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Boomers Sang, 1-2-3

Music in which a singer counts numbers didn’t start or end with the Boomer Generation, but Mister Boomer has noticed that there were an abundance of songs in the boomer years that used “1, 2, 3” (or “1, 2, 3, 4”) as an inherent part of a song’s lyrics. Sure there are loads of examples of a band member counting at a song’s beginning to get all the bandmates started at the same time (for example, I Saw Her Standing There by the Beatles comes to mind). And of course, there were the telephone number songs like The Marvelettes’ Beachwood 4-5789, but we’re talking about using number counting within a song.

A case in point is Wilson Pickett’s Land of 1000 Dances (1966). Before Mr. Pickett gives a shout out to a bunch of popular dances, he growls:
1,2,3
(Horns flourish)
1,2,3
Aow! Uh!
Alright! Uh!

Counting is natural to the beat of music, but in this case it also refers to the songs’ content — namely, dance. Here, 1, 2, 3 could just as easily be referring to counting dance steps. A great example of soul expression like this song could have him reciting numbers from a loading dock log and he’d still have us at 1, 2, 3.

In the song 1-2-3, as sung by Len Barry (1965), we see that another reason to count 1, 2, 3 could very well be that a lot of words rhyme with three. We hear here that falling in love is both elementary and easy:
1-2-3, that’s how elementary it’s gonna be
C’mon let’s fall in love, it’s easy (it’s so easy)
Like taking candy (like taking candy) from a baby

The Grass Roots gave us a classic counting song: Let’s Live for Today (1967). The count is situated at the beginning of the refrain. As such, are we to think the songwriter thought another line was needed, but he couldn’t come up with one, so he added the count? Or that the count of “1, 2, 3, 4” marks the passage of time, the ticking of the clock, the reason why we are advised to “live for today?” That’s for you to decide, boomers. What’s interesting to Mister B is that in the first chorus, “1, 2, 3, 4” is sung, but the next two times the refrain is sung, the singer drops the “one” and starts with “two” to sing, “2, 3, 4”:
1-2-3-4
Sha-la-la-la-la-la live for today
Sha-la-la-la-la-la live for today
And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow hey, hey, hey, hey

Oh my! In retrospect as an adult, 1-2-3 Red Light, by the 1910 Fruitgum Company (1968) sounds positively predatory. This song was labelled “bubble gum” at the time, a musical confection so named for its pop beat and sound rather than its subject matter. In this song, the narrator/singer is pleading to his date. He states that when he makes a move, his counterpart flashes the red signal, staying “stop!” Our intrepid singer doesn’t stop there, though, as he tries to to plead his case:
Every time I try to prove I love you
1,2,3 red light
You stop me
Baby you ain’t right to stop me
1,2,3 red light

As we saw in Len Barry’s 1-2-3, the Jackson 5 found love as easy as ABC (1970), which we all know is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Here we may see a very similar sentiment but hear a completely different sound:
A, B, C — it’s easy as 1, 2, 3
As simple as do re mi
A, B, C, 1, 2, 3
Baby, you and me girl

And in Mister Boomer’s estimation, the mother of all counting songs: I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag, the anti-war ditty performed by Country Joe and the Fish live at Woodstock (1969):
And it’s one, two, three
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
And it’s five, six, seven
Open up the pearly gates
Well, there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we’re all gonna die

What’s your favorite counting song, boomers? Would you care to add to this list?

posted by Mister B in Music,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

Boomers Will Take Women’s Names in Beatles’ Songs on the White Album for $200, Alex

Mister Boomer has been a fan of the TV game show, Jeopardy, for several decades, from the time Art Fleming hosted and on to Alex Trebek. However, his schedule doesn’t permit him to watch it much these days. One of the things he always thought would be fun would be to be able to compose a category for the game board. Having given it some thought for years, Mister B knows exactly what he would do, should Alex Trebeck call and give him the chance: his category would be Women’s Names Mentioned on the Beatles’ White Album (1968).

The Beatles sang about various women, both real and fictional, from their very origins and all through their recordings. In the early days they covered popular rock ‘n roll songs that named (Miss) Lizzy, (Long Tall) Sally, Lucille and many others. Then each of their albums named women in their own songs, if not in the titles themselves. There was Anna (Please Please Me, 1963) and Eleanor Rigby (Revolver, 1966); Lucy (in the sky with diamonds, no less; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967), and that French babe, Michelle (Rubber Soul, 1965); Rita (a lovely meter maid; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967) and Loretta (who apparently had better get back; Let It Be, 1970), to name but a few. Yet there was not an album release that held such a preponderance of women’s names in it until The Beatles, aka The White Album.

