Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday!

Sorry for the lack of posts around here. Life has been busy and full of fun but has not allowed much time for the blogosphere. I have many posts planned but most them will have to wait until the new year. By the way, if you've been dying to hear some classic Christmas tunes, be sure to check out last year's Christmas posts here.

 So today is my daugher's birthday. Three years ago, Zoe arrived one week before Christmas, what a nice present! She is hilarious and loves music, especially the tunes from the 1960s (although this could have something do with the fact her mother usually plays the '60s station in the car!). In honor of her birthday (and while she's napping), I thought I'd post all of her favorite songs. She regularly requests these songs by name. I have no idea what drew her to this particular set of songs, but I think you'll appreciate them, too. (Since most of these tunes have been previously featured at The '60s Beat, I'll try to find different videos for each song).

Whenever Zoe thinks it's "the all-request hour" in the car, she'll first ask to hear "I Love the Flower Girl," also known as "The Rain, The Park, And Other Things" by The Cowsills. This multi-million selling single was #2 hit in 1967 for the popular family group, and it's no wonder why my kiddo loves this happy tune. This playful footage of the Cowsills family riding the miniature train looks like something my daughter would love to do. 

 Every time Sonny & Cher's signature song plays on the radio, my daughter excitedly shouts, "It's 'I Got You, Babe!'" Written and produced by Sonny Bono, this tune became one of her first favorites nearly a year ago; I guess the repetitive chorus stood out to her. Back in the 1965, looks like the charts would agree with Zoe, as this song reached #1 in the US and UK. This performance of the husband and wife vocal duo comes from The Beat Club, a German music program.


 The Turtles' "Happy Together" is a newer favorite for my daughter, and she can actually sing the chorus pretty well, the descending arpeggio and all ("I can't see me..."). I discovered that she liked this song when I noticed her singing it to her stuffed animals one day. Released on Valentine's Day in 1967, this quintessential '60s song was also a #1 hit, staying at the top of the US chart for 3 weeks. Zoe refers to this one as "Happy Dugeder." 

Now this next favorite of Zoe's comes as quite a surprise. With a title like "I Love You," you'd expect this Zombies' song to have a cheery tune, however, it is actually in a minor key, giving it a darker sound. Written by bassist Christ White, this British single was released in 1965 but failed to make the US chart, although it was quite popular in the Philippines. Three years later, the Californian group People! scored a big hit with their cover version of "I Love You," making them a one-hit wonder. It was so random hearing my daughter as a young 2-year-old regularly requesting to hear this one!

I recently let Zoe watch a few episode of The Monkees TV show and she was totally into it! Right now, her favorite Monkees' song is "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day," from the group's debut, #1 hit album in 1966. Like another one of their infamous tunes, the chorus in this song includes a few "hey, hey, hey's," which has my daughter laughing every time; she actually thinks the name of this song is "Hey, Hey, Hey." Here's a typical Monkees romp from the first season of the show; Zoe loves it.


 Finally, I'll end today's post with a final #1 hit, "Good Lovin'" by The Young Rascals. The backing vocals shouting "good lovin'" are what caught Zoe's attention, and she repeats the lyrics as "due lub!" Released in 1966, this high-energy tune is also great for dancing; what 3-year-old doesn't like dancing, anyway? Here's a great live performance by the blue-eyed soul group on The Ed Sullivan Show. 

Happy Birthday to my baby!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Farewell to One of Jazz's First Pop Star

On December 5th, we lost another fine musician; Dave Brubeck passed away of heart failure just one day before his 92nd birthday. From the San Francisco Bay Area, this American jazz pianist and composer began his career in 1940s, and became one of the foremost exponents of progressive jazz. Brubeck's style ranged from refined to bombastic, reflecting his mother's attempt at classical training and his improv skills, using unusual time signatures, contrasting rhythms, meters, and tonalities. After serving in U.S. Army during WWII (where he played piano and was ordered to form a band), he later formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 with fellow soldier and saxophonist Paul Desmond, and found great success till the group disbanded in 1967. My husband is a big a Brubeck fan, and even got see him perform live with the San Diego Symphony, a memorable and impressive concert.

As I was currently in the process of writing a post about the instrumental hits of the 1960s, Brubeck's most infamous song, "Take Five," will be featured with those selections, so I'm intentionally leaving it out of this post (check back in a week or two!). Another memorable song composed by Brubeck is "Blue Rondo a' la Turk," a jazz standard from the Time Out album that reached #2 on the Billboard Pop chart in 1961. Written in 9/8 and swing 4/4 time, Brubeck heard this unusual rhythm played by a group of Turkish musicians on the street. Upon asking the musicians where they got the rhythm, one replied, "This rhythm is to us, what blues it to you." Hence he titled it "Blue Rondo a' la Turk." Here's the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing a superb live performance in the mid-60s.

