Boomers Count Down Another Year

Well, boomers, this week we’ll flip the life odometer on another year. 2011 will see the youngest boomers turning 47, while the oldest among us will reach 65. As the clock strikes midnight, we’ll still be wondering what “Auld Lang Syne” means. For the record, it’s Scottish for “times long past,” a phrase popularized by the poet Robert Burns in the song from the late 17th century. Are there boomers of any age who can recall all the lyrics to that traditional New Year’s song? Probably not.

Perhaps the reason is, unless your family was Scottish, the version you probably heard during your formative boomer years was an instrumental played by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadiens. It’s probably playing through your brain right now as you read this. (Sorry.) His TV presence and rendition of the song became synonymous with New Year’s Eve, first for our parents, then passed on to us through family TV osmosis. Mr. Lombardo had performed on a radio broadcast each year since 1928, then his first live New Year’s TV broadcast was aired beginning in 1956. He continued the tradition until his death in November 1977. His brother Victor took over for a year, but the band disbanded in 1978. In addition to his live broadcast from New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, there would be coverage of the Times Square ball drop. While most boomers that Mister Boomer knows couldn’t stand Guy Lombardo (the “old fogey” that he was represented the past, man!), we did want to see the ball drop. That is yet another shared memory we boomers have in our history.

New Year’s Eve was one of the few days of the year when boomer children were allowed to stay up late. Mom and dad, along with possibly some family members, friends and neighbors, would down cocktails and watch Guy Lombardo on the black and white TV, until the time arrived for the big New Year’s countdown.

In Mister Boomer’s household, the children were dressed in their pajamas (with the feet on them), had coats draped over their shoulders like capes to ward off the winter chill, and were issued pots, pans and wooden spoons. The young troop was then marched out the front door, where Mister B and his siblings lined up along the porch edge waiting for the countdown. The TV volume would be turned up so it could be heard from the porch, as the group shivered in anticipation. “5-4-3-2-1 … Happy New Year!” was their cue to bang as furiously and loudly as possible. Their percussive cacophony was joined by a few neighborhood children also banging pots and pans on their porches, along with the sounds of horns, shouts of “Happy New Year,” and car horns that echoed through the neighborhood. Then, as the noise began to diminish, Mister B’s father would step out on the porch with his shotgun that he used for pheasant hunting. All eyes were on him as he loaded a shell into the gun. He raised it to his shoulder, and, aiming at the front lawn, fired into the ground as if the bang were a finale to the neighborhood noise-making.

As the years progressed, shotgun firing was dropped from the family tradition. It wasn’t long after that, that the banging of pots and pans also became “times long past.” We were getting older, and Guy Lombardo wasn’t going to cut it for the Pepsi Generation. Finally, in 1972, Dick Clark offered boomers another choice. Calling his show New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, he put the older generation on notice that his was not your father’s New Year’s celebration. We already knew Dick from American Bandstand, of course. We liked him, and we trusted him as a voice of our generation. If he wanted to rock New Year’s Eve, we wanted to rock with him.

As the decades-old tradition of one television for the whole family began to crack, boomers had New Year’s parties in basements, where they could watch Dick Clark on a second TV while their parents sat in front of Guy Lombardo, upstairs, for another year. That first Rockin’ Eve show in 1972 featured Three Dog Night as hosts, and musical guests Blood, Sweat & Tears, Helen Reddy and Al Green. Mister Boomer recalls several house parties in the seventies, when, rockin’ or not, the show seemed pretty boring. Since it wasn’t Guy Lombardo boring, we would continue to watch.

Any overview of boomer New Year’s celebrations would be remiss without the mention of The Soupy Sales Show. Almost every boomer remembers some version of The Soupy Sales Show on TV. It was New Year’s Day 1965 that marked a momentous day for boomer fans of Soupy. The network had forced Soupy to work the holiday, and that didn’t sit too well with the pie-man. Soupy jokingly looked at his young viewers and asked them to tip-toe into their parents’ bedrooms while they were sleeping and remove the “funny green pieces of paper with pictures of men with beards” from their pockets and purses. He then instructed his viewers to “put them in an envelope and mail them to me.” That week the station, WNEW in New York, received what has been reported as $80,000, though Soupy himself revealed that most of it was was play money or Monopoly money. Soupy was suspended for two weeks, but his show was not canceled and continued another two years.

It is said many boomers like to say they were among those who sent Soupy some dollars in 1965. Unfortunately, Mister Boomer cannot make that claim. Others say it’s more likely we have the same situation at work in the Soupy incident as the number of people who claim to have been at Woodstock. How about it, boomers? Does Guy Lombardo, Dick Clark or Soupy Sales loom large in the annals of your New Year’s memories?

The Song Is Over?

Pondering last week’s posting on boomer music used in TV commercials got Mister Boomer to thinking a bit more on the subject. Besides, it was always a trait of boomers to grab on to a tangent and take it beyond its logical conclusion. To paraphrase Procul Harem, Mister B has decided to “write it down, it might be sung, nothing’s better left undone.”

In that spirit, then, here are a couple of dozen songs from the Boomer Era (in no particular order) paired with brand products that Mister B thinks could be fun, or at least ironic, if used in a TV commercial:

TIE: White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane –OR– Easy to Be Hard by Three Dog Night — Viagara


“Feed your head,” indeed!

Taking Care of Business by Bachman Turner Overdrive — Metamucil

Love the One You’re With by Stephen Stills — Cialis

Stuck In the Middle With You by Stealers Wheel — Kraft Miracle Whip

You Really Got Me by the Kinks — Tide Stain Release

Till There Was You by the Beatles — Beltone hearing aid

Shop Around by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles — Progressive Insurance

Big Bad John by Jimmy Dean — Cadillac Escalade

Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys — Duracell batteries

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell — I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

You Keep Me Hangin’ On by Vanilla Fudge — 3M Scotch Tape

I Get Around by the Beach Boys — Hoveround senior mobility vehicle

You Don’t Own Me by Lesley Gore — Rent-A-Center

Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley — Black Flag Roach Motel

Fortunate Son by Credence Clearwater Revival — U.S. Army

The Race Is On by Jack Jones — Taco Bell

Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground — Your Daily Newspaper Sunday subscription

Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and The Shondells — Vanish toilet bowl cleaner

If I Had a Hammer by Peter, Paul and Mary — Stanley tools

Whiter Shade of Pale by Procul Harem — Coppertone tanning lotion

Angel of the Morning by Merrilee Rush — Oil of Olay

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Bobby Vee — ADT home security service

Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin — Pillsbury crescent rolls

We Shall Overcome by Joan Baez — Glade air freshener

Of course, the real irony is that in a time when songs by The Who are being used to front a series of TV shows, several of these songs have already made their commercial debut with other real products.

What do you think, boomers? Do you have an interesting pairing to add to the list?