Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy Together

The American Response: Part 4

Well, you can't get much more American than Paul Revere & the Raiders, a rock band that formed in 1960 from Boise, Idaho. With Paul Revere as the rockin' keyboardist and Mark Lindsey singing lead vocals, these guys first started out playing garage rock at teen dances. Under the guidance of producer Terry Melcher, the guys relocated to L.A. in 1965 and began recording music that mixed the sounds of the British Invasion bands with an American, R&B feel. Gaining considerable mainstream success through national TV appearances as regulars on Dick Clark's Where the Action Is, they were presented as America's response to the British Invasion wearing American Revolutionary War uniforms, however, fellow West Coast bands and the counterculture youth were not fans. Released in March 1966, one of their biggest hits was "Kicks," an anti-drug song by songwriting team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, originally written for The Animals (who turned it down). Reaching the #4 position on the charts, this garage rock tune is now among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Apologies for the watermark but I loved the color footage.

The Turtles first began as a surf-rock group in Westchester, California (west L.A.), formed by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman in 1965, however, following a popular musical trend at time, they re-branded themselves as a folk rock group. Like The Byrds, The Turtles achieved breakthrough success with a Bob Dylan cover ("It Ain't Me Babe") in late '65, but it wasn't until 1967 that the group gained the most chart success. Released in February '67, "Happy Together" knocked The Beatles' "Penny Lane" out of the #1 position on the charts, and has since become the group's signature song. This tune had actually been rejected a dozen times before it was offered to The Turtles, and with their bassist Chip Douglas providing the arrangement (who soon after became the producer for The Monkees), this folk rock/psychedelic rock/pop rock song has been used in many films, TV shows, and commercials. With over five million plays on American radio, it ranks as one of the most performed songs in the US of the 20th century, placing it in the same league as The Beatles' "Yesterday" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson." This will always be one of my favorites (though some of the non-Turtle clips in this video were definitely added in 1980s, probably re-edited for playtime during MTV's early years).

From Niles, Michigan, the rock band Tommy James & the Shondells formed in 1959 when lead singer/guitarist Tommy James was just 12 years old (first known as Tom & the Tornadoes). Officially changing to the Shondells in 1964, the group had a big local hit with "Hanky Panky," but after they did not break into the national market, they disbanded after high school graduation. When a Pittsburgh radio station unearthed the forgotten single, Tommy James reformed with a new group of Shondells and went on to have many successful hits, ranging from garage rock, psychedelic rock, and bubblegum (which he hated). Released in February of 1968, "Mony Mony" reached #3 on the US charts and went to #1 in the UK, their only song to even reach the Top-20 across the Atlantic. The song's title was inspired by a sign for Mutual of New York just outside James' apartment window in NYC. Later embracing the sounds of psychedelia (like "Crimsom and Clover"), the group was even invited to perform at the Woodstock concert, but they declined. Here's another rockin' song by Tommy James & the Shondells.

From Garfield, New Jersey, The Young Rascals were a blue-eyed soul/pop rock band that released numerous Top-10 singles in their career from 1965 through 1972. They first gained modest success after they performed their debut single ("I Ain't Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore") on the TV program Hullabaloo in 1965, but it wasn't until they released "Good Lovin'" in February of '66 that they really made a name for themselves. Becoming the first of three #1 hits for The Young Rascals, this mixture of garage rock and white soul, as well as their variety of hits to come, had a big impact on aspiring R&B-flavored, white acts. With its high-energy instrumentation, call-and-response vocals from lead singer/organist Felix Cavaliere and the band, and a complete false ending (popular at the time), "Good Lovin'" has since become labeled as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and is among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Oh and if you ever notice another group from the 1960s simply called The Rascals, they're the same guys; the band dropped the "Young" part of their name in early 1968. Another great live performance from the Ed Sullivan Show!

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