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American Idol of 1959: Hottest Female Stars

In film, history, music on August 9, 2014 at 5:50 am
Connie Francis, sultry in stills, goofy in films.

Connie Francis, sultry in stills, goofy in films.

1. Marilyn Monroe — now aged 33 after a dozen years in movies, she releases her first film in two years, comedy blockbuster Some Like It Hot from Billy Wilder and co-starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. After time off in New York studying at The method, it’s enough to put her back at the top around the world, voted the Golden Globe by Hollywood’s international press corps as the most popular movie star internationally.

2. Brigitte Bardot — the prototypical French “sex kitten” since And God Created Woman three years ago, turning 25 this year, as well as tops in Europe for the past two years she has been scoring multiple hits across the US, Babette Goes to War being one of three this year.

3. Gina Lollobrigida — at 32 a superstar in Europe for almost a decade but hampered in the US by her contract with crazy Howard Hughes, she has recently broken out as co-star of top US male stars with international blockbusters Trapeze (with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis), Hunchback of Notre Dame (Anthony Quinn), Anna di Brooklyn/Fast and Sexy, Solomon and Sheba (Yul Brynner) and Never So Few (Frank Sinatra & Steve McQueen)

4. Connie Francis — at 20, easily the top female seller of discs across the US, scoring three gold awards this year in ‘My Happiness’, ‘Lipstick On Your Collar’ and ‘Frankie’, and the first to sell ten million discs in one year; and filming Where the Boys Are for MGM, which will make her into a top Sixties screen attraction in youth comedies

5. Doris Day — a veteran at 37, but no.1 woman (4th overall) in the US box-office list with frothy comedy Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson already out, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (with David Niven) and foggy London thriller Midnight Lace (Rex Harrison, John Gavin) upcoming.

6. Debbie Reynolds — second only to Doris Day among women in the US box-office list (5th overall), and at the peak of her career — at 27 — helped in her private life by losing singer Eddie Fisher to Liz Taylor.

7. Sophia Loren — now turning 25, has had several high-profile US film releases hoping to replicate her European success, but yet to find her niche unlike the sensation made over Brigitte.

8. Kim Novak — the first buxom blonde to overtake Marilyn Monroe at the US box-office, through Picnic (1956) and Vertigo (1958) though only briefly as it turns out.

9. Elizabeth Taylor — an MGM star since National Velvet (1944) at 12, fresh from Raintree County with Montgomery Clift and Eva Marie Saint, and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman, her sole release this year is the mildly successful Suddenly Last Summer with Clift and Katharine Hepburn, poised for an Oscar and return to the box-office ten next year.

10. Sandra Dee — The blonde teen is rocketing into the official box-office top 10 movie stars in the USA as Gidget and in grown-up soap A Summer Place.

11. Lana Turner — The 39-year-old veteran — in movies 22 years — is enjoying a comeback via Peyton Place and Imitation Of Life. This sexy momma’s career is boosted out of sight by her daughter’s stabbing murder of mom’s abusive boyfriend, gangster Johnny Stompanato who has shared his charms around the upper echelons of Hollywood stars.

12. Connie Stevens — turning 21, a veteran of teen exploitation flicks Young and Dangerous and The Party Crashers and star of Warner Bros’ Hawaiian Eye on tv, still growing in drive-in appeal on the big screen.

13. Susan Hayward — just turned 40 as the year starts, winning the Oscar for I Want to Live as a woman on Death Row, she is hotness personified for the mature set too in A Woman Obsessed with younger man Stephen Boyd, helping her to make no.10 on US box-office listings.

14. Diane Varsi — starring and Oscar-nominated as Alison MacKenzie in Peyton Place (1957) at 20, she has not quite maintained her momentum with the nonetheless rivetting Compulsion this year and leaves Hollywood abruptly for reasons of survival and emotional stability.

15. Lee Remick — at 23 is on the up as a blonde sex kitten with subtlety, and slightly built, through A Face in the Crowd, The Long Hot Summer and now Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder.

16. Carroll Baker — following a sensational role as Baby Doll (1956), building with Giant and The Big Country, she is now stalling, poised for another big push in the mid Sixties with The Carpetbaggers and Harlow but too late at 35.

17. Tuesday Weld — exploited by stage parents from age three, entering a period of breakdowns and addictions in adolescence, she is now turning 16 and put into lurid sexploitation flicks (Sex Kittens Go to College, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, Return to Peyton Place) by her
minders but despite all the odds against her manages a considerable career in the end.

18. Eva Marie Saint — Emerging from New York’s method acting school since her belated debut (at 30) as Marlon Brando’s squeeze in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, she has been looking younger, breaking the mold as a very versatile blonde — focusing on character, so without the constant screen persona, image and star vehicles to make a superstar impact, just Hitchcock’s North By Northwest this year but making a lasting impression and preparing for Otto Preminger blockbuster Exodus releasing next year

19. Annette Funicello — The wholesome Disney star, 16, scores her first of four Top 20 hits in ‘Tall Paul’ (#7 Billboard, her career peak) and ‘First Name Initial’. Having graduated from tv’s Mickey Mouse Club, and now in her own Disney tv series, she is on the rise in movies too starting with The Shaggy Dog this year before moving on to Babes in Toyland (1961) with Tommy Sands and then her famous series of “beach movies” co-starring Frankie Avalon.

20. Hayley Mills — The new English child star, 13, has the central starring role in father John Mills’ suspenser Tiger Bay, released in the US in December. Already, she is in America filming the title role of Pollyanna for the Disney studio, to be released to acclaim the following May (1960) shortly after her 14th birthday. Her series of family Disney movies will make her the world’s no.1 child star (until she turns 20).

Honorable mention: Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Hope Lange, Joan Collins, Diana Dors

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BIGGEST DISC SELLERS IN U.S. FOR 1965

In generational/fashion, history, music on April 22, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Nineteen sixty-five was the year the Beatles relinquished a big gooey dollop of their kiddywink appeal for American tweenies to another English group, Herman’s Hermits, from Manchester. While the Beatles surrendered quite a chunk of their disc sales too compared with 1964, they moved on to more mature music and broadened their fanbase, “peaking” with Yesterday, of Elizabethan pedigree. Couldn’t get much older-style or high-falutin’ than that. The Hermits, led by 17-year-old Peter Noone of panto and Coronation Street experience, stole the Beatles’ music hall base which they wouldn’t fully reclaim until the Sgt Pepper’s album two years later.

The Rolling Stones hit the US in a big way and around the world in 1965. From left, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger,  a stoned Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, a young, relatively humanoid Keith Richard

The Rolling Stones hit the US in a big way and around the world in 1965. From left, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, a stoned Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, a young, relatively humanoid Keith Richard

The Hermits’ American label, MGM, would claim no fewer than seven million-selling singles for them during 1965, most of them including their two fastest sellers, Mrs Brown (You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter) and I’m Henry VIII I Am, firmly from the English Music Hall tradition. Deputising for them delivering music hall from Manchester were Freddie & the Dreamers, and in more serious mode, from Liverpool, Gerry & the Pacemakers. Where was rock music going? Fast taking over with two striking number ones, selling multi millions around the world, were the Rolling Stones. And there were still the Dave Clark Five, adding to their string of big hits.

Subdued beneath these English groups in singles sales were the most popular American groups, the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons hardly rating outright million-sellers anymore and now joined by the Byrds, Sonny & Cher and the Lovin’ Spoonful. In fact, at the height of the British Invasion the Beatles were slow off the mark to raise an RIAA Gold Disc. But the British showed their overall influence by converting to their style not only the Byrds (supposedly inspired by Bob Dylan) but popsters Gary Lewis & the Playboys and big-voiced soloist P. J. Proby.

P. J. Proby: from Texas, endorsed in the UK by the Beatles and had talent overflowing enough to go worldwide and then some.

P. J. Proby: from Texas, endorsed in the UK by the Beatles and had talent overflowing enough to go worldwide and then some.

Businesswise, it was a strangely divided year: high selling in the New Year and early spring when Petula Clark and Roger Miller had easily their biggest-ever hits, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye their biggest of mid decade and lesser Brit acts; but turning to distinctly mediocre by June, after which hot young acts like the Byrds couldn’t sell a million with a strong tail wind of publicity and Bob Dylan and the Beatles beneath their wings. The Byrds’ Mr Tambourine Man and Turn, Turn, Turn both hit no.1 in the US for multiple weeks but failed to sell a million in a low-selling period of 1965 during generally rising sales — the first one their top seller ever at a documented 900,000 nationally.

1. A Taste Of Honey (Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass)…. reported as 4.5 million US in 16 months, supporting mega-million sales of their albums

2. Wooly Bully (Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs)….. well over 2 million

3. I Can’t Help Myself (Four Tops)…. 2,500,000

4. King Of the Road (Roger Miller)…… 2 million or more

5. Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter (Herman’s Hermits)…. sold a million US in first week

6. Downtown (Petula Clark)…. instant million-seller and eventually 3 million in US

7. My Girl (Temptations)….. eventually passing 2 million in US

8. Yesterday (Beatles)….. 1,800,000 in US

9. I’m Henry VIII I Am (Herman’s Hermits)….. over 600,000 orders in 2 days

10. I Got You Babe (Sonny & Cher)….. certified gold within two months and continuing strong to reach 3 million in next two years

We Can Work It Out (Beatles)…… 1,600,000 in US

Help! (Beatles)…. sold a million in US in one week

Satisfaction (Rolling Stones)…. a quick US million of its 4.5 million worldwide

Let’s Hang On (Four Seasons)….. est. 1,500,000 or more

I Got You (I Feel Good) (James Brown)…. a certified million in under 2 months

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Righteous Bros)…. nearing a million in under two months

Eve Of Destruction (Barry McGuire)….. a million and a half US

Get Off Of My Cloud (Rolling Stones)….. 500,000 US in 5 days

1 – 2 – 3 (Len Barry)….. 1,500,000

Stop In the Name of Love (Supremes)….. sold a prompt million US early spring

Help Me Rhonda (Beach Boys)….. over a million in its chart run

Ticket to Ride (Beatles)….. 750,000 orders but slow to retail the million

Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat? (Herman’s Hermits)…. certified a million US in ten weeks

This Diamond Ring (Gary lewis & the Playboys)…. a million US in less than 3 months

The Birds and the Bees (Jewel Aken)….. a fast million in early spring

I Hear a Symphony (Supremes)….. over half in US of world total of more than 2 million

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (James Brown)….. ditto US & world

Treat Her Right (Roy Head)…… 1,300,000

A Lover’s Concerto (Toys)….. certified gold in less than 3 months

Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)….. certified gold in 3 months

Hang On Sloopy (McCoys)…. certified gold in 5 months

Crying In the Chapel (Elvis Presley)….. certified gold US in summer

‘In’ Crowd (Ramsey Lewis Trio)….. gold

I Like It Like That (Dave Clark Five)….. reported million in US

Eight Days a Week (Beatles)….. took 6 months to be certified gold

Back In My Arms Again (Supremes)….. eventual million US

Over and Over (Dave Clark Five)……. million-seller US

Game Of Love (Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders)….. probable spring million-seller

Count Me In (Gary Lewis & the Playboys)…. est. million US

The Name Game (Shirley Ellis)…. fast New Year seller

Flowers On the Wall (Statler Bros)…. sold a million into 1966

Keep On Dancing (Gentrys)…. a million US subsequently

Where the Action Is (Freddie Cannon)…. pop music tv theme, went gold in tv season

I’m Into Something Good (Herman’s Hermits)…. half million or so at first, passed a million during their US tour in May six months later

Hold What You’ve Got (Joe Tex)….. took almost a year to sell the million US

I’m Telling You Now (Freddie & the Dreamers)…. no.1 US but no reported gold disc

You Were On My Mind (We Five)….. passed 600,000 two weeks into top 20 US

What’s New Pussycat? (Tom Jones)…. almost a million in US chart run

California Girls (Beach Boys)…… debated million-seller US

Catch Us if You Can (Dave Clark Five)….. label claimed a million-seller

Tired Of Waiting for You (Kinks)….. ditto

All Day and All of the Night (Kinks)….. ditto, New Year seller

Unchained Melody (Righteous Bros)….. ditto, summer seller

Ebb Tide (Righteous Bros)…. ditto, Xmas seller

Red Roses for a Blue Lady (Bert Kaempfert)….. a subsequent million

Keep Searchin’ (Del Shannon)….. eventual million sale reported

Baby I’m Yours (Barbara Lewis)….. ditto

Save Your Heart for Me (Gary lewis & the Playboys)….. close to a million

The Boy From New York City (Ad Libs)….. gold unclaimed

Silhouettes (Herman’s Hermits)….. advance of 400,000 and eventual million

Mr Tambourine Man (Byrds)….. reported 900,000 in US

Turn Turn Turn (Byrds)….. less than 900,000 in US despite 3 weeks at no.1

Ferry Cross the Mersey (Gerry & the Pacemakers)….. est. 850,000

England Swings (Roger Miller)….. reported approaching a million

The Clapping Song (Shirley Ellis)….. ditto

Everybody Loves a Clown (Gary lewis & the Playboys)…. est. over 800,000

Nowhere to Run (Martha & the Vandellas)….. est. ditto

Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)…. est. ditto

Bye Bye Baby (Four Seasons)….. three quarters of a million or more

Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (Patti Page)…… est ditto

How Sweet It Is (Marvin Gaye)….. over 800,000 as reported by Marvin

I’m A Fool (Dino, Desi & Billy)…… reported as 800,000 US

It’s the Same Old Song (Four Tops)….. over 750,000

Positively 4th Street (Bob Dylan)….. reported as 750,000-plus

Wonderful World (Herman’s Hermits)….. probably no more than three quarters of its world million in the US

Engine Engine No.9 (Roger Miller)….. est. 750,000 or so

I Go to Pieces (Peter & Gordon)….. est. ditto

It’s Not Unusual (Tom Jones)….. est. ditto

Baby Don’t Go (Sonny & Cher)….. est. around three quarters of a million US

It Ain’t Me Babe (Turtles)….. est. ditto

Just a Little Bit Better (Herman’s Hermits)….. probably less than 750,000 in US

I’ll Be Doggone (Marvin Gaye)….. est. ditto

Ain’t That Peculiar (Marvin Gaye)….. est. ditto

Just Once in My Life (Righteous Bros)…. est. ditto

I Will (Dean Martin)…. est. ditto

Don’t Think Twice (Four Seasons)…… sold a fast half-million and continued

Laugh At Me (Sonny)…. over 700,000 US

The Last Time (Rolling Stones)….. sold less in US (est. 700,000) than in UK

Do You Wanna Dance? (Beach Boys)….. est. 700,000

People Get Ready (Impressions)…. ditto

True Love Ways (Peter & Gordon)….. est. ditto

Last Chance to Turn Around (Gene Pitney)….. est. ditto

Reelin’ and Rockin’ (Dave Clark Five)….. ditto

Do the Freddie (Freddie & the Dreamers)….. est. 650,000 US

We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place (Animals)….. est. 650,000

I’m Yours (Elvis Presley)….. 650,000 initially, gold long term

Puppet On a String (Elvis Presley)…. initially over half a million, long term gold disc US

Nothing But Heartaches (Supremes)….. est. around 600,000

Come Home (Dave Clark Five)…. ditto

Houston (Dean Martin)….. ditto

Little Girl I Once Knew (Beach Boys)….. est. 600,000 or so

But You’re Mine (Sonny & Cher)…. est. ditto

Tracks of My Tears (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles)…. est. ditto

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Animals)….. est. ditto

Mohair Sam (Charlie Rich)….. est. ditto

In the Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett)…. est. ditto

Send Me the Pillow You Dream On (Dean Martin)….. est. ditto

Heart Of Stone (Rolling Stones)….. est. 600,000

You Were Made For Me (Freddie & the Dreamers)….. reported 600,000 in US

Girl On the Billboard (Del Reeves)….. est. ditto, c&w no.1 for many weeks

With These Hands (Tom Jones)….. probably 600,000

Willow Weep For Me (Chad & Jeremy)….. est. ditto

Before and After (Chad & Jeremy)….. est. ditto

It’s My Life (Animals)….. est. ditto

Set Me Free (Kinks)….. est. ditto

Lookin’ Through the Eyes of Love (Gene Pitney)…… est. ditto

Tell Me Why (Elvis Presley)….. just over 500,000 initially, gold long term

(Such An) Easy Question….. Estimated half a million sales or more

I’ll Be There (Gerry & the Pacemakers)….. est. half-million or so

I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail (Buck Owens)…. top c&w disc selling over a half-million

I Must Be Seeing Things (Gene Pitney)….. est. ditto

Girl Come Running (Four Seasons)…. est. ditto

Just You (Sonny & Cher)….. est. half a million

I Understand (Freddie & the Dreamers)….. reported half a million US

Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley)….. probably around a half-million this Xmas, awarded gold long term

Do the Clam (Elvis Presley)…. reported just under half-million

THE DUMBING DOWN OF US

In music, psychology/psychiatry on April 15, 2014 at 9:15 pm

This is one of those unpalatable, indigestible ideas that has stuck in my craw many times before, often when I’ve just surrendered to bedtime sometime after midnight. Too often, I just roll over and drift off to sleep too lazy to rouse myself. Finally, it grabbed me on the right side of my waking cycle — 5.30am this morning — by the throat, and wouldn’t let go. I dedicate this to one of those famous deejays of the Rock Era, who was proudest of his evident efforts to giving pop music a bad name. He gave himself a stupid name to fit: “Cousin Brucie”, turning himself into a New York celebrity in a New York minute. His credo went something like, Take a simple song, stuff in as many fatuous cliches as you can fit, and it takes on a kind of “magic.” Maybe he owed his career to an influential uncle, but he had millions of cousins among the disc-buying public making his eyes sparkle with dollar signs.

Homeless and 'displaced' refugees: more uncounted statistics

Homeless and ‘displaced’ refugees: more uncounted statistics

The next time any of us is tempted to persist ten minutes into a mindless, meathead action movie and waste another hour and a half we could be spending more profitably on, say, navel-gazing, just remember people are out there on the frontiers of human civilisation every day literally losing their lives so that we don’t have to aspire to the lowest common denominator of human thought. “Ordinary” citizens, investigative journalists, front-line activists, peacekeeping soldiers put their lives on the line every day so that we don’t have to — usually in some other “God-forsaken” part of the world — including that 14-year-old girl whom the Taliban attempted to silence by shooting her face off. Or whenever we are tempted to settle for second, third or 7,556,132,404th best (that’s the worst on the planet) in a choice of politicians, favorite celebrities, sports heroes or role models of any kind.

On the same exalted level, not that he could be accused of ever dumbing down, even Einstein was proudest of some of his lesser known discoveries — Was he the one behind Wella incorporating 68% more “bounce-back body”? Mid 20th Century pop culture being my bag, I’m here to apply the principle to pop songs. Not counting those iconic biggies never intended to be more than amusing nonentities (The Chipmunk Song, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini…) the following list of massive, trite, totally expendable hits all sold more than four million copies in the USA alone:

It’s Now or Never (Elvis Presley) 1960

I Want to Hold Your Hand (The Beatles) 1963

Ballad of the Green Berets (Sgt Barry Sadler) 1966

Honey (Bobby Goldsboro) 1968

Dizzy (Tommy Roe) 1969

Sugar, Sugar (The Archies) 1969

In fact, these were the only songs to surpass the US four million mark during the Sixties — which should tell us something. It was a decade that supplied exquisite music aplenty, of which I submit a small sample below: all overlooked classics among the very best performances of the acts listed. Billboard ‘peaks’ are stated in those cases where the song rose high enough in our collective imagination to enter sales charts at all.

