Boomers Got Their Kicks

Mister Boomer has been in a bit of a lethargic funk lately. While pursuing strategies to kick out his mood, he realized that we don’t hear phrases that use the word “kick” as much as we did in the boomer years.
Back then, you could get “kicked to the curb” by your best girl. No boomer wanted that. On the other hand, you could be “kickin’ it” with your friends. Or, you could “kick-start” your day with a bowl of Kix cereal, from General Mills. Usage and meaning ran the gamut: we “got our kicks” and in turn, we were “kicked in the seat of the pants,” among other sayings. It became part of the vernacular, so naturally, versions made their way into our music. So “kick back” and enjoy this little memory jog. Here are a few that come to mind:

Ain’t That a Kick in the Head – Dean Martin, 1960
The song was written for and featured in the Rat Pack film, Ocean’s 11, but Dean Martin’s single 45 RPM was released before the film. It actually failed to chart, but became associated with Dean Martin for years after. The song and phrase reiterate that there was crossover in the early years from our parents’ generation into both the music of the era and speech. The early 1960s would have Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Brenda Lee, The Shirelles and Jan & Dean played on the same radio station.

 

(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 — Chuck Berry 1961
Bobby Troup wrote the song in 1946, and it was first recorded by Nat King Cole that year. Chuck Berry’s version followed in1961; The Rolling Stones released their version in 1964.
It was indeed, a song about the fabled highway.
When the Route 66 TV show aired in 1960, the producers decided on an instrumental theme song to avoid paying royalties to Bobby Troup. Nelson Riddle was asked to write the show’s theme as an instrumental, which bore no resemblance to the original. Talk about getting kicked out of a gig.

Kicks — Paul Revere & the Raiders, 1966
At the beginning of an era of heavy drug use and abuse, this song had an anti-drug message. Here, “kicks” referred to drug use:

And don’t it seem like
Kicks just keep gettin’ harder to find
And all your kicks ain’t bringin’ you peace of mind
Before you find out it’s too late, girl, you better get straight
No, but not with kicks

Kick Out the Jams — MC5, 1969
Controversial because the lead singer opened the song by finishing the phrase, “Kick out the jams,” with a popular swear word — but only on the album — the hard-driving song nonetheless “done kicked ’em out.”

These four songs spanned a decade, and could not be further apart in their musical genres. The one link between them is “kick.”

How about you, boomers? How did “kick” find its way into your boomer life?

Boomers Knew A Place to Go

In our current topsy-turvy, “we’re not in Kansas any more,” Oz moment, the concept of home has engulfed us. That’s not to say that boomers, aging as we are, weren’t already in the process of redefining what home and shelter means to us. Yet, this week, as Mister B pondered the historical landscape of everything that holds resonance for boomers — the 55th anniversary of Medicare; the launching of rover vehicles to search for signs of ancient life on Mars; the profound connections between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and those of today’s Black Lives Matter protests; the political turmoil and uncertainty before a Presidential election — what he really landed on was what “place” has become. “Place,” as opposed to “home,” was somewhere to go that was not home. It was a location that could change attitudes and moods; provide comfort or discomfort; be educational or mind-freeing. Yeah, man, it was … a place.

So naturally, with all that rattling around Mr. B’s cranium, he woke up on two mornings this week with “place” songs reverberating between the ears for a get-outta-bed soundtrack. Here are Mister B’s top choices for “place” songs from the boomer era. See if your sense of place is stirred by any of these memories:

A Summer Place A Summer Place movie, 1959
An instrumental version of the song by Percy Faith was released in 1960, and it spent nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching the number one spot. It was covered by a slew of other artists, in both instrumental and vocal versions. Among the vocal versions are Andy Williams in 1962; Julie London in 1965; Bobby Vinton in 1965; The Lettermen in 1965, and many others. Mister Boomer remembers being told it was a go-to make-out song for those warm summer nights listening to the car radio.

Somewhere (A Place for Us)West Side Story, 1957 on Broadway, 1961 on film
We have Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim to thank for this American classic. The Supremes recorded their version in 1965. It’s another boomer era song that keeps popping up, with new recordings still being released. Drama mixed with a sense of place has given this song a perpetual place in our consciousness.

In My Life — The Beatles, 1965
Right from the opening lyrics:

There are places I remember …

the song is a transportive trip down memory lane (as opposed to Penny Lane). Finishing in part, with:

In my life, I loved them all …

it is certainly aspirational for all boomers at the current stage of our long, strange trip. It was part of the Rubber Soul album, which is probably Mister B’s favorite Beatles recording.

No Particular Place to Go — Chuck Berry, 1964
Interestingly enough, when Chuck Berry wrote this song, he did not have anywhere to go because he was in prison. Convicted of violating the Mann Act — transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes — Berry was sent to Springfield, Missouri’s Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. Berry claimed his innocence throughout his life, but served more than a year. There’s a place you’d rather not visit.

Name of the Place is I Like it Like That — Chris Kenner, 1961
Written by Chris Kenner and Allen Toussaint, Kenner was the first to record it. His version was released in 1961, and landed in the number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100. This song lyrically invites us to a place that is named, “I Like It Like That.” The band beckons us to “come on, let me show you where its at.” Who wouldn’t like a place with a name like that? The Dave Clark 5 released a version in 1965, which is probably the version that Mister Boomer heard on his transistor radio. The Kingsmen also recorded it that same year.

I Know a Place — Petula Clark, 1965
Following her smash debut hit, Downtown (1964), Petula Clark struck gold a second time with this ditty. The suggestion to forget your troubles and head “where the music is fine and the lights are always low,” stuck with U.S. listeners. The song spent five weeks in the Top Ten, and Clark was awarded a Grammy for Best Contemporary (R&B) Female Vocal Performance. When someone told you they “knew a place,” you’d try it out, wouldn’t you?

We Gotta Get Out of This Place — The Animals, 1965
Mister Boomer was elementary-school age when the song was first issued. He credits it as being the first rock anthem of his young life. Moving from grade school to high school seemed like a forever task. School kids immediately clamped onto the chorus; Mister B would later learn older kids identified with the song for different reasons, as did soldiers in Vietnam. It still kicks it, as far as Mister B is concerned. It’s sung with raw emotion that speaks of a desperate hope that if this place is not going to cut it, another place has got to be better.

The places we can go will all be available to us again, but in the meantime, set the turntable arm down on the vinyl and you’ll be at the place you were when you first heard these tunes.

Which “place” song is your favorite, boomers?