One Voice

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I’ve always been good at remembering silly trivia

For the life of me, there have been subjects involving a great deal of memorization — like foreign languages — that I have never been able to learn.

Maybe that’s because an incredible amount of the space in my brain has been devoted to remembering things I never wanted to remember, like titles, artists and even lyrics to nearly every song I heard of the radio between about 1965 and 1975.

Around 1972 or ’73, my friends and I used to go to the Campus Club, a basement beer joint at George Washington University. They rarely had a band, usually just a soundtrack of oldies. One of the games we played was seeing who could identify a new song first. I usually won, and my most shining moment — I can name that tune in one note — came when I got “Light My Fire” by the doors just as it started.

It’s funny how we remember the tiniest of triumphs when we don’t have major ones to remember. It sort of reminds me of the person who said the reason faculty politics are so vicious is that there is so little at stake.

I haven’t played that game it at least 30 years, other than listening to the radio when I’m in the car alone by myself and I have an oldies station on. It might surprise some people who know me, but I listen to Sixties music a lot less than I once did. I almost always still know the song, but there are more times than there once were that the name of the group doesn’t come to mind at all.

The other afternoon I was in the car, and a song with a fairly extensive instrumental lead-in started playing. It didn’t register at first. It certainly wasn’t a major hit by a major group. But all of a sudden, I found myself thinking … “Alice Long,” by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, from ’68 or ’69?

That’s exactly what it was. A song that only got to No. 27 on the Billboard survey in the summer of 1968. A song I never really liked, a song I never really thought much about.

Damn.

I’ve still got it.

And I still speak only one language.

 

posted by Mike in baby boom,Happiness,memories,Music and have No Comments

In 1962, tunes were the saving grace


“That Thing You Do” was written 30-odd years after the heyday of the one-hit wonders of the 1960s, but the beauty of it is that it would have fit into 1962 almost perfectly.

It was such a different time, and it really was a more innocent time to be a teenager. I was 12 that summer, and I listened to my AM radio as if it were giving me the wisdom of the ages.

1962 was the second summer of the New Frontier, and it was still months till the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember that “high-flying” WING/AM counted down the Top 40 every weekday, and I was glued to my radio from 2-5 every afternoon to hear it. We had moved to a different neighborhood that year, and I didn’t really have any friends to play sports with. The summer of ’62 was all about the tunes for me.

I remember how complicated I thought my life was in 1962. I had finally reached puberty, and I was madly in love with the beautiful Diane McClish, who had been my “girlfriend” briefly when I was 7, and the exotic Claudia Dunaway. Neither one of them wanted anything to do with me.

In fact, the only people I remember wanting to hang out with me were the two school bullies. One of them actually told me in October he was going to kill me, and the other used to sneak up on me and punch me. The irony was that even though he was bigger than I was, he always brought along one or two of his minions to hold my arms.

The first guy was scary and I took him very seriously. He was 6-foot-2 in the eighth grade and basically what we would call a mean redneck these days. My salvation was that I knew we were moving from Ohio to Virginia in January and I only had to stay out of his way for three months.

As you can see, I did.

posted by Mike in baby boom,Music,The Sixties and have No Comments

‘T.A.M.I Show’ a great ‘forgotten’ concert

Imagine a show that included the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, James Brown and Marvin Gaye.

Rock ‘n’ roll heaven, indeed. But then add Gerry and the Pacemakers, Lesley Gore, Jan and Dean and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, all at the height of their popularity.

Oh, yeah. And then add Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Supremes and the Rolling Stones.

It’s almost unimaginable to picture the T.A.M.I. Show, which on October 29, 1964, graced the stage of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Seven of the 11 acts have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I had heard of the performance, which was made into a movie that had a limited release, but I never saw it until today. For some reason, it was never released for home video and rarely played on television until it was made into a DVD this year.