Reeling and Rocking (Fats Domino) nil, 1952

Tutti Frutti (Little Richard) #21, 1955

Too Much Monkey Business (Chuck Berry) nil, 1956

Young Blood (The Coasters) #18, 1957

The Girl Can’t Help It (Little Richard) #49, 1957

Teach Me How to Shimmy (Isley Bros) nil, 1961

Three Cool Cats (The Coasters) nil, 1962

When the Lovelight Shines (The Supremes) #23, 1963

The Warmth of the Sun (The Beach Boys) nil, 1964

Big Man in Town (The Four Seasons) #20, 1964

Goodbye My Love (The Searchers) #52, 1965

Early Morning Rain (Peter, Paul & Mary) nil, 1965

In My Life (The Beatles) nil, 1965

With These Hands (Tom Jones) #27, 1965

My Generation (The Who) #74, 1966

I’m a Boy (The Who) nil, 1966

Try a Little Tenderness (Otis Redding) #21, 1966

Bowling Green (The Everly Bros) #40, 1967

Mas Que Nada (Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66) nil, 1967

Why Do Fools Fall in Love? (The Happenings) #41, 1967

Guide For the Married Man (The Turtles) nil, 1967

Pata, Pata (Miriam Makeba) #12, 1967

To Love Somebody (The Bee Gees) #17, 1967

Twelve Thirty (The Mamas & the Papas) #20, 1967

Will You Love Me Tomorrow (The Four Seasons) #24, 1968

Workin’ On a Groovy Thing (The Fifth Dimension) #20, 1969

Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival) nil, 1969

Oh Me, Oh My (Lulu) #22, 1970

Me About You (The Turtles) nil, 1970

Out in the Country (Three Dog Night) #15, 1970

BIGGEST SELLING DISCS OF 1963

In history, music on April 13, 2014 at 1:44 am

Ok, calm down everyone, following the deafening clamor that greeted my last post, “Biggest Disc Sellers of 1964” — and ignoring the fact that most searches that got through were actually after a site called “Biggest Dicks Fellers” — I’ve answered the call to go a year even further back. (In relaying coherently the massive amount of research I’ve done into this burning question it is necessary to publish it bit by bit, so please visit my site

  • http://www.garbonza.wordpress.com
  • to get the full story over the next day or two.)

    Here we enter the official pre-Beatle Era because most Americans didn’t know that group existed before 1964 though they’d sold an audited total of more than five million singles and e.p.s in their home country through 1963, and this from a pool of potential disc-buyers one third that of the United States at the time. They’d also had three of their singles released and promoted across the United States during the year — played on many big-city top 40 programs — but people weren’t paying proper attention at the time, thus necessitating a red-carpeted second bite at the cherry (with mostly the same discs) as ordered by his lordship the chairman of EMI in London.

    A quarter century before Nielsen-SoundScan counted sales accurately, statisticians relied on figures released by disc labels or the artists themselves. This resulted in highly exaggerated, seriously underestimated or sometimes very accurate totals of particular song’s sales, depending on the motives of the label. After the Beatles finally ‘arrived’ in the US, Capitol saw the advantage of publicizing its chosen superstar’s massive disc sales with RIAA Gold Disc auditing under parent company EMI’s policy and at the same time continuing its own domestic policy of near secrecy for its other most popular clients — the Beach Boys, Bobby Darin, the Kingston Trio, Nat King Cole, Kyu Sakamoto, and now Peter & Gordon — so as not to distract attention from the predetermined main event. If it had a mind to, this also allowed Capitol to short-change these under-promoted acts on royalties with impunity — not that I’m saying they did, but the Beach Boys for one sued their label repeatedly over the years for “missing paperwork” on sales tallies. It is acknowledged that Peter, Paul & Mary edged the Beach Boys in album sales for 1963, making up 45% of all folk music sold in the US.

    1963 was the year of the Beach Boys (and soundalikes Jan & Dean) but maybe most of all maybe Peter, Paul & Mary: From right, the lovely Mary Travers, and the professorial Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.

    1963 was the year of the Beach Boys (and soundalikes Jan & Dean) but maybe most of all maybe Peter, Paul & Mary: From right, the lovely Mary Travers, and the professorial Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.

    Though assessed by Billboard to be the biggest-selling act of 1963, sales of individual Beach Boys discs had proven problematic because traditionally in the US the sales of a song (one side of a vinyl disc) were always counted separately. So while the double-sided hits Surfin’ USA/Shut Down, Surfer Girl/Little Deuce Coupe and Be True to Your School/In My Room all might have sold a double-million, the question was how many sales to attribute to each song? The Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison too had the same problem of being too generous filling B-sides with top quality when customarily it had been treated as a throwaway to focus attention on the “A” and not split airplay and therefore sales. Elvis Presley had scored many double-gold sellers in his heyday (pre-1963) and at least in the case of Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel more sales were assigned to the designated B-side than the “A”. Similarly, Billboard named Little Deuce Coupe as the second biggest Beach Boys seller of the year, surprisingly ahead of its “A”, which did exceedingly well topping regional charts right across the USA (apart from New York City). Regarding the Beatles, though Capitol tended to fill their early B-sides with decidedly secondary attractions — judging from results, many of these songs missing or just making the weekly top 100 — the Liverpool group would feature a number of noted double-siders in the mid 1960s: I Feel Fine/She’s a Woman, We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper, Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby.

    The most reliable list of bestsellers in the nation for 1963 involved a nationwide conference at the end of the year sponsored by the National Disk Jockey Association that included retail disc sellers and distributors, radio station personnel and research staff from trade magazines (Billboard, Cash Box, Music Vendor) who undertook a week-by-week, month-by-month breakdown of regional and national sales from January 6th to December 16th.

    (Note: It was remarked on by commentators at the time, especially through summer following a healthy-selling spring, on how low individual songs were selling, even those expected to reach a million that fell short at “three quarters of a million” or so. The lion’s share of the blame for this was put on the new Japanese pocket transistors, which afforded a free listen to your favorite tunes hanging out at the beach without shelling out singles’ exorbitant list price of 77 cents and up. Undoubtedly a second cause was the sheer amount of competition from all quarters providing what have since become recognised as classic tunes.)

    Here follows the top ten determined by that industry working group, published by Billboard in March 1964, with accompanying figures I have been able to dig up, then carrying on down the list. Hope you find some favorites somewhere in here.

    1. Surfin’ USA (Beach Boys)….. Though peaking at no.3 in the weekly charts of Billboard and Cash Box, sold probably around two million in its ten months from release to the end of the year, and continuing

    2. End Of the World (Skeeter Davis)….. peaking no.2 in weekly charts, accumulating through the entire year from its release in January

    3. Rhythm Of the Rain (Cascades)….. selling from its late-1962 release, mounting 700,000 by its third week in the top 20 to peak at no.3

    4. He’s So Fine (Chiffons)….. the most durable no.1 of the year, on its own topping Billboard for 4 weeks

    5. Blue Velvet (Bobby Vinton)….. a million during chart run

    6. Hey Paula (Paul & Paula)…. audited early for a Gold Disc at 1,030,000 and in 9 months sold over 2 million worldwide; US est. around 1,400,000

    7. Fingertips (Part II) (Little Stevie Wonder)…. three weeks at no.1 through late summer

    8. Can’t Get Used to Losing You (Andy Williams)…. quoted at 850,000 by Williams, who must have been shortchanged

    9. My Boyfriend’s Back (Angels)…. three weeks at no.1 beginning autumn

    10. Sukiyaki (Kyu Sakamoto)…. three weeks at no.1 early summer, quoted at 930,000 most of the way through low-selling summer, nearing the end of its chart run

    * If I Had a Hammer (Trini Lopez)….. peaked no.3 in autumn, going on to well over a million US and 4.5 million globally

    * Puff (the Magic Dragon) (Peter, Paul & Mary)….. well over a million US from spring and multi-millions worldwide

    * Walk Like a Man (Four Seasons)…. 700,000 in 4 weeks after release, before hitting top 20, going on to three weeks at no.1 by early spring

    * Surf City (Jan & Dean)…. two weeks at no.1, quoted at 1,250,000

    * If You Wanna Be Happy (Jimmy Soul)….. ditto, a million-plus

    * Sugar Shack (Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs)….. a no.1 in Billboard towards the end of the year and building the biggest chart “points” tally for the year — boosted by airplay — but quoted at just a 1,200,000 total a year later

    * Walk Right In (Rooftop Singers)….. well over a million accumulated by this January topper

    * Green, Green (New Christie Minstrels)….. over a million steadily, then more than 3 million in a few years

    * From A Jack to a King (Ned Miller)…. well over a million; 2 million worldwide within 6 months (including over 750,000 UK)

    * I’m Leaving It Up to You (Dale & Grace)…. a million reported for this autumn no.1

    * It’s My Party (Lesley Gore)….. over a million

    * Blowin’ In the Wind (Peter, Paul & Mary)….. over a million

    * Easier Said Than Done (The Essex)….. massive but in a low-selling summer

    * Losing You (Brenda Lee)…. “climbing towards a million” three weeks into top 20

    * The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (Bobby Vee)…. 700,000 after 4 weeks in top 20, peaking no.3

    * Cry Baby (Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters)…. over a million

    * Be My Baby (Ronettes)…. “about one million” claimed by Phil Spector for this disputed no.1/2

    * I Will Follow Him (Little Peggy March)…. quoted at 965,000 a year later though three weeks at no.1 in spring

    * Busted (Ray Charles)…… million-seller

    * Da Doo Ron Ron (Crystals)….. one of Phil Spector’s claimed million-sellers

    * South Street (Orlons)….. over a million

    * Our Day Will Come (Ruby & the Romantics)…. no.1 but no record of a million sale claimed

    * Ruby Baby (Dion)…. probable million-seller, not confirmed

    * In Dreams (Roy Orbison)….. million-seller

    * Take These Chains From My Heart (Ray Charles)…… million-seller

    * Two Faces Have I (Lou Christie)…. a million-seller

    * Blue On Blue (Bobby Vinton)…. “almost a million” in 4 months

    * Washington Square (Village Stompers)…. reported just over the million June ’64

    * Deep Purple (April Stevens & Nino Tempo)….. no.1 for a week in late autumn, reported passing the million in 1965

    * Heat Wave (Martha & the Vandellas)….. reported over a million (of a 4.5 million singles sales total for the Motown label in 1963)

    * It’s All Right (Impressions)…. awarded gold after a year

    * So Much in Love (Tymes)….. no.1 for one week in a slow summer

    * (You’re the) Devil in Disguise (Elvis Presley)…. sold around 700,000 initially and slowly built past a million

    * Candy Girl (Four Seasons)…. sold 200,000 fast and continued to a million, peaked no.3

    * Little Deuce Coupe (Beach Boys)… assessed by Capitol as a high seller though missing top 10

    * Surfer Girl (Beach Boys)…. assessed at less than above though peaking no.5 for three weeks

    * Mean Woman Blues (Roy Orbison)…… million-seller

    * Then He Kissed Me (Crystals)….. million-seller for producer Phil Spector, peaking no.6

    * One Fine Day (Chiffons)……. million-seller, peaking no.5

    * Detroit City (Bobby Bare)…. over a million, his biggest seller

    * Be True to Your School (Beach Boys)…. reputedly a million-seller, peaked no.6

    * Mockingbird (Inez & Charlie Foxx)… peaking no.7, initially 800,000 then passing the million

    * Donna the Prima Donna (Dion)….

    * Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash)….. a million

    * 24 Hours From Tulsa (Gene Pitney)….. confirmed million-seller

    * Call On Me (Bobby Bland)…. r&b chart winner, over a million in chart run peaking barely top 30 in the pop chart

    * 500 Miles From Home (Bobby Bare)…. another million-seller quoted for him

    * Wonderful, Wonderful (Tymes)….

    * Don’t Think Twice (It’s All Right) (Peter, Paul & Mary)….. million unconfirmed

    * He’s Sure the Boy I Love (Crystals)….. probably approaching a million

    * Mecca (Gene Pitney)…. not quite a million

    * Honolulu Lulu (Jan & Dean)…… ditto

    * Walkin’ Miracle (The Essex)…..

    * Drip Drop (Dion)……. sales going into 1964

    * Half Heaven, Half Heartache (Gene Pitney)…. unconfirmed million

    * Not Me (Orlons)…..

    * The Gypsy Cried (Lou Christie)…. a million eventually

    * If My Pillow Could Talk (Connie Francis)…. 282,000 in first week of release but slowed down short of top 20

    * Abilene (George Hamilton IV)….. short of a million

    * Quicksand (Martha & the Vandellas)…… selling into 1964

    * I Love You Because (Al Martino)… 750,000 within 6 months

    * These Arms of Mine (Otis Redding)…. reported 750,000 though barely made top 100

    * You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles)….. around three quarters of a million

    * True Love Never Runs Smooth (Gene Pitney)…. something around three quarters of a million

    * Days Of Wine and Roses (Andy Williams)…. 750,000 quoted by Williams for this B-side

    * Bossa Nova Baby (Elvis Presley)…. “sales somewhat less than 700,000”

    * One Broken Heart For Sale (Elvis Presley)…. something approaching 700,000

    * Six Days On the Road (Dave Dudley)…. over 600,000 and still selling steadily after

    * Killer Joe (Rocky Fellers)….. reported at 600,000 by Filipino group

    * Follow the Boys (Connie Francis)…..

    * Blue Bayou (Roy Orbison)….. high-selling B-side

    * Little St Nick (Beach Boys)….. biggest-selling Xmas disc of 1963, accumulating a million over successive Xmases

    * Shut Down (Beach Boys)….

    * Let’s Limbo Some More (Chubby Checker)…..

    * This Little Girl (Dion)……

    * Loddy Lo (Chubby Checker)…..

    * Birdland (Chubby Checker)……..

    * Marlena (Four Seasons)…… B-side performing well

    * Ain’t That a Shame (Four Seasons)……

    * Don’t Set Me Free (Ray Charles)…….

    * 20 Miles (Chubby Checker)…….

    * Falling (Roy Orbison)….. needed international sales to take it over the million

    * In My Room (Beach Boys)…. ditto

    * Pretty Paper (Roy Orbison)….. Xmas song selling into 1964

    SPECIAL MENTION: those that sold well over a million but had their sales split into 1964

    Microsoft Word - _Student Outline #10_ - School of Rock-John LenDominique (Singing Nun)…. said to have sold almost a million by Xmas and then continued just as strong

    Louie, Louie (Kingsmen)…. approached 2 million but well into 1964, topping 3 million in the US alone by late ’67

    There I’ve Said It Again! (Bobby Vinton)….. broke the label record of 94,000 in one day

    You Don’t Own Me (Lesley Gore)…. sold mostly into 1964

    Forget Him (Bobby Rydell)….. ditto

    BIGGEST SELLING DISCS OF 1964: “IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO TODAY…”

    In history, music on April 7, 2014 at 2:09 am

    No, nothing to do with the Sgt Pepper’s album, whose 50th anniversary is still to come three years from now. Though the Beatles changed the stakes by selling just as many albums in the States as singles, individual songs (the A-side of a vinyl single) still made the biggest impact on the charts and to careers — to change to albums later in the decade.

    It was 1964 that was unquestionably the year of the Beatles — in the United States. In their homeland the Beatles had already made multiple breakthroughs right through 1963, their singles more than doubling the sales of the previous one until reaching a ceiling: from Love Me Do (116,000) to Please Please Me (310,000), From Me to You (660,000), the Twist & Shout e.p. the same, She Loves You (1,890,000) and I Want to Hold Your Hand (1,640,000). These last two would remain their biggest-ever sellers in the UK (double that of Hey Jude in 1968 after four years of steadily falling sales across the British industry). After From Me to You had ‘peaked’ for them at 21,000 North American sales, the very last was the disc that finally broke through in America with hefty saturation promotion via New York radio stations during the two weeks of the New Year 1964 holiday. The Beatles were a commercial phenomenon, the biggest thing on disc since the Chipmunks sold seven million of their Xmas song in 1958-59.

    N.B. The figures quoted in this article are the official retail totals of cross-counter sales through each disc’s chart run as far as can be determined from this distance. In Britain this is generally the single’s total up to date, unless specially re-released and publicized as such. In the States vinyl presses tended to be kept at the ready for big hits, especially for long-running performers who could promote the song all over again for seasonal occasions or on tour, and many medium to big hits turned into monumental ones over the years. (Fans couldn’t get enough of those cute Chipmunks and took their disc to 12 million over the next two Xmases.) Note also that the cost of a single in America (and Britain) in the early to mid Sixties ranged from 75 cents upwards — proportionate to relative incomes, more than $10 today. Additionally, the population of the USA — and its record-buyers — was barely more than half what it is today.

    The year before, the Beach Boys had been the biggest sellers of US singles (the Four Seasons in 1962) at around six and a half million in total (my estimate) in a low-selling year, followed by Dion, the Four Seasons, Ray Charles, and Chubby Checker fading, 5th. Surfin’ USA was ajudged the top-selling single by torturous process, out on its own but at probably well under two million, compared to 1962 which had boasted at least seven singles selling the double-million or approaching it.

    The Beatle industry’s massive assault on the USA and rest-of-the-world markets really began in fall 1963 when Capitol executives were summoned from Hollywood to London by Sir Joseph Lockwood, chairman of parent company EMI, to please explain why his trans-global corporation had made no dent at all in the States with its fluffiest product. Capitol, from its point of view, had done fine with its biggest disc sellers, Bozo the Clown in the Fifties, and now the Beach Boys. Lockwood was determined to give a hefty promotional push to this one product in the all-eggs-in-one-basket approach. Sure enough, the Beatle singles that flopped in America over the past year — Please Please Me, From Me to You, She Loves You — were about to be unloaded all over again as new product on an unsuspecting public to sell in the millions, along with such worthies as And I Love Her/If I Fell that got lost in the rush and missed the top 10 (maybe selling close to three quarters of a mill) and real dogs like My Bonnie, that never made it past the 300,000 sales mark but still through saturation airplay made the Billboard top 30 and Sie Liebe Dich (Ja, Ja, Ja) that barely made the Hot 100 — its German even less comprehensible than Liverpudlian. Suffice to say, during April 1964 it was figured that 60% of singles sold in the USA across a three-week period were Beatle ones. At the end of that month, of 14 Beatle singles listing on the charts, five of them lined up at the very top of the Billboard chart.

    The Beatles, mid 1964

    The Beatles, mid 1964

      THE BIGGEST-SELLING SINGLES OF 1964 in the U.S.A.

    alone, as accurately as I can gauge by assiduous research into a period eons before Neilson-Soundscan electronic retail recording:

    1. I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles)….. 3,500,000 over the US chart run and building eventually to an estimated 5,300,000; over 12 million worldwide

    2. Hello Dolly (Louis Armstrong)….. approaching 3,000,000 US through 1964

    3. She Loves You (Beatles)……. more than 2,500,000

    4. Oh Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison)…… around 2,000,000 or more

    5. I Get Around (Beach Boys)…… approaching 2,000,000 during US chart run

    6. Louie Louie (Kingsmen)…… approaching 2,000,000 but many during 1963

    7. My Guy (Mary Wells)…… more than 1,500,000

    8. Glad All Over (Dave Clark Five)….. more than 1,500,000

    9. Everybody Loves Somebody (Dean Martin)….. almost 2,000,000 running into 1965

    10. Dominique (The Singing Nun)…. more than 1,750,000 but many during 1963

    (These are the top ten for the year according to Cash Box, the best trade paper at tracking sales, closely confirmed by Billboard for the first five places and then showing increasing variance.)

