on Monument Records, that I wore out when my brother wasn't around (I was not allowed to touch his albums; little did he know). This is what music does at its best -- it makes your heart soar to the heavens. I endeavor to include videos from the time they were fresh, but I make an exception for this one, because one needs to hear it in all its glory:

I've really, really tried to like Elvis Presley. I guess it's like a kid today who seriously wants to like the Beatles, but just can't (although that's not a fair comparison). My memory of Elvis is Sunday afternoon movies that mostly involved sports car driving and/or scuba diving with a song thrown in now and then for good measure. Elvis could have been better than he was, but he was mismanaged. Someone needed to tell him to cut back on the booming baritone, which sounded clownish. It's not that Elvis wasn't a good singer, but he was drowning in sub-par songs. I do understand how my older sisters came to revere hm, because there was most likely nobody like him at the time; certainly not foppish Jimmy Gilmer or Bobby Vinton. Maybe Elvis was too faux-dramatic for my tastes. It's like the way someone is supposed to sing to signal the world that they're a great singer, when they just need to relax and be themselves.

By 1963, Elvis's best days were already behind him, sadly. But my best friend and I dutifully paid our twenty-five cents to see his movies on Sunday afternoons, and this one is semi-okay (I believe it is from "Clambake"):

Truth be told, I took a lot of my musical cues from my dad. Of course, I was nine years old. Anything my dad liked, I liked. Looking back, my dad's taste in music tended toward catchy lines and/or catchy melodies. I have a fuzzy memory of skipping down the street, singing this song:

This next song is more of a 1964 memory than a 1963. Novelty songs were HUGE at that time. By 1964 I was living at Triple Service with my cousins. Triple Service was situated in a tiny town that had nothing in its favor. My mom had enrolled me in the local Catholic school, which was an ill fit. A really tight fit. I had long had a bias against nuns, with justification. After-school time was my freedom. My cousin Karen and I climbed to the roof and perched between the red wooden letters that spelled out T-R-I-P-L-E S-E-R-V-I-C-E and serenaded unsuspecting patrons with this song (sorry, no live video, but that's probably for the best):

It's not that 1963 wasn't a harbinger of things to come. We had the Four Season, who apparently have no live videos on YouTube, and we had the Beach Boys just coming on the scene. Too, we had Sam Cooke (no live videos, but kudos to the person who created this for their creativity):

Dion hadn't become all maudlin with Abraham, Martin, and John, and was still doing songs that we needed to dance to:

1963 was getting ready for 1964, when all heck would break loose.  Nobody knew in 1963 that the musical world was about to spin off its axis. We were still pining for velvet and traipsing down to the Sugar Shack. 

But oh boy...

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, You Say?

I don't understand why everything these days has to be politicized. Even the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

You know that old saying, "It's not what you know; it's who you know"? Well, I guess here, "it's not what you do; it's who you ....." Well, you get my drift. Are you listening, Jann Wenner?

While everyone is bowing at the feet of Madonna, just for "fun", let's take a look at the artists who are not in the hall of fame, shall we?















These are just the ones I could come up with tonight. I'm sure there are many more. Let me know who I've missed.

So, Madonna should get in before these others? Why, may I ask? And is she even "rock"?

Why the politicizing? And what does Jann Wenner have against Neil Diamond? Because that one is so obvious, I don't know how it could be innocently overlooked.

Remind me never to buy Rolling Stone magazine ever again.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Pioneers Of Rock - The Early-To Mid-Sixties

In my previous post, I tried to note some of the very early 1960's songs that were major hits, but have somehow gotten lost amidst the sheer numbers of songs that have been released throughout the years.

As I write this, I'm not working from a list of any kind. I'm just going on memory here. If something rings a bell (ding!) in the recesses of my memory, I try to find it on YouTube.

