Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

Boomers Wore Nehru Jackets … Temporarily

The style that came to be known in the Western World as the Nehru jacket came to the Boomer Generation in variety of ways. The fashion item itself had its origins in Asia thousands of years ago. Most of Asian cultures had a variation on the straight, thigh-length jacket with a collarless neckline. The jacket, so called because it was worn over a shirt, was generally reserved for the noble class or used as ceremonial garb.

The garment we knew as the “Nehru jacket” was so named after India’s political activist and first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964). As a constant reminder of his objection to British rule, he wore a traditional coat that resembled the styles of Achkan, Sherwani or Bandhgala designs that spoke of Indian culture in the years immediately before and after India gained its independence in the 1940s.

The U.S. got its first-hand look at Nehru’s mode of dress in 1962. China had just acted aggressively by moving troops into northern India, alarming world leaders in the process. In an effort to sway Nehru into joining the fight against Communism, President Kennedy invited him to visit the White House. A pacifist at heart like his co-activist friend Gandhi, Nehru called China “India’s brother.” Shortly thereafter China withdrew its troops. Photos of the President and the First Lady with the Prime Minister and his wife fascinated fashionistas in Britain and the U.S.

One of the earliest commonly-viewed influences of the style turned up in the first James Bond movie, Dr. No (1962). The title character (played by Joseph Wiseman) wore a Mandarin collar jacket that was probably more Chinese-influenced than Indian. As the villain in the film, he was the antithesis of India’s Prime Minister.

A burgeoning counterculture fashion industry and a growing number of disaffected youth  began looking to the East for guidance, after rejecting “Western values” as they saw them. They coalesced when the Beatles began wearing collarless suits in the early 1960s; the Beatles had a huge influence on the elevation of the Nehru jacket, but not in the main form Mandarin collar we recall from the era. Rather, British designers used the style as inspiration for collarless suit jackets. Before the Beatles, it was common for rock ‘n roll band members to wear business suits and ties. The Beatles were among the first to straddle the line between respectable and irreverent by wearing collarless suit jackets.

Timothy Leary wore a collarless Asian-style garment in the days of his Hippie influence.

In 1966 the Beatles visited India to study meditation. By the time they returned to Britain, Eastern philosophy and style had permeated the counterculture, especially the Hippies. British designers, keen on expanding the new Age of Fashion, seized the moment and produced variations of their own on a jacket they now labelled as “Nehru,” both to honor the pacifist man and give a Western name to an Asian style. Nonetheless, even though there are photos of John and George wearing Indian-style Nehru jackets around the time of their India trip, it is worth noting that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (1967), the first released after their trip, does not depict the Fab Four wearing Nehru jackets. Rather, they are dressed in military-style band uniforms that do have a collarless neckline.

Fashion followers say the popularity of the jacket, which had been on the rise up to the Summer of Love in 1967, took a nosedive after celebrities such as Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joe Namath began wearing the style on a regular basis, often paired with a turtleneck and beads or a medallion necklace. By that point — around 1968 — jackets, vests, shirts and blouses sporting the Nehru collar were available across the consumer spectrum for men, women and children. The Nehru was doomed to be a fashion fad in the Western world, though it still turns up as hip wear for some popular musicians.

And that is where Mister Boomer’s awareness entered. On a family trip to New York City in 1967, Brother Boomer slipped into a shop in Greenwich Village and emerged with the most beautiful Nehru jacket Mister B has seen to this day. It was jet black with a gold brocade paisley design that was all at once modern and timeless, classy and fashion-forward. When the family returned home, Mister Boomer kept an eye out for a similar garment for himself. The closest he came was a short-sleeve shirt that sported a Nehru collar. It was blue with a gold paisley pattern, but paled in comparison to the masterful garment his brother had procured. Mister Boomer did not get invited to many parties, but does recall that in his earliest high school days, he wore his short-sleeve Nehru to one. Needless to say, he was the only one dressed in that style.