      OTHER CONTENDERS & RUNNERS-UP

    :

    * Chapel Of Love (Dixie Cups)….. around 2,000,000

    * Can’t Buy Me Love (Beatles)……. record advance order of 2,100,000 but actual sales apparently didn’t approach this

    * I Feel Fine (Beatles)…. advance orders (not retail sales) of a million-plus, building to 1,600,000 but counted under 1965

    * A Hard Day’s Night (Beatles)…… RIAA Gold Disc for a million in the US awarded one month into top 20 run

    * Rag Doll (Four Seasons)….. RIAA Gold Disc awarded two months into top 20 run

    * Twist & Shout (Beatles)…… 1,250,000

    * Last Kiss (J Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers)….. a million within three months

    * You Don’t Own Me (Lesley Gore)…… more than 1,000,000 during chart run

    * Dawn (Go Away) (Four Seasons)….. over a million by internal evidence relative to others

    * Bits and Pieces (Dave Clark Five)….. Gold disc awarded by Epic label within three months

    * Please Please Me (Beatles)……. 1,185,725 in US

    * Love Me Do (Beatles)……. 1,165,200 in US

    * Dancing In The Street (Martha & the Vandellas)….. 1,000,000 in chart run

    * We’ll Sing in the Sunshine (Gale Garnett)…. posted by Billboard at 9th for the year but only documentation is more than 900,000 within three months

    * Where Did Our Love Go? (Supremes)………. 1,072,270 sale quoted by Motown contract

    * Do You Want to Know a Secret (Beatles)…… 1,000,000

    * Fun Fun Fun (Beach Boys)……. accumulating 1,000,000 in US in a few months; reported in 1995 as having sold “over 4 million”

    * Baby Love (Supremes)….. more than 1,000,000 but counted into 1965

    * Remember (Walking in the Sand) (Shangri-Las)….. “a million”

    * G.T.O. (Ronny & the Daytonas)…… “a million”

    * Walk Don’t Run ’64 (Ventures)….. “(second) gold disc”

    * My Boy Lollipop (Millie Small)…… “almost a million”

    * Little Old Lady From Pasadena (Jan & Dean)… presumed million from internal evidence

    * California Sun (Rivieras)….. “almost a million”

    * The Girl From Ipanema (Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto)….. “almost 1,000,000”

    * Dang Me (Roger Miller)…… claimed a million

    * Chug-A-Lug (Roger Miller)….. claimed a million

    * Little Honda (Hondells)…. Beach Boys in disguise, selling a million

    * Don’t Let the Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man) (Serendipity Singers)…. 800,000-plus initially

    * Baby I Need Your Lovin’ (Four Tops)….. 750,000 initially, building to a million in 1965

    * A Woman’s Love (Carla Thomas)…. barely made the weekly top 100 but sold a million in the r&b market

    * Dance Dance Dance (Beach Boys)…. at least three quarters of a million, taken over the million by record club sales

    * When I Grow Up (Beach Boys)…. as above, similarly barely top 10 in Billboard (airplay) but top 5 in sales charts

    * Ask Me/Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby (Elvis Presley)…. initially 700,000 sold, going on eventually to gold disc US

    * Kissin’ Cousins (Elvis Presley)…. quoted 700,000 sales

    * Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley)…. initially just under 500,000 but going on long term to a US gold disc

    * Dead Man’s Curve (Jan & Dean)…. reported 790,000 sold in US spring chart run

    * Ride the Wild Surf (Jan & Dean)…. est. three quarters of a million plus

    * Sidewalk Surfin’ (Jan & Dean)…. (reworded from the Beach Boys’ Catch A Wave), reported 700,000-plus by spring ’65 though barely top 30

      SPECIAL MENTION

    :

    * Downtown (Petula Clark)….. didn’t enter top 20 till second day of 1965 (but went on to sell 3 million in US alone)

    * You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Righteous Bros)….. ditto the same day

      QUESTION MARKS

    :

    * House of the Rising Sun (Animals)…… no.1 but no confirmation

    * Do Wah Diddy Diddy (Manfred Mann)…… no.1 but no confirmation

    * Leader of the Pack (Shangri-Las)….. no.1 but similarly no confirmation of a million US sale (but pulled off a rare feat of placing top in all four major US charts, Billboard, Cash Box, Record World, Variety)

    * She’s Not There (Zombies)….. no.1 but no confirmation

    Martha Reeves heading the Vandellas.

    Martha Reeves heading the Vandellas.

    1962: Sixties Music Thriving

    In history, music on March 17, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    The year 1962 was one of those “watershed” years, if that metaphor can somehow be applied to the popular music business. Five years before, at the height of the explosion of rock’n’roll, had seen posted the all-time record in vinyl disc sales. By 1959 the boom had dipped to a slump and recovery was slow. Now three years later came the long-awaited big comeback in singles and the first sizable advance in sales of albums since they’d been introduced a few years before. Popular music albums had been the poor relation of movie soundtracks, original stage cast productions and comedy albums, which quite regularly sold over a million even for comics now virtually forgotten: Allen Sherman, Bob Newhart, Shelley Berman, Dick Gregory (a controversial black humorist), Rusty Warren (she was a woman)… In pop music there had been operatic movie star Mario Lanza appearing early in the Fifties but by their end only two black crooners of “Easy Listening” music, Harry Belafonte and Johnny Mathis, stood out as reliable sellers of albums in big numbers. Elvis Presley’s first million-selling album took two or three years to get there. And it would be 1963 before the first Sixties “rock” stars made it big in albums: Peter, Paul & Mary

    From right, the lovely Mary Travers, and the professorial Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.

    From right, the lovely Mary Travers, and the professorial Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.

    and the Beach Boys; and in Britain, the Beatles.

    Two more black balladeers, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole, took to “country” music in ’62 though their bluesy/jazz voices could not be disguised, taking their biggest numbers I Can’t Stop Loving You and Ramblin’ Rose up to top the charts and go further to post the rare landmark of two million disc sales. The summer especially saw sales rocket, in many major cities some fifty percent or more over the previous year. For the first time, songs that barely made Billboard’s top 20 sold a million discs or close to it: Surfin’ Safari by the Beach Boys and Silver Threads and Golden Needles by the Springfields with lead singer Dusty. (Though in the face of this renewed rock impetus, “Easy Listening” for “adults” still ruled: Tony Bennett’s slow-selling I Left My Heart in San Francisco accumulating two million.) In autumn too came the biggest new white group of the rock era thus far, innovating in writing, arranging and producing their own recordings. The Four Seasons,

    The Four Seasons in 1962, of 'Sherry', 'Big Girls Don't Cry' and 'Walk Like a Man' vintage. From left: lead singer/falsetto Frankie Valli, Tommy De Vito (guitar), Bob Gaudio (songwriter/keyboards), Nick Massi (bass vocals, bass guitar)

    The Four Seasons in 1962, of ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘Walk Like a Man’ vintage. From left: lead singer/falsetto Frankie Valli, Tommy De Vito (guitar), Bob Gaudio (songwriter/keyboards), Nick Massi (bass vocals, bass guitar)

    Italian-Americans from New Jersey, scored with Sherry, moving 180,000 copies the day after being played on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and climbing to a double-million seller; then Big Girls Don’t Cry, almost as big.

    In black music the balladeer group the Platters had dominated pop since 1955, recently overtaken by the Drifters in r&b/pop (Save the Last Dance for Me, Up On the Roof) and, more spectacularly, girl group the Shirelles whose standout 1962 entry was Baby It’s You, a revolution in sound and mood and dwarfing the quality of the remake the Beatles would fast turn out in tribute; accompanying it was their big number one for the year, Soldier Boy. Already, by fall, they were being eclipsed by Phil Spector group the Crystals (He’s a Rebel), to be top girl group until the arrival of Motown’s Martha (Reeves) & the Vandellas (Heat Wave) a year later, and Diana Ross & the Supremes yet a year further along.

    Martha Reeves heading the Vandellas: more talented than Diana Ross but not cozy with the boss.

    Martha Reeves heading the Vandellas: more talented than Diana Ross but not cozy with the boss.

    However, the massive seismic impact that changed the music scene overnight in the New Year of ’62 was the second coming of The Twist, as a song, but primarily a dance that took the world by storm, for the first time getting middle-aged trendies like Jackie Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich and Zsa Zsa Gabor up on the teen dance floor. The singer — and gyrater — was moca-colored Chubby Checker, in the process of overtaking Elvis this year. Uniquely topping the charts twice in two years with a song that Billboard would name the biggest of the rock era. Ensuring a bridge from the Fifties’ seminal r&b of Hank Ballard,

    Hank Ballard: too black for a superstar in 1960

    Hank Ballard: too black for a superstar in 1960

    its raucous but precise execution blaring out of millions of pocket transistors worldwide emphatically confirmed that black rock music was the model from now on.

    Elvis’s most convincing heir as white interpreter of black music was Dion (DiMucci), with more r&b feel than other Italian-American teen idols like Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Fabian Forte. He was hot with Runaround Sue, The Wanderer and Ruby Baby. The following year James Brown and 13-year-old “genius” Stevie Wonder would continue to hoist black rock on high with chart-topping albums. And Sam Cooke (Chain Gang, Bring It On Home to Me)

    Sam Cooke: smooth and soulful, with an incomparable voice that made you sit up and listen.

    Sam Cooke: smooth and soulful, with an incomparable voice that made you sit up and listen.

    would stake his claim as the Prince of Soul, along with Jackie Wilson (Baby Work Out) — who with Brown would determine the most striking dance moves of Michael Jackson.

    DIY Rock Stars (Part 1)

    In history, music on November 11, 2013 at 6:02 am

    In the 1960s the Beatles and Monkees both hit with a formula for unbridled, all-round success, or rather stumbled on it because in the end their own abilities had not much to do with it. They were big-business success stories more than anything else, in a pattern that became more common in ensuing decades as independent artists grew rarer. Both groups were the passive objects of well-connected, highly driven managers; were the favored projects of big corporations in disc recording and television, even movies. And both groups played the game for whatever it took, going well beyond the bounds of their own good taste to ensure bigger bucks for everyone in their trans-continental organizations. The Supremes too, with much less to offer as non-songwriters and non-musicians, were hoisted as the pet superstars favored above everyone else at the Motown label. Everyone else had to do it themselves in the Sixties.

    Beach Boys wait with parents (co-signing for minors) in the outer office of the Capitol Tower, Hollywood, ready to sign with the label, May 1962: from left, Carl Wilson, 15; Brian Wilson, 19; Dave Marks, 13; Denny Wilson, 17; Murry Wilson, Audree Wilson and the Marks parents.

    Beach Boys wait with parents (co-signing for minors) in the outer office of the Capitol Tower, Hollywood, ready to sign with the label, May 1962: from left, Carl Wilson, 15; Brian Wilson, 19; Dave Marks, 13; Denny Wilson, 17; Murry Wilson, Audree Wilson and the Marks parents.

    The Beach Boys, with the Wilson brothers’ father as manager, had scored a rare coup — a minor national hit with their first recording that became a big hit locally in Los Angeles, San Diego and the rest of Southern California, and got airplay up the rest of the Pacific Coast and as far afield as Erie PA and Italy. It was six months before a major label — Capitol/EMI — took them up and they had to do it themselves all over again, this time with the classic Surfin’ Safari. This vinyl single by itself (backed with co-rocker car song 409) represented a nine-month struggle that brought survival for the group and rock music back to the airwaves after a consensus of radio stations, particularly in New York, had agreed in early 1962 to push nice, quieter, slower melodic music for “grown-ups”.

    Produced by the group and recorded at an independent studio in April, signed over to Capitol in May and issued early June, the A-side was being played two weeks before release at KMEN-San Bernardino though “put down” by radio bosses in LA itself. The virtual blacklist on rock that existed among radio stations across America, the prejudice against newcomers in LA and the overriding preference for c&w across the South, Southwest and great swaths of the Midwest, would all have to be overcome by any new act entering the rock scene and wanting to go nationwide, never mind worldwide. Capitol put no more than $5,000 into promoting the label’s first rock group into stars (one tenth of the budget they would lay out 18 months later to establish the Beatles in New York City, gateway to North America). By the end of its first month it was high on playlists in Ohio, at the independent WDON in Washington DC and WYDE-Birmingham AL.

    It would hit high on charts at “surfin'” spots on the West Coast but “early” only in one sense: early in August in San Diego, Fresno and Seattle; early September in LA; and finally rebounded back to San Francisco early in November. In time the Beach Boys’ first big hit, which bore a passing resemblance to the Chubby Checker and Coasters style of r&b, would also top in Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Buffalo, Minneapolis-St Paul and other regional centers. It sold most in New York City, breaking Capitol sales records there in rising to runner-up and over the next fifteen years surveyed as the seventh biggest- selling song in the 25 million catchment area of the major WNBC network station; and did (proportionately) almost as well in the other big music centers of the day, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit. In September also it reached the top ten in Sydney, Australia, to register as the group’s first international winner, and in November topped the Swedish chart.

    In the meantime, 409 on its own would top-ten charts in San Bernardino-Riverside, Seattle, Denver, New Jersey, New Hampshire… and go to the very top in Charleston WV, and Dallas only in the very last week of 1962.

    BUY MY BOOKS, DAMN IT!

    In literature, music on August 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Once upon a time in London, centuries ago, before Fleet Street became a synonym for the journalism of daily reportage, there was Grub Street. This was a catch-all for the work place and social milieu of the hack writer, hundreds of whom hired themselves out to write bits and pieces great and small. The famous Dr Samuel Johnson started like this, lucky to be able to afford company at a coffee shoppe, compiling his dictionary in the 1750s with assistance from emmanuensises, sponsored by wealthy “patrons”. After the best part of a decade the dictionary was finished and when his patrons came a-calling he could afford to kick their asses. Don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say here, but if you buy my books as a patron of my work I promise I won’t kick your ass…

    Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer, The Vicar of Wakefield) was another habitue of Grub Street and friend of Johnson, who was finally acknowledged but was forced to sell his classics cheap to publishers, was continually hounded by creditors and died young of privations already sustained. Johnson himself didn’t escape multiple afflictions from his imposed lifestyle. And Richard Savage was another notable acquaintance, a talented poet who never made it and starved to death.

    But I’m quite comfortably off, though it’s normally two months between moca bowls (at the NZ Herald Proofreaders Old Boys Gathering, Cafe Liaison, Pompallier Tce, Ponsonby) — So, sorry for laying the guilt trip on you. The thing is, I don’t care at all for the marketing that goes into being “an author” these days and being a shameless self-promoter rubbing shoulders with get-rich-quick grifters and self-improvement freaks. But if I’m doing this once I might as well try the hard sell.

    The series "Sixties Whiteboy Rock" is based on my 2007 book "Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music" -- revised and expanded.

    The series “Sixties Whiteboy Rock” is based on my 2007 book “Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music” — revised and expanded.

    To buy ($9.99) or borrow (about $2.50) an ebook go to Amazon and look up “Sixties Whiteboy Rock”. There will be two available in the series to choose from, but since you’re there you might as well buy both — featuring everything you ever wanted to know about Sixties Music up to around mid 1965; though black music will be featured more fully in its own volume later. Each volume is about 65,000 words plus 60 photos. The next two volumes, due out in the next few months, will cover the second half of the Sixties. Even if you don’t like Sixties Music there are some good polemical chapters/passages arguing for authenticity in art. And if you don’t care for early rock music or argumentative criticism, I should have my first short novel up in the next half-year or so, of the gritty-street-life variety and set in Auckland.

    “ROCK MUSIC EBOOK 2013 — SIXTIES WHITEBOY ROCK (Part 2): Beach Boys, Jersey Boys & Beatledom” by G. A. De Forest

    In art, celebrity, generational/fashion, music on July 30, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Buy this ebook from Amazon for $9.99 (or borrow it for two weeks for a lot less) — or face the consequences. These include staying ignorant of the real facts of the Sixties music scene, a subject, though a half-century out of date, remains dear to the hearts of all right-thinking people around the world. Rock stars to this day are strongly influenced, “sample” and downright copy sounds from this era. But they do this at their peril because no way can they recapture the excitement and spirit of that music and time — set in context as it is here in this book.

    The direct link to the book is: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DQFWEJQ

    It is about 60,000 words and has some 60 photos of top attractions of the day — so Bon voyage!

    Don’t be the only loser on your block!

    UGGOS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!: You have nothing to lose but your body image

    In celebrity, film, Humor, music, television on November 15, 2012 at 7:46 am

    This post is dedicated to the Susan Boyles of the world, and that big fat guy that Simon Cowell also ridiculed until he opened his mouth — then Cowell’s eyes sparkled with dollar signs; the Roy Orbisons, the Ernie Borgnines, Lee Marvins, Pat Hingles, Dennis Franzes, Charles Laughtons, Ed Begleys, Broderick Crawfords, Edward G Robinsons, Van Heflins, William Conrads, Linda Hunts, Kathy Bateses, Daniel Benzalis…

    Even Rod Steiger, who was basically a good-looking guy but was told by a Hollywood producer, “Lose 40 pounds and I’ll make you a star.” Well, he made it anyway.

    To Alan Ladd, a head shorter than the usual screen hunk, who was told by the director when playing a love scene in Boy on a Dolphin with Sophia Loren, “Ooh, that bruising’s terrible. Here, stand on this box and you won’t be bombarded in the face.”

    To Phyllis Diller, who listened to some schmuck who said, “Hey, just get some plastic surgery and you’ll be cute” — and was never heard from again.

    To Clark Gable, who pulled through as the hunk among a thousand babes at MGM, where he was at first dismissed with, “He’ll never amount to anything with those sugarbowl ears.”

    To Fred Astaire, a human stick insect who made Jiminy Cricket look handsome, and went down in history as the screen’s most graceful male dancer.

    To Judy Garland, ridiculed for a face that was anything but chocolate-box standard and a tendency to retain baby fat, and turned out to have more talent than any of them.

    To Liza Minnelli, handicapped by being the daughter of Judy Garland mated with gifted but skunk-faced director Vincent Minnelli, and still made a worthwhile career.

    To all the beautiful young women, fashion models, who were told by flamboyant men in charge who can’t appreciate their womanly curves, “Just a few more pounds, ducks” — and became junkies and/or died for it.

    To those pretty boys Robert Taylor, Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power, who ignored or made little of their own incredible good looks to prove they had talent.

    To Michael Jackson who swallowed all the hype about Aryan looks and paid the ultimate price for it.

    And to Marilyn Monroe, one of the most vibrant screen presences ever, who to win conventional stardom submitted to casting couches, nose job, chin implant… so life would be perfect.

    Special mention must be made of the stars of British television, who can look like the hind quarters of a British bulldog and still win romantic leading roles on the small screen. Just two of the most popular: David Jason, all 5ft-5 of him, bug-eyed, bulbous-nosed, all set off by a David Lloyd George haircut and Sydney spiv hat — and as Detective Inspector Jack Frost of the Denton police, Thames Valley, harassed by multiple lovers from one series to the next. Hugely popular for forty years, he was most believable as comedic secret agent in the slapstick title role of The Top Secret Life of Edgar Briggs; less as a serious detective still pulling slapstick turns. And Zoe Wanamaker, very successful in the romantic stakes on tv though seemingly hampered by her father Sam’s oversized upturned nose and lacking her father’s large soulful eyes. Congratulations also to Jack Shepherd (Superintendent Wycliffe), overcoming his anteater nose, Kevin Whately (Inspector Lewis), ageing to look like Stan Laurel, Warren Clarke (Dalziel), bulldog by nature and visage, and innumerable other English and Scottish detectives blessed with characterful looks.