So, here is where my mind is taking me tonight:


This was the biggest selling song of 1965. 1965? Really? I wouldn't have guessed 1965. I remember hearing the song on the radio. It was catchy. I, at my tender age, didn't know what "sham" meant. So, I just figured they were real Arabian guys - hey, what did I know? I was 10 years old, for pete's sake. In hindsight, I realize that he seemed to be well versed in the English language, with nary a hint of an Arabian accent. Later, much later, I found out that "Sam" was really Domingo Samudio, from Texas. Kind of disillusioning. On a side note, the reason I don't dance anymore is because I would dance exactly like they're dancing in this video. That would kind of date me.


Well, whaddaya know? This song was from 1965! This is one of my all-time favorite songs. I even have it on my MP3 player. I saw the Vogues in concert. They played a gig at Lee's Steakhouse, in the basement (Lissa, help me out here. What was the name of the bar?) This was in the early '70's. They put on a great show, and I was very impressed. Not to digress here, but I saw a few major acts in Lee's Steakhouse basement bar. I saw the Doobie Brothers there, too. I had forgotten about that until just this minute. Admittedly, I was underage, but that's neither here nor there. Geez, I'd totally forgotten about that. I guess I saw some great shows that I didn't even know I'd seen. But back to the song at hand, did I say I love this song? I do.


Okay, this is getting a bit spooky, but apparently, this song was also released in 1965. Here'e what I remember....Shindig was on Wednesday nights. Unfortunately, I also had my accordion lessons on Wednesday nights (DAMN YOU, ACCORDION LESSONS!) The biggest stress I had at that time was that I did NOT want to miss Shindig. And the artists who I remember most vividly from Shindig were The Righteous Brothers. I'm guessing they were on there every week ~ whaddya think? The Righteous Brothers were RIGHTEOUS; there's just no two ways about it. Bill Medley, Bobby Hatfield. Back then, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" wasn't even my favorite Righteous Brothers song. It was "(You're My) Soul & Inspiration". Funny story......I had a birthday party when I was nine (I think). I had all my friends from school, plus my best friend, Cathy, who didn't go to my school. Some of my friends asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I told Cathy I wanted something by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (I can't even remember which song it was!) and I told my friend, Debbie Fischer, that I wanted the single, "(You're My) Soul & Inspiration" by the Righteous Brothers. Well, when I opened my gifts, I made the mistake of saying, "Oh, just what I wanted!" (in reaction to the RB song), and that set off a big snit by my friend, Cathy. So, I somehow had to smooth that over. And I haven't heard from Cathy in about 43 years. I guess she really holds a grudge.


Can't actually find a live performance of this song, but it's still kinda cool watching the guy put the record on his turntable (ummm... what's a turntable?) Ha ha - I'm just kidding. This song was NOT from 1965, so that's a plus. I like this one. It reminds me of those JFK years, when my brother was trying to tell me what to think and what was what, and I blindly went along, because I was just a kid. And we were all gung ho about going into space, for whatever reason, but I just liked the song.


I couldn't NOT acknowledge Sam Cooke here. Everyone seems to have forgotten him. That's a real travesty. He was a SUPERB artist. This is not the video I would have chosen, but it's one of the few that actually shows a live performance by Sam. I think we would do well to not forget Sam Cooke. If Sam was alive today, we'd probably all be swooning over his songs. As is, it's good to remind people of what a unique talent he was.


This hit song, from 1963, was produced by Quincy Jones. Yes, THAT Quincy Jones, who also produced Michael Jackson. Lesley does a fine job lip-syncing here, despite the distraction of the dancers, who are over-dancing, if that is a word. I like, though, that the guys on the dance floor are all wearing suits and ties. You just don't see that anymore. Very respectful. Their moms told them to dress up. This created resentment in later years, so they all let their hair grow out and they got tangled up in the drug world of Haight-Ashbury. They are now all mortgage brokers. Just a bit of trivia and follow-up.

I like to end my posts with something special. Here is something special:


My stance has always been this: This is the quintessential rock and roll song. If one was forced to choose one song that represented rock music, I feel this would be the ideal choice.

So, onwards and upwards. There are many songs and artists yet to explore.

P.S. I had originally included Gary Lewis & The Playboys in this post, but some moron deleted the video from YouTube.