Showing posts with label the vogues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the vogues. Show all posts

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sixty-Four Years of Music ~ Yes, I Was Once a Tween

There's a certain age in a girl's life when her options for adventure are extremely limited. She's too young to drive, too old for a bicycle (which wouldn't take her far anyway). Luckily, helicopter parents hadn't yet been invented. Parents in the sixties were the opposite of helicopters ~ maybe more like Poseidon Adventure parents ~ sink or swim. It wasn't that they didn't care; but their lives didn't revolve around their kids, as much as shows like Leave It To Beaver tried to convince people. We were expected to show up for meals, kind of a "proof of life" gesture; otherwise it was preferable for all concerned that we find ways to occupy ourselves.

My friend Alice's parents were a bit more involved in her life. I remember riding the bus with Alice to her house after school and lazing about on kitchen stools and her mom asking how her day was. That was bizarre! I think she might have even asked me, which rendered me tongue-tied. I don't think my mom ever expressed interest in my daily life until I turned forty.

When Alice and I were on our own, we had very few diversions. Playing records, essentially. I'd almost gotten run over by a freight train at age ten when riding my bike across a railroad bridge, so my adventurous streak was by now muted. Alice lived out in the country, albeit in a facsimile of a neighborhood consisting of a strip of six or seven homes surrounded on all sides by tall prairie grass. It was too far to walk to any semblance of civilization, but those seven families held fifties-style parties on Friday or Saturday nights, with pot luck dishes, music, and gallons of booze.

I, on the other hand, lived sort of in the country, too, but my home was surrounded by businesses. My parents owned a 52-unit motel where we resided in a gloomy attached apartment; and there were eating establishments on either side of us and another motel across the highway, as well as a local Volkswagen dealership. Further down the road was Kist's Livestock Barn and another supper club and a watermelon stand (yes). When Alice stayed overnight with me, we feasted on candy bars from the lobby machine, purchased with quarters from the office cash register and ten-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola acquired in the same manner.

One warm night of summer when vacancies were abundant, Mom allowed Alice and me to stay in one of the motel's double rooms. We made a pact that we were going to stay up all night. Somehow we had secured a box of No-Doz, so fueled by white tablets and copious green-tinged bottles of Coke, we found ourselves wide awake at two o'clock in the morning. Like all adolescent notions, this journey turned out to be a bust. I'd brought my transistor, and we danced atop the beds to the grooviest hits of the day.

This video is a replication of what the actual song might have looked like performed live:

This performance actually does feature supercilious Graham Nash, before he was too haughty to perform pop songs:

At some point in the middle of the night, we decided to smear on white lipstick and tie cloth belts around our foreheads and venture out to act "cool". Lee's Steakhouse was just a short jaunt through the trees. Despite its name, Lee's was just a cafe; one that stayed open 24 hours a day. It was a magnet for late-night club-hoppers who had a sudden craving for pancakes and maple syrup. Lee's served up a mouth-watering fried chicken basket (in an actual basket) with fries and a tiny cup of cole slaw. Lonely guys would nurse a steaming cup of coffee in a booth alone and flirt with Hilda, the late-shift waitress. The family that owned Lee's lived in an actual house behind the restaurant and their kids were great friends of my little brother and sister. And I knew Hilda from having hung around the cafe on my bored days. She was twenty-something and very kind.

Alice and I had about thirty-five cents between us as we sauntered through the door of Lee's at three a.m., barefoot (which apparently was allowed back then), wearing shorts and sleeveless blouses; our foreheads encircled by macrame headbands. We slid inside a booth, sipped water, and when Hilda stopped by with her pad and a puzzled look, said "No thanks, just water". We chomped on crackers from the little plastic boats parked on the table and slurped water from beveled glasses through paper straws.

Occasionally I'd stroll over to the juke box, slip a couple of dimes in the slot and punch up records we liked:

Our thirst for attention went unsated. The only person in the place who found us weird was Hilda, and she wasn't thrilled that no tip would be forthcoming from the saltine munchers. There were two lone guys in the place who probably had issues of their own they were dealing with, and two spotlight-hungry pre-teens didn't warrant a speck on their radar.

After an hour we tromped back to our motel room. The night was black and the world eerily quiet. And we were still bug-eyed from the amphetamines. We crawled into our respective beds and gabbed until eventually we fell asleep and dozed until mid-afternoon.

Sorry this story doesn't have a blockbuster ending, but the life of a thirteen-year-old in the mid-sixties was drearily mundane. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

I've Apparently Forgotten About The Year 1966 -- On Purpose?

