"The fifties era provided the backbone of American Rock N' Roll, while the sixties energized it; with careful fine-tuning, and a dash of Motown blended into the rock and roll recipe, the sweetest sounds the world has ever known came to fruititon in the '60's decade."
Got a Record Player?
60's music was fantastic. There were so many hits and groups, I could barely keep track of them. My very first memorable 60's music memories would probably have to begin with "Tom Dooley"by the Kingston Trio This 45 that got played and played until there was nothing left but dust. I remember that we had a 45 called "Ben Crazy" by Dickie Goodman. That one, along with "The Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett were among my favorites. For some reason, I was really attracted to "Ben Crazy", and played it all the time. During this time, LPs slowly began to surface in our household. We could never afford the famous artists, so my Mom always bought us "copycat" groups, or collections by artists that were less expensive.
Such an adventure in the world of long players would delight me with such tunes on one album as: "South Street", "The Bristol Stomp" and "The Twist". I pretty much wore that record out. I also recall The Newbeats' hit "Bread and Butter". I always thought that it was a woman singing all the weird solos, and was thrilled to death when I learned that it was a man. This same thing would also occur with The Four Seasons.
1964 was a big year for me and my expansion of, and introduction to rock and roll music. I could expound forever on The Beatles. especially "Please, Please Me". and the entire catalog of Beatles magnitudes that exploded during 1963 and 1964. The stronghold that they and their music had over me was incredible.
What I would like to mention about The Beatles that I don't really cover on my Beatles page, was that they were like secret friends to me, more so than any other British act. The Beatles had something that almost every kid could identify with: they defied the norm. They accepted authority, but preferred to side-step it. This much was evidenced in their music, their manner, and from the raw street energy that screamed out of them whenever they were armed with guitars and audience to play for. They were animated; they moved with the music instead of being like cardboard stand-up figures under a spotlight.
The message they were sending wasn't to be "bad", but to be "yourself" and do it with everything you've got. They were a tremendous release for me. Finally, there was someone in the world who knew how important it was to be individual. I can remember crying and bouncing on the couch just like the girls on TV when they hit the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964. That moment is unforgettable. They had long, most bizarre looking hairstyles that were really cool!! It was combed forward, bangs straight down, sideburns, flips in the back! It was rebellion and explosive screaming energy. Now, couple those two things with incredible songs and performances.
The Wrecking Crew
If you loved the song, they probably played on it! The Wrecking Crew was probably the most prolific band of musicians in the history of rock music. They were an incredibly talented band of session musicians based in Los Angeles, who literally provided the soundtracks of our lives on thousands of studio recordings throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s. They were largely unrecognized for their abundant contributions to the music we love and remember, but were viewed with reverence by the music industry. Included in their massive body of work is hundreds of top 40 hits. The Wrecking Crew is now considered one the most successful units of session musicians in the recording industry. The list of songs and hits and albums and performances they've either completely supported, or contributed to, is nearly endless! Even legendary greats like Glen Campbell and Leon Russell were Crew members.
1964: A Turning Point
1964's "Wishin' and Hopin'" by Dusty Springfield. was one of the greatest records I can recall hearing at the time. So much goodness was screaming out of radio waves. A musical revolution was going on. It was like the central nervous system jolting me into a sudden awareness. A new army had merged onto the American front. From across two separate shores, this army invaded; The Kinks, Freddy and The Dreamers, Herman's Hermits, The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, The Ventures, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and two of my personal favorite groups: The Dave Clark Five and Gary Lewis and the Playboys were a part of this new musical militia.
There were songs that I can recall that are also very strong memory triggers for me in 1964. "land of a 1000 dances is one of them. My brother Mike really wanted that 45, and I guess being influenced by my older brother, I too thought it was a cool song. "Red Roses for a Blue Lady" by Wayne Newton was a favorite of my Mom and I remember buying it for her. In keeping with my Mom's favorites, she joined the Columbia House record club and received a bunch of free albums to get her started with. She got some pretty good stuff like Tony Bennett "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" with great tunes like "Love for Sale" and "Once Upon a Time" that accompanied the title track. Alan Sherman's "My Son the Folk Singer" was a comedy classic and I think we just about wore that album out in our house. She also received some Percy Faith and a few more that I just can't remember right now.
What I liked most about those early and mid-sixties groups was the fact that the music was so much fun and had energy. The surf scene was hot, and so were the surf bands. The music had a style that was easily recognizable. It wasn't that it was just instrumental guitar work. It was the guitar style. Enough tremolo and reverb, combined with picking the strings up close to the bridge provided a unique sound and style. The same follows suit with the surf drummers who played their cymbals as instruments that kept rhythm rather than crashing crescendos on certain notes. Surf was raw, and tough; it had a statement, and the music was a thrill. The Ventures big hit "Walk Don't Run" was one of my favorites. Duane Eddy's "Rebel Rouser" was also hot, as was "Out of Limits" by The Marketts. The latter two, were my first guitar attempts as I struggled to learn chords and riffs as a youngster. Remember "sidewalk surfing"? I got my first skateboard in 1964, a red "Roller Derby".