    Merit Awards for Uggos in American film genres: general purpose misfits Boris Karloff, Raymond Massey, Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore; Eli Wallach, Jack Elam, Neville Brand, Bruce Dern, Warren Oates, Strother Martin, L. Q. Jones for bushwhackers and trail scum; so-ugly-they’re-a-thing-of-beauty Lee Marvin, James Coburn, Lee Van Cleef; hoodwinkers, desert rats and down-and-out gentlemen Charles Coburn, Sydney Greenstreet, Fredric March, Dan Duryea, Albert Dekker, Ralph Bellamy and Edmond O’Brien.

    My New Book: “Black Rock via Beach Boys vs Beatlemania = Sixties Music”

    In celebrity, history, music on October 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    MichaelJasboy284My new book is due out before Christmas — this Xmas, 2011 [CORRECTION: Xmas 2013]. Entitled “Black Rock via Beach Boys vs Beatlemania = Sixties Music”, it is an ebook distributed by Booklocker.com — The price hasn’t been set yet, but should be way affordable for all you rockers interested in reading over 600 pages (over 250,000 words) touching on almost every aspect of the music business in the Sixties. Again, like the previous paperback “Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music” (booklocker.com, 448 pages, publ 2007), it is seen in the context of the Beach Boys vs Beatles debate. The bulk of the original book is still there, and refined. But I’ve added a LOT more (nearly 200 pages) especially on the highly influential and pivotal roles of your favorite neglected African American acts of the Sixties: James Brown, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard & the Midniters, the Tokens, the Isley Bros, Chubby Checker, Ike & Tina Turner, Etta James, the Chantels, the Shirelles, the Chiffons, the Crystals, the Ronettes, the New Orleans and Chicago schools, Sly & the Family Stone — and all the VeeJay, Motown, Atlantic stars including Little Esther Phillips, Little Willie John, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions, Bobby Blue Bland and Mercury stars Sarah Vaughan, Brook Benton,Dinah Washington, Timi Yuro.

    Don’t miss out on what could be the ONE book on Sixties Music you’ve been wanting.

    ROCK MUSIC — FAVORITE HITS OF 1965

    In music on August 31, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Mohair Sam — Charlie Rich
    Engine Engine No. 9 — Roger Miller
    King of the Road — Roger Miller
    Wooly Bully — Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs
    Do You Believe in Magic? — Lovin’ Spoonful
    James-Brown_1973Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag — James Brown
    I Got You — James Brown
    Let’s Hang On — Four Seasons
    Ticket to Ride — Beatles
    We Can Work It Out — Beatles
    Help! — Beatles
    California Girls — Beach Boys
    Do You Wanna Dance — Beach Boys
    Help Me Rhonda — Beach Boys
    The_Temptations_on_the_Ed_Sullivan_ShowMy Girl — Temptations
    It’s the Same Old Song — Four Tops
    My Generation — The Who
    I Can’t Explain — The Who
    Keep On Running — Spencer Davis Group
    Mr Tambourine Man — Byrds
    Turn Turn Turn — Byrds
    All I Really Wanna Do — Byrds
    Satisfaction — Rolling Stones
    Get Off of My Cloud — Rolling Stones
    How Sweet It Is — Marvin Gaye
    Nowhere to Run — Martha & the Vandellas
    FontellaBassRescue Me — Fontella Bass
    Baby I’m Yours — Barbara Lewis
    Yes I’m Ready — Barbara Mason
    Like a Rolling Stone — Bob Dylan
    Positively 4th Street — Bob Dylan
    With These Hands — Tom Jones
    It’s Not Unusual — Tom Jones
    What’s New Pussycat? — Tom Jones
    1 — 2 — 3 — Len Barry
    Go Now — Moody Blues
    It Ain’t Me Babe — Turtles
    Let Me Be — Turtles
    Eve of Destruction — Barry McGuire
    Make It Easy on Yourself — Walker Bros
    My Ship is Coming In — Walker Bros
    Ebb Tide — Righteous Bros
    Just Once in My Life — Righteous Bros
    True Love Ways — Peter & Gordon
    Heart Full of Soul — Yardbirds
    Evil Hearted You — Yardbirds
    I’m a Man — Yardbirds
    Tired of Waiting For You — Kinks
    See My Friend — Kinks
    Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood — Animals
    We Gotta Get Out of This Place — Animals
    It’s My Life — Animals
    Concrete and Clay — Unit Four Plus Two
    Crying in the Chapel — Elvis Presley
    I Got You Babe — Sonny & Cher
    Back in My Arms Again — Supremes
    Stop In the Name of Love — Supremes

    ROCK MUSIC’S ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE: THE SIXTIES

    In history, music on July 25, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Popular music as it was shaping going into 1962 promised to follow up the original rock’n’roll explosion of 1955-57 with a heady infusion of power and sophistication from many sources. Pop music created for the youth market was already being called ‘Rock’ as short for rock’n’roll by Billboard, Cash Box and other trade publications. (Record World, Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone would come later in the Sixties.)

    According to the usual economic cycles, and specifically due to the cheap Japanese pocket transistor radios entering the market, record sales had come down since their historical peak in the 1957 calendar year. By that time a brigade of teen idols had infiltrated the purity of Rock and broadened it to “rock and roll”, expanding overall sales thanks to Pat Boone, Tab Hunter, Tommy Sands, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Rydell et al promoted by Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and Connie Francis, Brenda Lee and other teens dependent on Brill Building songwriters in New York.

    In contrast to most of these, in the second half of 1960 and increasingly through 1961 strong Rock performers such as Lloyd Price, Hank Ballard & the Midniters (‘Finger Poppin’ Time’), Chubby Checker (riding on a remake of Hank’s ‘The Twist’) and vocal groups the Drifters and the Impressions, among others, brought the energy of r&b to mainstream radio. Many others celebrated lesser degress of success but contributed their influence to the mix.

    Hank Ballard: too black for a superstar in 1960

    By the end of 1961, Chubby Checker a transcendent figure bringing The Twist as a dance to middle-agers around the world, was joined at no.1 by strong r&b entries in the Marcels’ ‘Blue Moon’, Ernie K. Doe’s ‘Mother-in-Law’, Gary US Bonds’ ‘Quarter to Three’, Bobby Lewis’s ‘Tossing and Turning’, Ray Charles’ ‘Hit the Road Jack’, the Marvelettes’ ‘Please Mr Postman’, the Tokens’ ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ — and growling white boys Roy Orbison, Del Shannon and Dion breaking away from the teen idol stereotype.

    Control freak Phil Spector had written and produced for Atlantic and as a hands-on boutique independent brought popped-up black r&b into the top 10 with girl groups the Crystals (’62) incorporating Darlene Love, and the Ronettes (’63), each with a string of a half-dozen classic hits and only stopped by the arrival of the Beatles and the summary takeover of the airwaves by raucous male groups and accompanying dissing of girl acts.

    In mid 1962 came the initial big hits of two white American groups, the Four Seasons based in New York and recrafting Doo Wop, and the Beach Boys of Los Angeles, likewise but purveying it from a foundation of adapted, advanced rock’n’roll. From their start with the double ‘Surfin’ Safari’/ ‘409’ the Beach Boys were judged to be broadly talented enough to produce bestselling albums — the first such teen group to do so. In 1963 not only the Beach Boys but James Brown and Stevie Wonder had number one albums. The revolution was on…

    Both the Four Seasons and Beach Boys recognised the primacy of Black input into modern American music (predicted generations earlier by classical Czech composer Dvorak as its proper course) and kept it in the mainstream as its closest white interpreters until blues-centred English groups the Animals, Rolling Stones and Kinks arrived in the big time late in 1964, bringing the most purist Blues oriented stylings since the mid Fifties.

    By then Spector and the Righteous Brothers had arguably perfected the ‘softer’ American r&b, now called Soul, in the form of ‘You’ve Lost Lovin’ Feelin”, leaving James Brown and Aretha Franklin to take up the more spontaneous, shouting form of African-based Soul — supported by South African diva Miriam Makeba (‘Pata Pata’). In the meantime, Motown had usurped the positions of the Four Seasons and Beach Boys in r&b-tinged pop, rendering secondary white groups such as the Kingsmen and Paul Revere & the Raiders superfluous but leaving the field open for the likes of the Rascals and Three Dog Night, bestselling white groups during 1966-69.

    The English strand developed in a more open field, though never reaching the singular instrumental virtuosity or vision of Blues master Jimi Hendrix — through The Who, Cream, and the Yardbirds morphing into Led Zeppelin in 1969.

    Given this, the Beatles-led British Invasion centred on Music Hall, show tunes and pablum-rock, offered not much more than a weenie/preteen alternative. Until the Beatles went folk in 1965, baroque in 1966, and electronic in 1967 strongly directed by Bob Dylan, record producer George Martin and others. Mostly, clustered around the top of Billboard with the Beatles, the British were the entirely expendable Herman’s Hermits, Dave Clark Five, Freddie & the Dreamers, Peter & Gordon, Chad & Jeremy, Gerry & the Pacemakers…

    The tragedy is that this distraction (tolerated as a novelty by serious musicians 1964-66) from the main event has been taken seriously by historians ever since.

    American Idol of 1959: Hottest Youth Stars

    In film, history, music on May 16, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Two superstars of 1959: Bobby Darin & Sandra Dee, fiance and fiancee

    1. Bobby Darin — scores massive hits with ‘Dream Lover’ (self-penned) and old standard ‘Mack the Knife’, and becoming a credible star actor

    2. Ricky Nelson — star of the Nelson family’s hit tv series, and of Howard Hawks’ big-screen Rio Bravo with billing equal to John Wayne and Dean Martin, and biggest record-seller next to Elvis and Fats Domino

    3. Elvis Presley — in the Army and no movies released, but still scoring no.1 records: ‘I Got Stung’ in the UK, and in the US ‘A Fool Such As I’ and ‘A Big Hunk of Love’

    4. Frankie Avalon — five top 10ers including two no.1s, as promoted by American Bandstand, and filming a supporting role in The Alamo under John Wayne

    5. Fabian — four top 10ers, ditto, and starring in Hound Dog Man on the big screen for Fox, top-billed over Stuart Whitman and Carol Lynley

    6. Pat Boone — hit records have tailed off, but still a big screen star under Fox, i.e. in the blockbuster Journey to the Center of the Earth

    7. Ed ‘Kookie’ Byrnes — a sensation on Warner Bros tv 77 Sunset Strip, a studio starlet with potential on the big screen, and teamed with Connie Stevens has sold nearly two million copies of novelty disc ‘Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb’ by the end of the year

    8. Michael Landon — a big cult figure at drive-ins in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and now at 22 the youngest, prettiest star of hit tv series Bonanza

    9. Steve McQueen — solo star of tv’s Wanted – Dead or Alive and making rapid strides on big screen, graduating from The Blob and now paid a top featuring fee of $75,000 for Never So Few with Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida

    10. Fats Domino — five top 20 hits this year among his dozens of million-sellers, tallied to more than 50 million sales by the end of the year, but too fat and black (and now too old) to cross over on screen

    — TUNE BACK IN SOON FOR THE GIRLS —

    ROCK MUSIC: FAVORITE HITS OF 1967

    In history, music on September 22, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Lovely Tammi Terrell, soon deceased of a brain tumor, with Marvin Gaye

    Lovely Tammi Terrell, soon deceased of a brain tumor, with Marvin Gaye

    Pata Pata — Miriam Makeba
    Purple Haze — Jimi Hendrix
    Heroes & Villains — the Beach Boys
    Happy Jack — the Who
    Tin Soldier — the Small Faces
    Mas Que Nada — Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66
    So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star — the Byrds
    The Letter — the Box Tops
    Mellow Yellow — Donovan
    Words — the Monkees
    Chain of Fools — Aretha Franklin
    Let the Heartaches Begin — Long John Baldry
    Rain on the Roof — the Lovin’ Spoonful
    Waterloo Sunset — the Kinks
    Ain’t No Mountain High Enough — Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
    How Can I Be Sure? — the Rascals
    The Wind Cries Mary — Jimi Hendrix
    Light My Fire — the Doors
    Respect — Aretha franklin
    I Feel Free — the Cream
    Hello Goodbye — the Beatles
    Dedicated to the One I Love — the Mamas & the Papas
    There is a Mountain — Donovan
    Ode to Billie Joe — Bobbie Gentry
    Groovin’ — the Rascals
    I’ll Never Fall in Love Again — Tom Jones
    I Had to Much to Dream Last Night — the Electric Prunes
    Natural Woman — Aretha Franklin
    Eight Miles High — the Byrds
    Wild Honey — the Beach Boys
    Hole in My Shoe — Traffic
    Strange Brew — the Cream
    Strawberry Fields — the Beatles
    A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You — the Monkees
    When I Was Young — the Animals
    Pictures of Lily — the Who
    Hey Baby — the Buckinghams
    The Day I Met Marie — Cliff Richard
    I Was Made to Love Her — Stevie Wonder
    Itchycoo Park — the Small Faces
    Baby Now That I’ve Found You — the Foundations
    Sweet Soul Music — Arthur Conley
    Jimmy Mack — Martha & the Vandellas
    Ruby Tuesday — the Rolling Stones
    It Takes Two — Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
    Hey Joe — Jimi Hendrix
    I’m a Man — the Spencer Davis Group
    Randy Scouse Git (Alternate Title) — the Monkees
    I Can See for Miles — the Who
    Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings — Tom Jones
    Bernadette — the Four Tops
    Show Me — Joe Tex
    Homburg — Procol Harum
    Magical Mystery Tour — the Beatles
    She’s My Girl — the Turtles
    I Feel Love Coming On — Felice Taylor
    Love is All Around — the Troggs
    Come to the Sunshine — Harper’s Bizarre
    Get Me to the World On Time — the Electric Prunes
    I Got Rhythm — the Happenings
    Felice Taylor, au naturale

    Felice Taylor, au naturale

    BOOK REVIEW — BEATLES BOOK: Can’t Buy Me Love

    In celebrity, literature, music on August 1, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Can’t Buy Me Love by Jonathan Gould (Piatkus, 2007) is one of those religious books about the Beatles that starts from a standpoint of unquestioning admiration for the Liverpool pop group and ends in total devotion, as in devout worship of a single entity, monotheism. And they were a single entity, as proven by their desultory solo careers in the post-Beatle era, when none of them could foot it for creativity and cohesive output without Brian Epstein to push them along and producer/arranger George Martin to fill in the many gaps in their songs and make each one into a finished product.

    In this 400-page love letter to an act, nay, an industry easy to endorse — Didn’t they sell the most records? — Gould doesn’t let tweaking of facts and half-truths stand in the way of a good myth that rates in commercial potency with Harrypottermania and Lord of the Rings, and matches them too in fictional blarney. My question is, Why even bother to write such a book when the Beatle legend has already been so insidiously planted and firmly cemented in people’s minds over the past forty years as the be-all-and-end-all of the Sixties?

    The Beatles, mid 1964: The Beach Boys had already proven themselves far and away ahead of The Fab Four by self-producing the single 'I Get Around'/'Don't Worry Baby', released in May.

    The Beatles, mid 1964: The Beach Boys had already proven themselves far and away ahead of The Fab Four by self-producing the single 'I Get Around'/'Don't Worry Baby', released in May.

    Gould’s total lack of imagination or enterprise in even choosing a relevant title — after all, he doesn’t spend much time covering the Beatles’ Hamburg sojourn when the Beatles did buy themselves ‘love’ from the Reeperbahn prostitutes — reminds me of the pathetic titles chosen by Television New Zealand whenever it wanted to screen a retrospective on the Sixties in general: All You Need is Love, Hello — Goodbye … All done because everyone knows a Beatle title will sell more product.

    Among the many fictitious assertions made by Gould in a superficial book are several I have selected in relation to the Beach Boys, the acknowledged Sixties mainstream rivals to the Beatles. I explore these since the American group is one I have studied in depth: see my book Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music.

    Assertion 1) — “Brian Wilson accounted for nine tenths of the talent of the Beach Boys”–Gould contrasting them with the supposedly uniformly, mega-talented Beatles.

    This is bizarre. Has Gould heard nothing of the immense composing, producing and blues-singing talent of Dennis Wilson? The singing, composing and producing of Carl Wilson? The culturally-relevant lyric-writing and universally-admired bass voice of Mike Love? Al Jardine had measurably more creative and performing talent than Ringo, whose ‘singing’ of lead vocals has been a politely overlooked though glaring debit in the Beatles column.

    Assertion 2) — Brian Wilson’s voice wasn’t in the same class as Paul McCartney’s.

    McCartney was adept at imitating a rock’n’roll screech — as taught to him by Little Richard. He had a sweet but bland voice on ballads. As for expressiveness and purity, and genuine versatility in turning his voice to any mood, Wilson takes the nod hands down.

    Assertion 3) — Brian Wilson’s songs were characterised by “cloying sentimentality.”

    Gould doesn’t know the difference between pure emotion expressed in music, in which Brian Wilson is surpassed by no one in mainstream music, and the Beatles’ cloyingly sentimental ‘luv’ cliches regurgitated from Music Hall. McCartney cites his father, a music hall musician, as his major formative influence.

    and maybe the most ludicrous statement of all:

    Assertion 4) — By 1966 the Beach Boys’ level of production, arrangements and group singing had almost caught up with “the innovations of the Beatles.”

    This one sentence contains at least five blatant untruths that I can name and refute:

    a) The Beach Boys produced their own recordings from early 1962 on — therefore were ahead of the Beatles in production from the start. This was readily apparent by the time of Surfin’ USA, Surfer Girl and Be True to Your School/In My Room in 1963 and became bleedin’ obvious the following year with I Get Around/Don’t Worry Baby and Little Honda/Wendy. According to the people who recorded the Beatles, including George Martin and Norman Smith, the Beatles continually clamored for the recording technicians to get more of an American sound, i.e. similar to the Beach Boys, Motown, etc–not the other way round. b) The Beatles didn’t produce their records — George Martin did. According to Parlophone/EMI recording engineer Norman “Hurricane” Smith the Beatles barely listened to their own recordings — didn’t even wear earphones in the recording booth. c) The Beatles didn’t arrange their songs — George Martin did, and according to Martin they knew almost nothing about non-rock’n’roll instruments. d) This is laughable. When did the Beatles ever dare to expose their ‘group singing’ via a-cappella? — as the Beach Boys did on occasions from the start. e) What innovations did the Beatles themselves introduce, except watering down rock’n’roll, country music, Eurocafe ballads, etc, etc, and turning around the rock direction of Motown, Atlantic, Vee-Jay, Philles, the Beach Boys, to bring back songs from musicals like ‘Til There Was You’, ‘A Taste of Honey’.? By the end of 1966 their music was more and more electronic, deserted by George Martin to leave a novice electronics wiz in charge of their recording.

    ROCK MUSIC — MICHAEL JACKSON: It’s not as if Elvis just died!