Astute Beatles mavens on the Internet mention more women’s names on that double album with the white cover than any other Beatles album, so it must be true! That provides plenty of material to compose a Jeopardy category for Mister B, which might go something like this:

Jeopardy Contestant: “I’ll take ‘Women Named on The Beatles White Album’ for $200, Alex.”
Alex Trebeck: “And the answer is, ‘Her name was Magill, she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as …’ ”
Contestant: “Who is Nancy?”
Alex: “Correct! From the song, Rocky Raccoon. You have control of the board.”
Contestant: “Same category for $600, Alex.”
Alex: “And it’s the Daily Double!”
Contestant: “I’ll make it a true Daily Double.”
Alex: “The answer is, ‘She was Mia Farrow’s sister, who was visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi the same time as the Fab Four in 1968, where they summoned her to ‘come out to play.’ ”
Contestant: “Who was Julia?”
Alex: “Ooh, I’m sorry, that is incorrect. The answer is ‘Who is Prudence?’ from the song, Dear Prudence. That brings you back to zero. We’ll be right back after these commercial messages.”

Other women named on the album include:

• the aforementioned Julia (Julia)
• Martha (Martha My Dear)
• Sadie (Sexy Sadie)
• Molly (singer of Desmond and Molly Jones fame, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da)
• Honey (Honey Pie, though a term of endearment rather than a direct woman’s name, Mister B liked Honey as a name since he was a fan of Honey West)

In doing research for this post, Mister Boomer found several references to using Beatles songs as inspiration for naming babies. Mister Boomer has to confess that he has never met a Sadie (sexy or otherwise) or even a Prudence. Each era has its own list of popular names, and cultural background plays a large role in naming, too. That is why you see a lot of boomers named Robert, Michael, Lisa and Susan, yet their children received names like Joshua, Jason, Jennifer and Jessica; indeed a person’s decade of birth can often be identified by their name. Yet if the assertion is true, then boomers continued naming their children with names that would have been popular in the boomer era and earlier. How traditional, man!

How about it, boomers? Would you create a Jeopardy category based on any Beatles songs? Do you have any connection to women’s names mentioned on The White Album? Have you, or have you known anyone who used Beatles songs as inspiration in naming their children?

posted by Mister B in Fun,Music,Pop Culture History,TV and have Comments Off on Boomers Will Take Women’s Names in Beatles’ Songs on the White Album for $200, Alex

Boomers Made Gary Lewis Famous

Entering a store recently, Mister Boomer immediately recognized the music playing as Count Me In by Gary Lewis & the Playboys. Walking through the aisles, it transported him back to his boomer-boyhood bedroom with his transistor radio. There, as a pre-teen, he’d listen to the local radio stations that played rock and pop music. The songs of Gary Lewis & the Playboys were among the first memorable tunes Mister B latched onto during his formative years.

The son of comedian and actor Jerry Lewis, Gary’s interest in music was stoked when he received a drum set for his fourteenth birthday in 1960. Four years later he formed a band called Gary & the Playboys, installing himself as the band’s drummer. He didn’t use his last name because he didn’t want people to connect him with his famous father, and therefore give him favorable treatment based on his name alone. His father, however, was not enthusiastic about his rock ‘n roll leanings, so Gary kept him out of the loop when it came to his band. In contrast, his mother, Patti Palmer Lewis — a one-time singer in a band herself — was supportive both verbally and financially. When the fledging band had a chance to audition for a slot at Disneyland, they jumped at it. The Disney people were impressed with the band’s youthful exuberance and boy-next-door looks and hired them. It was while playing at Disneyland in 1964 that producer Snuff Garrett “discovered” Gary and started their musical collaboration.

Their partnership produced immediate returns, with the help of financing from Lewis’ mother to record This Diamond Ring. The record was released in January 1965, and climbed the charts to number one by the third week in February. The song was written by Al Kooper, Bob Brass and Irwin Levine, and produced by Garrett. Kooper in particular was not enamored with the choice of Lewis to record his song; he had the Drifters in mind. He also voiced concern over the band’s level of musicianship and Lewis’ vocal ability. Garrett met the objections by hiring The Wrecking Crew, made famous by being labeled Phil Spector’s “house band” during his “wall of sound” recordings. Leon Russel joined the Crew on keyboards, and arranged the music for This Diamond Ring. Together, the Crew were known as super-session musicians who appeared on more than one hundred hit recordings, including those by The Monkees, Sonny & Cher, Frank Sinatra and The Beach Boys. The contribution of The Wrecking Crew to the Pet Sounds album was documented in the 2014 movie, Love & Mercy. The Playboys only played backing tracks on the record, and Lewis’ voice was overdubbed with session singer Ron Hicklin. Neither were rare occurrences in the days when record companies held all the cards when it came to recordings.