The Girls of Rock N' Roll
Add curves to a chorus, and good things were bound to happen; and happen they did!
Though as fascinated as I was with electric guitars, the emergence of girl groups was absolutely wonderful. They provided some of the best, and most memorable songs I can think of. Girl groups were a force; when they splashed onto the scene in the 60's, I really believe that they dominated a good portion of the industry. I'm talking about all music, not just rock n' roll. It was country, rhythm and blues, pop, and even folk that brought forth either female complete groups, or with female lead singers. In school, most of the girls imitated her hair style and often formed their own "girl groups" on the school grounds at recess. The Motown Queen Aretha Franklin was an incredible compliment to the music industry, and left a girl-sized footprint that was almost impossible to fill by anyone else.
When The Shirelles released "One Fine Day" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", I thought that they were some of the greatest, most-polished songs I'd ever heard from anyone, boy, or girl. It was then that I truly began to look forward to girl groups on the radio simply for the "sing-along" effect they had on me. Martha and the Vandellas, Diane Renay, Dusty Springfield, The Chiffons, and so many more truly inspired me when I was young. In particular, J.S. Bach's Minuet in G underwent cosmetic surgery with The Toys' cheerful brightening of "Lover's Concerto." (They must have known that Bach composed this piece for his wife.)
1965 & The Music Was Alive
Although perhaps a thousand artists haven't yet been mentioned, my memories of 1965 are very strong thanks to the influences of newer bands from right here in the states. The Turtles and The Byrds were catching my attention. The song "Mr. Tambourine Man" with its electric 12-string was, in my opinion, one of the hottest songs to ever come out. I still love it to death. "California Girls" by The Beach Boys became my national anthem. Music was our heartbeat back in those glorious days. Everything we did, felt, ate, drank, or dreamed about had a music soundtrack somewhere in the background. Radios were ablaze and sounded through open summer windows and cruising muscle cars.
I can remember hearing the rhythms of "California Girls" and "Mr. Tambourine Man". I couldn't believe how fantastic both of those songs were. Herman's Hermits' "Henry the VIII" is also one of those memory triggers. 1965 was a beautiful year. Even with all the domestic talent that was truly giving England a serious run for her money, The Beatles just got better and better. No matter who did it, they topped it. "Help!" was a landmark effort considering that it was basically a soundtrack album with a minimal amount of original songs.
1966: The Times They Were a-Changin'
1966 was a year that I remember as witnessing odd, trend-setting changes in the world of music. First of all, The Beatles were having a really hard time with their popularity in the States. Lennon's "we are more popular than Jesus Christ" remark to the Evening Standard on March 4th, 1966 was a particularly reckless statement. America launched a massive burn your Beatle albums campaign that seriously tarnished their name and reputation. This wasn't all. The Beatles' overall appearance had turned me off like nothing before. They now had mustaches, and Lennon wore glasses. Other bands were bursting onto the scene in similar dress. Hippiedom, psychedelia, and the Summer of Love were just around the corner. As much as I loved The Beatles, the new look was really hard to get used to.
1966 was the year where costumed bands were starting to emerge. Acts like Paul Revere and the Raiders and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs were completely cool. I do remember "Wooly Bully" was a life-changing song for me. "I'm a Believer" penned by Neil Diamond and performed by The Monkees was probably one of the few songs in history that had me glued to the radio in waiting. Nancy Sinatra came onto the scene bringing new life to go-go boots, explaining to us all that they were basically "made for walking".
The Monkees, The Mamas & The Papas, Question Mark & The Mysterians, Tommy Roe, The Rolling Stones, The Young Rascals, The Four Tops, The Mindbenders, The Beach Boys, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Standells, Johnny Rivers and so many more were topping the charts in 1966. Tommy Roe had a succession of hits while relative newcomers like Simon and Garfunkel and Donovan were giving us new things to hear and think about.
1967: The Summer of Love
Wow what a summer! The Summer of Love had a tremendous impact on music, and the San Francisco scene had redefined West Coast pop & rock n' roll. The bay area rock scene was coming into its own by the time the summer of 1967 kicked in. A whole new arena of music had thrown aside its doors; look out world, Psychedelia and acid rock was now American radar. Groups like Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Joy of Cooking, Moby Grape, Blue Cheer, Cold Blood, The Sons of Champlin, The Steve Miller Band and many, many more were lighting up the scene.
The face of '60's music was changing; acts like The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Electric Prunes, Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf were moving in. Even The Beatles joined in with a late spring release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonelyhearts Club Band", an LP riding on the coat tails of "Magical Mystery Tour". The world of youth was a cult that I happily belonged to. I was in tune, and in that Summer of Love, life was a gigantic wave that you either went with, or got swept aside. I chose to go with it. Though the transition was not so easy at first. I felt like a stranger, a newcomer to the new world. The age of Aquarius hadn't quite extended both arms to me yet.