It was not entertainment, it was life itself.
Yesterday we had to drive down to Rancho Santa Margarita for a birthday party, a two year old’s birthday party, the daughter of my nephew Andrew, who’s become the #3 BMW salesman in America, there I am boasting, I won’t for myself, but I will for him, and on the way down there we were listening to Peter Noone on Sixties On Six.
The world is divided into two camps, at least in America, those who subscribe to satellite radio and those who do not. And I really can’t understand those who don’t. Right now the buzz in L.A. is about this terrestrial station flipping format, I’m getting e-mail about all the great tracks they’re playing, haven’t they ever listened to Deep Tracks?
So we’re in stop and go traffic, and I hear “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
My mother bought that single. When parents were ancient and out of touch. But in reality, my mom was only 36. Oh, how times have changed, now 36 year olds consider themselves hipsters. But my mother was infected by that track and I played that single into the ground, my dad bought every one of the kids record players, he got them on closeouts, all-in-one devices, so we could have music in our rooms, he loved music, he played the violin, and there was a console stereo in the living room for music acceptable to all, usually show tunes, sometimes classical. That’s how we spent our Sunday afternoons, gray in Connecticut, listening to show tunes. I once made my mother play all of her albums until I finally found a song that was stuck in my brain, it was “With A Little Bit Of Luck,” from “My Fair Lady,” I can still sing it in my head, that’s the amazing thing about music, you NEVER forget it.
And then Herman spun “Itchykoo Park.”
What did you do there, I GOT HIGH! Funny how they had that in a song, that was limit-testing back in the sixties, and believe me limits were being tested, the Beatles came along and blasted all doors open. The only thing similar in my lifetime is the internet. It didn’t exist, and then it did. There were no sites, no apps, no hardware, and then it was all there. Now we’re in the corporate rock era of the internet, with the Big Four worried about their profits more than us, disco came along to decimate corporate rock, what will kill Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon? I don’t know, but it’s funny how the establishment always triumphs.
And Steve Marriott was the lead singer of the Small Faces, before they lost that modifier and changed lead singers and became only the “Faces,” fronted by Rod Stewart, and Marriott became a hard rocker in Humble Pie, before experimenting with Peter Frampton in that outfit, before “Smokin'” and “Thirty Days In The Hole.”
And what blew my mind was I knew not only every lyric, but every inflection. Because that was our entertainment. Sure, we watched television, but there were few channels and it was all dumbed-down but our music was honest, it was for us. That’s what younger generations don’t understand about SNL, it was OUR FIRST TV PROGRAM! The lunatics had taken over the asylum, we caught the references, it was hip. That show on Saturday night today is pure comedy, with little edge, and few shared references, because we’ve all become scattered, we live in a Tower of Babel society and no one gets the references, society has been blown apart, it’s not only fake news, but the tyranny of choice.
And then came “Sunshine Of Your Love.” Which waited a year to appear on AM radio, at a time when only the clued-in were listening to FM, when albums truly burgeoned, when testing limits was the ethos.
But you know what got me off the most?
Hearing “Build Me Up Buttercup.”
I’ll be over at ten’, you told me time and again
It was a period of transition, from ditties to opuses. We had FM at home, but not in the car, you could go to the show, but if you went to a pizza place, or anywhere that had a jukebox, you were subjected to AM hits. That’s what bugs me about statistics, all this b.s. comparing the Hot 100 of today with yesteryear’s. I don’t care how many #1s Mariah Carey had, none of her tracks was as ubiquitous as the hits of the sixties, BECAUSE EVERYBODY WAS LISTENING!
Just like they were not listening in the seventies. Ignore the singles chart of that decade, it’s irrelevant. But the one of the eighties is more correct, because MTV unified our listening, before the internet blew it apart.
You were my toy, but I could be the boy you adore
If you’d just let me know
That was the key to the song, the “bah-dah-dah.” We were the chorus, that was our job, to sing the background vocals, that was our role. Over time we learned the verses, the choruses themselves, but mostly we waited to fill the accents, to become part of the songs.
Yes, we were part of them and they were part of us.
And no matter how dark the numbers became, we remained optimistic. That’s the difference from today, when everybody believes we’re going to hell in a handbasket, back then were pointing out flaws, evidencing truth, but we believed we were on the road to somewhere better, as opposed to being defeated. Times have changed, everybody thinks we’re going in the wrong direction, but not back then!
So we have music today, and hits, but they’re not the same, they speak to fewer and are conduits of cash, as opposed to being truth spoken to an entire generation. Sure, hip-hop dominates younger listening, but it’s a subculture as opposed to the culture itself. As for pop, it’s so irrelevant it’s starting to fade in the marketplace.
But our songs of the sixties…
They were EVERYTHING!