Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Association and Other Peeps

American Response: Part 6
In 1961, The Cyrkle was a pop band formed by lead singers Don Dannemann and Tom Dawes while studying at college in Easton, Pennsylvania. Originally a garage rock group called The Rondells, they were later discovered and managed by Brian Epstein (The Beatles' manager) in 1965, renaming them The Cyrkle (John Lennon suggested the unique spelling). In the summer of 1966, the group joined The Beatles on their U.S. tour and performed as one of the opening acts, including The Beatles final concert at Candlestick Park. Earlier that year in April 1966, they had released their biggest hit, "Red Rubber Ball," co-written by Paul Simon (who offered this song to the group while they were on tour with Simon and Garfunkel) and Bruce Woodley (of The Seekers). Reaching #2 on the charts, this classic still receives lots of airplay on the 'oldies' station today, leading listeners to mistake them for another one-hit wonder, although they did have another Top-40 hit. After The Cyrkle disbanded, both Dannemann and Dawes went on to be professional jingle writers, with Dawes writing the famous "plop plop fizz fizz" Alka-Seltzer jingle and Dannemann penning the original 7Up Uncola song.

Speaking of Simon & Garfunkel, this great American pop/folk duo is no stranger to The '60 Beat. Known for their vocal harmonies, singer-songwriter Paul Simon and singer Art Garfunkel released some of the most popular music in the 1960s and are ranked #40 of the 100 greatest artists of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. Rising to fame with the folk rock movement that grew out of the British Invasion, the group gained further popularity in 1967 when their music was featured in the landmark film The Graduate. An early version of "Mrs. Robinson" appeared several times throughout the movie, while the complete song was recorded and released in 1968 on the album Bookends. The film's producer asked Simon to write three songs for the movie, but by the time it was nearly edited, the group had been too busy touring and Simon had only written one new song. The producer begged for more, so Simon just played him a different song he had been writing that had nothing to do with the movie, "about past times, Mrs. Roosevelt, Joe DiMaggio, and stuff." The director advised Simon, "It's now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt." Here's a live performance of the song that earned the duo a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

In 1965, The Association formed in Los Angeles and went on to have several big hits, eventually becoming the lead-off band at the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967. With their music in the sunshine pop genre , they started out playing many gigs all over L.A., but had difficulty getting a record label contract due to their unique sound. After signing with Valiant Records, the group got their national break with the release of "Along Comes Mary" in 1966, followed by a string of hits, however, my absolute favorite song by these guys is "Never My Love," a great tune that hit #1 on the Cashbox chart in 1967. With dual vocals by Terry Kirkman and Larry Ramos, this baroque pop/sunshine pop classic is "laid-back and dreamy, [yet] sleek and sophisticated," and according to BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) in 1999, it was the second most-played song on American radio and television of the 20th century. After this song's release, the group become a top concert act in high demand by TV variety shows, specials, and talk shows, eventually performing this hit on about thirteen shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show (shown below). I have yet to tire of this beauty.

From Union City, Indiana, The McCoys were a rock band that first formed in 1962 by guitarist Richard Zehringer (known as Rick Derringer) and his brother 'Randy Z' on drums. After adding a bassist, saxophonist, and keyboardist to their line-up, The McCoys scored a #1 hit with "Hang On, Sloopy" in October of 1965. It has since become the official rock song of the state of Ohio, the MLB team the Cleveland Indians, and Ohio State University, which carries on the Saturday tradition of playing this song at football games ever since the university marching band blasted this tune in 1965. Penned by songwriters Wes Farrell and Bert Russell, it was named for singer Dorothy Sloop, who used the name "Sloopy" on stage. Originally titled "My Girl Sloopy," this song was first recorded by The Vibrations in 1964, followed by several other groups including The Ventures, The Supremes, The Kingsmen, The Yardbirds, and Jan & Dean, however, The McCoys, with their 16-year-old leader, will always be remembered for making this tune a fun success.

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