    In generational/fashion, morality, music, psychology/psychiatry on June 28, 2009 at 7:47 am

    From all the fuss of the past few days anyone would think Elvis has just died. Instead it’s just the ever-encroaching end, the gradual unravelling, of an American Idol of yesteryear. To me, Jackson embodied in one increasingly strange person all the show business imperatives necessary to get to and sustain yourself at the top of celebrity today. Looking at all the Madonnas and Britney Spears of the past half-century, who have followed Jackson’s lead, it’s amazing how much success can be engendered by essentially stupid people with a single idiotic but unquestioned idea pursued single-mindedly, without thought entering to disturb the ‘creative’ process.

    He was the dream of every American Idol show and its multifarious spinoffs around the world that perpetuate such realities as: the generic ‘rock’ voice shorn of all distinction or real emotion, pared of all identifying idiosyncracies or sign of humanity, so as not to offend anyone by unsightly originality or unseemly singularity — the equivalent of the ubiquitous fuzzed guitar notes and chords backing rock tracks for the past thirty years.

    The toast of Motown and little soul-groovers around the world in 1970 (‘I Want You Back’, ‘A-B-C’, ‘The Love You Save’), the Jackson Five lowered themselves fast to Osmonds Pop and on to disco mid-decade. michael jackson 1By late decade Michael as a solo had rid himself of genuine soul and found something distinctive: white skin and a perky little nose, which alarmingly shrank year by year into an almost microscopic compass point. More than music, most charitably described as amorphous sound designed to dance to, the multitude of stage moves he devised, all executed jerkily at lightning speed but still with immaculate timing, were right up there in the best traditions of circus performers seen on America’s Got Talent — and, it must, be remembered, years before them.

    Most successfully of all in the superstar firmament, he developed an unparalleled ability to generate fan sympathy in the face of evermore outrageous self-indulgence, previously the domain of friends and mentors such as Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross. Was that his underlying essence, and predestined downfall, that he possessed the psyche of an androgynous being in which the rules that everyone else had to live by didn’t count? Like your ordinary garden-variety diva (and many are said to have the mentality of cultivated, nurtured pot plants) but encumbered by male expectations?

    Generating so much money for so many people, he was pampered so that every whim no matter how bizarre was catered for. Every momentary desire was met with a resounding “Yes” by the Yes Men surrounding him day and night, and female celebrities spread their legs to be implanted with his divine seed in hopes of producing cloned products in a dynasty of inevitable success. Not only were the needs of others of no account but he was so far removed from reality that he brought others into actual physical danger — as when he used his baby as a public performance prop — to satisfy his own need for public acclaim, at least notoriety when he was capable of nothing more.

    Above all he is responsible for the superstar mantra “Make your own rules” — not in stretching the boundaries of intellect in creating imaginative new music.

    And tonight on the news there is a mass spontaneous tribute to his “Moon Walk” — with fans crowded in the street, linking hands and all shuffling backwards together, at least with better coordination and timing than you would expect from, say, a gathering of demented winos. What greater legacy can a performer leave?

    His other trademark innovation on stage was simulating masturbating on stage, in time, into a white clinical glove — presumably all the better to inspire those better endowed with semen to donate. It undoubtedly inspired Justin Timberlake to develop his own innovative great leap forward in performance art: simulating humping women dog-like from behind, on stage, to the delight of his millions of fans around the world who pay hundreds of dollars each to see this and the other wonders of his talent.

    That all said, I once caught a sustained glimpse of Michael Jackson in a two-hour interview, probably recorded around the turn of the millennium, undertaken to ameliorate the worst backlash after the pedophile accusations. (For the record, I believe them to be false, but how stupid can you be to take unrelated children into your bed and explain it “as the most loving thing in the world”?) I remember my mother, who had just watched it with me and was genuinely intrigued, asking what I thought of him as a genuine creative personality. I told her that I didn’t know if he was a genius but he came across to me as a genuine artist in pursuit of what artists should be — thoughtful, considered work.

    Given the nature of the sensationalizing media and the chameleon-like image of Jackson’s public persona as portrayed, who can say what was in his mind from one minute to the next? So I bow to the authority of Quincy Jones, a hugely influential figure in music production for half a century, for the final word — confirming Michael Jackson didn’t like being a black man but dubbing him all the same a “performance genius”. Who might guess what Leonardo da Vinci would have turned out looking like had a mass media existed to shine the brightest spotlight in the world on him 24-7?

    And so the debate goes on …

    ROCK MUSIC — TWIST’N’SURF! FOLK’N’SOUL! (Part 2)

    In history, music on June 9, 2009 at 10:57 am

    The second part of the chapter excerpt from Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music by G. A. De Forest, published November 2007 by Booklocker.com, posted at #23 on April 26th 2008 on Amazon’s sales list for the category of Music History & Criticism and available for around $17.95 through your local store.

    FRUSTRATING REAL ROCK’N’ROLL FANS, SICKENING from the milksop diet served up by their elders, lounging in the way of energetic, progressive sounds on the radio were single-shots Steve Lawrence (‘Go Away Little Girl’), Japanese torch singer Kyu Sakamoto (‘Sukiyaki’), proto-bubblegum ‘Sugar Shack’ (Jimmy Gilmer) and sanitised brother-and-sister acts Nino & April, Dale & Grace and pretend siblings Paul & Paula. Novelties that went all the way to the top included comedian Allan Sherman’s ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah’ and ‘If You Wanna Be Happy’, so-called “calypso-soul”. Public inertia had proven immovable by Chubby Checker, already fading, and would be by any but the most attractive figures to the most buyers, sporting unprecedented novelty value and covering all genres, primed and detonated by industry powers. Namely, in one package, the Beatles.

    Microsoft Word - _Student Outline #10_ - School of Rock-John Len From on high descended a world phenomenon as the first con-tender, monopolising the six weeks from Kennedy’s assassination to the Beatles’ second coming. ‘Dominique’ was a folk song rendered entirely in French by “The Singing Nun”, who also wrote it, a.k.a. Belgian Sister Luc-Gabrielle, a.k.a. Soeur Sourire. She might have been sent by God but her message came in a foreign language utterly meaningless to America. Conspicuously garbed as a sacred image, could the Catholic sister, if properly promoted, have been the savior Americans were looking for on the recent death of Pope John XXIII and the destruction of their own spiritual leader, JFK? Her later suicide suggested depths never explored by the media. Instead, turned into a circus act by entrepreneurs, she was soon extinguished by another impresario-driven European novelty, a rock and roll group who had thought up their own cute name that would go down in history but were called “The Mopheads” by those who would make fortunes off them.

    It was certain Elvis wasn’t looking like himself—his single sales down more than a third on 1962. His biggie, ‘Devil in Disguise’, sounded like a movie-filler but no movie promoted it and it sold only 700,000. Movie songs did worse: ‘One Broken Heart for Sale’, and ‘Bossa Nova Baby’. Album sales were hit harder, down to about 300,000 for each US release (figures Peter Guralnick). All but his most faithful Brit fans too were turning away. ‘Devil’ won a solitary week at top but it was his sole entry in the ten—a steep comedown from the year before when all four singles scored among career best. The first quarter his English counterpart Cliff Richard and the Shadows held top for ten weeks. For the rest of the year Elvis was decimated by the Beatles and Gerry & the Pacemakers—30 weeks at top between them. The best thing about his movies lately was Ursula Andress, Hollywood’s latest continental sex goddess coming clinging-wet out of the surf for James Bond to turn Elvis on in Fun in Acapulco. No longer considering demanding roles, his manager and the studios colluded in giving his fans all they wanted in Elvis: songs and hokum, nonstop.

    Roy Orbison: master deliverer of the wailing, pleading, romantic drama on two minutes of vinyl

    Roy Orbison: master deliverer of the wailing, pleading, romantic drama on two minutes of vinyl

    A few genuine rock artists found room to bloom, showing through the morass of carnie attractions by creating their own music and/or determining how it was recorded, including Elvis’s Texas buddy Roy Orbison. ‘In Dreams’ from early 1963 had a timeless feel about its production, so endured. Orbison’s generosity saw each side of his singles grooved with a classic performance. An unlikely looking star, his trademark dark glasses hid myopic, beady eyes in the middle of anything but chiseled features, like two raisins looking out of a suet pudding. Stock still, gently strumming his guitar, he delivered drama on stage solely through a distinctive voice often reminiscent of Elvis’s low down—but quavering, purring and soaring to the heights. ‘Dream Baby’, that the Beatles had sung on the BBC the year before because ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ and ‘I’ll Follow the Sun’ weren’t up to it, perfected his distinctive style of country pop tinged with r&b. Months later he put out ‘Working for the Man’, and B-side ‘Leah’ was the bigger hit. ‘Mean Woman Blues’ was one more in his string of million-sellers—not quite as mean as Elvis’s and held back by the attention given to great ballad ‘Blue Bayou’. He was the only country singer to retain superstardom in 1964—because less country than ever. ‘It’s Over’ could have been done (less dramatically) by Jim Reeves, but ‘Pretty Woman’ was pure rock.

    Johnny Cash was probably best of all: the genuine article, far more convincing as a people’s troubadour than Bob Dylan because he’d lived life and sang about it in the simplest, most straightforward way, didn’t intellectualize it. Singing from well springs as deep as they come, he was a charismatic performer who happened to choose country & western as his medium of soul-to-soul communication. “The Man in Black” came up with ‘Ring of Fire’ summer ’63, atypical for him in its Tex-Mex feel. Writing in the first person as a spokesman of the unwanted, identifying with a hard-bitten persona, he was mainly silent—maybe dumbfounded— through the upbeat, gimmicky Brit years, to make a comeback at decade’s end. By then the Beatles were hailed for writing and recording genuine folk songs about real people—something Cash had been doing since the mid-fifties, and better. Others silenced after the height of that Indian summer were Grammy winners with affecting country ballads, George Hamilton IV (‘Abilene’) and Bobby Bare (‘Detroit City’).

    Over the radio, on records and from diner jukeboxes distinctive styles grabbed attention. Real artists like Patsy Cline (‘Crazy’, ‘I Fall to Pieces’)—the Queen of Country killed in a plane crash in March 1963 (with Cowboy Copas, a boyhood hero of Carl Wilson) —and Loretta Lynn, rarely broke the pop fifty. This in the face of foreign novelties selling a quick million: Anglo-Aussie Frank Ifield and ‘I Remember You’, the Springfields’ ‘Silver Threads and Golden Needles’ and Aussie Rolf Harris’s ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport’. Facing a growing stranglehold from producer pop, the biggest country-flavored homegrown sellers were Ned Miller’s ‘From a Jack to a King’ and from gingham-pleated songstress Skeeter Davis—but ‘End of the World’ was disowned by Country Music authorities as too pop.

    Like Orbison and a select few others, the Everly Bros had a five-year career at the top in America before carrying on in Britain. And here they had been knocked down a peg or two when outmaniaed on tour by their support act, the Beatles. They had not so much influenced the Beatle sound as determined it right down to their tone of vocal harmony, guitar rhythm and lead guitar licks, and the format of Simon & Garfunkel and English duos Peter & Gordon, Chad & Jeremy, David & Jonathan….

    IN A NATIONWIDE SURVEY OF US TEENS BY GILBERT Youth Research at the end of 1963 Folk Music was by far the most popular of musical tastes—the participatory, singalong aspect being the decider according to Eugene Gilbert: it only took a campfire to start things off, and the last thing to worry about was individual voice quality. This was the route Ringo Starr took to introduce himself as occasional lead singer with the Beatles. Enquiring who was the most popular singer of westerns in America, he was told Buck Owens, and so set about learning his songs.

    Pete Seeger of the Weavers had served his country in World War II and, though frequently banned by America media for raising controversial issues like civil rights, inspired the Kingston Trio and was influencing sixties folkies. The Highwaymen had released the massive world hit of 1961 in ‘Michael (Row the Boat Ashore)’—a ready standard for Christian-educated school children everywhere. By bringing folk music into fashion they made possible new folk groups Peter, Paul & Mary and later the Seekers, both sustaining huge popularity around the world while remaining acoustically pure when everyone else was plugging in his guitar.

    The Kingstons returned with Seeger’s protest about the dead of wars, ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’, and stood against corporate America: “I don’t give a damn about a ‘Greenback Dollar’ —spend it fast as I can. For a wailing song and a good guitar’s the only thing that I understand.” In May 1963 ‘The Reverend Mr Black’ went up against ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’, ‘Surfin’ USA’, and in the UK the Beatles’ ‘From Me to You’ and the Pacemakers’ ‘How Do You Do It?’.

    The big new artists, Peter, Paul & Mary, had closed ’62 with a stirring rendition of ‘If I Had a Hammer’. This and other decent folk songs were coopted and dumbed down by singalongster Trini Lopez: ‘Lemon Tree’, ‘Michael’ and more, all to the same pace, for bigger hits: the Johnny Rivers of Hispania—a double whammy out of LA. ‘Puff’, written by Peter (Yarrow), was huge around the world despite rumors it was a drug fable instead of a children’s one. They borrowed from Dylan: ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice’—“It’s all right”, their last big hit for some years. Others in ’63 folk style were ‘Walk Right In’ (the Rooftop Singers) and ‘Green, Green’ “on the far side of the hill”—the New Christy Minstrels with Barry McGuire and Kenny Rogers and sounding like the Kingstons.

    Peter, Paul & Mary set a tone against show business excess, for musical integrity. And they celebrated Americana: ‘This Land is Your Land’ from Woody Guthrie. Enough of the hard-working self-discipline and grassroots Americanism of this, and the other trio, the Kingstons, rubbed off on the Beach Boys to make them an anachronism in the trendy era just around the corner. The female-male vocal blend was duplicated by another Greenwich Village folk group, the Mamas & the Papas, to go Hollywood when they got to California.

    Folk songs emerging in New Year ’64 would be swamped by a first wave of Britons—and pure folk strangled in one stroke as the mainspring of American music. The Beach Boys—‘Sloop John B’, ‘Cottonfields’—would attempt to revive it in rock form. Recognized as standards around the world but hardly fitting the new Top 40 diktats were Tom Paxton’s ‘Marvelous Toy’ recorded by the Chad Mitchell Trio and Pete Seeger’s ‘Little Boxes’. The year would see just two big folk hits, the Serendipity Singers sounding like the Minstrels on ‘Crooked Little Man’ (‘Don’t Let the Rain Come Down’), and New Zealand-born Gale Garnett’s declaration of sexual freedom, ‘We’ll Sing in the Sunshine’ (“and I’ll be on my way”), astonishingly going all the way in Cash Box; no.4 in Billboard, deferring to much greater airplay given Brit acts. The Beatles had taken over with Boy-Girl Lite.

    ‘Go Tell It On the Mountain’ from P, P & M was as telling a performance as ever but stalled under a swarm of Beatle tunes. At the Invasion’s height ‘Early Morning Rain’ barely made the hundred; at its end they must have got some satisfaction in ‘I Dig Rock & Roll Music’, parodying the Beatles’ voices and contrived recording effects. ‘Leaving On a Jet Plane’, as the Beatles broke up, finally gave them a no.1.

    From right, the lovely Mary Travers, and the professorial Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.

    From right, the lovely Mary Travers, and the professorial Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.

    From blonde, full-lipped, wide-hipped, chicly casual Mary Travers came the model for female folk singers—half intellectual, half earth mother; more sensual, less didactic than Joan Baez, admired as much for their poise as their voices. Hers rose to the heights of intensity as the pivot of the group sound. The trio headed the Folk Establishment when Dylan was booed off the stage at 1965’s Newport Folk Festival on switching to electrics— “selling out” to Beatleism and a Byrd brainchild.

    THE GIRL GROUP SOUND—AND THERE COULD BE NO wider social, economic and musical gulf—was everywhere in 1963. Folk had neglected ‘Negro’ music evolving into regional styles of Blues: Chicago, St Louis, Memphis, Mississippi Delta, Harlem…. Artists like acoustic bluesman Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter (‘See See Rider’, ‘Cottonfields’) had been forgotten by all but a few. Black performers were excluded from recognized forms of Country and Folk and barred from the teen idol club. Girl groups, overwhelmingly African-American, represented an essential outlet.

    This shortlived, early-Sixties rage inhabited two-minute singles while it lasted; folk music filled half-hour l.p.s. It was accessible to young teens’ budgets, unlike the folk popular with older, upper middle class youth who were after an instructive experience maybe even more than a musical one. And the guarded intellectual independence of the socially conscious folk artist was anathema to the strict (read ‘control freak’ for Phil Spector) management setup governing the girl groups. Ponderous intellect was banned altogether from the genre for hormone-driven, teenage emotions. On disc The Girl alternately pleaded for mercy from a boyfriend or otherwise strutted in triumph, and always purred in self-absorption.

    Nurtured and then pushed by Eastern labels, impressionable teens in a once-innocent after-school pastime came to be molded to appeal to fans their own age. The creative units that were the Shirelles, Bobettes, Chantels and Marvelettes—composing, writing and arranging vocals for their own songs—were taken over by professional writers, producers, corporate middlemen and retailers, who took the lion’s share of returns on the ‘product’. While most scored a string of hits, one-hit wonders followed up with a soundalike that spelt their doom. Striking one-offs on DJs’ platter-racks came from up-and-coming record entrepreneurs, producers taking over the reins of pop. These mavericks used artists as conduits to creative and business ends. With such a cavalier attitude taken to their careers, it was rare for group members to make it as real stars. Those who did could be counted on three fingers—Diana Ross, Martha Reeves, Gladys Knight. The rest, used as interchangeable makeweights by producers who could swap personnel among established groups at will for purposes of cutting a 45, were anonymous to record buyers and to rub in their employee status were usually paid per hour of studio time on a union scale.

    The ’62-63 girl groups owed nothing to passive fifties sweeties the McGuire Sisters (‘Sugartime’) and Chordettes (‘Mr Sandman’, ‘Lollipop’). The Chantels (‘Maybe’), whose soaring gospel tones had set the standard, inspired New Jersey’s Shirley Owens to call her group the Shirelles—and to also write their own hits. For more than two years it was a two-horse race until late in 1960 with ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ the Shirelles were snatched up by the big time—Brill Building Pop and composer Carole King. Black girl groups took off as an industry, though it took almost a year for other major acts to arrive: the Marvelettes and self-penned ‘Please Mr Postman’, and the Crystals, ‘There’s No Other’. These were remade by the Beatles and Beach Boys. Not merely paying tribute to current American culture, with ‘Boys’, ‘Chains’ and ‘You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me’, the Beatles adopted it.

    The Shirelles reigned for two years as the top group, male or female—manager Flo Greenberg owned Scepter Records—continuing with ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’ (remade by the Mamas & the Papas), ‘Baby It’s You’ (Beatles) and ‘Soldier Boy’, a Beatle live favorite. But as black rock’n’rollers they were unacceptable to network tv, the most racist of the mass media. People had prejudices about whom they “invited into their living rooms”. Through ’63 the Shirelles gave ground to the sounds of Phil Spector and then to big media machinery—EMI, backing Britain. They were last seen in the US top fifty the very week the Beatles arrived in America. Months later their ‘Sha La La’ flopped only for Manfred Mann to run strong with it. In fact, all existing girl groups—but the strongly supported, highly drilled and adaptable Motowners—would be wiped out by the Brits.

    Hot on the heels of Spector’s Philles in exploiting a girl group sound was Philly’s Cameo-Parkway, Dee Dee Sharp and the Orlons —launching them with ’62 dance crazes ‘Mashed Potato Time’ and ‘Wah-Watusi’. And there was ‘The Loco-Motion’ intended by Goffin & King for Dee Dee but passed on to Leiber & Stoller protégée Little Eva.