Mostly, 1966 was a good year for me...until December. So, yes, mostly good. The year started out well. I had a birthday party in May. That was only the second birthday party I'd ever had in my life, and I have no memory of my first one, since I was five and had no "friends"; only cousins. For this one, in 1966, I got to invite actual friends. I had a best friend, Cathy, and a new friend who'd just moved to town -- I think her name was Denise...or Debbie (obviously it wasn't a long-term friendship). Having a new friend created some friction between Cathy and me, which was rather unfair. I didn't quiz Cathy on who she hung out with in her neighborhood while I was ensconced out at the farm. The best thing about staying overnight at Denise/Debbie's house was that she lived next door to my boyfriend, Chuck. At night we'd hold up notes in her bedroom window and Chuck would write notes back and hold them up for us to read (okay, it was fifth grade, for heaven's sake). Chuck was my boyfriend by default -- he picked me. I'd come to school in the morning and find anonymous notes inside my desk. It took me a while to figure out where they'd come from. The fact that Chuck stared at me incessantly was my first clue.

So, I had a boyfriend and a birthday party. I invited all my school friends and Cathy, who attended a different elementary school. I would like to say that I invited all the girls in my class, but I'm sure I didn't. Girls are not inherently nice. We have our feuds and resentments and just genuine dislikes. I remember one girl, Kristin, who I absolutely hated. I don't remember why, but I was not nice to her, nor was she to me. She'd apparently pissed me off one too many times. One Saturday afternoon, I phoned the local pizza parlor from my sister's apartment and ordered mass quantities of pizza and a bucket load of sodas to be delivered to Kristin's house. (In those days, there was no credit card required.) It was a crappy thing to do, but at the time I felt very proud of myself. When I think about it now, I just feel like a creep. The funny thing is, today if I knew Kristin, we'd probably be pals. Or maybe not. So, no, I didn't invite every girl I knew to my birthday party.

Cathy and I perused Popplers Music in Grand Forks every Saturday afternoon, and I let her know as my birthday approached which certain '45 I really, really loved. The trouble was, I loved a lot of current '45's. But I had to pick one so she'd know what to get me for my birthday. I picked this one:

Why did I like this?? Now when I hear it, all I can think of is the Dating Game. Let's just say this single did not stand the test of time.

Now, Debbie/Denise also wanted to know which single I wanted for my birthday. I told her this:

When I opened Debbie/Denise's present, I exclaimed, "Oh, I love this song!" Cathy replied, "I thought you said you loved the Tijuana Brass." 

"Well, I love them both," I hurriedly replied. Cathy was pissed for the rest of the day. 

So, yes, I loved a lot of tracks in 1966. (The Righteous Brothers single at least holds up today.)

In 1966, we had a lot of the (by today's standards) old standbys. They weren't old standbys at the time. We had The Mamas and the Papas, The Supremes, The Rascals, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys. The Beatles, of course. Believe it or not, there was a time when these acts were new. Rubber Soul had been released in '65, but it was still reverberating in 1966. The album was world-shattering.

In browsing the list of the top 100 singles of 1966, I decided to pick out the ones I like the best (and, no, Herb Alpert is not included.)

The Vogues:

Later, sometime in the early seventies, I saw The Vogues performing in a little basement bar in Mandan, North Dakota. They were awesome! Sad that they were stuck performing in little basement bars, but did I mention they were awesome? I think they just loved performing. I saw Bobby Vee in that same little basement and he was loving it, too. Some bands wouldn't admit to themselves that they'd sunk to performing in little holes in the ground. The Doobie Brothers played there, too, and were a bit too haughty for their modest circumstances. I'd forgotten about that little bar, which is sad, because it was only 500 feet away from my parents' motel. 

But I digress.

The Lovin' Spoonful:

I think hearing this song was the first time I realized that good music could be quiet. I'd been raised on big pounding drums and big pounding piano and big electric guitar solos, so this song smacked me hard. I never realized it, but The Lovin' Spoonful influenced the way I write songs. As geeky kids, Cathy and I trolled the streets of Grand Forks with our transistors clamped to our ears, and this song in particular made me feel joyful. I've seen John Sebastian on some of those PBS specials and documentaries about Greenwich Village, et cetera, and now he's an old dude, but he definitely had something. To me, the most joyous pop song of all time is "Do You Believe In Magic", largely because of Zal Yanovsky, who's passed away, but boy, what a joie de vivre Zal possessed. That's what music is supposed to be - joyful.

