RSS Feed

Tag Archives: 1964

500 posts, 51 years.

Posted on

This is, you’ll be thrilled to know, Post No. 500 in the history of Neck Pickup. To celebrate, I’m both going to give the Five Readers what they want, and go a little out of my comfort zone.

The readership stats and the comments tell me people like it when I write about old radio countdowns — either Casey Kasem American Top 40 jawns, or local radio-station play charts. So I’ll do a little more of that.

But, just for fun, I’m gonna leave my Seventies comfort zone and go all the way back to Beatlemania.

I grew up hearing plenty of Sixties tunes on Saturday-night all-request oldies hours, and some of them still rattle around my transom from time to time. (“Don’t ya know that she’s juuuuuust myyyyy style / Ev’rything about her driiiiiives meeeeeee wild.”)

Left to my own devices, though, I will write about a 15-year period roughly bounded by Sgt. Pepper’s and Business As Usual. Just seems to be where I’m most at home, I guess.

We’re headed somewhere different thanks to Allentown’s old WHOL-AM 1600 (“Top Of The Dial – The Top Popper Sounds!”), and its local airplay report for the week ending Aug. 14, 1964.

Will there be Beatles? Of course. But what else will there be?

Let’s find out:

-Pretty nice mix of stuff in the Top 10.

I often tend to reduce ’64, in my mental periscope, to near-toxic doses of Beatles; a bunch of other Limeys with guitars serving as supporting cast; and the occasional shot of Motown. But WHOL’s biggest hits are a little more well-rounded than that.

We’ve got two Motown and soul classics (“Where Did Our Love Go” and “Under the Boardwalk”) … some smooveness from Dean Martin … Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons doing the Jersey falsetto thang about as well as they ever did it … some handclapping garage rock from the Premiers (hilariously covered, years later, by Neil Young and Crazy Horse) … some acceptably humorous pop-country from Roger Miller … some one-hit-wonder soul from Patty and the Emblems (not the “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl” later performed by Mink DeVille and Boz Scaggs, but a pretty good tune nonetheless) … and, oh yeah, those guys from Liverpool at No. 3 with a song that still owns any room it plays in.

I don’t love all these songs, necessarily, but somebody listening to the radio in Bethlehem or Kutztown would have heard a pretty good range of stuff.

-Just to get the Fab Four mentions out of the way, they notch four songs on WHOL’s 50-song countdown.

I’m counting “And I Love Her/If I Fell” as one song, as listed at No. 12, even though it’s two — and both are gorgeous. I suppose I should count George Martin’s “Ringo’s Theme,” at No. 27, as a Beatles song as well, since the Fifth Beatle wouldn’t have been getting U.S. airplay if not for the Other Four.

At 36, meanwhile, is “Ain’t She Sweet,” a tune recorded by the Beatles in 1961 Hamburg during a session backing Tony Sheridan, and rushed out to make some money off Beatlemania. Could the teens of ’64 tell the difference between the “real” Beatles and the cash-in Beatles, or did they just slurp it all up indiscriminately?

(I would be hard put to point any generational fingers: It was people my age who sent the clearly cobbled-together G’n’R Lies, one full side of which was studio recordings posing as live, to the U.S. Top Five.)

-The Rolling Stones appear to be just surfacing on the Lehigh Valley’s radar screen, with “Tell Me” (No. 38, up two notches) and “It’s All Over Now” (No. 49, first week) apparently both on their ways up.

On a chart littered with British acts, I wonder how many listeners spotted the Stones as up-and-comers with potential, and how many figured they were just another bunch of here-and-gone long-hairs.

(I have always found “Tell Me” to be, as the British say, wet; but the germ of the Stones’ swaggering genius is present in “It’s All Over Now.”)

-A couple of future American Pop Geniuses were having mediocre weeks in August of ’64.

The once-popular American surfing sound was reduced to a two-song beachhead at Nos. 14 and 15. One song was classic, and one gimmicky. You don’t need me to tell you which was which, right?

(Whoops: Just noticed the Rip-Chords’ “Wah-Wahini” at No. 50. I guess that counts as a third surf song. I don’t think it troubled listeners all that much, though.)