How about it, boomers? Did you wear Nehru-style clothing? If so, was it a fashion statement or a cultural statement?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,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 Knew All You Need is Love

Since it’s Valentine’s weekend, a boomer’s thoughts inevitably turn to love. We surrounded ourselves with mentions of love for each other and humanity during our heyday, but we were especially fond of love songs from the ’50s through the ’70s. In the middle of it all, perhaps there were no more prolific love song composers in the 1960s than John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The dynamic songwriting duo of The Beatles composed dozens of love songs in the four years of their peak popularity. The Beatles covered dozens more, too, from Buddy Holly’s Words of Love to Arthur Alexander’s Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms), and many more.

There is a special place in the heart of just about every boomer for The Beatles; even those who didn’t care for a lot of their music have a favorite Beatles love song. Mister Boomer was thinking about Beatles love songs this weekend, and quickly realized the list was extensive, so he decided to concentrate only on the songs that had the word “love” in them.

P.S. I Love You/ Love Me Do – October 1962 (in UK; 1964 in US)
The first Beatles single had not one but two love-titled songs on it and was destined to be become a classic. The A-side featured Love Me Do. Credited to Lennon-McCartney, it was primarily written by Paul McCartney several years before he was in The Beatles (1958-59). John Lennon recalls McCartney had the song with him in Hamburg, and had possibly collaborated on parts of it, but called it “Paul’s song.” McCartney relates the effort as 50-50.

P.S. I Love You, the B-side, picked up the theme of writing love letters that had been so prevalent in love songs of the 1950s. McCartney wrote it but again it is credited to Lennon-McCartney. About the time the group was going to record it, Ringo Starr was hired to replace Pete Best; George Martin didn’t know Ringo would be at the studio so he hired session musician Andy White to appear on the recording. You can hear Ringo playing maracas on the record.

She Loves You -August 1963
Written by Lennon-McCartney, it was released as a single and became their best selling single in the UK. They duo began composing the song on the band’s bus when they were touring with Roy Orbison and Gerry and the Pacemakers. McCartney completed the song when he returned to his home in Liverpool the next day. Unlike a lot of love songs of the era, this one wasn’t talking about a love or to a lover, but was written from the point of view of one friend talking to another who needed to be clued into what was happening.

All My Loving – November 1963
Recorded for the album, With the Beatles, All My Loving was not released as a single in the US or UK. The song enjoyed a lot of airplay, so EMI did release it as a single in Canada, where it became a number one hit.

And I Love Her – July 1964
Written by McCartney for the album, A Hard Day’s Night, it is another song that is credited to Lennon-McCartney. In addition to the album and used in the movie, it was released as a single backed with If I Fell, another love song.

Can’t Buy Me Love – March 1964
Also written for A Hard Day’s Night, it was also credited to Lennon-McCartney. It was released as a single backed with You Can’t Do That. McCartney defended the song years later when he was questioned about whether it was about a prostitute. He stated the song was about the fact that all the money in the world can’t buy a man what he really needs — love.

It’s Only Love – August 1965
This one was written by John Lennon, but credited to Lennon-McCartney. It was released on the album, Help! in the UK, but on Rubber Soul in the US. Neither Lennon nor McCartney thought much of the song. Lennon said in an interview in 1980 that he hated it, and McCartney said the group usually edited lyrics when they didn’t care for them, but It’s Only Love was considered album filler, so they didn’t take the time and effort.

You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away – August 1965
John Lennon wrote the song for the album, Help!, but it is another that is credited to Lennon-McCartney. The song was released as a single and was the first featured in the Help! film.

Love You To – August 1966
George Harrison wrote the song and it was included on the Revolver album. Though Norwegian Wood is often named as the first Western song that included Indian classical musical instruments, Love You To was more fully realized for a rock audience. Harrison played sitar on the track, but the other Beatles had minimal involvement in the recording. Instead, Harrison got Indian musicians to play Northern Indian tabla, which is a pair of hand-drums, and a tambura, a lute-like stringed instrument. Harrison is said to have written the lyrics as a love song to his wife, Patti, but the inclusion of sitar was inspired by Ravi Shankar, who agreed to become his tutor shortly after the song was released.

All You Need is Love – July 1967
When The Beatles were commissioned by the BBC for a song that would be included in Our World, the first global live television link, John Lennon wrote All You Need is Love. Like many others, it is credited to Lennon-McCartney. The Beatles performed it on the live telecast and it was included on the Magical Mystery Tour album.