Meanwhile, even Lewis didn’t have confidence in his singing ability. Garrett got Lewis to take vocal lessons, and recruited Buddy Rich to give him some pointers on his drumming. Despite his earlier reticence, Garrett persuaded Gary’s father, Jerry Lewis, to lobby to get his son on The Ed Sullivan Show. In look and sound, Gary Lewis & the Playboys were groomed to be America’s answer to the British Invasion bands like Gerry & the Pacemakers and Herman’s Hermits. The band landed a gig. Ed Sullivan required bands to play live, but since the record had been heavily produced in the studio, during their appearance on December 6, 1964, Lewis sang the song to a pre-recording while the band mimicked playing. Nonetheless, the broadcast one month before the release of the record helped propel This Diamond Ring to the top of the charts. It wouldn’t be long, though, before Garrett took Lewis out from behind the drum kit and made him the front man.

In the next year and a half, the band racked up an impressive series of hits, though band members came and went. The band was only one of two artists of the 1960s to have their first seven releases hit Billboard’s Top 10 (the other being The Lovin’ Spoonful). This Diamond Ring was followed with Count Me In (which reached number two), Save Your Heart for Me, Everybody Loves a Clown, She’s Just My Style and Sure Gonna Miss Her. Despite the success of This Diamond Ring, the band was not able to reach the top of the charts again.

Like many other rock ‘n rollers before him, including Elvis, Lewis was drafted into the Army in January of 1967. He served his time in Seoul, South Korea, narrowly escaping being sent to Vietnam. Even before his Army stint, most of the original band members had moved on, but when he returned, he started up the band again, replacing any of guys unable or unwilling to continue, but the band could not gain any momentum. They officially disbanded in 1970. Lewis tried a solo career for a few years, then drifted into the oldies circuit, where he continues to perform to this day.

As far as Mister Boomer is concerned, the Gary Lewis song that most resonated with him was She’s Just My Style. Its release coincided with his first major crush, a long-haired blonde girl at his school. Every time he heard the song, he saw visions (in slow motion, of course), of the girl walking down the school hallway, sweater tied around her neck and hair blown by unseen winds. She may have been just his style, but she epitomized the out-of-my-league girls Mister B would pine for in his boomer school days.

What was your favorite Gary Lewis & the Playboys song, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Music,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

Some of Mister Boomer’s Favorites of 2016

It’s the New Year, traditionally a time to look back in reflection and ahead with hope. In that spirit, please enjoy some of Mister B’s hand-picked favorites from 2016.

Boomers and Torn Jeans: The Evolution from Time-to-Replace to High Fashion
Our mothers fretted over our torn “dungarees” only to find a decade later that torn jeans were part of the fashion scene.

Boomers Twisted the Night Away
Mister Boomer explored the origin of the Twist.

Boomers Loved Gene Pitney Songs
Early to mid-boomers probably count Gene Pitney among their favorite singers of the ’60s.

Boomers Heard the Quotes of Their History
We were there, man!

Boomers Benefited from Space Products
Are you aware of space technology in your everyday lives?

Boomers Will Recall 1966
Fifty years ago from the year that just passed, the times they were a’-changin’.

Boomer Comparison: Drug Stores Then and Now
The local pharmacy sure has changed since we were boomer kids. Here is a comparison.

Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together
The role of the bikini in boomer-era movies is iconic and undeniably modern for the time.

Boomers Have Lived Through Many Eves of Destruction
The song reverberates even today.

Boomers Gladly Went Where No One Had Gone Before
2016 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the original Star Trek on TV.

Boomers’ Diets Have Changed Over 50 Years
Boomers watched the era of convenience foods enter the picture, and the American diet.

Boomers Saw Their Lives in “The Flintstones”
The technology employed in The Flintstones mimicked the space-age devices that were common in boomer households. The major difference was instead of electrically-powered devices, the action of the devices was powered by animals.

Here’s to another great year, and hoping your 2017 is boomer-ific!

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Film & Movies,Food & Beverage,Fun,Getting Older,Music,Pop Culture History,Space,TV,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Some of Mister Boomer’s Favorites of 2016

Music Flashbacks: A Sign of an Aging Boomer?

