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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

Boomers Have Lived Through Many Eves of Destruction

The tumultuous sixties seem to be repeating themselves these days, with news reports that echo some of the violence and insanity of that era’s topsy-turvy world. Maybe that is why Eve of Destruction has been rolling into Mister Boomer’s skull these past few weeks, or maybe it has something to do with the Republican and Democratic conventions happening this month. In any case, the song still rings true today, and has a story of its own to tell.

American musician and songwriter P.F. Sloan penned the tune in mid-1964. The original intent for the song was for polished, harmonizing vocals. He thought The Byrds would do it justice, but they declined to record it. Sloan had worked with The Turtles, writing many of their hits, including You Baby, Let Me Be and Can I Get to Know You Better. The Turtles often took on songs that were rejected by The Byrds, and Eve of Destruction was no exception. The band recorded it in 1965. That same year, Sloan enlisted Barry McGuire to sing his song. Sloan played guitar on the track, but he thought McGuire’s vocal wasn’t crisp enough and didn’t want it released. The record company had other ideas. McGuire said in an interview in the 1990s that he recorded the song on a Thursday, and the following Monday he got a call from his record company, telling him to turn on his radio. The song was getting airtime and hit number one in September 1965.

Boomers loved it but Conservatives thought it displayed everything that was wrong with the youth society. A few months after the song reached number one, Sgt. Barry Sadler, a medic in the Green Berets, released Ballad of the Green Berets as a sort of response song. McGuire had a solo career and later became born-again and sang Christian music. He never had another top 40 hit.

In 1966, Eve of Destruction was recorded again, this time by The Grass Roots. That same year, P.F. Sloan had two more hits on the radio: Johnny Rivers’ Secret Agent Man and A Must to Avoid by Herman’s Hermits.

Mister Boomer remembers hearing the Barry McGuire version on the radio, and Brother Boomer bought the 45 RPM record that Mister B still has in his collection. Mister B also has The Turtles version, but by far prefers the rasp and rawness in McGuire’s voice. The Cold War; Vietnam; racial unrest; it was a real time of awakening for young boomers like Mister B, and this song coalesced a lot of those fears into one package.

What memories do you have of Eve of Destruction, boomers?

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

Boomers Wanted to Buy the World A Coke

The Boomer Generation grew up with commercial jingles being the norm. In contrast, much of today’s TV and radio uses existing songs (even from the boomer era!), but in our day, music in commercials was composed specifically for the product or service. Many boomers will recall several of these classic jingles to this day. One jingle that reached the ultimate pinnacle of success during the boomer era was written for Coca-Cola.

It was July 1971 when Coca-Cola released their I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke commercial in the U.S. The commercial featured hundreds of people from around the world on a hillside, singing about buying the world a Coke as a way of promoting world harmony. The company had first aired the jingle on the radio in February of that year, but it failed to catch attention of the Coca-Cola bottlers. On TV, though, the entire message was immediately embraced.

The story of how the commercial and jingle came to be is a fascinating one. Bill Backer, ad agency McCann Ericson’s creative director for the Coca-Cola account, was flying to London to meet with Billy Davis. Davis was the musical director for the account, and they were to discuss ideas for a jingle that was to be recorded by the New Seekers, a group popular in Britain at the time. Fog forced Backer’s plane to land in Shannon, Ireland, where the passengers were required to deplane. Backer said he observed how angry the passengers were at the lack of accommodations during their impromptu stay; they were required to remain close by in case the fog lifted. It would be twenty-four hours before that would happen.

The next day Backer saw the same group of people from the night before, only now, having been brought together under the circumstance, were talking and laughing among themselves as they munched snacks and drank Coca-Cola. It was at that moment when Backer sparked the idea that a Coke could be more than “the pause that refreshes,” the previous tagline for the soft drink giant. A world-wide product such as Coke, in his estimation, could become a symbol for a universal commonality among people.

When Backer met Billy Davis, he told him about the scene at the airport and Davis was not impressed with the notion. After further discussion Backer asked Davis what he might do for the world if he could. Davis talked about making sure everyone had a home and would share peace and love. Backer asked him to write a song that expressed those sentiments.

Roger Cook and Roger Greenway were enlisted to assist Davis in composing the song. The trio already had a reputation for hit songs, having written This Golden Ring, Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress), You’ve Got Your Troubles, I’ve Got Mine, Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again, and more.

The two Rogers played a melody they had been working on for Davis, that they had called Mom, True Love, and Apple Pie. They played the melody for Backer, who recommended it become the basis for I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke. The New Seekers recorded the jingle and it made its debut on American radio in February 1971. Though spurned by the affiliate Coke bottlers, stations began getting requests for the jingle. DJs told Coke executives they should record the song for public release. Coke got Bill Backer involved in trying to come up with a way to add a visual to the song so it might air on TV, and the hillside singing chorus concept was formulated.

Coke approved the idea and set a budget of $100,000 to film it. The original attempt was to be on the cliffs of Dover, with 65 schoolchildren lip-synching the song. However, it rained for three straight days, so the shoot was cancelled.

The second attempt was moved to Rome, where it also rained. The shoot was delayed but when the rain cleared, the final helicopter view of the 500 singing stand-ins was filmed. When Backer and his team reviewed the film, they discovered the rain had ruined the scene and lighting, and the shoot was scrapped again.

Backer convinced Coke that the concept was a winning one, so the budget ballooned to $250,000 — an unheard-of amount for commercials in 1971. The third try would be the charm. Close-ups of some of the 500 young people hired for the shoot were actually shot separately at a Rome racetrack. The commercial’s message of hope and peace, first aired 45 years ago this month, was a giant success.