Mister Boomer’s brother was a big Beatles fan, bringing singles and albums into the Boomer household as soon as they became available, so Mister B was familiar with them all. Nonetheless, if pressed to choose a favorite, Mister B will deflect the question. After all, love being a many splendored thing, different songs might be “more favorite” at various times. If you press further, Mister B might add that some of his favorite Beatles love songs might not have had the word “love” in the title. They recorded so many, and they stand as testament to the great love songs of the 1960s.

Do you have a favorite Beatles love song, boomers? Does it have “love” in the title?

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

Boomer Influences Who Have Passed in 2015

Each of the people mentioned here, some boomers and some not, affected boomers in different ways, with each leaving their own mark on our generation and culture. Like every boomer, Mister Boomer had a front row seat when they rocketed onto the scene, forever finding a place in our shared memories.

Rod Taylor (January 11, 1930 – January 7, 2015)
Australian actor Rod Taylor first appeared in U.S. films in the 1950s, working his way up from supporting roles to starring as a leading man. He appeared in more than 50 films, but a few are particularly memorable for boomers: The Time Machine (1960); The Birds (1963); as well as the love interest for Jane Fonda in Sunday in New York (1963). He worked his way up from supporting roles in the 1950s to starring as a leading man. Mister B recalls seeing him in many films, most notably when he went to a Saturday matinee with Brother Boomer and his cousin, who lived in a neighboring city, to see The Time Machine. The notion of time travel was an attractive idea for a young boomer. A few years later Mister B picked up the H.G. Wells book, having been introduced to it through Rod Taylor’s portrayal.

Donna Douglas (September 26, 1932 – January 1, 2015)
Gary Owens (May 10, 1934 – February 12, 2015)
Leslie Gore (May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015)
Leonard Nimoy (March 26, 1931 –  February 26, 2015)
Mister B felt compelled to write about these amazing individuals when they died at the beginning of the year. Truly they were all well known to boomers as TV and music stars. Here is a link to Mister B’s earlier post: Boomers Say Good-Bye to More Beloved Figures

Jimmy Greenspoon (February 7, 1948 – March 11, 2015)
Cory Wells (February 5, 1941 – October 20, 2015)
Jimmy Greenspoon and Cory Wells, members of Three Dog Night, both left us in 2015. The group had 21 consecutive Top 40 hits from late ’60s to mid ’70s. Greenspoon, a boomer himself, was a keyboard player and Wells was of three lead singers/guitarists in the band, something that made them stand out from many other bands. Mister Boomer wasn’t a big fan of the group, especially disliking Joy to the World (aka Jeremiah was a Bullfrog, released as a single in 1971), but did like Mama Told Me (Not to Come), a 1970 cover version of the song that was written by Randy Newman for Eric Burdon’s first solo album in 1966.

Gary Dahl (December 18, 1936 – March 23, 2015)
A copywriter turned entrepreneur by trade, Gary Dahl will be forever remembered by boomers as the inventor of the Pet Rock. His idea was said to be a joke, but when he found investors the idea became reality in time for Christmas shopping in 1975. The genius of Dahl was not in buying river rocks at pennies per pound and selling them for $3.95, but in the packaging: each rock came nestled on a bed of excelsior, surrounded by a cardboard box, complete with a handle and “air holes.” He sold millions of them to boomers and the children of early boomers. Later, Dahl was the book author of Advertising for Dummies. Mister Boomer did not own a Pet Rock, nor did his siblings or his friends, as far as he knows.

Cynthia Lennon (September 10, 1939 – April 1, 2015)
Cynthia Powell was the first wife of John Lennon and mother of Julian Lennon. The couple were married in 1963 when she was pregnant with son Julian. When The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in February of 1964, the camera “introduced” each band member, isolating them in profile. When John was pictured, “Sorry girls, he’s married” was placed below his name on screen. They were divorced in 1968 after John left her for Yoko Ono. Cynthia was the only wife who had her own fan club. Mister Boomer recalls early photos of her because she was always smartly dressed in groovy ’60s outfits.