And another unique tune, this time in written in 7/4 time by Brubeck, here's "Unsquare Dance,"which peaked at #73 on the Billboard charts in 1961. It was written during a single trip from home to the recording studio, and was recorded in the same day. No live performances of the Quartet but here's a cute dance routine to it from the '60s.
Farewell, Mr. Brubeck, and thank you for the music! Think I'll go and play your Greatest Hits LP on my turntable right now!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hey, Hey, It's The Monkees...Again!

After the heartbreaking news about the beloved Davy Jones' passing last February, it appeared that the days of ever seeing the Monkees perform live again were over. However, much to the surprise of fans across the country, it was announced that the Monkees would in fact tour again, and even more exciting, Mike Nesmith would be joining them! This was big news, especially considering that with the exception of a few random performances, this is the first time that Nesmith has toured with The Monkees in the US since 1969. Lucky for us, my sister and I were able to attend the opening night of this quick, 12-date tour at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido (San Diego County). If you've read my review of their 45th Anniversary Concert Tour last year, you'll know these guys put on an amazing show, and once again, they did not disappoint. Here we are, quite giddy as we headed out the door to another fabulous concert.

And boy, were we in for a treat! With a large screen on the back of the stage projecting fun images and video clips of The Monkees in their heyday, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith performed a strong, 95-minute concert which included their classic hits (like "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer") and fan favorites (like "Goin' Down" and "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?"), as well as many selections from the 1967 Headquarters and '68 Head albums. Backed by another stellar, 7-man band (including Dolenz's sister, Coco, and Nesmith's son, Christian), The Monkees once again proved they can do more than just play their own instruments, but they rocked, and often jumped onto different instruments throughout the evening.

As Nesmith strummed his beautiful, 12-string guitar (modeled after the one he played in The Monkees TV series), he was such a wonderful addition to the performance, and his country-flavored voice sounded fantastic! One hilarious moment of the night was when the group performed "Daily Nightly" (previously discussed during Psychedelic Week here), a Nesmith-penned tune in which the studio recording featured one of the first use of a Moog synthesizer on a rock album. After joking about failing to find a Moog for the concert, Nesmith instead "sang" the wacky sounds of the Moog part as Dolenz sang the imagery-filled lyrics, and this had us crying with laughter. And of course, the audience shed other tears as well during the poignant video songs and tributes to the energetic and cheeky Davy Jones, who was missed but definitely not forgotten. Another touching moment was when it came time to perform Jones' signature tune "Daydream Believer," Dolenz said to the audience, "This song is no longer ours; it belongs to you," and randomly chose two girls to come up onstage and sing it.

Since we were just 6 rows away from the stage (here's my photo during Dolenz's infamous "Randy Scouse Git") and apparently in "family and friends" section, we were able to really enjoy the musicianship onstage from a much better vantage point this time around. The banter was kept pretty light in between songs (something, I'm guessing, will become more polished as the tour continues), and it was pleasant to see Nesmith enjoying himself with his old bandmates, as his laid-back demeanor would suddenly break into a cute, little dance. It was such a fun night and I'm sure the rest of the tour will continue to be a success as the band has still to perform at already sold-out venues.

And since I love posting music, here's one of the video songs featuring Davy Jones that was shown during the Head segment of the concert (which was instrumentally backed by the live band during the performance). Written by Harry Nilsson, "Daddy's Song" was one of the better parts of The Monkees' wild 1968 film, and features Jones dancing with Toni Basil (who later had a hit with "Mickey [You're So Fine]" in 1982). This guy seriously should have been on Dancing with the Stars! (Oh, and the bit at the end with Frank Zappa cracks me up).

While the concert tour concludes with "Listen to the Band" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday," I'll end this post with a favorite Nesmith song that was performed during the Headquarters portion of the evening. During their performance, they made sure to cover the exact instruments that they had played in the album recording with Tork on bass (although generally a guitarist and keyboardist), Micky on drums, and Nesmith on 12-string, just like the video clip from their TV show.