    Small labels who knew how to improvise and innovate often incorporated male voices to broaden the two-minute dramas. The Orlons (also ‘Don’t Hang Up’, ‘South Street’) and Exciters (‘Tell Him’, United Artists) had a male voice in their lineups; Sensations (‘Let Me In’ on Argo), Ruby & the Romantics (Kapp) and the Essex (Roulette) a female lead backed by males. The Essex was comprised of off-duty US Marines—a fun, semi-professional element was still essential to the entertainment business.

    Soloists were produced to sound like groups by backing singers or double-tracking the lead’s voice: Mary Wells’/Motown’s ‘My Guy’. Before that Detroit sister Barbara Lewis was (like homegirl Aretha Franklin) claimed by Atlantic, creating the highly attractive self-penned ‘Hello, Stranger’. Shirley Ellis from New York City was on small indie Congress: ‘Nitty Gritty’, ‘The Name Game’. Branching out from the Four Seasons, Bob Crewe took one more New Jerseyite to the top—a double-tracked Lesley Gore and her pleas to boyfriend Johnny, declaring independence in ‘You Don’t Own Me’—blocked from no.1 by the Beatles in their first sales rush. Darlene Love was a member of LA’s Blossoms but as a freelancer was used anonymously by Spector as one of the Crystals—lead voice on ‘He’s a Rebel’ and ‘He’s Sure the Boy I Love’ before stamping her mark with ‘A Fine Fine Boy’ and ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’, now a perennial on The Late Show.

    In twenty months up to the end of ’63 thirteen acts recording in girl group mode reached no.1. Dee Dee Sharp’s and the manbait Ronettes’ were disputed chart toppers, as was ‘Sally Go Round the Roses’ by the Jaynetts—a highly advanced theme (insanity over love loss) and sound released by tiny Tuff. The Chiffons (Laurie), the Essex based in North Carolina and New Jersey’s Angels (Smash) ruled for multiple weeks in a fickle year.

    the crystalsThe Crystals—whether using Lala Brooks or Darlene Love as lead—and the Chiffons from The Bronx and Upper Manhattan with personality-plus, were now the top girl groups, though hardly long enough for a reign. Between them they defined the genre in ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ and ‘Then He Kissed Me’—and ‘He’s So Fine’, a five-week no.1 through April, and equally famous classic ‘One Fine Day’, ‘Sweet Talkin’ Guy’ sneaking in three years later. At Motown the Marvelettes (‘Playboy’, ‘Beechwood 4-5789’) lay fallow through ’63 but revived fitfully through the Brit era with ‘Too Many Fish in the Sea’ and more. New girls Martha & the Vandellas had a similarly patchy stardom: ‘Come and Get These Memories’, then true classic ‘Heat Wave’. A year later they and Motown’s house band delivered a shining milestone, ‘Dancing in the Street’, then ‘Nowhere to Run’—but again at the height of the British Invasion their impact was blunted.

    The Ronettes: from left, lead singer Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett (the future Mrs Phil Spector), her cousin Nedra Talley, her sister Estelle Bennett. The Ronettes, unlike the Crystals, survived into 1964, but were unceremoniously pushed to the margins. New girl group releases went begging: the Secrets’ ‘The Boy Next Door’ and ‘When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes’ by the chronically ignored Supremes—laboring under the harsh male r&b line introduced by ‘Louie Louie’ and extended by English arrivals.

    The Beatles and Beach Boys, more than any other male groups of the mid-sixties, owed the girl groups. Brian and Carl Wilson, and Al Jardine, could be mistaken for women, on vinyl, when the occasion called for it. But while they nurtured and developed the style, the Beatles rather exploited it. The UK scene was instead geared to provide bulk, redone r&b from the many hundreds of groups scattered from Liverpool to London; its studios were technically capable of little else. As major production outfits only Motown (and later Atlantic) had the impetus to take on the British Invasion. Three teenagers from the Brewster Projects on the east side of Detroit, showing signs of life after four years, would suffer a further nine months before living up to their name in commercial success.

    ………………

    SO, AS HAS BEEN AGONIZED OVER OFTEN, WHEN DID Fifties music end and The Sixties really begin? Official histories tell us that Rock music was dead and America was left somewhere between slumber and coma until the Beatles breathed new life into it in ’64. But evolution was all around and had never stopped, in innovative recordings by Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, then the Leiber-Stoller productions for the Drifters—‘There Goes My Baby’ and its orchestration of r&b—and the coming of Chubby Checker, Roy Orbison, girl groups…. This was known by, was obvious to, those who rejected the Beatles as well as the Liverpudlians themselves, who tried at every stage to emulate—copy— current music and recorded sounds coming out of America. It was quite apparent to many people around the world, who kept buying American records in preference to any others. The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Motown and the Four Seasons brought new forces to bear in 1962-63, and were picked up on and absorbed by the English groups—the Beatles no less than anyone else, long before their arrival in America. And the Beatles found at least as much kinship with pure pop from Bert Kaempfert, Burt Bacharach and Don Kirshner as with its progressive creatives.

    There were still divisions in radio between stations along race lines or, more accurately, according to how black/white the music. Black acts had been crossing over the racial barrier into broad popularity since blues/jazz artists Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong in the Roaring Twenties, when ‘lude’ delivery wasn’t a problem. In the hung-up Fifties when interracial sex was more of a possibility and therefore more threatening, only balladeers engendering genteel romance were accepted: the Platters, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Mathis. The barometer of societal pressure was measured by tv ratings counters, and that meant Ed Sullivan, since the Thirties the arbiter of what was okay on radio. Into the Sixties he barred black rock’n’roll groups from appearing on his tv show—maybe fearing like other tv bosses it would appear to Southern viewers as an on-screen race riot—while welcoming ‘cultured’ black performers Lena Horne and Sammy Davis Jr. More cultured than virtually anyone in the country had been Paul Robeson—opera star, actor and all-star football player, but a one-time admitted ally of Russia and therefore reviled, blacklisted and exiled from home.

    Sam Cooke: smooth and soulful, with an incomparable voice that made you sit up and listen.

    Sam Cooke: smooth and soulful, with an incomparable voice that made you sit up and listen.

    Black music was tougher. While the popularity of Nat Cole and Johnny Mathis—‘Gina’, ‘What Will Mary Say?’—got old in ’63 r&b’s Sam Cooke continued to thrive. One of the great Gospel-Soul singers, he was a mainstay of r&b-pop through ‘Wonderful World’, ‘Chain Gang’, ‘Cupid’ and Grammy-winner ‘Twisting the Night Away’. Cooke was the spearhead of Soul singers in the American mainstream and going strong into the mid-sixties—so needing no reviving by English acts. Still, they queued up to use his material: ‘Bring It On Home to Me’, ‘Another Saturday Night’, ‘Little Red Rooster’. But the British imperative—the necessity of looking and sounding so 1964 through 1966—would stifle the emergence of new Soul stars, while those who didn’t have a sufficiently ‘African’ element to claim a distinctive niche were swept away: Chubby Checker, Ben E King, the Drifters, the Shirelles….

    Intended by RCA to be the black girls’ Elvis, Cooke’s subdued tone and laidback image—unlike some others he was not banned by BBC Radio—did almost fit a sweater-wearing pretty-boy image. Yet he got involved in civil rights and founded a record label, keeping pace with blues shouters James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding who had more the image of what a black male singer should be in the mid-Sixties. At his handgun murder late in 1964 the B-side of ‘Shake’, his classic Gospel-styled protest song ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, earned him joint ownership with Ray Charles of the title “Fathers of Soul”. His vocal tone and timbre were reproduced through the rock career of Brit invader Rod Stewart, his number one fan.

    Ray Charles: amalgamated genres to form a unique style.

    Ray Charles: amalgamated genres to form a unique style.

    Charles, blind behind dark glasses but a restless mover behind the piano, was taken as a model by highly energetic and sexually charged James Brown and Otis Redding. More popular with the white public than even Cooke—and through four numbers topping the Cash Box r&b chart twenty-one weeks ’61-63—Charles’ impact on white musicians came in 1959’s ‘What’d I Say’, which might have started Sixties Music and that the Beatles and Beach Boys incorporated into their live repertoires. Both, understandably, declined to record it for fear of too obvious an authenticity gulf. Between huge Country standards ‘Georgia On My Mind’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ “The Genius” inspired the Soul explosion: ‘Unchain My Heart’, ‘Hit the Road Jack’, 1963’s ‘Busted’. His brittle, controlled voice can be heard in Bill Medley of the Righteous Bros, taught to sing by Charles, Eric Burdon (Animals) and Joe Cocker, who covered many of his standards.

    Jackie Wilson: virtuoso vocals and dance -- the forerunner of Michael Jackson but with style and grace, and real soul.

    Jackie Wilson: virtuoso vocals and dance -- the forerunner of Michael Jackson but with style and grace, and real soul.

    James Brown and Jackie Wilson were double attractions, gifted dance stylists with potential to be universal rock showmen, only held back by dark-chocolate voices and visages—two ‘handicaps’ avoided by Michael Jackson, who was heavily influenced by both. Wilson was a perpetual-motion machine on stage, mixing spins, graceful leaps and splits all in one movement. So were the two responsible for Eighties Music? Jackie Wilson only captured world attention twice—with 1957’s ‘Reet Petite’ (popularly revived ex-USA after four decades), then ten years later, ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher’, though in ’63 he offered the hard driving r&b #1‘Baby Work Out’. Jackie’s exquisitely controlled vocal gymnastics on his first hit—many claimed fellow Detroiter Aretha Franklin was his only equal—made it big also in the UK; Brown never did have a UK hit of any size, being just too black to taste. Mentored early on by Berry Gordy, had Jackie gone to Motown everlasting fame would have been his, but probably at the cost of stylistic castration.

    James Brown, vintage 1964: a macho sexual shouter, and a good little mover.

    James Brown, vintage 1964: a macho sexual shouter, and a good little mover.

    Brown’s first sizable pop hit, ‘Prisoner of Love’, didn’t come until ’63 and was accompanied by huge sales for Live at the Apollo—such a breakthrough for black popular culture that it was played in its entirety by black radio stations. He posed a viable, stark alternative to the white rock’n’roll of the Beach Boys and ultimately the Beatles with a no.1 album to prove it.

    World fame was further delayed for two years and ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’—bringing further musical tumult to the summer of ’65, followed at year’s end by ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’, his iconic chart-topper. With his accompanying dance he was the personification of funky as funk can be (avoid Robin Williams’ tribute in Good Morning Vietnam). In advancing the cause of black music without the compromises of Motown’s top artists, his multilayered rhythms and staccato horn backing pointed the way to Sly & the Family Stone.

    Brown’s explosion on to the scene as an alternative to the mainstream at the height of Brit Beat was propelled by listeners who had heard Motown’s response to the Beatles—the Supremes and Four Tops—and wanted something more authentically black. James Brown was by the end of the decade “Soul Brother Number One”, his ongoing dominance of African-derived r&b seeing him elevated to “Godfather of Soul”.

    The Drifters in 1963, lead singer Rudy Lewis ('Up On the Roof', 'On Broadway') second from right. Lewis fatally shot himself in the spring of 1964 the morning 'Under the Boardwalk' was to be recorded, leaving the group's umpteenth lead singer, Johnny Moore, to do the job.

    The Drifters in 1963, lead singer Rudy Lewis ('Up On the Roof', 'On Broadway') second from right. Lewis fatally shot himself in the spring of 1964 the morning 'Under the Boardwalk' was to be recorded, leaving the group's umpteenth lead singer, Johnny Moore, to do the job.

    MORE ACCESSIBLE TO WHITE LISTENERS, THE TOP black male group to late ’64—until the Four Tops and the Temptations—was the Drifters. Evolving from Doo-Wop combos and produced by Leiber & Stoller, they posted ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’ as a massive hit in fall 1960 only for lead singer Ben E King to solo and take the brand with him in ‘Spanish Harlem’ and ‘Stand By Me’. Anyway, they proved a pillar of Sixties music combining r&b and pop in innovative ways for Atlantic —though for a time overshadowed by the preponderance of girl groups. They came right in ’63 with ‘Up On the Roof’ and ‘On Broadway’, followed up by ‘Under the Boardwalk’. It was a startling success at the height of Beatlemania and the British Invasion, which through the Searchers was regurgitating their ‘Sweets for My Sweet’ and ‘I Count the Tears’. By ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, a popular party number, they were sounding dated. Their new producer, Bert Berns (a.k.a. Russell, writer of ‘Twist & Shout’, etc), who had dragged out the baion rhythm past its welcome, went to the UK to be part of the Invasion.

    The contemporary force compelling the Beatles and Beach Boys to pay hommage was a mainstream sound they could approximate without the vocal contortions of turning into a black man (though McCartney and Lennon strained to do that on occasion). Motown of Detroit was under its founder multiplying into the wealthiest independent record company by the mid-Sixties.

    Smokey Robinson (second from right) & the Miracles

    Smokey Robinson (second from right) & the Miracles

    First harnessed were the formidable talents of singer-songwriters Smokey Robinson (‘Shop Around’) and Barrett Strong (Beatle favorite ‘Money—That’s What I Want’), then prolific team Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier & Eddie Holland and Stevie Wonder (‘I Was Made to Love Her’). Robinson, admired for his fine, evocative lyrics—called by Dylan “America’s greatest living poet”—would have been the envy of Dylan for mastering the musical side of the art too in composing-recording the emotive ‘Tracks of My Tears’ and ‘Tears of a Clown’, ‘My Guy’, ‘I Second That Emotion’ and ‘Get Ready’.

    Instead of enslaving mass instruments into a lump of sound as did the Spector-Nitzsche-Levine team at Gold Star, the Motown studio wizards featured individual talents and idiosyncracies of working Detroit jazz and r&b musicians, kept them upfront at the mikes, and left fully intact the live response of the snare drum, saxophone, etc, and avoided Spector’s everpresent drum muffling, echo and other elaborations. Based on an intimate working pool known as the Funk Brothers, Motown broke the mold of pop production. Gordy’s hands-on Svengali management with Holland-Dozier-Holland, Barrett Strong or Henry Stevenson producing, dwarfed the scale of Spector’s one-man Philles operation.

    Before striking a compromise ‘black pop’ formula exemplified by the Supremes (the Isley Bros’ ‘This Old Heart of Mine’, sounded very much like the model for late-sixties Brit pop) that would bring it two dozen Billboard number ones, the early Motown records were raw and convincing, including those from its girl groups. To ensure inroads into the white market the appealing but recognizably black Mary Wells was introduced in 1962, two years later replaced by the breathlessly cooing Diana Ross, on every track sounding like Marilyn Monroe gasping ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ and squealing every now and again for effect, supposedly signalling the height of passion.

    Holland-Dozier-Holland were now in ’63 making their mark with ‘Heat Wave’ and Supremes protohit ‘When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes’. Smokey Robinson was more versatile. As the one highly talented string to Gordy’s bow at the fledgling company he had become a co-director of the label and catered to his group the Miracles and the demanding vocal artistry of Marvin Gaye and the Temptations.

    Martha Reeves heading the Vandellas: more talented than Diana Ross but not cozy with the boss.

    Martha Reeves heading the Vandellas: more talented than Diana Ross but not cozy with the boss.

    An array of talents was flourishing within the broad limits of Motown for three years before the Beatles hit America. While the Beatles attempted to duplicate its sound on record they never came close, and afterwards the “Sound of Young America”, displaying shrewd cross-racial marketing by Gordy, only expanded its popularity and influence through the so-called British Beat Boom.

    Atlantic, as an artist-driven enterprise, avoided direct competition with Motown’s factory of craftsmen. Led by closely cooperating Muslim and Jewish figures (God Bless America), it emerged as the definitive label of Soul Music, in ’64 blowing off its rival the troubled Vee-Jay. Producer Jerry Wexler under Turkish-American brothers Ahmet & Nesuhi Ertegun was the preeminent creative force with, briefly, Leiber & Stoller, the Coasters—featuring “The Yakety Sax” of King Curtis—the Drifters and Ray Charles, Carla Thomas and father Rufus, Barbara Lewis, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Aretha. The Mar-Keys, racially integrated—white Memphis guitarist Steve Crop-per and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn with drummer Al Jackson (see The Blues Brothers, 1980)—joined a local organist as Booker T & the MGs for ‘Green Onions’ and backed tracks for Atlantic-Stax.

    It goes without saying both Beatles and Beach Boys owed much to black music. Lennon and McCartney nurtured an ability to simply regurgitate it rather than adapt it. But in trying to render it faithfully they can be seen to more often parody it. It is a rarity to find a cover that matched the original in quality of feeling; poor choice of material unsuited to their strengths was another failing early on that betrayed a stubbornly untrained, at times amateurish, approach.

    ROCK MUSIC — TWIST’N’SURF! FOLK’N’SOUL! (Part 1)

    In music on June 5, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    — another excerpt from a chapter of G. A. De Forest’s book ‘Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music’, published November 2007 by Booklocker.com and available from Amazon.com, where it listed #23 on its sales list of Music: History & Criticism books, April 26th 2008.

    Chubby Checker demonstrating The Twist, late summer 1960

    Chubby Checker demonstrating The Twist, late summer 1960

    As the world bleached itself blonde, daydreamed of waxing ironing-boards or bikini lines to go surfin’, hitched up its collective swimsuit and pondered on converting the family runabout into a woody or hotrod, the Beach Boys hung ten over a cauldron of pop sounds. The vocal surf sound they invented superseded both Elvis Presley and “The Twist” that had ruled under the perpetual-motion hips of Chubby Checker.

    By the time the sizzling Twist tempo simmered down to a ‘Mambo Twist’ and ‘Twistin’ USA’ those with an ear knew it was time to move on; just as Capitol wouldn’t know when surf music passed its prime. By summer ’63 when the Beach Boys had left the field Chubby had moved on too—but to ‘Surf Party’; and the Isley Bros from ‘Twist and Shout’ to ‘Surf and Shout’. Rock iconoclast Frank Zappa conquered and held the Mexican charts most of that year with ‘Tijuana Surf’. For the next four years, as he sustained his creative momentum, the world would not catch up to—but for an idealistic minority, did not want to catch up to—Beach Boy leader Brian Wilson. It had new champions in the Beatles, much better at keeping pace with even the slow, retro-inclined audience.

    FATS DOMINO WAS SOLE ORIGINAL ROCK’N’ROLLER to make it with a hit catalogue to the end of 1963. Then he faded, ironically to forge a comeback in the late Sixties showing up the Beatles with raunched-up takes on ‘Lovely Rita’ and ‘Lady Madonna’. Chuck Berry and Little Richard both revived in 1964 after five years of relative obscurity—still with old-style rock’n’roll, as a direct result of imitations by the Beatles.

    Dion DiMucci: the first Bandstand teen idol to be more than a sweater-wearer

    Dion DiMucci: the first Bandstand teen idol to be more than a sweater-wearer

    Del Shannon: American rock is reborn in 1961, cloaked in a sweater. The Beach Boys could have taken the rocker image further.

    Del Shannon: American rock is reborn in 1961, cloaked in a sweater. The Beach Boys could have taken the rocker image further.