Percy Sledge (November 25, 1940 – April 14, 2015)
A singer for the ages, Percy’s When a Man Loves a Woman became a no. 1 hit in 1966. When he died last April, Mister Boomer wrote: “…every now and then a song comes around that so describes its genre that it is forever identified with it as a quintessential example. This song … fits the bill. A slow dance tune for boomers, it is equally enjoyed across generations for its melodic tone and powerful lyrics.”

Jack Ely (September 11, 1943 – April 28, 2015)
Ben E. King (September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015)
Jack Ely was THE singer on the Kingsmen’s Louie Louie record in 1963.
Ben E. King was lead singer for The Drifters. He lent his voice to the boomer classics Save the Last Dance for Me (1960), This Magic Moment (1960), Spanish Harlem (1960) and perhaps his best known song, Stand by Me (1961), which he co-wrote with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Drifters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Read more from Mister Boomer on these two unforgettable singers form an earlier post: Two More Boomer Icons Leave Us With Our Memories

Stan Freberg (August 7, 1926 – April 7, 2015)
Comic, satirist, radio personality, author, actor and voice actor, Stan Freberg is probably remembered in many different ways by boomers due to the depth of his presence from the 1950s all the way through the 2000s. Some recall his comedy records from the 1950s, including The Night Before Christmas/Nuttin’ for Christmas or his political parodies; others will recall his TV puppet show, Time for Beany (1950-53); others remember his voiceover work in animated cartoons for Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, including Lady and the Tramp (1955); still others will recall he played Deputy Sheriff in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Mister Boomer remembers most if not all of Freberg’s work, but he was most fond of his TV commercials. Having formed an ad agency in the 1960s, he was one of the first to try to inject humor into the TV ad game. For that he has been called  the “Father of Funny Advertising.” His commercials are now legendary, including some of Mister B’s favorites: A Jeno’s Pizza Rolls commercial that parodied a Lark cigarettes’ commercial use of the William Tell Overture that culminates with the Lone Ranger and Tonto eating pizza rolls; politically incorrect Chun King Chow Mein commercials and a campaign for prunes that tried to change people’s minds about eating them. One of the most memorable had very British actor Ronald Long saying, “They’re still rather badly wrinkled, you know.”

B.B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)
The “King of the Blues” had serious influence on rock guitarists throughout boomer era.  Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan are among the rock and blues guitarists to credit King as an influence in their styles and careers. B.B. King began recording in 1949, and had multiple hits in every decade of the fifties, sixties and seventies, including one of Mister B’s favorites, The Thrill is Gone (1971).

Christopher Lee (May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015)
Mister Boomer reported on Christopher Lee’s death back in June: Boomer-Era Villain Christopher Lee Dies

Patrick Macnee (February 6, 1922 – June 25, 2015)
An accomplished actor in both film and on television, Patrick Macnee is best known to boomers as John Steed in The Avengers TV show (1961-69 in England; 1965-68 in the U.S.) The U.S. version of the British show had him playing Mrs. Emma Peel’s (Diana Rigg) suave, British gentleman supervisor in the spy-fi show. Always pictured with a bowler hat and umbrella, Steed was the antithesis of the overtly physical James Bond — yet just as effective.

Omar Sharif (April 10, 1932 – July 10, 2015)
Appearing in dozens of movies during the boomer era, Omar Sharif got boomers’ attention in a big way in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Funny Girl (1968). His foreign “good looks” made him a favorite of many boomer girls — and their moms. Mister Boomer’s mom made remarks about only two actors back then: Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif. Such was the attraction of this Egyptian-born actor. Nominated for his performance in Lawrence of Arabia, Sharif did not win an Oscar, but did take home a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor in Lawrence of Arabia and another Golden Globe as Best Actor in Doctor Zhivago.

Judy Carne (April 27, 1939 – September 3, 2015)
A dancer, comedian and actor, Judy Carne was best known as the Sock-It-To-Me girl in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-73). She was married to Burt Reynolds from 1963-65, then to producer Robert Bergmann from 1970-71. Read some of Mister B’s remembrances of Judy Carne in his exploration of Laugh-In phrases: Want a Walnetto? You Bet Your Sweet Bippy!