Thank you to The Monkees for another night to remember!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crossfire Hurricane

Sorry for the lack of posts (long story) but I just wanted to give a quick (and last-minute!) shout-out to all you Rolling Stones fans out there and let you know about the latest presentation from HBO Documentary Films called Crossfire Hurricane. It airs tonight, folks! When I was personally contacted by social media manager Lisa French, here's what she wrote: "The Rolling Stones, rock ‘n’ roll icons who have defined creativity, daring and durability, are to be chronicled in a kaleidoscopic new film that will debut November 15 on HBO. CROSSFIRE HURRICANE provides a remarkable new perspective on the Stones’ unparalleled journey from blues-obsessed teenagers in the early ‘60s to the rock royalty they have become.
Academy Award Nominated Director Brett Morgen (THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE) says, “CROSSFIRE HURRICANE invites the audience to experience firsthand the Stones' nearly mythical journey from outsiders to rock and roll royalty. This is not an academic history lesson. CROSSFIRE HURRICANE allows the viewer to experience the Stones' journey from a unique vantage point.  It's an aural and visual roller coaster ride.”

CROSSFIRE HURRICANE premieres Thursday, November 15th @ 9pm only on HBO.
Check out the trailer!

And in case you didn't catch that last bit, "crossfire hurricane" is taken out of a lyric in the Stones' 1968 hit "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, this return to the group's blues rock roots reached #1 in the UK and #3 in the US, and has become a staple in every Rolling Stone concert since. Here's a classic live performance by The Stones in Hyde Park, London, in the summer of '69.

Apologizes for the late notice, but don't forget to check this film out tonight!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In The Ghetto

Protest Songs/ Message Music: Part 4
Well, I was originally intending to end this little series on Part 3, but decided to add one last post with a few more political songs, as well as ones with a social message. Oh, and in case you were wondering why the most famous protest song has been left out of this series, Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" was previously featured here during Folk Rock Week.

Written by Mac Davis and recorded by Elvis Presley, "In the Ghetto" is a narrative on generational poverty: a boy child born to a mother with already too many mouths to feed in the ghetto of Chicago; the boy grows hungry, steals and fights, buys a gun, steals a car, runs, but is shot and killed just as his own son is born, thus continuing the cycle. Originally titled "The Vicious Circle," the structure of this gospel- style tune emphasizes this inescapable circle with its simple, stark phrasing and the repetition of "in the ghetto" at the end of every fourth line. Released in April 1969, this song was Presley's first Top-10 hit in the US in four years, peaking at #3, and his first UK Top-10 hit in three years. Known for taking his music seriously, here's a passionate live performance by the King in '69.
One of The Rolling Stones' most politically inclined works to date would be "Street Fighting Man" from their 1968 album Beggars Banquet. Originally titled and recorded as "Did Everyone Pay Their Dues?," Mick Jagger (with Keith Richards) allegedly wrote this about Tariq Ali after Jagger attended a March 1968 anti-war rally at London's U.S. embassy, during which mounted police attempted to control a crowd of 25,000. Released as a single in the US in August 1968, this rock tune only managed #48 on the charts, despite its popularity, because many radio stations refused to play the song based on what were perceived as subversive lyrics. Since, it has been covered by many other artists and it ranked #301 of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Here's live footage of "Street Fighting Man," taken from the Stones' last tour of the 1960s. 

In March 1968, The Doors released a very dramatic single, "The Unknown Soldier," written jointly by the band members. This psychedelic rock song was Jim Morrison's reaction to the Vietnam War and the way the conflict was portrayed in American media at the time, with lyrics describing how the news was being presented in the living rooms of ordinary people. In the beginning of the song, a mysterious organ sound depicts the mystery of the "unknown soldier," and by the middle, the song turns into a military cadence complete with a military drum beat and the sound of Sergeant counting off, followed by a drum roll and rifle shot. As you'll see in this footage, the group gets pretty theatrical with this performance, with Robby Krieger aiming his guitar at Morrison like a rifle and Morrison falling to the floor after the drummer plays a rimshot. Peaking at #39 on the Billboard charts, here's the dynamic "Unknown Soldier" live by The Doors.
Our final "message song" of the day comes from Motown with "Love Child" by Diana Ross & The Supremes, the group's eleventh #1 single in the US. Written by The Clan (Motown's staff songwriters), this pop/psychedelic soul tune is notable for its then-controversial subject matter of illegitimacy, with lyrics about a woman who grew up as a "love child" asking her boyfriend not to pressure her, in fear of creating a love child themselves. Released in September 1968, this single knocked off and kept The Beatles' massive "Hey Jude" off the top spot in the US, the last of five replacements at #1 between The Beatles and The Supremes (the two most popular music acts in America during the 1960s). Going on to outsell all of the The Supreme's previous or subsequent singles, here's the debut of "Love Child on the season premiere of The Ed Sullivan Show, September 29th, 1968. (Ed Sullivan performance removed from YouTube).

