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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Why 1960s music was the greatest

This morning in Highlights of the News, I did a parody of the theme song to the Beverly Hillbillies. Many readers liked it. We are all familiar with the song even though no one under 50 was alive when the show was on the air on CBS.

We like the song because it is not too serious but it tells the story. The same applies to the theme songs to Gilligan's Island, Green Acres, and the Brady Bunch. All 4 series began in the 1960s but their musical styles are different: bluegrass, sailor song, country, and pop.

They represent well the music of the 1960s. It was a music era that befit a great nation. The music was played on cumbersome instruments, recorded on scratchy plastic, broadcast by poor quality AM radio, and heard on tiny transistor radio that could be heard as far away as, oh, two feet.

We lived in the Neanderthal age of technology.

And the music was great because musicians competed across genres. A look at the No. 1 hits in 1964 shows how it worked.

Yes, the Beatles dominated the charts. There was one week where they held all the top five spots one week. 

But the year began with Bobby Vinton's "There! I've Said It Again" as the No. 1 song for the first 4 weeks.

Then came the Beatles. "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," and "Can't Buy Me Love" held the top spot over the next 14 weeks.

Who broke the hold?

Satchmo.

At 62, a jazz trumpet player sang a Broadway showtune -- "Hello Dolly" -- and single-handedly stopped the British Invasion.

Motown took over the next week with "My Guy" by Mary Wells. (Smokey Robinson wrote it and "My Girl.")

The Beatles back two weeks later with "Love Me Do."

The hits kept coming. The Dixie Cups, Peter and Gordon, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, The Beatles (again) and Dean Martin followed. Most of the No. 1 songs were rock, but on December 5 the song "Ringo" was a No. 1 bonanza for Lorne Greene.

Musicians had to bring their A game in the 1960s as they were competing for radio time with everyone in every genre. The rock stations were OK with playing songs outside that lane. This exposed listeners of other kinds of music.

Part of this reflected television. Variety shows were popular and cheap to produce back then. And they exposed people to a variety of songs.

Ray Charles cut two country and western albums.

And Ed Sullivan showcased all sorts of music. You had to be good or go home.

But mainly, the radio played whatever was the most popular. And that went across all sorts of music.

The Billboard 100's No. 1 list began the decade with Marty Robbins singing "El Paso," and ended with Diana Ross & the Supremes singing "Someday We'll Be Together."

Yes we will.

In 1969, we had four weeks of the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" at No. 1, followed by four weeks of The Archies' "Sugar, Sugar." I liked both songs. In that summer of Woodstock, Henry Mancini held down the top spot for two weeks.

But FM radio came along. 3 minute tunes went the way of penny candy. We stopped listening to music outside our lane. MTV revitalized rock music in the 1980s. But "Real World" came along and MTV found it could make more money by ditching music videos.

Today, SiriusXM gives you hundreds of channels to choose from. The quality of car radio today exceeds anything available in a home in the 1960s at any price. 

I am glad we did not have this when I was growing up. 

49 comments:

  1. Yep the Halcyon day of hot summer nights listening to top 40 from KBOI Boise,I'd and greasing up the bailer to bail hay at 4am.. because of fire danger .I miss that
    .

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  2. Yep the Halcyon day of hot summer nights listening to top 40 from KBOI Boise,I'd and greasing up the bailer to bail hay at 4am.. because of fire danger .I miss that
    .

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  3. My favorite 1960s group was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. To my ears, their instrumentals have never aged. Herb is now 86, and the last I checked, he is still performing.

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  4. I recently set up one of my turntables and started dragging old vinyl LPs downstairs. I have peach crates full of them (and 45s, and cassette tapes, and, yes, even 8-Track tapes). A decent LP has a much better sound than digital music. Like Jethro Tull sang, I'm "Living In The Past."

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  5. Days on the beach in NJ. 770 WABC on a yellow ball am radio... The smell of Sea n Ski and Coppertone. Bliss.

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  6. Days on the beach in NJ. 770 WABC on a yellow ball am radio... The smell of Sea n Ski and Coppertone. Bliss.

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  7. Meh. Nobody beats George Strait and he came on the scene in the 80s.

    I happen to look back on 80s rock with fondness now even if I didn't like it at the time.

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    1. Speaking of 80s rock, every album Duran Duran puts out is outstanding. Spandau Ballet redid all their hits in ONCE MORE and it is a desert island album for sure. Finally, Tears For Fears. They are still excellent. EVERYBODY LOVES A HAPPY ENDING was very Beatlesesque. Saw them in concert, too. Fabulous.

