Category: Do You Want to Know a Secret?
If you’re among the esteemed generation of Beatle fans who actually lived thru the British Invasion, you may recall how the press, the media, the record label and even Ed Sullivan proclaimed that the Beatles Feb. 1964 trip to America was the first time “The Fabs” had set foot on American soil ! Not completely true, my fab friends…Didja know that nearly 5 months earlier in Sept. 1963, the quiet Beatle George, made a very quite trip the U. S. A. To visit his sister Louise who lived in a little town in Benton Illinois. At this point in time “From Me To You” was the number one record in the U.K. and Beatle Mania had caught fire, But here in the U.S. the band was barely a blip on anyone’s Radar! So, George and his brother Peter hoped a flight to Benton for a three-week stay with their sister to enjoy some R&R, sightseeing, gardening and music. George and his siblings drove all over Southern Illinois including camping two nights in the Shawnee National forest! But it was in nearby Mt. Vernon where Beatle history is made, when Louise takes her brothers to a popular record store, where George finds a new record by James Ray, the title of the song is “Got my mind set on you” Sound familiar?… After their road trip, returning to Louise’s home in Benton, Louise takes George to see a local band playing at the VFW town hall, the band was called “The Four Vests, Louise introduced her brother to the bands leader Gabe McCarty. Remember, George was completely unknown, but his sister called him “The English Elvis! George and Gabe hit it off immediately, as soon as George sat in with The Four Vests! Both men were huge fans of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis etc. so by day they hung out talked music and by night they Jammed. It was Gabe who helped George find his coveted Rickenbacker electric that can be heard on several Beatle tracks and on permanent display in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame….Yep, George bought it on a day trip to Mt. Vernon with Gabe….
……There you have it, with all due respect to what we think we heard, George Harrison was making Beatle history in America 5 months prior to John, Paul and Ringo!
Yeah, Yeah, YEAH…
When you consider the great music of the 1960’s we’re sure you think about ” The British Invasion”, Motown, all the Girl Groups and the blending of Folk music and Rock and Roll. However it was Surf music that truly ushered in the music of the 60’s. It inspired us to listen,and established a new genre, culture and lifestyle, not just on the west coast of California but across the world. It gave us pioneers and Super Stars The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and The Honeys. Some purists even argue The Mamas and Pappas, sighting ” California Dreaming” as the best song ever written about “Praying For Surf” But I digress, because no matter what new genre coalesced and shaped the sound of the Sixties they all owe a nod and must pay homage to the artists and the music that Kick Started ” The best decade in music history”
Instrumental Surf Music. Burning through like a firestorm as the new decade debuted and continued to influence the sound and culture of “Pop” music, not jus thru the 60’s but for every decade to follow. The Ventures, ( who have sold, to date, over 110 million records…yup, you read that right!) The Surfaries, The Chantays,The Bel-Airs, The Challenger’s, and of course “The King of the Surf Guitar”,Dick Dale and his Deltones. Even The U.K. Gave us The Tornedos with ” Telstar” and The Shadows with “Apache” The sound was always 3 guitars, bass and drums with someone doubling on electric piano with an occasional Sax solo The instruments were nearly always made by Fender and all were drenched in Reverb to give them that ” Wet Sound” No other genre of music( with the exception of The Beatles) inspired young music lovers to pick up a guitar or a pair of sticks and immediately be part of this new cool scene coming out of Southern California.
Many historians sight Dick Dales incredible high energy debut ” Let’s Go Tripping as the first hit record to put Inst. Surf on the charts. But we’ll argue that it was Santo and Johnny’s hauntingly beautiful ” Sleep Walk” that established and galvanized Instr. Surf Music and beyond. Santo and Johnny Farina hailing from Brooklyn N.Y. wrote the song inspired by a dream of Johnny’s. Johnny played a six string Gretch, while Santo played, AND GET THIS, a fender custom built three necked Pedal Steele, with each neck holding EIGHT strings. We can’t do the math or even begin to imagine how many options of Keys, Tunings and Sounds Santo could conjure up! Experts might point out that “Sleep Walk topped the Billboard charts in Sept. of 1959( when it also achieved the number 4 position on Billboards R&B chart !!!) but it’s lingering popularity kept it in “Heavy Rotation” not just thru the transition of the decade but throughout the surf music years and beyond. Lastly, Sleep Walk just may be the greatest love song ever written,and it has no lyrics. But dim the lights with Sleep Walk murmuring in the background and romance is yours. Ah,the power of Surf music instrumentals ! With the genre surging and new Surf Instrumentals entering the charts weekly, “Pipeline” by The Chantays, “Mr. Moto by The Bel Airs and “Walk Don’t Run” by The Ventures all number ones. And all capturing the more mellow sound of Surf music until 1962, when Dick Dale came blasting through our radios with “Misirlou” a monster of a record that grabbed you by the throat and thru you in the water. Along with Dicks smoking ” Double Picking, “Misirlou included a piano and trumpet solo. There simply no other Surf record that can match the power, aggression and pure energy of Misirlou” For you younger readers it’s that amazing piece of music that is featured in the opening scene of “Pulp Fiction” Lastly, as we were trying to catch our breath, we caught a “sucker punch” from The Surfaris with “Wipe Out in 1963. Ironically Wipe Out was an absolute throw away “B” side (The A side was the ridiculous “Surfer Joe”…go figure) Opening with a maniacle laugh and the sound of a breaking surfboard. And then the songs 1st. verse… A DRUM SOLO Yup…In fact the entire song is mostly this same drum solo. Which ultimately became an audition test for any young drummer trying out for a new band. I should know, I did it a dozen times. Surf music continued to rule, but ” The British Invasion” was right over the horizon. So what was the final Surf instrumental that sounded the “Death Knell” to this powerful and influential genre.?