Boomers Remember 60 Years Ago

Where were you in ’62? If you are an early-years or mid-generation boomer, then you probably have memories of August, 1962. Mister Boomer remembers brightly-colored summer clothes and a hint of foreboding in the air that back-to-school time was drawing near.

See if you recall these facts and events:

• John Kennedy was President of the United States.
• The month began with the death of Marilyn Monroe, from a fatal overdose of medication.
• The Soviet Union conducted the second largest nuclear test in history by exploding a 40-megaton hydrogen bomb.
• Patsy Cline released her final album, Sentimentally Yours. She died in a plane crash in March of 1963.
• Herbert Hoover was present to dedicate and open The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, in West Branch, Iowa. Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, was celebrating his 88th birthday.
• The Soviet Union leapfrogged past the U.S. space program by launching two manned spacecrafts into orbit back to back. Volstak 3 was launched on August 11, 1962, and Volstak 4 launched one day later. The plan for the two spacecraft was to have parallel orbits, allowing them to establish radio contact until their return to Earth on August 15. At their closest point, the two spacecraft were just over 3 miles apart. The effects of space on the cosmonauts’ health was part of the main mission.

• Pete Best was fired as the drummer of The Beatles, on August 16. He was replaced by Ringo Starr, making his first appearance as a Beatle two days later.

• John Lennon married Cynthia Powell in a secret ceremony in Liverpool.
• Mariner 2, the first successful space probe launched to another planet, was launched by NASA on August 27. It reached Venus on December 14, 1962. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union had previously failed attempts at missions to Venus.
• On Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, the number one hits of August 1962 were Roses Are Red (My Love) by Bobby Vinton and Breaking Up Is Hard to Do by Neil Sedaka. Familiar names in the Top 10 that month included Pat Boone (Speedy Gonzales), The Orlons (The Wah Watsusi), Ray Charles (I Can’t Stop Loving You), Ray Stevens (Ahab, the Arab) and Little Eva (The Loco-motion).

Mister Boomer recalls the death of Marilyn Monroe as it was reported on TV. He also remembers hearing Neil Sedaka’s and the other songs of August 1962 playing on his transistor radio. His mother favored Bobby Vinton’s Red Roses (For a Blue Lady), which is why Mister B has that 45 in his collection now. Though an avid fan of the Space Race early on, Mister B can’t say he remembers anything about the Volstak 3 & 4 missions.

How about you, boomers? What do you remember about August 1962?

Boomers Saw — and Heard — the Signs

Mister Boomer has written several posts about his Morning Jukebox Syndrome, the affliction that causes songs from the boomer era to play in his head upon awakening, practically every day. He has since learned many other boomers experience this same situation. It’s endless fascinating to him that songs that may not have been heard for 30, 40 or 50 years can suddenly appear in the brain, lyrics complete, as if they were playing on the radio. So when a few songs began to reappear in a bit of cluster in the past month, Mister Boomer had no choice but to take it as a sign he should write about them. The “sign” was songs that mention the word, sign. Here are the three songs:

Sign of the Times – Petula Clark (1966)
There’s not a shred of any Eve of Destruction in Petula Clark’s music. On the contrary, the beat is up, the mood wide-eyed and happy. The sign in this song is that a boy who previously didn’t give her the attention she wanted has now changed his tune. Her times are changing, in her song, for the better. The song peaked at Number Two on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts.

Gimme Little Sign – Brenton Wood (1967)
As in Petula Clark’s tune, this one is a straightforward love song. The sign here is the singer is looking for some reciprocity — a sign that the woman feels the same as he does. The song peaked at Number Nine on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Signs – Five Man Electrical Band (1971)
After touring with groups like The Allman Brothers, Edgar Winter, Sly and the Family Stone and Rare Earth, this Canadian band scored with a song that talks about signs as limiting dialogue and inclusion, a real boomer-era sentiment. First released as a B-side on a single in 1968, it was the 1971 re-release as a promo for their album, Good-byes and Butterflies, that caught boomers’ attention. Mister B could partially identify with it since, after being forced to keep his hair cut in parochial high school, he was then heading to college and free to grow it long, plus a mustache as well. So the lyrics, And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply were relatable. The song reached Number Three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S.

In the end, what is Mister Boomer — or any boomer for that matter — to make of the sudden appearance of sign-related songs in his Morning Jukebox Syndrome? At this particular point in this particular year, when no news is good news, maybe the signs point to the variety and wisdom found in boomer music as a way to cope, if not to find hope and a path forward?

What do the signs tell you, boomers?