      George Strait is a national treasure in his own right and keeps his politics to himself - so rare these days.

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    2. Duran Duran: My first musical love. Music died in the 1990's.

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    3. But THE WEDDING ALMBUM by DD came out in the 90s. Great stuff. One of my all-time favs.

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  8. Was a little too young in the early/mid 60's but my older sisters got my toe tapping. By the time the 70's rolled around, I was hooked. Who didn't have a book of matches in their car to wedge in your 8 track to stop it from dragging? Not a fan of SiriusXM but I can't handle broadcast radio. Actually listened to 1972 Casey Kasem top 50 countdown while driving around today. #1... America, Horse with no name.

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  9. Ah, yes. '64 was a sort of "breakout" year for me. I turned 14 late that year. By then a lot was happening musically and I decided I had to have a guitar so I scrounged up $15 and bought one. We kids didn't know what high fidelity was so my little red Channel Master AM radio sounded great to me. Thus began what has since turned out to have been my misspent youth, and it couldn't have happened at a more wonderful time!

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  10. Growing up in the 60s we had no idea that we were living in a golden age of music that would not last forever.

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  11. WKBW all night via the skip zone in western Massachusetts.

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  12. Don, now you've done it! You've hit a groove for me, so to speak, you are talking about my generation. The volume of music back in the Sixties was mind boggling (and I'm not talking about how loud it was either!). These bands did not think of themselves as "artists" who had 2 or 3 years to create each masterpiece album...they would release 2 or 3 a year instead. Sure, a lot of it was unimpressive to say the least, but there are so many songs that reflect the era that I can't imagine a documentary on the decade that didn't include snippets of "For what it's worth" or "Paint it black" or "Paperback writer" or "San Francisco" or "The House of the rising sun" or "You really got me" or "I can see for miles" or "Sunshine of your love" or "Somebody to love" or "Purple Haze" or "Sounds of silence" or "Eight miles high" or "My girl" or "Sugar pie honey bunch" or "Suspicious minds" or "Oh, pretty woman" or "When the music's over" or "Proud Mary" or "Like a rolling stone"...and on and on and on

    The kids are truly alright and I'm definitely not stuck in Mobile with the Memphis blues again!
    Rock on brother...I can almost hear your car stereo from over here so let me crank up my 40 year old Klipschorns in response: ya got any requests because I've still got over 600 vinyl albums from back in the day so I can play almost anything!

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    1. Still have a Pioneer receiver and turntable in the attic. I don't set at home enough to hook it all up. Maybe soon...

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    2. Several years ago, i found a Kenwood receiver, technics 5 disc cd player, yamaha dual cassette player/recorder and a pair of Bose speakers at the dump, right before they were being thrown out. I later added a technics turntable and another pair of Bose speakers from the same source. A former client gave me a pair of nice KLH speakers. I listen to it all the time.

      Delete
  13. Great post Don...Thanx!


    Quicksilver Messenger Service
    Bobby Fuller Four
    The Lettermen
    The Tremeloes
    Tommy James
    Righteous Bros
    Billy Ray White

    The list goes on and on.

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  14. You can have most of the 60s music. After '65, it was all noise.

    Black noise, metal noise, acid noise, Lefty noise.

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    Replies
    1. Did anyone but me feel that wet blanket of miserableness thrown over them??? Good lord, try to enjoy a little of life you have left!

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    2. I saw it coming and sidestepped it.

      Special Ed is wrong so often about so much (Dr. Pepper's lack of prune juice, the age of the US Senate filibuster in its current form, and the location of Jeffrey #19) that I just laughed at him--again.

      He's an ignorant, racist, arrogant troll. Nothing he says has any merit. You have pointed this out yet again.

      *Hat tip*

      Delete
    3. Sorry Ed; sometimes music and noise are all in the ear of the listener.

      I cut my teeth on early 60’s stuff; but therr are gems strewn all through the other decades.

      Also like the country creativity of the early 90’s

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  15. I'm older than you guys. The first record to get my attention, and still an all-time favorite, was Spike Jones (and his wacky wacketeers) doing The Hawaiian War Chant, with the intro: "As the sun pulls away for the shore, and our ship sinks slowly in the west, we hear..." and the band laid it on, STRONG.

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  16. Don did the stations play what was popular or did they play what the record label's payola paid for? Wolfman Jack made a fortune on those kickbacks. But I digress. Worked as a bartender in the 80s that featured a lot of those great 60s bands. The Vogues, Righteous Brothers, Fats, Chubby, BB King, Frankie, Donavan etc. Great job for me! The Fenwick Inn in Ocean City.