Mister Boomer has flashbacks. No, not those kind of flashbacks, but rather, music flashbacks. They can happen any any point. Some are triggered by events and circumstances that remind Mister B of a song, or a situation of what he remembers doing when a particular song was played. For example, Mister B cannot hear Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (1962) without flashing back to his grandmother’s kitchen table. While spending a week at his grandmother’s house one summer, he had his transistor radio on and was putting together a model car on the kitchen table when the song came on. A mundane scene, but one that has been burned into Mister B’s memory banks, forever linking the song and the circumstance.

However, there is one aspect of Mister B’s music flashbacks he finds most intriguing, and that is that many mornings he will wake up with a boomer-era song in his head. It’s almost as if someone left the jukebox on all night, and in random rotation; what he hears on waking is what is playing at the time. What is most fascinating is, often the songs are those he has not heard in decades, and in many cases, he does not own a copy in his personal collection. There is that old chestnut many of us are reminded of, particularly as we age, that we can’t remember where we put our keys, yet we can recall song lyrics from fifty years ago. Guilty as charged.

Here is a sampling of some of the tunes that have danced across the neurons of Mister B’s gray matter recently when he awoke to a new morning:

Silhouettes — The Rays (1957)
This doo wop/rock classic was covered by many bands, most notably The Diamonds and Herman’s Hermits. While each of the groups had Top 10 airplay hits with the tune, the version by The Rays went to number 3; The Diamonds’ version, released just months after The Rays’, made it to number 5, but failed to make Billboard’s top sales chart; The Four Seasons’ included a version on their 1963 album, Ain’t That A Shame And Twelve Others, but it was not released as a single; Herman’s Hermits did their version in 1965 and it climbed to number 10. What’s odd for Mister B is he hasn’t heard nor thought about this song in eons, yet, one morning, there it was.

Stop! Stop! Stop! — The Hollies (1966)
The exotic-sounding chords of this Hollies hit made it a standout with boomers. Mister B enjoyed the song at the time, but again, he does not have a copy and hasn’t heard it in a very long time. Why are the lyrics so memorable to songs you don’t hear very often?

You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice — Lovin’ Spoonful (1965)
Stepping out of bed one morning, Mister B could only smile at this one. It made him remember his school days, when kids had a constant struggle to get people to like them, especially when they were discovering the opposite sex. Besides, for us old people, it’s still a cool tune.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother — Kelly Gordon (1969)
Written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, the song was originally recorded by Kelly Gordon. It was the Hollies who had the big hit with the song when they released their version that same year. Interesting enough, Elton John was playing piano on the Hollies recording.

Not exactly a favorite of Mister B, it was certainly one of the most covered songs of 1969. It has been recorded by dozens of artists, including Al Green, Cher, Olivia Newton John, Neil Diamond, The Osmonds, Jimmy Ruffin, Glen Campbell and Danny Hathaway, to name a few. Mister B isn’t at all sure which version made its way into his early morning brain, but seeing as the Hollies version got more radio play, that was probably it.

Let’s Live for Today — The Grass Roots (1967)
Tra la la la la la live for today, and don’t worry ’bout tomorrow … hey
Could there be a more descriptive sentiment to voice what was forming just before the Summer of Love than these lyrics? The song was an adaptation of an Italian song, but the lyrics were rewritten for an English audience and recorded in the UK by the Rokes and also The Living Daylights in 1966. The Grass Roots version made it a worldwide sensation. It is said to have become a real hit with servicemen in Vietnam, too. Seems an appropriate song for a boomer to wake up to, no?

Mister Boomer does not know why songs are making their way into his internal playlist, especially those that he hasn’t heard in quite a while. Perhaps it is a sign of an aging boomer tripping on nostalgia. Nonetheless, he’s glad (all over) to have such a vast, varied and fantastic array of music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that his brain can choose from when he drops the record player arm on another day.

How about you, boomers? Do you have music flashbacks? What waking songs are blowing through the jasmine of your minds lately?

posted by Mister B in Getting Older,Music,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

Fifty Years Ago Today — Summer Songs of 1966

Every year has its share of summer hit songs, and Mister Boomer has written about some of the biggest he recalls (Boomers and Summer Songs: Will I See You In September?). Yet in Mister B’s estimation, none can compare with the Summer of 1966. Sure the Summer of ’67 had a plethora of hits, too (Aretha Franklin’s Respect, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s and The Doors’ Light My Fire, mainly), but there were so many songs released fifty years ago in the Summer of ’66 that went on to become rock classics that it is hard to imagine another summer coming close.

