Boomers Bopped to the Beat of Outer Space

Mister Boomer still has the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon running through his head. Aside from the fact that we’ve lived a half-century since then, it is still amazing to look back and remember the sense of wonder and awe we all had at this historic feat. As Mister B has said many times through the years, what was a constant for boomers throughout their formative years? Music. Sweet music; there was music everywhere. There was swinging and swaying and records playing, and there was dancing in the street (with apologies to Martha and the Vandellas). So that got Mister B thinking about his favorite moon — and outer space — songs of the era.

Blue Moon, The Marcels (1961)
Written by Broadway legends Rogers and Hart in 1934, Blue Moon is a song that spanned the decades leading up to the Boomer Generation. Billy Eckstine recorded it in 1949; Mel Torme did a jazz version that same year, and Billie Holiday recorded it in 1952. Elvis recorded the first rock version of the song in 1954. Although each hit the charts with a measure of success, it was not until The Marcels gave us their doo-wop version in 1961 that the song reached the top spot on both the Pop and R&B charts.

Mister Boomer does not remember the first time he heard the song, but certainly remembers the bop-bada-bops and the dip-da-dips that made it so unique.

Telstar, The Tornados (1962)
This song, written by Joe Meek, was an instrumental tune that Mister B, and probably many other boomers, thought was by The Ventures (nope). The single by the English band, The Tornados, was released just one month after the Telstar communications satellite was launched into orbit. It caught the imagination of both the British and American public, and rocketed to number one for three weeks. As such, The Tornados became the first British group to ever hold the number one spot on the U.S. charts, a harbinger of the British Invasion yet to come.

Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra (1964)
Originally written by Bart Howard and released as In Other Words, Kaye Ballard was the first singer to record it in 1954. In subsequent years, it was recorded by a number of artists, including Johnny Mathis, Nancy Wilson, Eydie Gormé and Peggy Lee. After singing it in an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963, it was Peggy Lee who convinced the songwriter, Bart Howard, to officially change the name to Fly Me to the Moon, as it had become popularly known.

For boomers, the version that may best be remembered is the one by Frank Sinatra. By then it was estimated the song had been recorded more than 100 times. Quincy Jones arranged Frank’s version, upping the tempo and sending the song to new heights. It was played onboard Apollo 10 while the astronauts orbited the moon, and became the first song played on the surface of the moon when Neil Armstrong played a cassette tape of the recording after his historic first steps.

Mr. Spaceman, The Byrds (1966)
Written by Jim (aka Roger) McGuinn, the song was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek look at extraterrestrial life. Three years away from Apollo 11 landing on the moon, the country had experienced hundreds of UFO sightings and some close encounter abductions. Rather than fear the visitors, The Byrds song implores, Hey Mr. Spaceman, won’t you please take me along for a ride.

Space Oddity, David Bowie (1969)
The single of this tune was released the week before the launch of Apollo 11. Major Tom is Bowie’s fictional astronaut character in the song, about an astronaut heading out into uncharted space, never to return.

Here am I floating ’round my tin can, far above the moon. Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.

Rocket Man, Elton John (1972)
Inspired by a 1951 Ray Bradbury short story of the same name, the song explores space travel like it had become just another profession — a far cry from the way it was looked at by the Boomer Generation.

She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9 a.m. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.

Elton John played the song at the launch site of Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998.

Of course, there were many. many more songs and references to outer space within songs throughout the boomer years. What’s your favorite moon or outer space-themed song, boomers?

“Baby” Songs Were Boomer Songs

Mister Boomer hates “pet” names. He always has. It hardly seems possibly to walk around a home improvement store these days without hearing the strains of “honey,” “snookums,” or “muffin” emanating from one or the other significants in a couple. One of the worst of these so-called terms of endearment is, “baby” (or the less formal, “babe”). This one always baffled Mister B, as he thought those little bundles of joy and poo had cornered the market on the label. Who wants to be called that? Anecdotally, Mister B has noticed a decline in the use of this term, but measured by the number of songs that featured it in the 1960s, that decade had to mark the peak of its usage.