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  17. Another reason the music was better: there were performers, and there were songwriters. Just like actors who can direct (and vice versa) there are a few bands who consistently write quality material for themselves. But, as Tom Petty (I think) once said, these days you buy an album of ten songs expecting that two will be top shelf, two will be pretty good, and the rest will be filler.

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  18. One of the lesser known truths about pop music in the 60's and 70's was that the actual "music," i.e., the instrumental portion of the song, was usually played by THE SAME GROUP OF STUDIO MUSICIANS! In LA, they were called "The Wrecking Crew." They played the tracks to which groups like The Mamas and The Papas, 5th Dimension, Beach Boys (yes!, that Beach Boys), The Monkees, Sonny and Cher, all the records put out by Phil Spector ("The Wall of Sound")... in other words, nearly every pop music hit of those two decades. As time went on, however, a lot of the recording shifted to(strangely enough) Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the Rhythm Section backed a ton of rock, blues and soul performers. Eventually, that, too ended, as do all things. It can only be hoped that the current era of Hip Hop and rap will end soon, although the end can't come soon enough for me.

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    1. Yup, Hal Blaine and Panama Francis drummed on 80-90% of the recordings out of L.A. in those days. Their New York counterpart was "Pretty" Purdie.

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  19. I had a crystal radio and listened to the music in a single earpiece. No batteries. Mostly I listened to WABC in NYC, which even in the '60s was talk radio because it had so many commercials, but on Sunday nights I could pick up WOWO in Indiana which played more music.

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  20. Grew up in the NYC suburbs in Connecticut. Always listened to one of two AM stations out of the city; the WMCA "Good Guys" or Cousin Brucie, Dan Ingram and Harry Harrison on WA"Beatle"C. Good times, long gone (Although Cousin Brucie still does a Wednesday night show on Sirius Channel 6 (The Sixties on Six).

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  21. For me, it was WIBG (wibbage) and Jerry Blavat (the Geator with the Heater) in the Philly suburbs...hard to believe the Geator is 80 and still going strong

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  22. We just bought a "new" car, one that is mature enough to drive itself. An unexpected bonus was that it came with a CD AND cassette tape player! (Maybe if we'd bought one a little older we could have had an 8-track player too.) But neither my husband or I were ever really into music (much like that person who "couldn't tell 'Gd save the Weasel' from 'Pop Goes the Queen'") and we mostly listen to lectures. I liked Jim Croce, though.

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  24. Everyone wants to divide music history into even decades. My Spotify list includes songs from 1964 to 1974. During the start of this period young Brits including the Beatles were listening to American albums including Country, Soul and R&B. They were packaging it up and sending it back to us. Mix in the Vietnam War and the race riots and you can see how the pre-64 and post-74 music is so different you can't lump it into nice neat decades.

    My list is 500+ and growing - Rockin' Guitars & More 1964-1974

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    1. Agreed. There are periods rather than decades.

      For example, I’d suggest the music 1960-63 had a sound all its own.

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  26. The Mama's and the Papas were so good back then, and Michelle Phillips was OFF THE CHARTS hot!!!

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  28. Grew up with 60s and 70s music. Other than country, I don’t listen to anything from the 80s forward, and country cuts off about 95.

    Love a wide range, including folk music from the 60s. I love singers with great voices, especially female singers. I could listen to Judith Durham of The Seekers (not to be confused with The New Seekers) all day. Tom Jones had a great voice. Gary Puckett did too. Wonder why he or aThe Inion Gap had no lasting power.

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  29. I lived in a small town in SC. At night we could get WLS from Chicago! They had the best dj's and I still remember "it's 68 degrees and in Duluth 45"! There was a dj that had a intro track : footsteps on gravel, a car door opens and closes, the car starts up with a deep throated vvrrrooomm, and then he'd say "Hungry Baby? SUFFER"!! We loved that and I made my own version with an old tape recorder and my 54 Chevy! There are many, many videos on youtube of the old groups performing live and in studios. Groups that we rarely ever saw but heard. To me the late 60's were Heaven on Earth! I still have my first 8 track and also a RARE (at the time) 8 track recorder! I wish I could go back!!!!

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  30. I grew up listening to the great "Cousin Bruce" Morrow, Harry Harrison and the rest of the gang on "Musicradio" WABC 770 in NYC. It was great -- until disco came along. The station management didn't know how to handle it. They would mix in some disco with the rock/pop and the audience loathed it. Then came rap and, well, the end was soon in sight. Sigh.....

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  32. In bed trying to pick up a far away station on a tiny transistor. For me it was WBZ Boston's late night dj Dick Summer

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