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?