The Beach Boys would be back about two weeks after this countdown with a new single, “When I Grow Up To Be A Man,” a departure from the cocksure teenage strut of “I Get Around.” It resonated well enough with the kids, hitting the Top 10, but intimated that things other than sea and surf were now occupying Brian Wilson’s head.

And, at No. 42 and heading south, you’ll see boy genius Stevie Wonder with “Hey Harmonica Man,” one of a string of commercially and artistically underwhelming singles released after the success of “Fingertips.”

Not until November 1965 would Stevie break out of his teenage rut with another solid hit, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” — never a favorite of mine, but lots of other people dug it.

-Another American genius putting in his time shows up at No. 47.

As a mid-Nineties college graduate, I find that Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” has a permanent stink of 1994 about it, just as strongly as any college-radio hit of that year — thanks to its placement in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a movie you pretty much were required to see if you were in college when it came out.

(Indeed, I am not sure if the aroma that bothers me comes from 1994 or from Quentin Tarantino, who always seemed just a little too eager to tell anyone who would listen about how wide-ranging his record collection was and how much fun it was to match just the right obscure pop song to a scene in which someone gets decapitated by a broadsword.)

I can live without the director, I can live without the movie, and I can live without the song.

Made sense at the time, I guess.

(As a further insult to Chuck, the Dion cover of “Johnny B. Goode” listed as hitbound at the bottom of the WHOL chart topped out nationally at only No. 71.)

-There’s a weird burst of Jamaica down in the 30s and 40s, with the Ska Kings’ “Jamaica Ska,” Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop” and Tracey Dey’s “Ska-Doo-De-Yah.” (The latter record, YouTube tells me, was a production and co-write by Bob Crewe of Four Seasons fame. Not exactly straight outta Trench Town, that one.)

I get the sense that the record industry, or some portion of it, had decided that Jamaican ska was the Next Big Thing and was putting some promotion behind it.

(Remember how the “Bosstown Sound” of 1968 tried to ride the wave of the organic San Francisco Sound of ’67? I wonder if the record companies counterprogrammed ska as an attempt to identify the next Beatle-ish trend. It didn’t take.)

-The listing for the “WHOL Pic LP” is American Tour by the Dave Clark Five.

That might sound like a live elpee of the band onstage in Worcester or San Bernardino or someplace, but it ain’t. According to Wiki, American Tour is a studio album. In Canada, where truth in advertising laws were apparently no more stringent, it was released as On Stage With the Dave Clark Five.

A year later, when radio newsman Ed Rudy released an LP of Dave Clark Five interviews, he titled it The New U.S. Tour with Ed RudyWonder if any inattentive kids bought that one, thinking it was the live album they’d hoped to hear with American Tour but hadn’t gotten? (My man Jim Bartlett tells more of the Ed Rudy story here.)

-Finally, I note the tease at the bottom to see all your favorite WHOL personalities at the Great Allentown Fair. That’s an annual end-of-summer tradition with carnival rides, farm animals and such, and indeed this year’s fair will be along in just a few weeks.

According to multiple sources, Andy Williams performed at the Great Allentown Fair in 1964, and brought with him a clean-cut group from his TV show that would, a few unpredictable years down the road, trigger a smaller version of Beatlemania.

At the time, they were called the Osmond Brothers.

Fifty years on.

In 2014, America’s mass media will celebrate the 50th anniversary of a defining moment of baby boomer culture — the arrival of the Beatles and their attendant mania.

The anniversary is already being noted in some circles. My man Jim Bartlett, for instance, recently did some good work on the earliest American DJs and radio stations to play Beatles records.

But what if you’re not a Beatles fan? Are you doomed to spend 2014 endlessly repeating a triumph in which you have no interest? Is your best course of action to lock yourself in a closet for the next year, with a copy of London Calling your only company?

As a service to you, our faithful reader, here’s a list of 15 significant non-Beatle musical events that will also mark their 50th anniversaries in 2014. All sorts of interesting stuff went on in 1964 that didn’t involve John, Paul, George, Ringo, or the mop-topped Limeys who followed in their wake.

Raise a glass to one of these milestones instead, if you feel nostalgic.

1. The recording of A Love Supreme. John Coltrane recorded his most widely heard, acclaimed and beloved album in December 1964 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in New Jersey. The album was released the following February.