Sunday, September 30, 2012

If I Had a Hammer

Protest Songs/Message Music: Part 3

A paradigm for 1960s folk music, Peter, Paul & Mary were known for their prolific political activism involving the peace movement and other causes. Written by Pete Seeger (an iconic figure in the folk music revival) and Lee Hayes in support of the progressive moment in 1949, "If I Had a Hammer" was first recorded by their group The Weavers, who inspired the "folk boom" that followed in the early '60s. The folk song was not much of a success until Peter, Paul & Mary recorded it over a decade later in 1962 for their debut album. Released that August, "The Hammer Song" became a Top-10 hit and became an anthem for the Civil Rights movement. The trio even performed it at the 1963 March on Washington, which also featured fellow folk musician Bob Dylan (from this post), as well as Martin Luther King Jr's infamous speech. Here's an excellent TV performance of this timeless classic.
 Our next emotional civil rights-themed ballad comes from British Invasion group The Hollies. Written by Bob Russell (who was dying of cancer at the time) and Bobby Scott, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" used the old motto for Boys Town for its title, and it was reported at the time that song was about a Vietnam veteran. This vet saw a little boy carrying the dead body of a younger boy away from a burning village, and when asked if the body was heavy, he replied: "He's not heavy, he's my brothers." This statement is a figure of speech (known as a paraprosdokian) in which the second half of the statement causes the hearer to reinterpret the first part. Released in September 1969, this moving tune reached #7 in the US and #3 in the UK, where it was also re-released in 1988 (paired with "Carrie Anne"), reaching #1 after its use in a commercial. While the studio recording features a young Elton John on piano, here's a powerful performance by The Hollies and lead singer Allan Clarke (with introduction by famous radio DJ Kasey Kasem). Now this is beautiful songwriting!
Our next 1960s era anti-war song comes from Canadian folk-pop group Original Caste who were known for their rich, tight vocals and clean sound. Written by group members Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, the 1969 song "One Tin Soldier" was a #1 hit in Canada and managed to reach #34 in the US. Telling an abstract story of a hidden treasure and two neighboring peoples, the lyrics are a parable condemning prejudice and greed. The song was revived in the 1971 when a version by Jinx Dawson and her band Coven was featured in the soundtrack for the film Billy Jack, hitting the charts in 1973 and again '74 after the end of the Vietnam War, and was named the Number One All Time Requested Song of '71 and '73 by American Radio Broadcasters Association. With the beautiful vocals of Dixie Lee Innes, here's a live performance recording (audio only) of the initial group Original Caste.
Our final tune comes from folk/pop group The Kingston Trio, one of the most prominent bands in the revival of folk music in the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Beginning as a San Francisco Bay area nightclub act, the trio released 19 albums that made the Top-100, 14 of which were ranked in the Top-10, and 5 of those hit the #1 spot. One of the group's most successful singles was "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" which reached #21 on the US chart in the 1962. The first three verses were written by Pete Seeger in 1955, and the additional verses were added by Joe Hickerson in 1960, who turned it into a circular song (about the cycle of history and how impossible it is to break). Gaining wider meaning during the Vietnam War, it later has been listed as the "Top 20 Political Songs" (by New Statesmen). Here's a 1966 performance by The Kingston Trio on The Andy Williams Show (R.I.P. Mr. Williams!).

Friday, September 28, 2012


On September 25th, we lost another beautiful voice when crooner Andy Williams passed away at the age of 84 of bladder cancer. In a career spanning over 50 years, the Iowa-born singer recorded 18 Gold albums and had 27 Top-40 singles, and from 1962 through 1971, hosted a popular TV variety show, The Andy Williams Show. Even while the music of the British Invasion took over American radios in the '60s, Williams continued to have hit records, especially in England where his singles outsold records by The Rollings Stones, The Kinks, and The Who. Two of his most popular songs have become American standards: his signature song "Moon River" (which was actually never released as a single) and the Christmas classic "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (featured here).

Since I'm saving the infamous "Moon River" for a Movie Themes Series (coming soon), here are two other tunes Williams performed on his variety show. From 1965, here's Williams singing the mellow tune "Try to Remember" from the 1960 musical The Fantasticks (a hilarious show I've performed in myself!).