    Shunning the sappy teen idolatry of the Frankies and Fabians, white rock’n’rollers Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, were too rebellious to be tolerated by the Establishment though continuing popular in the UK, and especially France, just catching up with the play. Here they were treated as current, even after Cochran was deceased, shown by their huge chart success into the mid-sixties. Closest in toughness—but judged marshmallow enough for vulnerable American teens—were Del Shannon and Dion (DiMucci). Del was far less consistent in the States but, unlike Dion, hugely appreciated in Britain, where he passed as an almost-leather-clad rocker touring there over the Beatles in 1963. His lukewarm cover of ‘From Me to You’ that introduced Beatle music to America was a comedown after ‘Runaway’, a couple of soundalikes and his latest, ‘Little Town Flirt’. Reduced to remakes, ‘Keep Searchin’’ kept him alive a year into Beatletime.

    Coming from Italian-American Doo-Wop humming on Bronx street corners, Dion by ’63 was the most respected of all teen idols in Elvis’s trail. ‘Runaround Sue’—like Bobby Darin on speed— and even better his convincing r&b growling on ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘Ruby Baby’, set new marks for white singers. The complex cyclical harmony-and-percussion of ‘Donna the Prima Donna’ was an exciting arrangement the Beach Boys would later use. He then attempted Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’—in too-direct competition with British groups, who had (apart from the Beach Boys) cornered the market on Berry refrains.

    While English groups from London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle—and West Coast US groups from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and LA—merely extrapolated on old forms of r&b and blues, black artists were developing a new form, “Soul”, often as African as the original Blues and Gospel. Black singers and musicians in distinctive African form were rarely given the limelight, James Brown & the Famous Flames being the shining exception—in America, not Britain, which has forever cherished its tuneful pop, Beatle music coming to serve as its epitome. A new strength was showing in black music in 1963, building on a base created by Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions, their former lead singer Jerry Butler (often coupled with Betty Everett) and Gene Chandler at Vee Jay and the Isley Bros. All of these were habitually successful on the r&b charts but only fitfully on the pop charts. A whole array of talent at Atlantic/Stax so far undiscovered by the white audience but for instrumental group Booker T & the MGs, and a new direction in girl groups and male vocalists (notably Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson) headed by Motown, would change all that. Brown and 13-year-old Stevie Wonder were even now rising to the very top of mainstream pop with hard-out r&b—an initiative effectively stifled and set back years by the Brit conquest of America.

    Barred from contributing to black music for obvious reasons, the Beach Boys took r&b rock in a divergent direction over several years, from garage-band rock to psychedelia. The white world of 1963 in which they infused their music was an ill-fitting one dominated by tv’s Bandstand, the first teen-oriented pop show. Given the setting of their songs’ images their music was inevitably dubbed white and therefore middle-class, avoiding any deeper thought on the subject.

    Dick Clark pretending to take a call.

    Dick Clark pretending to take a call.

    Chubby Checker, a protégé of Dick Clark (and named by Mrs Clark), the most popular performer in rhythm & blues— was the first ‘colored’ rock’n’roller to come anywhere near Elvis Presley, dominating the Twist as Elvis had original rock’n’roll. He was made all the more important by Elvis deserting rock for balladeering. Grooving on a rhythm similar to the dormant Little Richard, Chubby was arguably the biggest contemporary influence on the Beach Boys in their formative stage.

    ‘The Twist’ was huge in America and after ‘Let’s Twist Again’ it came back even bigger. In Britain the four big twist tunes (including the watered-down ‘Twisting the Night Away’ and ‘Peppermint Twist’) hit in a bunch early ’62, leaving Frankie Vaughan and Petula Clark to carry on with minor entries. Afterward Chubby was hardly heard from there, bowing to Pat Boone’s milksop twister ‘Speedy Gonzales’. In fact, Chubby’s genuine ‘Twist’ had been considered far too raucous for English ears on first release and missed top ten on re-release. No wonder English reviewers had no taste for ‘Surfin’ Safari’—they couldn’t recognise r&b authenticity when they heard it. The Brits preferred their own diluted covers of Twist songs, and their r&b groups were still infatuated with long-gone Lonnie Donegan and rockabillies Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. It was fitting as per the cyclical nature of pop culture that, after Cash Box named his ‘Limbo Rock’ top hit of ’63 and then years in rock’n’roll revival shows, Chubby returned with a version of ‘Back in the USSR’, written by Paul McCartney for the Beatles, but sounding like the Beach Boys.

    The American group’s special aspirations were later summed up by Chapple & Garofalo in Rock’n’Roll is Here to Pay (1977): “The surfing music that appeared in the early sixties should not be seen as just another fad that softened rock’n’roll. Rather it was a precursor to the psychedelic and underground progressive rock of the sixties. Several of the important people involved in surfing music—especially the Beach Boys (‘Surfin’ Safari’, ‘Surfin’ USA’, ‘Surfer Girl’) and Lou Adler, one of the first producers of Jan & Dean, became central figures in sixties rock. Surfing music represented an authentic West Coast rock’n’roll culture that differed in one important way from earlier rock’n’roll produced by urban blacks and Southern rockabillies: it was made by middle-class whites.” The Beatles and other British groups of the mid-Sixties attempted to reproduce the earlier rock’n’roll.

    The Four Seasons in 1962, of 'Sherry', 'Big Girls Don't Cry' and 'Walk Like a Man' vintage. From left: lead singer/falsetto Frankie Valli, Tommy De Vito (guitar), Bob Gaudio (songwriter/keyboards), Nick Massi (bass vocals, bass guitar)

    The Four Seasons in 1962, of 'Sherry', 'Big Girls Don't Cry' and 'Walk Like a Man' vintage. From left: lead singer/falsetto Frankie Valli, Tommy De Vito (guitar), Bob Gaudio (songwriter/keyboards), Nick Massi (bass vocals, bass guitar)

    Bandstand‘s update of teen idols—in light of the turn away from solo vocalists to groups wielding their own instruments, a develop-ment toward independence diametrically opposed to what the industry wanted—was the Four Seasons, Dick Clark’s new favorites from just down the New Jersey turnpike. Modelled on doo-wop vocal quartets and stopping short of adding a drummer meant they didn’t qualify as a rock’n’roll band and so appealed to the conservative music industry bosses of 1962-63 as a halfway stop; still desperately seeking an alternative to rock’n’roll, for a while they thought they’d found it in folk music.

    Self-determining like the Beach Boys, the Seasons recorded in their choice of studio, or rather producer Bob Crewe’s—in New York—and did a pressing, distribution and promotion deal with Chicago’s Vee-Jay for 16 cents per single—about 21%, around sixty times what the Beatles were now getting from their songs licensed to the same label. One estimate of Four Seasons career sales is 175 million worldwide.

    Under Crewe they showed just the right combination of toughness and sophistication in the studio, described as “technically brilliant” by an English reviewer who visited them, though in person up against laddish English boys came across as overly mature squares though hardly older than the Beatles or, especially, Stones. It was an image that would hamper them all too soon, considering the assets they drew together to offer Pop, combining modern r&b—hear departing member Nick Massi’s vocal arrangement of ‘Ain’t That a Shame’—with Tin Pan Alley, often employing composers Denny Randell & Sandy Linzer (‘Let’s Hang On’, ‘Working My Way Back to You’, ‘Opus 17’). Their arranger, Charles Calello, incorporated classical touches on piano and harpsichord to add Noo Yawk class. Keyboard player Bob Gaudio was sole or main writer of breakthrough no.1 ‘Sherry’, ‘Marlena’, ‘Dawn (Go Away)’, ‘Big Man in Town’ and ‘Beggin’’, and created with Crewe ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘Save It for Me’, ‘Ronnie’, ‘Rag Doll’ (their biggest gobally) and ‘Bye Bye Baby’, later blanded out by the Bay City Rollers.

    FEW SOLO STARS—THOUGH THE SEASONS’ FRANKIE Valli was distinctive and well enough known to be a teen idol, and did issue solo discs—continued strong into 1963. Bobby Vee, come from an association with Buddy Holly, from whom he continued the trend of orchestrated pop, was little seen after ‘The Night Has a Thousand Eyes’ early in the year. Brian Hyland (‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’, ‘Sealed With a Kiss’) returned at four-year intervals: ‘The Joker Went Wild’ and remaking the Impressions’ ‘Gypsy Woman’; Lou Christie, emulating Frankie Valli’s shrill falsetto and now in the last intake of idols with ‘The Gypsy Cried’ and ‘Two Faces Have I’, every three years—‘Lightnin’ Strikes’, ‘Rhapsody in the Rain’— then ‘I’m Gonna Make You Mine’. Bobby Rydell (‘Wild One’), counting as almost a major star for four years, pegged out with ‘Forget Him’ late ’63, as did Johnny Tillotson (‘Poetry in Motion’, ‘Judy, Judy, Judy’), a prolific but minor ‘idol’, with ‘Talk Back Trembling Lips’. Rick Nelson, a rock’n’roll stylist cum teen idol who featured top-notch backing musicians, bowed with a bossa nova treatment of ‘Fools Rush In’.

    Connie Francis, sultry in stills, goofy in films.

    Connie Francis, sultry in stills, goofy in films.

    Brenda Lee: "Little Miss Dynamite"Urban-Italian-sweet Connie Francis (‘Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool’, ‘My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own’, ‘Where the Boys Are’, etc) and country-Georgia-sassy Brenda Lee (‘Sweet Nothin’s’, ‘I’m Sorry’, ‘Dum Dum’) remained top teen princesses, each mounting nearly twenty top 20 US hits—and then their head-to-head contest came to a dead halt. While ’63 was a great year for Brenda—two international multimillion-sellers in ‘All Alone Am I’ and ‘Losing You’, the belter ‘My Whole World Is Falling Down’—her last real big one, ‘As Usual’, was leaving the charts as the Beatles landed. That was really the end. Connie treaded water in beach movies (Follow the Boys), and Brenda—succeeding Connie—retained her Cash Box world’s top female vocalist crown for two more awards, but it was only the wan impact of their British equivalents that enabled the two to stay recognised names, just submerged under the new group scene.

    Connie Stevens and Annette Funicello, recording actresses, were their runners-up in popularity polls. Precocious acting talent Patty Duke, with her own teen sitcom, would succeed them in the pop market and last four hits. Big for a while in ’63 were Marcie Blane’s ‘Bobby’s Girl’, Skeeter Davis’s ‘End of the World’ and melodramatic ‘I Will Follow Him’ (“wherever he may go”) emoted by Little Peggy March, all following up award-winning ‘Johnny Get Angry’ from Joanie Sommers the year before. All were one-shots until Lesley Gore (‘It’s My Party’, ‘Judy’s Turn to Cry’, ‘You Don’t Own Me’) made the teen girl vein her own.

    Virtually all teen idols, female and male, were gone before the arrival of the Beatles—thanks to the dominating presence of the Beach Boys and Four Seasons driving the pop industry away from sometimes puerile, often sentimental, mush into a much tougher group-oriented scene. In the new world of male groups, alternately male rights were demanded and male longing for “the right girl” was openly expressed. All had melted away, that is, but for the resistant strain of Bobby Vinton, in America; and Gene Pitney, more popular ex-USA.

    Gene Pitney: a Euro-ising influence on American pop, with Burt Bacharach

    Gene Pitney: a Euro-ising influence on American pop, with Burt Bacharach

    Pitney hit through movie themes Town Without Pity and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, ending ’62 in ‘Only Love Can Break a Heart’, a no.2, backed by jukebox favorite ‘If I Didn’t Have a Dime’—as big as he ever got in America though through ’63 he continued to define Sixties pop: ‘True Love Never Runs Smooth’, ‘Half Heaven, Half Heartache’, upbeat ‘Mecca’ and signature tune ‘Twenty-four Hours From Tulsa’. All fell short of top ten but by now a superstar in Britain he switched to suit the market from the Bacharach-David writing team to big ballads ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ and ‘Looking Through the Eyes of Love’ from Spector favorites Mann-Weil. His pseudo-operatic pleading style hit a chord world-wide. Spending a deal of time in the UK with publicist Andrew Loog Oldham and thus the Stones and other new figures at the centre of the industry, he came to adopt, and was adopted by, the British Invasion with trans-Atlantic sounds ‘It Hurts to Be in Love’ and ‘Last Chance to Turn Around’. But while staying a fixture there—‘Princess in Rags’, ‘Backstage’, etc—he also sank with the Brits.

    The new Bobby had only been around a year (‘Roses Are Red’) but dominated second-half-of-’63 charts: ‘Blue on Blue’, ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘There! I’ve Said it Again’ all reaching top and spanning into Beatletime. Sticking to slow, melodious Easy Listening as a sort of white Johnny Mathis, he went all the way again with ‘Mr Lonely’ (hear the dire rehash c. 2005) but stuck fast in glutinous remakes thereafter. Like Mathis, he defied the trends— and uniquely for a teen idol scored better in sales than in airplay. But the fact that the Brits ignored him made him an anachronism, never figuring in the development of Sixties Music.

    Bobby Vinton: sweetly retro, pointing the way 'forward' to Beatle ballads.

    Bobby Vinton: sweetly retro, pointing the way 'forward' to Beatle ballads.

    Vinton’s sentimental sweetness and total lack of rock impetus—a male Patti Page—kept sleepy Middle America in the Fifties, though strangely well in tune with the sentimental Beatle ballads everpresent through the Sixties. Of Middle European extraction, nicknamed the Polish Prince, his Polka-paced melodies brought out the Old World tradition the Beatles were so fond of. Vinton’s album Tell Me Why revealed his affinity with many Lennon-McCartney tunes. He carried the stream of comfortable-sweater Bobbys to Bobby Goldsboro mid-decade, on to Shindig resident Bobby Sherman—Las Vegas style, not hinting even at the cleaned-up version of “rock and roll” but successfully passed off as such.

    ROCK MUSIC — ENGLAND SWINGS?

    In anthropology, celebrity, generational/fashion, history, music on June 4, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    — an excerpt from another chapter of G. A. De Forest’s book ‘Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music’, published by Booklocker.com in November 2007 and available for around $17.95. Highest position thus far on Amazon’s sales list in the Music: History & Criticism category is #23 on April 26th 2008.

    “Eng-a-land swings like a pendulum do/ bobbies on bicycles two by two/ Westminster Abbey, the Tower, Big Ben/ the rosy red cheeks of the little chil-dren.”—Country Music’s Oklahoma stump philosopher of the mid-Sixties, Roger Miller, observing the myth of Merry England. By the time of Miller’s paean—what, in any other era, would have been a giant pain—England had ruled pop music for two years and was conquering the rest of pop culture. The miniskirt, fashion designer Mary Quant, supermodel Jean Shrimpton (Twiggy to come), and Carnaby Street were all household names around the world. In London they took their fashion so seriously that anyone walking down Carnaby Street or Chelsea’s King’s Road out of fashion might have been ritually stoned, in both senses of the word.

    The coolest tv program was The Avengers—karate-kicking Emma Peel and immaculately Savile Row-attired John Steed. The chic actresses were Julie Christie on the big screen, by acclaim, and by definition Paul McCartney’s girlfriend Jane Asher, and Mick Jagger’s, Marianne Faithfull—by her own account blessed by an accident of birth with “The Look” and so doubling effortlessly as a chic rock star.

    The Beatles in '65: John and Paul styling their hair, Ringo and George still generic moptops

    The Beatles in '65: John and Paul styling their hair, Ringo and George still generic moptops

    The Beatles came in 12th at American box-offices for 1965, 6th UK. America’s two no.1 movie stars through 1965-66 were Brits Sean Connery (James Bond) and saccharine songstress Julie Andrews, dis-placing all-American team Doris Day and Rock Hudson —suddenly hopelessly outdated 40-year-old born-again virgins, plopped down from Planet Quaint into The Swinging Sixties. The British had cornered the movie market (apart from westerns, fading fast): Bond and Michael Caine the nattiest dressed screen spies; Peter Sellers superseded Jerry Lewis as America’s most popular comic; Hayley Mills still the world’s no.1 child star, turning 20; Margaret Rutherford was the screen’s adored septuagenarian. An entire generation of British actors—Peter O’Toole, Albert Finney, Alan Bates, Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed, Susannah York, Sarah Miles—were said to be the most interesting on screen. The swingingest middle-aged affair involved fifth-time-around Liz Taylor/Cleopatra and her consort Richard Burton/Marc Antony. And more UK actors—Richard Harris (‘MacArthur Park’), Noel Harrison (‘Windmills of Your Mind’)—were held to be the most expressive vocalists in recording.

    For the first time in centuries England defined cool. Three months after the Beatles arrived in America, Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan were trying their luck with extended tours in England, previously a whistle-stop. Those who could fake being English to Stateside audiences were flavor of the month, often literally. New LA groups the Byrds—first goofily calling themselves the Beefeaters—and the Turtles, false-advertising themselves as from England, strained mightily for Beatle accents in the frenzied quest for fame before stumbling on to Dylan and folk rock. Others hoping to fool the public were the Buckinghams and Golliwogs (later Creedence Clearwater Revival). For more than two years Americans were mindlessly Anglophile, and it took an English songwriter, Ray Davies of the Kinks, to debunk it all in the spring of 1966 with the flaying derision of ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’. Still, only slowly was the spell broken: Britons had nine number ones in America that year.

    While it lasted the edict—more powerful than if a law had been passed—shut out the all-too-American Beach Boys for their obvious aural and visible handicaps: being so un-English as to commit a heresy against revealed wisdom. The Four Seasons, older and more brittle, broke—no longer superstars in ’65 due to media neglect. Wide-ranging surveys in the mid-Seventies by WNBC-New York, WFIL-Philadelphia and WRKO-Boston to discover the most popular hits long term showed that the Seasons were done in by someone: ‘Dawn’, ‘Ronnie’, ‘Rag Doll’, ‘Bye Bye Baby’, ‘Let’s Hang On’, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’, ‘Opus 17’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, ‘C’mon Marianne’, mostly greeted without fanfare on release, ended up like most Beach Boys hits among the top dozen or so Eastern Seaboard sellers from their respective years— rated higher than Beatle number ones ‘Ticket to Ride’, ‘Day Tripper’, ‘Yellow Submarine’.

    Frankie Valli: “A lot of American groups got lost… Everybody has to have their own identity—it’s very important. That’s what we did. We said, ‘Sink or swim, but we’re going to stay with what we do’ and it’s the only chance that anyone could have.”

    The towering, enduring irony was that the best to come out of Britain in the Sixties by its best—The Who, the Kinks, the Stones, Cream—was created on vinyl by American record producers, resettling in Britain because anxious to get in on the scene. Foremost among an array of dominating American producers was Shel Talmy, who described Dick Rowe, “the man who turned down the Beatles”, as “one of the few people in England who was pro-American”. The anti-Americanism was a pathetically hypocritical defensive screen erected by a domestic industry built on a framework of American music as its direct inspiration, and now heavily reliant on imported American talent to make it work.

    The Beach Boys would have to overcome the dictates of fashion—a feat unheard of in the pop scene—generated in London and pervading America via New York, always susceptible to trends crossing the Atlantic. In choosing artistic integrity they chose values that held no currency in the prevailing showbiz climate. And if they won they presented a danger that show business might never recover from, a threat to the whole basis of marketing: “Go with the bestselling commodity of the moment. Undersell, then dump, yesterday’s goods.”

    For Capitol/EMI, the Beach Boys’ primary business connection —the multinational that manufactured and distributed their recordings but was now dependent on the quick-sale Beatles—the course was clear.