It’s odd to look at the screaming audience of teenage girls and realize all of them are at least in their 60′s now. It’s sort of like meeting an old man and having him tell you he was at Woodstock. There’s a cognitive dissonance that it’s hard to get past.

James Brown in 1964

It has long been known that the real show-stopping performance in Santa Monica was by James Brown, and indeed, the Rolling Stones were reportedly very annoyed at having to follow him onstage.

He was a little older than the other performers — 31 in 1964 — and it was obvious that the Hardest Working Man in Show Business was at the peak of his powers. Most of the Southern California teens in the auditorium probably hadn’t had all that much exposure to his music — Motown was just getting big, and Brown was harder-edged than that — but there was no question he won them over.

For as little known as it is, the T.A.M.I. Show — it stood for Teen Age Music International, later changed to Teenage Awards Music International — was probably the greatest aggregation of talent in one show until Woodstock five years later.

It’s a great show, and damn, the music always does take me back.

It always does make me feel better.

It’s almost automatic.

posted by Mike in Americana,California,Movies,Music and have No Comments

The music isn’t for the old (in spirit)

I had an interesting conversation with my son-in-law the other night.

That isn’t surprising in itself; Ryan is a bright young man who has a lot of knowledge in fields that interest me, so even though he’s half my age, he’s pretty sharp.

We were talking about concerts, and the fact the Nicole and I had seen the Beach Boys at the L.A. County Fair in late September. I mentioned that Mike Love, who leads this incarnation of the group, is 68 years old and it was sort of weird to see him jumping around on the stage after all these years.

Ryan said he didn’t think a lot of people understood that rock ‘n’ roll music has always been about being young and rebelling.

“Don’t these people get it?” he asked me.

I told him he was missing the point. Love was born in 1941, so he isn’t a baby boomer, but the Beach Boys were one of the three or four quintessential boomer groups, and the boomers have basically declared that no one in our generation is ever going to get old.

We may die, but we’ll never get old.

Today I had to drive to Beverly Hills to pick up some skin-care products for my wife. How did I dress? Sneakers with no socks, faded 501 jeans and a Nike muscle shirt, with an unbuttoned short-sleeve shirt over it. I can say without fear of error that my father or my grandfather never dressed this way when they were my age.

The whole age thing is weird anyway. When I mentioned to two old friends that I would be celebrating my 60th birthday next month, I got similar reactions from the two of them. One male, one female, and they both said something like, “How can we be 60 when we’re still 24 in our hearts?”

It beats the heck out of me. I’m a grandfather and happy to be one, but there are about as many days I don’t feel like an adult as days when I feel the other way.

The kid clears the horse

The kid clears the horse

Was it really 43 years ago when I cleared that pommel horse with my mouth wide open, and dear Lord, was I ever really that skinny?

The answers are yes and yes. That picture was taken in 1966, when I still felt like there was a chance I could someday do just about whatever I wanted.

Heck, I was part of the biggest generation in American history. We were the ones who were going to change the culture and stay forever young.

Of course, “Forever Young” is just the title of another Bob Dylan song, and an awful lot of us are starting to look at retirement as something wonderful out there on the horizon.

Yeah, we’re not what we used to be. I think the saying that comes to mind is that it takes me all night long to do what I used to do all night long.

When I can stay awake.

So yes, Ryan, rock ‘n’ roll is for the young and rebellious, and I can’t really name a band or an artist that I like who came along much after the 1980s, except for some country artists. I do like the Dixie Chicks.

But sometimes I think the music isn’t what it once was either. It’s more corporate, more angry, less exuberant. It’s a lot easier to sing the happy, passionate songs of your youth when you’re 65 than it is to stay mad forever. I think that’s one reason there aren’t a whole lot of Sex Pistols tribute bands.

But rock ‘n’ roll — good old ’50s and ’60s rock ‘n’ roll — will never die.

At least until all the boomers are gone.

posted by Mike in baby boom and have No Comments
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