Originally an instrumental hit for Bob Crewe in 1967, here's Williams' version of "Music to Watch Girls By," which reached #34 in the US later that same year, eventually reaching the Top-10 as a re-released single after its use in a Fiat commercial in the UK.

Another sad loss to the music industry and entertainment business, Mr. Williams will be greatly missed.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

People Got to Be Free

Protest Songs/Message Music: Part 2

Today's first protest song comes from one of our favorite roots rock bands Creedence Clearwater Revival, known for their dedication to homegrown American music. Released in September 1969, CCR released "Fortunate Son," a double A-sided single with "Down on the Corner," and first reached #14 on the US chart the week before Billboard changed its methodology on double-sided hits. Eventually, this track and its reverse side combined peaked at #3 by the end of the year, and ["Fortunate Son"] has since been ranked #99 on Rolling Stones' list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."  This roots/blues rock song was popular during the Vietnam War and is included in several Vietnam films and video games. Written and produced by lead singer John Fogerty, it is the perspective of a man who is being drafted who is not "fortunate" enough to be the son of a Senator or a millionaire. Featured on The Ed Sullivan Show, here's an excellent live performance that sounds just like the recording! 
Before the dissolution of The Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono formed a conceptual supergroup in 1969 called the Plastic Ono Band with various members including Eric Clapton (guitarist on the left in this clip), artist Klaus Voormann, future Yes drummer Alan White, and The Who's drummer Keith Moon, among others.Written by Lennon and recorded during his 'Bed-In' honeymoon, "Give Peace a Chance" was released in July of 1969 as his first solo single while still a member of The Beatles. Peaking at #2 in the UK and #14 in the US, this song quickly became the anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and is one of Lennon's most famous songs to be included on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's list of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Credited to the Plastic Ono Band (an identity to describe works by Lennon and Ono and anyone else who happened to be performing with them), here's a live performance in Toronto in '69, which supposedly gave Lennon the confidence to tell the other Beatles a few days later that he was leaving the band.
Often referred to as the "British Bob Dylan," Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan covered this next protest song in the mid-60s. Originally written and recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie in 1964, "Universal Soldier" didn't gain much attention until the budding folk singer Donovan recorded his version and released it as a single in August of 1965, reaching #5 on the UK charts. Sainte-Marie said this folk song was about "individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all." Since, this tune has been recorded by several other artists including The Highwaymen, Glen Campbell, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs, as well as several foreign singers. Performing before a captive audience, here's Donovan's version of the consummate anti-war song.
We'll conclude today's post with an upbeat one by American blue-eyed soul group The Rascals (initially know as The Young Rascals). Becoming a big hit in the turbulent summer of 1968, "People Got to Be Free" spent five weeks at #1 in the US, as well as reaching #14 on the Billboard Black Singles chart, and eventually sold 4 million copies. Written by group members Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, this horn-punctuated plea for tolerance and freedom struck a particular chord in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. After the release of this song, The Rascals refused to tour on segregated bills, and if an African American act was not included at their concerts, the group would cancel several shows in protest. With Cavaliere on lead vocals and rock organ, here's another dynamic live performance by The Rascals in 1969.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Day of Protest

Protest Songs/Message Music: Part 1

Associated with a movement for social change, protests songs were often the soundtrack to the turbulent times of the 1960s. With the rise of the Civil Rights movement, the influence of counterculture groups (such as hippies), and the escalation of the Vietnam War, protest songs flourished, often promoting peace or revolution. So, looks like it's about time for a little 3-part series on this influential genre.

One of the key figures in the protest movement was Bob Dylan, who produced a number of landmark protest songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (featured here) and "The Times They Are A-Changin.'" While Dylan's era of protest music lasted for a short 20-month period (ending in 1964 when he changed his musical style from acoustic folk to an electrified, rock sound with personal, abstract lyrics), his prolific songbook about everyday injustices and tragedies was adopted by the Civil Rights and counterculture movements (not necessarily written for them). In 1963, Dylan and his then-singing partner Joan Baez had become prominent in the Civil Rights Movement, singing together at rallies including the March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. Written by Dylan in about 10 minutes (and inspired by a hotel check that refused to give him a room due to his unwashed appearance), here's Dylan and Baez performing "When the Ship Comes In" at that March on Washington, featuring other historic footage as well.
After hearing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," R&B singer Sam Cooke was greatly moved that such a touching song about racism in America could have been written by someone who was not black. Written and recorded in 1963 (and released shortly after his death in late 1964), Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" became a sensation among the black community and became an anthem for ongoing civil rights protests. Although only a modest hit compared to usually light-hearted singles (like "Wonderful World" and "Another Saturday Night" both featured here), this song gained in popularity and critical acclaim over the decades, and is ranked #12 on Rolling Stones' "500 Greatest Songs of All Time." With a lush orchestration, here's the talented Sam Cooke reaching back to his gospel roots to sing the song with an intensity and passion never heard before on his pop recordings (no live footage, just audio with a photo montage).
A prolific protest songwriter in the 1960s (or "topical singer," as he preferred), Phil Ochs was known for being a harsh critic of the American military industrial complex and performed at many political events such as anti-war and civil rights rallies, student events, organized labor events, oh and Carnegie Hall. Released in 1965 on the album of the same name, "I Ain't Marching Anymore" is one of Ochs' best-known songs and was written as American involvement in the Vietnam War was beginning to grow. The song criticizes all of American military history from the perspective of a weary soldier who has been present at every single war since of the War of 1812. Bordering between "pacifism and treason" (according to Ochs), he performed this signature song during the protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, inspiring hundreds of young men to burn their draft cards. Here's a rare instance where Phil Ochs actually performed this tune on live TV.