Neil Diamond:

Neil is currently on tour, celebrating fifty years of performing. Fifty! No, that doesn't make me feel old at all; not at all. Cherry Cherry was Neil's first big hit and it charted in 1966. I followed along with Neil's career; purchased his singles recorded on the yellow Bang label. I bought a bunch of them. Neil Diamond was someone who wouldn't let you down. Probably the worst actor off all time (see The Jazz Singer), but sure enough, I watched that movie on HBO over and over, and I have no earthly idea why, other than that I liked Neil Diamond.

The Rascals:

My husband posits that The Rascals could have had a much longer career than they did, because they were so good. I don't know what happened, but I miss them. Granted, those of a certain age will associate this song with a Dr. Pepper commercial, but be that as it may, The Rascals were great.

Here's one...

Okay, yes, Nancy Sinatra only had one true hit, but...have we forgotten it? Nope. It's a weird thing about songs. Nobody can predict what will stick. I mean, think about Ode To Billie Joe, which was, in essence, a real downer, and yet it was gold. Gold! Same with this one. I've karaoked it, because well, who wouldn't?

The Beatles:

I probably fell in love with my husband in 1966, but I was eleven, so...

Chuck was a faded memory by then. Chuck was actually kind of a loser anyway. My (now) husband visited our farm with his family in the summer of 1966. We bonded over my Beatles singles (specifically We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper). Oh, I was eager to share my record collection with him, and he "got it". Most people I knew didn't. When you meet someone who is tripping the same line as you are, you don't forget, because that doesn't happen...hardly ever.

So, this one is a biggie for me:

Johnny Rivers:

Back on the streets of Grand Forks, Cathy and I had become taken with the whole "secret agent" fad. "Get Smart" was playing on our TV's; "The Man From U.N.C.L.E" was a big hit on network TV. I guess James Bond was going strong at the cineplex (we, however, were still mired in bad Elvis Presley flicks). Thus, we decided we, too, could be secret agents. We surveilled the downtown department stores. Our transistors became official transmitters. We had "code names". And Johnny Rivers did this song:

My fun and frolic ended in December when we moved to a new state. Obviously, I knew no one. I was keenly alone. For a painfully shy kid, a friend meant everything. I didn't have any friends. Everybody was a stranger. I don't think I'd ever, up 'til then, initiated a friendship. Friends found me. And I was picky about friends. I couldn't just be friends with any random person. So, everyone in my class was a phantom. What does one do when she needs friends but has none? She creates friends. These became my friends:

As 1966 slid into 1967, I found someone. It took a while, considering my exacting standards. But I made a friend for life. And yes, she approached me.

So, life went on. It wasn't necessarily easy. That's why I don't really tend to remember 1966 fondly. Again, as memory goes, the majority of the year was pretty good, but humans latch onto the bad things, and the bad things overshadow everything else.

In retrospect, though, it was an eventful year in myriad ways.

Growing up isn't easy.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


My husband seems to think that 1966 was the nadir of music, but my feeling is that the "best" music is tucked inside the recesses of one's brain. I remember 1964 and 1965 more than 1966. That may be because sixty-six was a rather traumatic year for me, or maybe because I am right.

Thus, I've decided to find out.

Let's stipulate that there are awesome songs and songs that reek in any given year. I'm not going to try to tip the balance in one direction or the other. I'm relying on Billboard to tell me what people were listening to in nineteen sixty-six, because, shoot, I was eleven years old! How good do you think my memory is?

Disclaimer:  We all romanticize the past. Maybe we do that because the present rather sucks. But it's true we remember the good and conveniently forget the awful. Billboard is here to set me straight. Billboard doesn't lie.

In perusing Billboard's chart of the Year-End Hot 100 from 1966, I find that, yes, there were some excellent songs -- songs that jog my memory (in a good way) and songs that I, sadly, didn't glom onto until a few years later. Not sure why that is. Musical tastes mature? I'm always partial to the songs that bring me back to a time and a place. This one does:

John Sebastian is more than "Welcome Back Kotter". And then there's Zal Yanovsky. I don't think any musician in any band has been as joyful as Zal was.

I saw Johnny Rivers in concert a few years ago, in an intimate setting. Trust me, he is superb. Still. Even in 1966 I was enamored of this artist. The "Live At The Whisky A Go Go" album is classic (even if they didn't know how to spell "whiskey"). It's rare that a live album latches on to one's memory, but this one most definitely did.

As I recap 1966, I'm struck by the number of soon-to-be legends who appeared around that time. I'm told that this guy still packs them in -- at age 75! Yea, that's right. All you hip-hoppers out there and you musically-deficient pop artists, take heed. And I knew him when (well, I actually didn't know him personally, but his music...)