Yvonne Craig May 16, 1937 – August 17, 2015
Yvonne Craig was an American ballet dancer and actress who first caught boomers’ attention when she was dating Elvis Presley in the early sixties. With a little help from the King she landed a supporting role in two Elvis movies: It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) and Kissin’ Cousins (1964). It was, however, her role as Batgirl — whose true identity was Commissioner Gordon’s daughter — in the Batman television series (1966) that forever cemented her into the minds of boomers. By the time she appeared as Marta, an Orion slave girl who danced her way into Captain Kirk’s heart in the Star Trek episode, Whom Gods Destroy (1969), boomers knew it was Yvonne under that green make-up. She also made an appearance on The Six Million Dollar Man (1974).

Warren Mitchell (January 14, 1926 – November 14, 2015)
Mostly an obscure actor by face to boomers, Warren Mitchell appeared in extremely influential film and TV shows during the boomer era. Some boomers will recall he played the character Abdul in The Beatles’ film, Help! (1965). Perhaps due even more to boomer influences, he created the character of Alf Garnett in the British TV series, Till Death Do Us Part (1966-75), which TV aficionados will know became the inspiration for the Archie Bunker character in All In the Family (1971-79).

Meadowlark Lemon (April 25, 1932 – December 27, 2015)
George Meadowlark Lemon  was known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball” when he played for the Harlem Globetrotters (1955-83, then toured with them again in 1994). Can anyone ever hear Sweet Georgia Brown without thinking of Meadowlark’s antics on the court? After retiring from the Globetrotters, he became an ordained minister in 1986. Mister Boomer saw the Harlem Globetrotters as a teen. Meadowlark Lemon performed all the tricks he was known for: amazing shots, antagonizing the referee and of course, pretending to toss a bucket of water on the ref — with the audience directly behind him — but the bucket was instead filled with confetti. A true entertainer, Wilt Chamberlain once named him as the greatest basketball player who ever lived.

Natalie Cole (February 6, 1950 – December 31, 2015)
The boomer daughter of Nat King Cole, she was forever in the shadow of the man who lent his voice to The Christmas Song. She began her music career in the 1960s and was immediately compared to Aretha Franklin for her powerful voice. She had a string of hits in the seventies, especially This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) (1975). In 1991, she grabbed the technology of the day and sang a duet with her long-passed father in what was then a groundbreaking video event. By splicing in film from her father and adding her own vocal performance to the song, Unforgettable became her biggest hit.

Of course, there were many more memorable people — boomers and boomer influencers — who left our realm in the 2015. We could not have become the people and generation we are without them.

On a personal note, Mister Boomer lost a friend over the holiday weekend. He was a consummate boomer, having experienced events of the era first-hand. Michael, your wit, humor and encyclopedic knowledge in so many fields is already greatly missed.

posted by Mister B in Pop Culture History and have Comments (2)

Sgt. Pepper’s Was Made for Boomers

In the first week of June 1967, The Beatles released the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. It shook the music world like a sound wave rippling across the boomer universe. It won the Grammy Award for that year, and, with the exception of some American music critics, received praise from reviewers. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named it the “most important album ever made.” We’ve all heard boomers heap such accolades on the record and the group, but rarely do you get to digest succinct reasons why. Mister Boomer didn’t think much of the album when it came out, but here offers his reasoning why he believes the record was definitely a milestone in rock ‘n roll, but was hardly the band’s best.

Words like “innovative” have always been bantered about in rock ‘n roll, but this album had innovative written all over it, starting with the title and cover. The Beatles were exhausted from a grueling four years of touring and had had enough. The last live concert they played was August 26, 1966. They took a break and each went their own way. Most famously, George went to India to study Transcendental Meditation (and learned sitar in the process), and John starred in the movie, How I Won the War. It was directed by Richard Lester, who had previously directed A Hard Days Night and Help! John also met Yoko Ono on one of his many London art gallery visits.

When the band got back together, they had ended touring permanently. Gone were the matching suits and haircuts as the group embraced the counter-culture attire of the time. They found that recording music in a studio that was explicitly designed to be difficult if not impossible to repeat before a live audience was a freeing experience, and it prompted an experimental streak in the Fab Four. Before long talk of an album was raised.