Originating in Berkley, California, Country Joe & the Fish was a rock band widely known for their musical protests against the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1971, and also regarded as influential on the psychedelic rock scene of San Francisco. Written by Country Joe McDonald in 1965, in supposedly less than 30 minutes, "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" (also known as "The Vietnam Song") was an anti-Vietnam protest song from the group's 1967 album of the same name. Beginning with the "Fish" Cheer, in which the band spells out 'F-I-S-H'  like cheerleaders at a football game (which you can imagine what other four-letter word this chant gave way to), the song's lyrics are a sarcastic invitation for young and able men to join in the Vietnam War. A ragtime-style tune similar to the 1920s "Muskrat Ramble", this song was never a big hit, but it was nevertheless well-known. Here's a live solo performance by Country Joe at Woodstock in 1969 (warning: the language is unedited in this clip). Not gonna lie, this catchy tune really gets stuck in your head!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hot Fun In The Summertime

Summer Music: Part 2

Well, my apologizes to anyone whose summer is already over. As there are no school-age children in my house (yet), I'm still making the most of my summer. In fact, a few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to take a little roadtrip to San Francisco and made a stop at Amoeba Records on Haight Street (figured all you audiophiles would appreciate that it). By the way, it turns out many of those hippies that came to the Haight-Asbury district have never left! Anyway, here's the last of those fun summery songs of 1960s.
Finding their greatest success in the early 1970s, the British pop-blues band Mungo Jerry was known for their good-time and jug band songs like "In the Summertime." Written by frontman Ray Dorset (hello sideburns!), this 1970 hit reached #1 in 26 countries worldwide including the UK, and is considered one of the highest selling singles of all time with over 30 million records sold. Celebrating the carefree days of summer, this folk pop number remains the group's most successful and most instantly recognizable song. You can check an excellent live performance here, otherwise, here's a fun music video below (boy, how would you like to manage this group's hair?).
Another popular song of summer is this fun tune by the beloved singing family The Cowsills. After the success of their first single, "The Rain, Park, and Other Things," the band followed up with another million-selling hit in 1968 with the song "Indian Lake," which reached #10 in the US and #2 in Canada. Written by Tony Romeo, the song is about the group's favorite place to visit in the summertime, Indian Lake in Washington County, Rhode Island (where the band was from), but however most Indian Lakers believe it's describing another lake in upstate New York. In case you were wondering who Wes Farrell is that appears in this photo montage, he was a prolific songwriter and record producer at the time that produced "Indian Lake," as well as the made-for-TV family, inspired by The Cowills, The Partridge Family (which is why David Cassidy briefly shows up in a photo too). Complete with a cute, Native American-flavored intro, here's the audio of this summery hit.  