Jann Wenner is a jerk. Just induct Neil into the hall of fame already. What is it, some kind of personal vendetta? Moron.

I was in love with this song in 1966. I mean, in loooove. I still rather love it. Don't ask me to explain it. There's just something...

No, I didn't forget those four guys. Yea, they were a thing in 1966. A THING. THE thing. I was there; I know. Oh, and yes, I had this single. I couldn't afford albums - hello? A single in itself cost a buck. I was a kid! I didn't have a job! On the plus side, at least with the Beatles, one got two great songs for the price of one (Day Tripper was the B side...or was it the A side...doesn't matter now.)

Here we see the dichotomy -- earnest Paul; smart-ass John. I like John:

I also had this next single. Remember Donovan? No? Well, here's the deal...Donovan was on some potent stuff, obviously. He helped to usher in the Summer of Love. The Summer of Love was a time when anybody could record whatever the F they wanted and fellow flower brains would swoon, "That's heavy, man!" In actuality, none of it made any sense. I still liked the song, though.

I loved the Beach Boys. I never loved them more than when they released "California Girls". But that was 1965. By 1966, they were already rehashing old songs (before Brian waddled downstairs in his terrycloth robe and commenced to creating Pet Sounds). This hit from '66 proves that you only need about five words to make a hit song, as long as those words are sung with nice harmonies:

Remember when instrumentals could become hits? You would have needed to be alive and cognizant in the nineteen seventies to remember that. But trust me, in the sixties it wasn't an alien all.

The Sufaris only had one hit, but that hit is played in every tavern in every town on every Saturday night. And people get up and dance to it...The Frug or The Jerk or whatever variation of "dancing" they choose. I personally am a mean Jerk dancer.

Sorry for the Frankie and Annette intro, but it was the best video I could find:

Obviously, this only scratches the surface of 1966; like a phonograph needle scratching the hell out of my precious 45's.

There is more to come. This was mostly the best. Let's dig in the dirt to uncover the worst.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Jolt of Reality?

My husband was searching the online guide for shows to record, for us to watch later.  On PBS, there was an upcoming show called, "60's Pop, Rock & Soul", hosted by Davy Jones.  Since we both were mourning the recent loss of a childhood icon, he decided to record the show.

The preview stated that the show would include performances by such luminaries as Davy (of course), Peter Noone, Mitch Ryder, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and many more.  I was sort of excited about it, because I love nothing more than reliving those halcyon days, when rock 'n roll was young, and so was I.

The other night, we clicked it on.

Well, let me tell you, the first thing that jarred me was the audience.  What the heck?  There was a whole slew of old people, bopping away in their seats, looking rather desperate in their quest to be relevant; hip; groovy?  The couple dancing in the aisle, doing the frug, for God's sake, was a dead giveaway.

My first thought was, why are all these old people in the audience?  How can they even know these songs?  Weren't they they ones who were swooning to some group called, the Crewcuts, doing something like "Sha-Boom"?

And sadly, it dawned on me...I'm one of those old people!  When and how did this happen?

I can't really be like that, can I?  Naww.  I can still walk upright.  I am still "up" with the latest entertainment news, although I'm sort of flummoxed by some of the stuff that seems to be really big right, why are people so enamored by vampires?  Is that like Bela Lugosi, who I watched on a nineteen-inch black and white TV when I was young enough to be frightened out of my mind, and afraid to go to bed at night, and my big brother tormented me that the monster was going to stalk me and kill me?  And he laughed about it with his friends, while my pulse was racing at 200 BPM?  Those vampires?

And why is music now so depressing?  I remember pop music being all airy and bouncy.  La la la, walkin' down the street so fancy free....

But I'm still with it.  Right?  I don't actually have grey hair; well, for the most part.

The show reminded me of when my husband and I bought tickets to see the Moody Blues in concert last year.  We got to the theater, and there were all these elderly people, acting strangely animated.  Completely embarrassing themselves in their zeal and apparent devotion to this group.  Sure, I like Tuesday Afternoon, but it wasn't the Beatles, for God's sake.

And speaking of the Beatles, yea (yea yea), when I saw Paul McCartney in concert, I guess I was like one of those aged silver-tressed ladies, for all intents and purposes; swooning, when he sang, "All My Loving", and I kept repeating in my head, "I am seeing a Beatle!"

See, I don't see myself that way.  Old, I mean.  Didn't the sixties happen just the other day?  Seems like it.

But reality bites (as the movie title states ~ although I don't think I actually saw that movie).

As the performers came on stage to do their numbers, I felt bad. 

