Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 24, 2005

Part II: Dead Man's Curve

In 1960 I was all of 9 years old, perhaps the perfect age to appreciate “Alley Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles but a little to young to fully get Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini”. This year continued the confusion in pop music—ballads led the charts with Elvis at the top of his movie crooner persona, scoring with “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and “It’s Now or Never”. Other ballads scored big with “I’m Sorry” by Brenda Lee, “Cathy’s Clown” by the Everly Brothers and Mark Dinning’s “Teen Angel”. There was the bluesy “Georgia on my Mind” by Ray Charles, rockers like “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Johnny Bond, “The Twist” by Chubby Checker, country and western like Marty Robbins’s “El Paso” and music was getting pretty crowded.

Two songs in particular put me back into the 1960 of bobby socks and poodle skirts. Paul Peterson, the TV son of Donna Reed, had a big hit with “Tell Laura That I Love Her”, one many songs about tragic car crashes. I had a big time crush on Shelley Faberes, his TV sister. The other song conjures up perhaps the most iconic young female of the times, Sandra Dee, who starred in the big hit movie “A Summer Place”. I believe Percy Faith’s theme to this movie to be one of the most beautiful instrumental songs ever, and remember dancing with the first girl that wasn’t my sister to this song in 4th grade.

There were many great songs of 1960 but little direction, unless you look very closely. If you do you’ll notice another instrumental way down the list. Playboy wasn’t just showing us pictures, but also was introducing the masses (of males, anyway) to the cutting edge of many things. One of these was Hi Fi, what we now call Audio. Folks in Malibu, Laguna and even The Valley were starting to upgrade to component stereo rigs, and studios from LA to Newport to London were starting to play around with the knobs mindful of the possibilities. Charting this year was a hit with a reverb heavy, vibrato tail crankin’ electric guitar up front, a power chord heavy rhythm guitar, a stepped up bass clicking right along and artfully mixed drums. This little power quartet was called the Ventures and the song was “Walk, Don’t Run”, an edgier remake of a Chet Atkins song.

More of the same in ’61, ballads, novelties, Do Wop, it was the year of Patsy Cline with “Crazy “and “I Fall To Pieces”. I can remember my sister teaching me the twist and the pony but not much else. I was starting to play music myself at this time, and I think my focus was on that. There wasn’t much pop I could play on the bass clarinet. We would go around singing “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean but my favorite from the year was “Runaway” by Del Shannon.

Considering that the short Kennedy era was in full swing it’s hard to believe music was so stagnant. Perhaps one development was R & B getting a little funkier with the Drifter’s “Some Kind of Wonderful”.

6th grade came with dance parties, here’s where all my lessons from sis really paid off! It was the year of The Four Seasons and I remember snuggling up to “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and actually breaking up to “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka. It was my first basketball year, and I remember quite well the new concept of showering en masse being made more tolerable by our singing “Duke of Earl” at the top of our lungs! Perhaps something like the way an engine revs from loss of fuel back pressure just before it runs out of gas the Four Seasons were the very best and last of what I thought of as the white Do Wop era. Ironically, the band that would in a real way begin the trek out of the hot rod days and into the socially anarchical 60’s loved to sing about cars with “409”, but the Beach Boys gave a whole new demographic of suburban kids a fresh set of images with “Surfin’ Safari”.

Along came 1963 and music was in for more shakeup. The popularity of the transistor radio had given kids a chance to control their own airwaves, and now the incredibly swift march of electronic innovation was making the personal stereo a reality. Kids (and hip adults) were starting to buy albums. Popularity was still fueled by the pop charts, but there was more room for innovation. Still, the vocal groups dominated. The Four Seasons (“Walk Like a Man”), Drifters (“Up on the Roof”, “On, Broadway”) and the Chiffon’s (“He’s So Fine”) all scored big. So did ballads like Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” and Steve Lawrence’s “Go Away, Little Girl”. Slowly but steadily though the tempos were beginning to pick up. The surf was way up with “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys and “Surf City” by Jan and Dean—and Martha and the Vandellas were sizzling with “Heat Wave”. And like a gift from the muses plopped down into my adolescent lap was a little ditty called “Louie, Louie”, “sung” by the Kingsmen. It doesn’t get better than that for a sixth grader!

The summer of ’63 saw the greatest, most diverse mass demonstration ever brought to Washington, the March on Washington, culminating with MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Making a return to the charts was the folk “sound” with Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and the Dylan penned “Blowin’ in the Wind”, Trini Lopez (of all people) singing “If I Had Hammer” and The Rooftop Singers singing “Walk Right In”. It was becoming a time when we cared about social issues but I think we may have been overlooking a certain aspect of this music. Check this out:
Walk right in and sit right down, and daddy, let your hair hang low
You'd better walk right in and stay a little while, daddy, you can stay too long
Now everybody's talkin' 'bout a new way of walkin', do you wanna lose your mind?
Lord, walk right in and sit right down, daddy, let your mind roll on

The assassination came and we lost our “Puff” cuteness. The next year came and in part three we would begin to “lose” our minds.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger Llamafarmer said...

I like your writing very much. I'm 3 yrs. older than you.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger sequoit said...

Thanks, Ralph:

I've got some vacation coming up and then my schedule starts to pick up so I hope I can continue to give it the time, as I enjoy doing it.

Funny, I've been kicking around how to express my feelings about the gathering storm in this country--I see that this is a subject of concern for you as well. It's not so much that I think fascism will happen, but I fear that this is how it happens. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of our society to this progressive is that the right has all the guns.

How do you manage to have an IT job in Colorado? I took courses and got an MCSE, A+, net+, etc. but I was about two years late to get into it with no experience.

I'm certainly overqualified to run this xp pro machine at this point!

Thanks again,


At 11:49 AM, Blogger JD said...

I see the beginning of something here...


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