Known for styles including folk songs, blues, and revivals of old-time rock 'n' roll songs, Johnny Rivers found success with a summery tune as well. In 1968, he released Realization, a #5-album on the LP chart, which included the #14 pop chart single "Summer Rain." Written by James Hendricks (no, not guitar legend Jimi Hendrix) formerly of The Mugwumps (a short-lived group whose members would later become one-half of  The Mamas & The Papas and half of The Lovin' Spoonful), this song has a technically incorrect line: "...and the jukebox kept on playing 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'..." which could not have happened then as jukeboxes of that era only played 45s (singles). None of the songs from Sgt. Pepper were ever released as a single, therefore none of the music from this Beatles album was ever heard on a jukebox! That aside, here's some great summer imagery from Johnny Rivers (footage from a live performance in 1973).
Well, the lyrics in this next tune bring us a depressing thought: "we gotta say 'goodbye' for the summer" (as a kid, I thought the line was saying 'goodbye' to the summer). Originally an unsuccessful single for The Four Voices in 1960, pop artist Brian Hyland found his second biggest hit (after "...Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," featured in the first Summer post) with a cover version of "Sealed with a Kiss." Released in June of 1962, this mellow tune reached #3 on both the American and UK charts, staying on the US pop chart for eleven weeks. Although it would again be covered by many other artists like Gary Lewis & The Playboys (#19 in '68) and Bobby Vinton (#19 in '72), Hyland's version was re-issued as a 1975 single in the UK and became a surprise #7 hit. While this is likely Brian Hyland's American Bandstand performance, the dancing in the background doesn't seem to fit the song so well...   

To end on a more upbeat note, here's a classic one by the exciting San Francisco group Sly & the Family Stone, whose 'melting pot' sound incorporated many styles including James Brown-like proto-funk, Motown pop, Stax soul, Broadway showtunes, and psychedelic rock music. In the wake of the band's high-profile performance at Woodstock (which was said to be one of the best shows of the festival), they released "Hot Fun in the Summertime" that August of 1969, written by Sly Stone as a dedication to the fun and games to be had in the summer. This psychedelic soul/funk/pop rock tune reached #2 on the US pop chart and #3 on the US soul chart, and has been ranked among the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" by Rolling Stone. Here's Sly & the Family Stone's live performance of "Hot Fun in the Summertime," followed by "I Want to Take You Higher" (a B-side of another earlier single that later became its own hit in 1970).

Hope you all had a fantastic summer!!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Farewell

On Saturday, August 18th, we lost another beautiful voice as American singer Scott McKenzie passed away at the age of 73. He is remembered for his 1967 hit "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," which reached #1 in the US, as well as in most of Europe, and sold over 7 million records. Written by John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas (McKenzie's childhood friend and former bandmate in the early '60s), this psychedelic pop tune was intended to promote the Monterey Pop Festival in '67 and went on to become a generational anthem. Later in the 1980s, McKenzie joined a new version of The Mamas & The Papas and toured with John Phillips, Phillips' daughter MacKenzie, and Spanky McFarlane (of Spanky & Our Gang). In 1988, he co-wrote another hit song, "Kokomo," with Phillips, Beach Boy Mike Love, and Terry Melcher, which became a #1 single for The Beach Boys. Although featured last year here during the Flower Power Series, here's different footage of Scott McKenzie in his live performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.  

Farewell, Scott McKenzie. Your beautiful, smooth voice will always be remembered as the sound of a generation.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Summer Music: Part 1

NOTE: I started this post awhile ago, but I've taken so long that summer has almost passed me by! I heard kids were already going back to school this week, crazy!
Well, I've been caught up in all the fun things that a Californian summer has to offer. I suppose, before summer is truly over, we should do a little two-part series on Summer Music. In this next batch of songs, each of the lyrics mention those footloose and fancy-free activities of summer.

As a kid, I remember my mom having this Best of Nat King Cole LP, and my sister and I particularly loved the song "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer." Reaching #6 on the pop charts in 1963, this was one of his last big hits, two years before his death in '65 (while smoking three packs of cigarettes a day may have continued to his golden baritone, it unfortunately shortened his life as well). Being one of the first black Americans to host a TV variety show, Cole's distinct, mellow voice continues to maintain worldwide popularity. Here's some excellent color footage from a BBC TV special in that summer of '63.
Becoming an international star in the late 1950s thanks to Dick Clark, American rock and roll singer Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon found his biggest success with the 1962 hit "Palisades Park." Released as a B-side, this song broke in when a Michigan radio DJ played it by mistake, and by March of '62, it peaked at #3 on the charts. Written by Chuck Barris, this up-tempo tune was a tribute to New Jersey's Palisades Amusement Park, which later closed in 1971. Complete with the distinctive organ part and amusement park sound effects, this is likely a performance from America Bandstand, a show where he made a record 110 appearances!
A popular recording artist and teen idol of the early 1960s, New York-based Brian Hyland is known for his "puppy-love pop" and pre-Bubblegum sound. In August of 1960, he scored his first and biggest single at the age of 16 with "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," written by Brill Building duo Vance and Pockriss. This novelty song about a shy girl wearing a revealing bikini at the beach was a #1 hit in the US and was popular in other countries, reaching #8 in the UK. At a time when these bathing suits were too risque' to be mainstream, bikini sales took off after the release of this song, and it is considered to be one of the earliest contributors to the acceptance of the suit in society. More from Brian Hyland in our next post.
Although the life of this next artist was tragically cut short at 21 in 1960, his guitar playing had quite a lasting influence on rock music, so I figured I'd include his summer-related tune. Being one of the first rock and roll artists to write his own songs and overdub his tracks, Eddie Cochran was known for capturing teenage frustration and desire in the late '50s and early '60s with rockabilly songs like "Summertime Blues." Originally a B-side single, this classic tune peaked at #8 on the US charts in September of 1958 and #18 in the UK. It has been covered by many artists including The Beach Boys, The Who (a staple at their concerts in the early years), and Brian Setzer, who portrayed Cochran in the 1987 film La Bamba (great soundtrack, by the way). Here's a great live performance by one of the first true rock and rollers!