The first two songs the band recorded were Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, both considered candidates for the Sgt. Pepper’s album. Pressured from the record company for a new single after their time off, the band released the songs as a double-A side single in February of 1967. The songs ultimately were not included on the Sgt. Pepper’s album, but were later tracks on the Magical Mystery Tour album.

While the band engaged in recording sessions that could last through the night, Paul had the notion of making a concept album. His idea was to create a fictitious band and band members — alter egos of themselves. As fictitious characters, they would be totally free musically to do whatever they wanted. As they proceeded with the idea, the concept was that the album would be a recording of one of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s live performances.

What resulted was a base of English dance hall music that paid tribute to the genre they had experienced as boys, blended with elements of rock, vaudeville, jazz, blues, circus music, big band, and most notably, psychedelia and Eastern mysticism. It was the latter that, since it was released in June of 1967, rocketed it instantly to become the anthem for the Summer of Love.

Side One:
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
With a Little Help From My Friends
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Getting Better
Fixing a Hole
She’s Leaving Home

Side Two:
Within You Without You
When I’m Sixty-Four
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Lovely Rita
Good Morning Good Morning
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
A Day in the Life

The album was filled with firsts; it was considered the first 8-track recording in Britain. There had been 8-track recordings in the States, but Britain lacked the equipment. The Beatles’ engineers synced two 4-track units to create a virtual 8-track system. They had previously experimented with recording techniques on Revolver and Rubber Soul, and now adapted many for Sgt. Pepper’s, including direct input, where McCartney’s bass was plugged directly into the mixing console’s microphone input; tracks of vocals were recorded at different speeds, then mixed with new vocals for a richer sound; among others. It was also the first record to incorporate song lyrics into the cover design, with the lyrics to every song printed on the back cover.

When it came time to conceptualize the cover, the band members were asked by artist Peter Blake to come up with a list of people they would have liked to play for, living or deceased. The idea was that the group would surround Sgt. Pepper’s band, in satin marching band outfits, as if they were the audience that had listened to the concert. Ultimately 61 people were chosen and represented as cardboard cutouts, including artists, literary figures, musicians, singers, Indian yogis, movie stars, actors, psychologists and comedians. The cover went on to be considered one of the great artworks of album cover design.

Suggestions that some lyrics referred to drug use prompted the BBC to ban the play of A Day in the Life, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Fixing a Hole and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! The Beatles denied the allegations, but in recent years Paul McCartney confirmed that not only were the references intentionally there, but that the album itself was created with the use of copious amounts of marijuana, among other things.

The record was produced without the usual bands between tracks, so there would be no break between songs in an effort to encourage listening to an entire side at once. Instead, crossover fades led from one track to another, to give the impression of a live show recording. This was so successful that radio stations began to play the record in its entirety, boosting a burgeoning FM radio industry with what was later referred to as album-oriented rock (AOR).

A few years earlier boys adopted The Beatles’ haircut and suit, and now, with the release of Sgt. Pepper’s, they were free to explore the realm of color and pattern that dominated young people’s attire in the late 1960s. When asked about the cultural influence of the album in the early 2000s, Paul McCartney said he did not accept that The Beatles were leaders in the Cultural Revolution, but rather, reflected the cultural influences of the time.

Mister Boomer remembers when his brother brought home the album. On first listen played on their bedroom record player, Mister B was not impressed. Brother Boomer went on to play A Day in the Life incessantly, and, though Mister B found the juxtaposition of the news story with the bouncier morning wake-up scenario interesting, he ultimately dismissed it. He was much more drawn to a few others, like Fixing A Hole, She’s Leaving Home and With a Little Help From My Friends. Then, as now, Mister B prefers the earlier albums. Sgt. Pepper’s did mark a change in the music of the Fab Four. Some say it was a loss of innocence, but Mister B just missed the backbeat that made him — and many other boomers — want to twist and shout. Mister Boomer feels that if you compare the songs of Sgt. Pepper’s to those of Revolver and Rubber Soul, there is no contest. For that matter, compare it to the White Album.

What did you think of the Sgt. Pepper’s album, boomers, and what do you think now that nearly a half-century has passed since its release?