Not convinced yet? Check out this list of songs that became weekly number one hits in the Summer of ’66:

Paint It Black, Rolling Stones
Paperback Writer, The Beatles (and number one again the week after Sinatra)
Strangers in the Night, Frank Sinatra
Hanky Panky, Tommy James & the Shondells
Wild Thing, Troggs
Summer in the City, Lovin’ Spoonful
Sunshine Superman, Donovan

Mister Boomer heard these songs on the radio and at friends’ houses, from his brother’s 45 RPMs and on TV shows, including Hullabaloo, Ed Sullivan and Hollywood Palace. He has Brother Boomer’s 45s that include all of these. In 1966, the rock charts still made room for stars like Sinatra, Elvis, Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdink, Petula Clark and more, in addition to the pop/rock hit makers of the day.

As the TV commercials say, … but wait! there’s more! It turns out, MUCH more sound was going down that summer. Here are just a few that were hits fifty summers ago:

Red Rubber Ball, The Cyrkle
The song had an infectious, upbeat, calliope-like sound that propelled it to the summer charts. It was written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley, of The Seekers. They intended it for The Seekers, but the band rejected it. When Simon was on tour, he offered the song to his bassist, who had a band called The Rondells. The Rondells became The Cyrkle when their manager — Brian Epstein — got the band to tour with The Beatles. John Lennon is said to have come up with the band’s new name.

I Am a Rock, Paul Simon
Ironically, Simon’s folksy ballad classic was climbing the charts at the same time as Red Rubber Ball.

They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Napolean XIV
A novelty hit in the Summer of ’66, some boomers — including Mister B’s sister — loved the craziness of the lyrics and sang along, much to the chagrin of Mister B’s family. The flip side of the record was the same song, recorded backwards.

Lil’ Red Riding Hood, Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs
The leering nature of the wolf in this song might be a bit much for today’s charts, but it peaked at number two in the Summer of 1966. Read what Mister B had to say when a car commercial co-opted the song a couple of years ago (Oops! They Did It Again, Boomers!).

God Only Knows, Beach Boys
One of the hits from the album, Pet Sounds, this was one the first records to use “God” in the title. Rolling Stone magazine put the song at number 25 on its list of Top 500 Rock Songs of all time. Mr. B preferred Good Vibrations, which was released that same year.

Mother’s Little Helper, The Rolling Stones
Things are diff-er-ent today, indeed. The Stones rocked the summer a second time along with Paint It Black. Mister B enjoyed this one, especially the phrase, What a drag it is getting old. He used to think it was funny. Now, not so much.

Dirty Water, The Standells
With one of the most recognizable guitar riffs of the decade, Dirty Water was a true example of garage rock, having been recorded in a garage in 1965 and released in ’66. Boston sports team still play the song, now 50 years old, despite the fact that none of the band members is from Boston.

Hungry, Paul Revere & the Raiders
You say you want a hard-drivin’ rock song for your summer? Take a listen to Hungry. All the teenage angst and desire of typical summer songs is pent up in that pounding beat.

See You in September, The Happenings
As breezy as a summer wind, this song reached number one in June of ’66. It was the king of boyfriend-to-girlfriend talks at the end of a school year, a plea to stay true and not run off with a summer fling. For that reason, it’s been named to several top 100 summer songs of all time lists.

Sunny, Bobby Hebb
The song was released by other artists before the songwriter, Bobby Hebb, debuted his own version in June of ’66, surpassing the others on the charts. There was actually a jazz version of the song released in 1965 on an album produced by Herbie Hancock. Since then jazz musicians and rock artists of all flavors have covered the tune, including Frank Sinatra (with Duke Ellington), Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Frankie Valli, Nancy Wilson, the Four Tops, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, and a host of others.

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, The Temptations
Now considered a Motown classic, Barry Gordy didn’t warm up to the song until it hit the charts in the Summer of ’66. Eddie Kendricks was the usual vocalist for The Temptations, but after the band had a hit with David Ruffin singing My Girl, this song was given to him. The song was a little out of his usual range, but his audible vocal push only adds to the longing in the lyric that begins with I know you want to leave me…

Brother Boomer was a big Motown fan, so this 45 RPM made its way into the Boomer household as soon as it was available. The Rolling Stones covered the song in 1974.

Still not enough for you? Here are more hits from the Summer of 1966:

River Deep, Mountain High, Ike & Tina Turner
Bus Stop, Hollies
I Saw Her Again, Mamas & the Papas
The Pied Piper, Crispian St. Peters
A Groovy Kind of Love, The Mindbenders

Mister Boomer could go on, but thinks his point has been made. Will there ever be another summer so rich in musical history?

What are your favorite songs of the Summer of 1966, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Music,Pop Culture History and have Comments Off on Fifty Years Ago Today — Summer Songs of 1966