And since that last tune was technically not from the '60s decade, here's another cover version that was. The San Franciscan psychedelic blues-rock band Blue Cheer recorded their version of "Summertime Blues" in 1967, which peaked at #14 on the Billboard charts. Although it is not as widely recognized as The Who's version, it was more distorted with a more intense guitar sound and is ranked among the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. It is the actually the first heavy metal song to make the pop charts, well before "Born to Be Wild" and "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." Here's a great intro by the late Dick Clark who didn't shy away from any type of music. 
To complete this rather varied post, I absolutely must include the band that epitomizes the sounds of summer, our good ol' Beach Boys. Released in March 1963, "Surfin' USA" was their first big hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard, while taking its parent album to gold record status. At this time, Brian Wilson began using double tracking to achieve fuller-sounding vocals, thus creating The Beach Boys' own unique sound. Set to melody of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" (which he does receive co-writing credit for),
"Surfin' USA" mentions nearly every hot surfing spot at the time, mostly in California including the local beach I grew up going to, San Onofre. From the 1964 concert film known as the T.A.M.I. Show, here's a classic live performance where the girls just can't get enough of these guys. Surf's up!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

England Swings

Once again, blog posting has come to a halt as my free evenings have been spent tuned into the Olympics on TV! The amazing athleticism aside, I've really enjoyed seeing footage from around London and I'm reminded what a fun and beautiful city it is. I had the privilege of visiting London four summers ago and I still can't wait to go back someday. 
During the 1960s, "Swinging London" was a catch-all term that applied to the fashion and cultural scene that flourished in this city, and of course music of the "British Invasion" (from America's perspective) was well underway.
Anyway, I thought I'd do a quick post with songs about London, as these tunes have been playing through my head as I've watchd the Olympics (if you were hoping this post was going to be all about the British Invasion, you'll just have to check out those previous posts here).

The song that presents the most stereotypical picture of England at this time was "England Swings (Like a Pendulum Do)" by American country singer Roger Miller. Written by Miller and released as a single in 1965, this catchy, little ditty reached #3 on the country chart, #8 on the US pop chart,  and #13 in the UK.  If you're interested in seeing this song get a go-go booted makeover, there's a funny version by Patty Duke here. Anyway, looks like I'll be hearing "Bobbies, two by two" in my head the next time I watch the Olympics. Sorry, no live performance footage of this song.

Released in late 1965, this next song comes from Donovan's second album, Fairytale, where he developed his British folk sound. His "Sunny Goodge Street" foreshadows the jazzy feel and descriptions of life in urban London, which Donovan would explore further in the following years.
And what do ya know, Goodge Street is an actual location in Central London around the corner from the British Museum, as pictured in this tube station signage. So here's some nice live footage with that soothing voice of the Scottish singer-songwriter doing what he does best.


 This next "London" tune is classic one that you rarely hear on the oldies radio stations these days (maybe only on Sirius XM). From Los Angeles, The Rose Garden was an American folk rock musical group that formed in 1967. Although very short-lived, they did enjoy one hit single with "Next Plane to London," which reached #17 on the US Billboard chart at the end of '67. Complete with pleasant lead vocals by Diana DeRose, here's another wonderful tune from this bygone era of Sunshine Pop! 


And of course, it's kind of silly to have a post with songs about London and not include London's anthem. We all know I love "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks so much that it was already featured it in it's own post last summer (if you missed it, check out the details here). And since it's that good, I'll post it again here. This time, I'll use a video that includes photos of those lovely sites around this marvelous city. From the 1967 album Something Else by The Kinks (one of my favorites in my record collection), here's that good ol' "Waterloo Sunset."