Bad, first of all, because the oblivious people in the audience either didn't know or didn't care that most of these folks were not the original artists!  Call me crazy, but I still have most of my faculties, and I know who was in which band, and don't try to call yourself Jefferson Starship if Grace Slick isn't there, and you've got some twenty-something lead singer doing Grace's vocals, and really?  Did Grace somehow learn to stop time?  And if so, can she share her secret with me?

And don't call yourself Paul Revere and the Raiders if Mark Lindsay isn't there to sing the lead vocals.  That's just BS.  I don't care if eighty-year-old "Paul" is faux-playing the keyboards.

And, pardon me, but the Miracles are not the Miracles without Smokey Robinson.  And Roger McGuinn did a fine job singing, "Mr. Tambourine Man", but the Generation X'ers who were doing background vocals were definitely not the Byrds.

The other, more disturbing aspect of the show was the actual "real" artists themselves.  I think I choose to remember them as they were.  Peter Noone not withstanding, because, if you recall, he was recording hit songs when he was 16 years old, so he still looks rather spry, in comparison to the others.

But the Vogues, for example?  I don't really want to see them limping on stage with their walkers and canes.  I saw the Vogues in concert sometime in the seventies, and they were quite vibrant.

So, I'm going to rewrite the show.  I'm going to re-imagine it as it should be; in the sixties.





GARY LEWIS & THE PLAYBOYS (in this case, Gary, NOT looking like an 85-year-old version of his dad):

Remember ? MARK AND THE MSYTERIANS? (and really, you don't have to say "? Mark", because "?" is a question mark, so basically, it reads as "Question Mark Mark and the Mysterians"):

Like it or loath it, this is the real Jefferson Starship Airplane, with the real Grace Slick:

I can't help but find this amusing, and I am somewhat surprised that I found a video of this, because basically a group surreptitiously called, "The Kingsmen" could have been anybody, really.  This was a garage band song.  And, I might add, a song that no one really knows the lyrics to.  It's one of those songs that you can just sing, "Louie Lou-I", and then add whatever words you want.  Because nobody will know whether you're singing the actual lyrics or not.  No one knows what the actual words are.  I think it's a mythological song.  I think it has a deeper meaning.  And archeologists will one day find out what it all means, but we'll all be dead by then, so what do we care?

THE VENTURES also appeared on the show.  Or, should I say, "Venture"?  There was one guy, playing guitar (I don't even want to ask what happened to the other Ventures).  But this guy ~ this "Venture" ~ did the Hawaii Five-O song.  Do I remember this?  Ahh, yes.  Hawaii Five-O ranked right up there with Mannix and Medical Center (starring Chad Everett), and they were all, I believe, on CBS.  CBS had a great run, there, in the late nineteen sixties.  I didn't even like the show, Hawaii Five-O.  I think the only thing I liked was, "Book 'em, Danno" and Jack Lord's hair, but I watched the show religiously.  Maybe I watched it for the theme song.

PETER NOONE (without his Hermits) made one more appearance on the show, luckily (for me) doing my very favorite Herman's Hermits song; "There's A Kind of Hush".  I want to say it was 1967 when this song was released.  I do remember sneaking into my brother's room, when he was away, to sing along with this song, as I played it on his portable stereo system.  Ahhh, the good old, sneaky days:

CHAD & JEREMY (Who remembers them?  Raise your hand!)  I think they appeared on an episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show.  It was either them, or Peter & Gordon.  I always get those two confused.  It's that whole "&" thing.  But in actuality, this was the best performance of the PBS Rock 'n Whatever special; "Summer Breeze":

And, of course, THE BYRDS.  On this particular show, it was just Roger McGuinn with some nondescript background singers, but, as you know, David Crosby was part of the Byrds, as was Chris Hillman, who nobody ever gives credit to, but who was the leader of the Desert Rose Band, which, in my parlance, is rather important, because it was a COUNTRY band.

Lastly, of course, there was Davy.  I was sad, watching the opening number of this PBS show, because, you know, Davy is gone (and I wrote a whole long post about my memories of Davy).

Apparently, I am a silver-haired old lady, because Davy Jones had an indescribable impact on my formative years, and, you know, that was approximately 46 years ago (almost a century), but it feels like, literally, yesterday.

But there he was, on that PBS show, doing that side-dancing (I guess you'd call it); sort of a vaudeville-like ~ sixties hybrid dancing.  But we got it.  We thought it was cool.

So, in conclusion, I am apparently now old, and the bands aren't what they used to be.  And Paul Revere should really find a nice retirement village with his wife, and settle in. 

And the music of the sixties really was better.

So sue me.  I may be grey, but I still know what's what.