2. The release of “Viva Las Vegas,” the high point of Elvis’ career between his release from the Army and his comeback special. The swingin’ title track was a hit, and the movie — released in May — was one of Elvis’ few post-Army films in which he woke up and put forth an effort.

3. The release of Bob Dylan’s fourth album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, in August. The album marked Dylan’s shift away from socially conscious lyrics (or, as he put it, “finger-pointing songs”) and towards more personal concerns — a major, and necessary, evolution.

4. A pretty good four months for the Supremes. Diana Ross and company hit Number One three times between the end of August and the end of December, with “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love” and “Come See About Me.” I’m not a fan myself, but those who go in for Motown or girl-group pop would struggle to find three more definitive records than that.

5. A pretty good year for show tunes. I’m not a fan of the musical the-ay-ter, either. But even nonbelievers like me can whistle a couple of songs from “Hello, Dolly!” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” which opened in January and September of 1964. Oh, and don’t forget  “Mary Poppins,” released in August, which came with its own batch of memorable original songs.

6. The release of Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian in October. Dylan might have been moving away from socially conscious lyrics, but Cash wasn’t. He tackled one of America’s more righteous and less glamorous causes at full album length, and got a Top Five country hit out of the bargain.

7. The composition of Terry Riley’s “In C.” The piece was first recorded in 1968, so not many people would have heard it in the year of its birth. But over time, “In C” would be recognized as an early classic in the field of minimalist composition.

8. The formation and first recordings of Them. The spirited Irish R&B group formed in April of 1964, made its first recordings in July and released its first hit, “Baby Please Don’t Go,” in November. The band is best remembered now for its lead singer, a complicated, pugnacious lad named Van Morrison.

9. The filming and release of “The T.A.M.I. Show.” Movie audiences who wanted something younger than Elvis and edgier than “Mary Poppins” could have gone to see this now-legendary concert film, taped in October at the Santa Monica, Calif., Civic Auditorium. It’s most commonly remembered as the movie in which James Brown blows the fledgling Rolling Stones off the stage. Other acts on the bill included the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Jan and Dean, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and the Supremes.

10. The release of All Summer Long in July. Oh, yeah, the Beach Boys. They stayed busy in 1964 too, releasing a couple of studio albums and their first live (or at least semi-live) album. All Summer Long, like their other early albums, is highly uneven. But its one-two opening punch of “I Get Around” and “All Summer Long” nicely captures the group’s combination of teenage bravado and vulnerability.

11. The release of Out To Lunch! Jazz multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy died in June 1964 from complications of diabetes — a far too early end to a promising career. A few months before his death, Blue Note Records released Out To Lunch!, Dolphy’s final album as a leader. The album, which features a heavyweight cast of collaborators, is often praised as a classic of Sixties jazz.

12. The passing of Cole Porter. Speaking of losses to the musical world, America’s most wonderfully urbane songwriter died Oct. 15, 1964. The 50th anniversary of his death seems like a delightful opportunity to mix up a few cocktails and do something intelligently naughty.

13. Birthdays. Conversely, if you want to celebrate someone’s 50th birthday in 2014, you can choose from any number of performers, depending on your taste. To name a few, there’s folksinger Tracy Chapman; Duff McKagan of Guns n’ Roses and Velvet Revolver; Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum; Chris Cornell of Soundgarden; Trey Anastasio of Phish; jazz vocalist Diana Krall; and Corey Glover and Will Calhoun of Living Colour.

14. The composition of La Monte Young’s “The Tortoise Recalling The Drone of The Holy Numbers as They Were Revealed in the Dreams of The Whirlwind and The Obsidian Gong and Illuminated by The Sawmill, The Green Sawtooth Ocelot and The High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer.” Young’s version of the song failed to reach the Hot One Hundred, but Manfred Mann later rode the tune to a Top Ten showing in 1977. (Still paying attention?)

15. The 1964 Grammys. Announced in May. The all-star cast of winners included Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bill Evans, Count Basie, Quincy Jones, Vladimir Horowitz, and Erich Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The winners for Best Rock and Roll Recording: April Stevens and Nino Tempo, “Deep Purple.” (Maybe Beatlemania is worth celebrating after all.)