Even though Mister B isn’t the type to use such pronoun substitutes, he does, however, still enjoy many of the “baby” songs of the 1960s. There are dozens that feature “baby” in the title and/or prominently in the lyrics. Most appear to be either pleas for forgiveness, pity or permission, while others are pledges of undying loyalty. Something they all have in common is a memorable melody and many have legendary musical openings. Also, they have all been covered by multiple artists through the boomer years and beyond. Here are Mister B’s Top 10 favorites of the genre:

10. Baby, Now That I’ve Found You: The Foundations (1967)

Baby, now that I found you I can’t let you go
I build my world around you, I need you so
Baby even though, you don’t need me

“Baby” is heard 10 times in this song. A catchy tune, it has staying power. Donny & Marie Osmond covered it in 1977.

9. Cry Like a Baby: The Box Tops (1968)

When I think about the good love you gave me
I cry like a baby
Living without you is driving me crazy
I cry like a baby

Despite the crying baby references, Mister B took notice of the use of the electric sitar in the the song. Cher covered it in 1969, and Petula Clark released her version in 1971.

8. Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat: Herman’s Hermits (1965)

Every time I see you looking my way
Baby, baby, can’t you hear my heartbeat?
In the car, or walking down the highway
Baby, baby, can’t you hear my heartbeat?

This song topped out at #2 on the charts, blocked from the top spot by Stop! In the Name of Love by The Supremes. Marianne Faithfull released her version that same year.

7. Baby, I’m Yours: Barbara Lewis (1965)

Baby, I’m yours
And I’ll be yours, until the stars fall from the sky
Yours, until the rivers all run dry
In other words, until I die

Nice melody, but talk about being a little obsessed! You may want to cool it a little, Barbara, or he may bolt for the door. Cass Elliot recorded the song in 1972.

6. Baby, Please Don’t Go: Them (1964)

Now baby, please don’t go
Now baby, please don’t go
Please don’t go back to New Orleans
You know I love you so
Baby, please don’t go

This song is an old blues number from 1925, illustrating that the term was used for decades before Them put their bluesy-rock stamp on it (with a 19-year old Van Morrison belting out the vocals). Big Joe Williams recorded it in 1935, John Lee Hooker in 1949 and Muddy Waters in 1953.
Oddly enough, this song was the B-side to another hit from Them, Gloria.

5. I Got the Feelin’: James Brown (1968)

I got the feelin’
Baby, baby I got the feelin’
Baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby

This woman is treating James badly, but he can’t fight the feeling. How can she refuse his string of “baby” pleas, oozing urgency and lust? Boomers couldn’t, taking the song to #1 on the R&B charts, and #6 on the pop charts.

4. Don’t Worry Baby: The Beach Boys (1964)

Don’t worry, baby
Don’t worry, baby
Everything will turn out alright

Brian Wilson has said the song was the male answer to The Ronettes, Be My Baby, but Mister B is getting ahead of himself. Read on.

3. Baby, I Need Your Lovin’: The Four Tops (1964)

Baby, I need your lovin’
Got to have all your lovin’

A true classic boomer song, it did not crack the Top 10 list, topping out at #11. Johnny Rivers had better luck with it in 1967; his version hit #3 on the charts.

2. Be My Baby: The Ronettes (1963)

So won’t you
Be my, be my baby
My one and only baby
Say you’ll be my darlin’
Be my baby now

Certainly the quintessential song of the genre, here is the female voice asking the question.

1. Ooh, Baby, Baby: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1965)

I did you wrong, my heart went out to play
But in the game, I lost you
What a price to pay, I’m crying
Ooh, baby, baby
Ooh, baby, baby

Was there ever any doubt that Smokey’s song would be number one for Mister Boomer? It is the most covered song The Miracles ever recorded. Versions include those by Ella Fitzgerald (1969), Todd Rundgren (1973) and the one that is almost as famous as Smokey’s original, Linda Ronstadt (1978).

When it came to “baby” songs in the 1960s, the hits just kept on coming. Did Mister B miss one of your favorites, boomers?