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

Boomers Met The Beatles

It’s hard to believe, but here we are! It’s been 50 years since The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, forever changing popular culture for boomers and beyond.

The Beatles were already a successful band in the United Kingdom before they ventured into the American market. By 1963, Beatlemania was in full swing “across the pond.” At the time, Capitol Records in the U.S. was a subsidiary of EMI, which was The Beatles’ record company. With limited press exposure and no records readily available in the U.S., Capitol didn’t see much future for the four lads from Liverpool.

As word of Beatlemania in the UK spread into the U.S., the band’s first U.S. TV exposure came from a news interview by Edwin Newman for The Huntley-Brinkley Report on November 18, 1963. CBS Morning News followed up on that interview by broadcasting a piece about Beatlemania on November 22, 1963. Ironically, the report was scheduled to repeat on the evening news that day, but that afternoon, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Thus did two of the most influential forces of boomer youth cross paths. Walter Cronkite did eventually air that story again on December 10, 1963.

On November 29, 1963, EMI released I Want to Hold Your Hand in the UK, with advance orders topping the million mark. The U.S. coverage of Beatlemania, mass appeal of the band in the UK, the leaking of the record onto American radio — first in Washington, DC, then in St. Louis and Chicago — started a snowball rolling. Band manager Brian Epstein was able to successfully book The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, prompting Capitol Records to agree to release I Want to Hold Your Hand in the U.S. in January of 1964, to coincide with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Since the record was already being played on American radio in several markets, though, Capitol decided to rush the release and made it available with a B-side of I Saw Her Standing There on December 26, 1963. It was an instant hit. In the first three days alone, a quarter million copies of the 45 rpm records had been sold in the U.S. Beatlemania had arrived on U.S. shores, establishing a beachhead for the subsequent British Invasion.

The Beatles boarded Pan Am Flight 101 at London’s Heathrow Airport on February 7, 1964, heading for the newly rechristened John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York. Idelwild Airport had been renamed for the late president after his assassination just three months earlier. An estimated four thousand fans greeted The Beatles on their arrival. It was the largest crowd airport security had ever seen, and it was all for a rock ‘n roll band from England.

The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday, February 9, 1964, which aired at 8 p.m. EST. Of the 189 million people living in the U.S. at the time, over 73 million tuned in to hear the Fab Four — an estimated 45% of all households with a television set! The band performed All My Loving, Till There Was You and She Loves You in the first half of the program, then later in the show added I Saw Her Standing There and finished with I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Mister Boomer’s family was among the multitudes. Ed Sullivan was a Sunday night fixture in Mister Boomer’s home, so the family wasn’t tuning in just to see The Beatles. Yet Mister B and his siblings were excited to see what all the hoopla was about with this band from England and their kooky hairstyles and mode of dress. Mister B recalls wondering why the girls were screaming so loudly, and remarked that they should let the band play. While The Beatles launched into their final number, Mister B went off to run a bath. It was a school night and, as a pre-teen, bed time was fast approaching.

Ed Sullivan brought the band back on his the show for the next two Sundays for an unprecedented three-weeks-in-a-row of appearances. The second, on Sunday, February 16, 1964, was broadcast live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach. The third appearance was actually taped before their first appearance on February 9th. One week later, The Ed Sullivan Show began broadcasting in color. Those epic performances by The Beatles were to be preserved only in black & white.

It wasn’t long after their appearance that Mister B’s aunt gave the family her daughter’s hand-me-down record player. The Boomer family was out shopping one night when Brother Boomer picked up a package of 45 RPM records — six for 99¢. Visible through the clear plastic window was a record by The Beatles: She Loves You. The first rock ‘n roll record in Mister Boomer’s house was going to be by The Beatles.

Mister Boomer has chronicled the influence of The Beatles on boomer culture over these past few years, from their hair (Boomers Loved That Beatles’ Hairstyle) to the “Paul is dead” conspiracy (Boomers Thought Paul Was Dead) and many references to their music in between. Now, five decades later, the grandchildren of boomers are discovering their songs and are purchasing them for their own digital collections. Mister Boomer’s introduction to The Beatles, like many other boomers his age, began with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show fifty years ago.

Did you watch The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Music,Pop Culture History,TV and have Comments (2)