In conjunction with the airing of the commercial, Billy Davis wanted to release a record of the song, retitled, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony). He approached the New Seekers to record it, but their manager intervened and said there were schedule conflicts that would preclude the group’s involvement in the project. Instead, Davis gathered a group of studio singers under the name of “The Hillside Singers” to record his song. Two weeks later, the New Seekers came back and recorded the song, which immediately became a Top 10 hit. Davis followed the successful New Seekers version by releasing the studio Hillside Singers rendition. That version climbed to number 13 on the pop charts.

All told, the commercial became an instant classic. It was the first instance where a commercial jingle birthed a Top 10 pop hit, instead of the other way around. It was recorded in several different languages, and became popular the world over. The sheet music for the song sold more than any other song from the previous decade.

The Coca-Cola Company signed an agreement with UNICEF that they would donate the first $80,000 in royalties from their writers and publishers — it was a work for hire and not the property of Davis, Cook and Greenway. In one tiny way, Coke was lending a helping hand to the world, yet still profiting from it.

Mister Boomer remembers the original appearance of the commercial. His opinion did not fall in line with the majority. He felt the song was sappy and overly optimistic. In his estimation, the message subverted a vision of world harmony by interjecting a capitalistic subterfuge that the sixties had fought so hard to break, man. But what did he know? People liked it. A lot. And certainly, Mister B enjoyed many a Coca-Cola in his days, especially icy cold 8 oz. bottles on hot summer days from the machine at the corner gas station.

In 2015, the commercial resurfaced as part of the finale for Mad Men. This TV show was, depending on your point of view, an homage or condemnation of the very type of ad agency that produced the Coke commercial. Using the real thing — the original ad — in a fictional story emphasized the impact this commercial had on the world, both at the time and now forty-plus years later.

Did you or someone in your family buy the I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony) record, boomers?

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

Boomers Will Recall 1966

Hey, boomers! By now most of us have made our peace with the fact that we’ve been around for more than a half century; The oldest boomers will turn 70 this year, while the youngest will reach 52. A lot has changed in the past 50 years, and misterboomer.com has discussed many of these changes through the years. Now let’s take a look back at the way we lived 50 years ago. Set your Wayback Machines to the year 1966 and let’s take a look at what was going on in April, May and June of that year…

On the Domestic Front
• Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States.
• The Uniform Time Act was signed by the president, which simplified how daylight saving time was applied (April 13).
• U.S. population surpassed 190 million.
• The median income was $7,400, but more women were returning to the workforce, which helped boost household income by another $2,000. By 1967, 35% of women were working compared with 23% in 1957.
• The average price of a gallon of gas was 32¢.
•  The average price of a new home was $22,300, but on the resale market, the average was $14,200.
• The Supreme Court ruled that police must inform suspects of their rights upon arrest — known ever since as Miranda rights (June 13).
• Ronald Reagan became the governor of California (June 7).
• The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded (June 30).

• 250,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam, including many early boomers (April 29).
• Anti-war protests were increasing. In May, tens of thousands protested at the White House and the subsequent rally at the Washington Monument (May 15).
• U.S. planes began bombing Hanoi (June 29).

• Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde was released (May 16, though not advertised until June 25); completing his trilogy of rock albums, starting with Bringing It All Back Home (1965) and Highway 61 Revisited (1966). Two songs from the album became top-twenty singles hits: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 and I Want You. Well received in 1966, Rolling Stone magazine named it number nine on its list of  The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Pet Sounds was released by The Beach Boys (May 16). Unlike Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, it received a lukewarm reception. It was heralded as the first rock concept album, even though it does not have a predetermined narrative. It is cited as the beginning of the psychedelic era, and took rock from music to be danced to, to music for listening. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named it number two on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Hit singles from the album included Sloop John B, Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows.

Space Race
• Russia’s Luna 10 successfully orbited the moon (April10), becoming the moon’s first artificial satellite.
• In the Gemini IX program, Gene Cernan became the second U.S. astronaut to perform a space walk (June 5). His extravehicular activities were supposed to include some work, and planned to expand NASA’s knowledge before a moon launch. But a bloated and torn spacesuit, darkness and a fogged visor prevented him from doing much but float around, as his U.S. and Soviet predecessors had done before him. Nevertheless, he logged two hours and ten minutes outside his spacecraft. Cernan later became the last man to walk on the moon in the Apollo 17 mission (December 19, 1972).

• Many fashion historians believe 1966 was the pivotal moment in which styles of the 1950s were replaced with those of the 1960s.
•  The shiny vinyl look for boots, hats and rain gear was trending. Flowers and patterned shirts and pants were in vogue for men and women,
• The mini skirt, popularized by Mary Quant in 1965, reached peak popularity.

Mister Boomer had one more year of elementary school before entering high school. He was aware of much of what was going on in the country and the world by then: his class had written letters to relatives of classmates sent to Vietnam; he watched every space launch and followed newspaper stories about the Space Race; he heard the popular music of the day on his transistor radio, and Brother Boomer bought both Dylan’s Rainy Day Women and The Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice on 45 RPM records. Nonetheless, it was a time for Mister B to still be a kid. That summer his family would take a cross-country trip to Yellowstone National Park in their 1966 Ford.

Fifty years ago, 1966 was a pot on the stove on the verge of boiling over. The clash between generations was growing, and boomers were about to play a major role in politics, civil rights, fashion and music.

What do you recall about 1966, boomers?

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