    WHEN SIXTIES HISTORIES RECORD THE BEATLES saved pop music from dreary, saccharine crooners of no originality it is partly true—in the UK, not the multifaceted, ever-changing American scene. The Cliff Richards, Shadows and Joe Meek acts including the Tornadoes had already made strides in Britain. For all their individual qualities their passing would not be mourned by the Beatles who, pre-fame, derided them as smoothies in suits. While rock’n’roll had cooled from its original white heat, the American mainstream had the vital three-pronged thrust of the Beach Boys, Motown and Atlantic primed to explode, a mainspring integrating black and white performers now put on hold by the Beatle-led aberration.

    The year the Beatles had their first hit—1962—the UK top 20 was full of inferior covers of American records, as bemoaned by Britain’s own industry spokespersons: ‘Moon River’, ‘Tower of Strength’, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, ‘When My Little Girl is Smiling’, ‘Roses Are Red’, ‘Spanish Harlem’, ‘Bobby’s Girl’, ‘Up On the Roof’…. These remakes and their performers—Danny Williams, Frankie Vaughan, Karl Denver, Johnny Spence, Craig Douglas, Jimmy Justice, Shane Fenton, Ronnie Carroll, Mark Wynter, Susan Maughan, Maureen Evans, Kenny Lynch—weren’t heard overseas except in dutiful British Commonwealth markets loyal to the mother country. Orchestra leaders left over from the big band era purveyed restful ballroom numbers: Acker Bilk, Joe Loss, John Barry. If Kenny Ball—popular in America with ‘Midnight in Moscow’—hadn’t introduced post-War-styled ‘Sukiyaki’ it is unlikely Americans would ever have let the original out of the bottle to contribute to the apparent malaise of 1963.

    While rare knowledgeable British fans have been praised by American rock’n’rollers for recognising quality, the UK had an all-powerful clobbering machine keeping rock’n’roll down—“Auntie BBC”, which in its duty to young and old ears alike efficiently suppressed black music under the guise of preserving the country’s cultural heritage: akin to the White Australia Policy elsewhere in the Empire. It was the brief liberalisation of the airwaves, 1964-67, when they finally got some exposure as private ‘pirate’ radio stations flourished around the British Isles, that the rock’n’rollers were thankful for.

    So it was that the run of new UK groups formed by 1963 left much to be desired in originality and style, but what did America’s fashion-conscious youths, white middle-class teenyboppers who hadn’t heard real rock’n’roll, care? Most British rock’n’roll in the invasion was about as convincing as Italian westerns or Japanese Elvises. The Beatles and other UK r&b groups always preferred the original US recordings, if they could get them—then spoilt the effect by performing inferior covers themselves, true to the English spirit of anyone-can-put-their-hand-to-it-rock’n’roll, one level removed from the makeshift skiffle groups. Obviously, like the Rolling Stones, the more up-close exposure the Beatles had to American practitioners the better they got, though Paul, George & John’s dumping of virile drummer Pete Best (with his bass-drum and tom-tom driven sound a spotlighted feature of the band) had defeated creating a distinct English rock style for themselves in favor of Ringo’s ballroom versatility.

    Still, Music Hall style and sensibility were deeply ingrained in the Brit psyche. David Jones, a struggling singer with several bands, as late as 1967 put out novelty parodies of rock’n’roll: ‘Love You Till Tuesday’ and ‘The Laughing Gnome’ in the style of early-sixties comics Mike Sarne (‘Come Outside’), Bernard Cribbins (‘A Bird Up On My Bike’), Tommy Steele (‘Little White Bull’) and Anthony Newley (‘That Noise’). It was a breakthrough tactic that caused im-mense embarrassment later. With a leap towards cool and a hefty push by Yank producer Shel Talmy he released ‘Space Oddity’ to be one of the great English figures of the early Seventies. By that time he had changed his name to David Bowie.

    A persuasive view contra to Beatle omniscience comes from the British documentary tv series Dancing in the Street: American music was progressing very well, thank you, on diverse fronts most broadly represented by an r&b/soul barrage, only to be stifled by a cheapened homogenised product from UK groups with fashionable hair as their claim to popularity, a qualification unmatchable by the black originators of the music.

    The coup was resented in some circles to the lengths that a “Stamp Out the Beatles” campaign was organised by Detroit student activists, fans of Motown and devotees of the grassroots r&b and blues of their city. When Paul McCartney heard of it he sensitively riposted that the Beatles would stamp out Detroit. British musicians were by and large clueless to the nuances of Blues, Gospel, Soul and any number of other American idioms of expression. And entrepreneurs of Epstein’s ilk would never have understood the dedication to quality and authenticity of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Phil Spector, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Jerry Wexler of Atlantic, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil of Brill Building ‘pop’ and many others in the American recording industry of that time: Jewish aficionados of black music.

    Fans of Motown invaded the broadcast of the Beatles’ second Sullivan show in Miami, in vain. By the end of that year, 1964, a Leiber-Stoller produced, blues-tinged ‘Go Now’ was commandeered by new English group the Moody Blues for their US debut; and the Shirelles’ ‘Sha La La’ overwhelmed by a Manfred Mann cover following up ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’, yet another song (by Mann-Weil) with girl group written all over it. As Dancing in the Street concluded, if the English acts had saved American music, what had they “saved” it from?

    THE BEATLES WERE WORKING-CLASS LADS RAISED as pets of the English business aristocracy (and fast favorites of royalty for that) and a year later were enthroned by America, having freed itself from the British Empire two centuries before only to now don the chains wholeheartedly. Homebred musicians withered from unrequited wooing, shunned by their own media. Who would challenge the invaders?

    Not a few bluecoats turned redcoat, going mod in a half-assed process totally out of cultural context. Peroxide-blond ‘surfers’ had carried surfboards through fashion-governed Chelsea in 1963, just for the look, and now the tables were turned with a vengeance. To make the switch was to be “fab”, “smashing”, “gear”. But instead of carrying it off with aplomb as the Beatles and Kinks did, Yanks started looking and acting like Austin Powers: aping foreign fashions, and parroting music alien to them. Just as the English did, to American music. In some twisted sense of karma the Byrds and Righteous Bros latched on to British wartime heroine Vera Lynn, suspecting that her flagwavers of a generation before might be just the ticket, and produced hideous remakes of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’. The Beau Brummels (‘Laugh Laugh’, see John Candy comedy Uncle Buck) posed English enough to appear on The Munsters as Beatle standins. Their Revolutionary War period costumes were outdone by the bluecoat uniforms of Paul Revere & the Raiders, cashing in on lace and frills but sticking for a while to a tough LA r&b produced by surf music alumnus Terry Melcher.

    P. J. Proby: introduced to the UK by the Beatles and had talent overflowing enough to go worldwide and then some.

    P. J. Proby: introduced to the UK by the Beatles and had talent overflowing enough to go worldwide and then some.

    Ponytailed and knee-breached on the same theme, P J Proby from Texas was befriended by the Beatles, annointed by them on UK tv and had his career made—in England, joined by Righteous Bros-soundalikes the Walker Brothers. The highly talented Proby blew his chance of continuing superstardom (or more important, widening it to his homeland) when in early ’65 he was banned by UK theatre chains and BBC-TV for deliberately splitting his tight britches to get a reaction. Tom Jones, on the same tour, took over as the star. Jones and Dusty Springfield squeaked in by the back door—welcomed by American audiences who thought they were black. The favored groups in both Britain and America now typically offered a maximum of volume and minimum of finesse, or hummable singalong melodies set amid this mishmash of so-called “rock and roll”.

    Precipitating all this, the shock of the Beatles hitting America was all the more so when it was realised they were only the tip of an ever-broadening iceberg. England was soon so central to the pop culture of the Western World that within two months of the Beatles landing her two feeblest rock and roll pretenders, Brian Poole & the Tremeloes and Freddie & the Dreamers, were greeted with screaming fits in Australia on a package tour with Gerry & the Pacemakers, Dusty Springfield and adopted Yank Gene Pitney. That May the Dave Clark Five were mobbed by 5,000 fans in Washington DC, helped by well-placed pre-publicity; Fred Vail recalls being told that only two of their tour dates made money. In June the Stones dropped in to Chicago’s Chess studio to jam as equals (in fame) with their teachers Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon; but in Sacramento the Stones managed an audience of only a thousand, not helped by the exorbitant $6 price (personal communication, Fred Vail). Yet by the end of the year top US acts Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, the Supremes and almost the entire Motown star roster on a package tour—aside from the Shangri-Las and many less stellar—were obliged to pay return visits to England for sheer commercial reasons, if not to bow to the new Mecca of reconstituted rock and roll.

    Cliff, c.1964, now with pompadour and sideburns trimmed like the tamed-down Elvis

    Cliff, c.1964, now with pompadour and sideburns trimmed like the tamed-down Elvis

    English teen idols with swished-back hair—but otherwise hardly differing from the Beatles—were not welcome in the US and chief among them, Cliff Richard, had suffered more initial rebuffs than the Beatles. ‘Livin’ Doll’ had made top thirty, prompting an invite from The Pat Boone Show New Year 1960. But his only apparent advance was to lead Elvis Presley’s move from rock’n’roll. A huge seller in Europe, especially Germany where Elvis was still stationed in the army, it is hard to believe the song’s sedate shuffle beat didn’t lead directly to ‘Stuck On You’, ‘Good Luck Charm’ and more sounding a lot like Cliff’s pace.

    Three years later ‘Lucky Lips’, another massive world seller on the same lines, made a reentry and then late 1963 Cliff’s remake of ‘It’s All in the Game’, his biggest in the US yet, though short of top 20. Unfortunately the Beatles arrived in America just as Cliff was “peaking” and his pompadour went stone-cold-dead out of fashion. Songs like ‘Don’t Talk to Him’ and others written by a combination of Shadows/Cliff were better than Beatle music of the time though maybe it was matched by ‘Please Please Me’ (after being immensely improved by song surgeon George Martin’s revamp). But he was disqualified from serious consideration Stateside for another twelve years, continuing a household name almost everywhere else. His biggest English teen rivals, Adam Faith and Billy Fury, each had a dozen (shrinking) hits into Beatletime at home. Though Faith was pushed by all-powerful Englishman Jack Good, producer of American tv’s Hullabaloo and Shindig, this resulted in a solitary US top forty hit backed by the Roulettes, the rollicking-good ‘It’s Alright’ early in ’65. Fury too had contacts, but neither got within a bargepole of American acceptance.

    The Shadows too—backing Cliff but having a spectacular career of their own ex-USA—were surplus to requirements. They’d been blocked in 1960 by one-hit-wonder Danish guitarist Jorgen Ingmann’s cover of their world multi-million seller ‘Apache’; after that, well America already had the Ventures, thanks for askin’.

    For UK audiences local teen raves Helen Shapiro, hitting at 14, and Kathy Kirby, specialising in speeded-up Doris Day retreads, vied with Brenda Lee and Connie Francis. Shapiro even went to Nashville to record in 1963 but remained unknown to the rest of the States but for minor Easy Listening hit ‘Tell Me What He Said’. Anyway, Lesley Gore already had the teen girl franchise in America, Connie Stevens runner-up, and sultry Connie Francis and wholesome Annette Funicello between them cornering beach movies. In January of that year the Beatles, with just ‘Love Me Do’ under their belts, were ranked fifth on the Helen Shapiro show touring the UK, behind secondary American teen idols Tommy Roe (‘Sheila’) and Chris Montez (‘Let’s Dance’). By the end of the year they were at the top and she was nowhere, her demise highlighting the useless waste and anti-female bias at the onset of the Beatle era. The Beach Boys would choose her as the main support act on their spring 1967 UK tour and she later made a go of a jazz career.

    There were legitimate, barely decipherable routes to American hearts other than on the lacy cuffs and billowing shirttails of the Brit Invasion.

    Dusty, late '63, with the thick mascara and beginnings of a La Ronette hairdo, but still in the gingham a la the country-styled Springfields

    Dusty, late '63, with the thick mascara and beginnings of a La Ronette hairdo, but still in the gingham a la the country-styled Springfields

    The husky ‘black’ voices of Dusty Springfield (‘Wishin’ and Hopin’’, ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’) and Tom Jones (‘It’s Not Unusual’, ‘What’s New Pussycat?’) saw them embraced as Blue-Eyed Soul, as coined by the Righteous Bros. Neither was quite as successful in the blue-eyed genre as Bill Medley & Bobby Hatfield under Phil Spector, though they lasted longer. And each was courteously credited by black artists with opening ears to black tones, though Britain remained immune to any “black” sounds but the poppiest of Motown pop for some years yet. In reality, Dusty was an acceptable torch singer, her forté the intimate whisper that Cilla Black did badly. There was a whole vocal ladder between her and Nancy Wilson or Dinah Washington, and a good few rungs up to Betty Everett or compatriot Shirley Bassey. In the UK real soul singers of the day like P P Arnold, Madeleine Bell and the Flirtations were hardly appreciated compared with the acclaim showered (mainly justly) on Macy Gray, Joss Stone and Amy Whitehouse two generations later.

    Touring America early on with the Springfields, Dusty settled as a solo in New York City and remolded herself from a wholesome Irish-styled colleen belting out country-folk to the first Brit girl replicating Soul. To highlight the new image she took up a bleached-blonde variation of the big backcombed beehive hairdo and black eye makeup of the Ronettes. She cited the Exciters’ ‘Tell Him’ as her style model, and her backing vocalists the Breakaways had done a UK cover of ‘He’s a Rebel’ though Phil Spector and the Crystals’ original became the hit. Thank goodness for small mercies because the Brits had accepted everyone from Tommy Steele to Max Bygraves as stand-ins for the real thing—and continued to, as the French did their own in a rock toujour spirit.

    Dusty rivalled Dionne Warwick as top songstress in the States through ’64, but then with the second big wave of invasion a songbird reminiscent of a French-styled Vera Lynn won over sentimental (white) hearts.

    Euro-chanteuse Petula Clark as 'Downtown' broke, aged 32 -- an age before which Pete Townshend hoped to die.

    Euro-chanteuse Petula Clark as 'Downtown' broke, aged 32 -- an age before which Pete Townshend hoped to die.

    ‘Pet’ Clark was over thirty and well established in middle-aged French cabaret when she introduced ‘Downtown’. A parallel movie career and accomplished stagecraft assured her place as long as the Invasion lasted and an American career as long as there were musicals on Broadway. In 1967, when Aretha Franklin discovered Soul, Pet’s days on Top 40 radio were numbered though two of her biggest hits came the first half of that year: movie director Charlie Chaplin’s ‘This is My Song’ and ‘Don’t Sleep in the Subway’ by her writer/producer Tony Hatch, by his account modeling it after the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

    lulu It wasn’t until this point, when the thrust of the Invasion was blunted, that Lulu made her biggest impact in the US, ‘To Sir With Love’, helped by the movie starring Sidney Poitier, America’s new no.1 box-office star. Resembling a Scottish Brenda Lee, Lulu went on from her ersatz stab at the Isley Bros’ r&b classic ‘Shout’— faked well enough for the British Commonwealth—to develop an individual delivery on her classics including ‘Oh Me, Oh My’. Some years later the Brits would again show their weakness for little girls in their early teens with big, put-on gravel voices by making Lena Zavaroni a star for her talent-quest renditions on tv of ‘Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me’ and ‘Personality’.

    But at the height of the Invasion America was impervious to Britain’s two best-liked girl vocalists, Cilla Black and Sandie Shaw, both tressed in Brit bobs, enjoying one Top 40 hit each, ‘You’re My World’ and ‘Girl Don’t Come’. Cilla, a Liverpool/Cavern mate of the Beatles, was the US flop for manager Brian Epstein—but a British institution, moving effortlessly to television hosting. Model-like Sandie, discovered by Adam Faith, scored a small consolation in ‘(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me’ outselling Dionne Warwick’s version. But she reached her peak in Eurovision Song Quest winner ‘Puppet on a String’—not the Elvis ballad but a horrendous Bavarian-style oompah song beloved of Brits and other Euros that sold four million-plus.

    Cilla Black

    Cilla Black

    Sandie Shaw

    Sandie Shaw

    Gawky Cilla, overflowing with English working-class “If she can make it I can make it” appeal, made pseudo-operatic versions of Bacharach-Warwick’s ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ and ‘Alfie’. English aping led to such disasters as a cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’, just pipped to UK no.1 by the original. Cilla, with Manfred Mann, the Hollies, Tremeloes and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch, participated in the decline of British pop in the late Sixties, now reliant on homegrown writers and producers, laid to rest by styleless Marmalades and Love Affairs. The much better Foundations, Amen Corner, The Move and others were unfortunately short-lived.

    But with all this—1964 being above all a novelty year—the biggest American impact by UK-based females was made by one-off novelty takes. Overshadowing Dusty and Dionne for three months, “Millie”, Small by name and frame, promoted her native Jamaican ska beat with ‘My Boy Lollipop’ performed at the World Fair in New York with a bevy of dancers sponsored by the newly independent Jamaica’s tourist board. It was a bouncy ditty that went to #2 in Billboard, attracting as much airplay but not sales as the Beach Boys and Four Seasons through early July. The same beat, same everything, was trotted out for lesser hits. Julie Rodgers in early fall trod her footnote in history with ‘The Wedding’, moving seven million in the next eight years—seemingly played at every second wedding in the Western World in that time. The key line “You by my side—that’s how I see us” rang out the death knell of a romantic era.

    IN AMERICA PRODUCERS AND SIMPATICO ENGINEERS had wholly realized advances in the studio. Hailed above them all was Phil Spector as creator extraordinaire—now coming to be rivalled by George“Shadow” Morton and Motown’s team Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. All were widely acknowledged for weaving spells at the control panel—a bewildering press-button device looming large in the lives of girl artists as a metaphor for a loss of control over self-expression and their own careers. Spector in particular was widely modelled by aspiring Svengalis around the world but living up to the substance was something else. In Britain the dark shades and bodyguard-henchman clearing the rabble for the royal procession were embellishments adopted by Andrew Loog Oldham, the echo chamber effects overdone by independent producer Joe Meek.

    The Rolling Stones in 1964. From left, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger,  a stoned Brian Jones, Charlie Watts; a young, relatively humanoid Keith Richards.

    The Rolling Stones in 1964. From left, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, a stoned Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, a young, relatively humanoid Keith Richard

    The Animals in 1964: better musicians and singers than the Stones. Eric Burdon is up front, Alan Price on keyboards and bassist Chas Chandler partly obscured

    The Animals in 1964: better musicians and singers than the Stones. Eric Burdon is up front, Alan Price on keyboards and bassist Chas Chandler partly obscured

    Along with the scene came girl group songwriters admired by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and others. Goffin & King, writing for Little Eva, the Chiffons and Cookies (‘Chains’), wrote ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ for the Animals and later Aretha Franklin’s breakthrough ‘Natural Woman’. Other major New York spousal teams were Mann & Weil—now with ‘Walking in the Rain’ (Ronettes), ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ (Animals), ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ and ‘Soul and Inspiration’ (Righteous Bros); and Barry & Greenwich—an array including ‘Leader of the Pack’ and ‘River Deep, Mountain High’.

    Spector, the model of the go-getter entrepreneur, reveled in the chutzpah it took to make a hit out of nothing in a make-or-break showbiz world as the rock’n’roll era wound down in 1959 and businessmen who made their livings from teen music looked for certainty in trends—a predictability that the best, most vibrant rock’n’roll abhorred, by definition. Three of the Beatles turned to Spector above anyone to produce their starting projects and reignite their solo careers. But as rock moved on, the spontaneity of the original rock’n’roll would only be recaptured in moments, and by the most talented artists.

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