….. it was “Penetration” by The Pyramids. The band hailed out of Long Beach Calif. It’s to bad that The Pyramids were short-lived, if only for their outrages approach to their band and the music business. They were a five piece (of course) but their founder and lead guitar player Will Glover was a Black man. Remember this is now early 1964 ! To add to the controversy ( remember, the song is called “Penetration “) The band did the unthinkable in 1964. Seeing early pictures of The Beatles, They Shaved Their Heads. Picture their line up if you can. They also were fond of stunts at their shows. They often opened for The Beach Boys, and if the boys showed up in Limos, The Pyramids showed up on horses, The Boys showed up in larger stretch limos, The Pyramids actually showed up on Elephants! Bottom line, if you ask any remaining member of any of the bands mentioned in this article ” What was the best thing about Surf music and being in a Surf Band, they all say the same thing “We had soooo much Fun. “Surf’s Up” meanwhile, here’s Santo and Johnny’s incredible “Sleep Walk”
Horns ! The Brass section. Trumpets, Trombones, saxophones, French horns and, occasionally The Tuba. The horn section in American music was both its staple and it’s cornerstone. Going back to the early to mid 1920’s when America gave birth to “Big Bands The horns delivered the melody, harmony, rhythm, and deep bottom end. A typical configuration included 5 saxophones, 4 Trumpets, 4 Trombones and a Tuba, augmented and supported by a rhythm section of Guitar, Bass, Piano and Drums. Through the years, the typical line up would adjust accordingly as America’s Big Band sound morphed and matured into sub genres like “Dance Band” ” Stage Band” ” Jazz Band” and “Swing Bands” The popularity of this Brass enriched American sound dominated the sheet music business, saturated the fledgling radio industry, established a recorded music fever and even made a splash in The Movies in The 30’s and 40’s “Battles of the Bands” became the standard attraction every weekend at theaters and concert/ dance halls across the country, frequently featuring a half-dozen or more bands on the same bill. But!…No matter how popular the “Horn centric” sound of America’s music sounded in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s’ Audiences and taste’s change and mature and by the end of the 1940’s popular music in America placed less emphasis on the Brass section with traditional arrangements and began focusing more on inspired improvisation by a strong rhythm section perhaps including a trumpet and a “Reed” instrument It was called Bee Bop and by the beginning of the 1950’s the horn heavy sound of “Big Band” and “Swing” had all but vanished, and a new generation of music lovers were hungry for their own sound, and it certainly wouldn’t include a “Brass section……..UNTIL, of course, THE 1960’s ! Beginning in 1967 the sky’s opened up and it rained down Brass sections. We’re certain, here at SMS, that when you think of horn bands, Two bands come to mind…Chicago, and Blood Sweat and Tears. Two distinctively different groups but both focusing their power and creativity on their horn sections, an easy twenty years after the last vestiges of the Big Bands reverberated off in the distance!
Somehow, Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears made horns COOL again… B,S, and T and Chicago made their debut’s in ’68 and ’69 respectively. However, did you know that in 1967 The Buckingham’s scored 5 top twenty nit singles with a sound they called “Brass Rock”
Billboard magazine dubbed them “The most listened to band in America” But, we’re guessing you remember The Buckingham’s as just another Top 40 band that got played too much. But not the members of Chicago and B, S, and T. They all credit The Buck’s with re – introducing horns into popular music and they took the idea, ran with it, and made “Brass Rock” the coolest new music on the radio, as well as selling millions and millions off records ! (it needs to be noted that Chicago’s first three albums were double record sets!….Unheard of !
Sooo, this brings up an old 1960’s argument…..The argument?….” who was better, “Chicago”, or “Blood, Sweat and Tears”?
We’re a curious bunch here at SMS and we gotta know, which team were you with….Team “Chicago” or Team”Blood Sweat and Tears” ?
Please comment back and let us know your preference and why !
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To help aid your memory…Team Chicago
And of course…Team… Blood Sweat and Tears
P.S. Didja know that The Buckingham’s, Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears were all produced at one point by the same man. James William Guercio….. Unbelievable!
No question, when we talk about 60’s music our focus and “Ground Zero” always turns to “The British Invasion” ! At one point in the mid Sixties statistics indicate that nearly every other record in “The Top 40” was performed by a resident from The United Kingdom. However dear reader, we have a question for your consideration….Would there or could there have been a “British Invasion” if John had never met Paul and they never formed The Beatles? In the late 50’s a burgeoning music scene was growing exponentially with “Skiffle” music taking root and taking hold of every youth in the U.K. Skiffle music was a kind of mix of jazz, country and jug band, played on the most rudimentary instruments, one or two stringed guitars wash boards, you get the drill and it required very little skill. In fact, as the 50’s came to an end it was estimated that there were as many as 30,000 to 50,000 Skiffle bands in The United Kingdom ! Many of course attempted to record but the records only got attention, if any, in the band’s home town, Skiffle didn’t travel well to say the least. However, you may recall a record called “Rock Island Line” by Lonnie Donnegan? The poster child for Skiffle and perhaps the only record from the Genre to get play in the U.S. But as the 60’s arrived Skiffle music and it’s players matured and a new “Beat” sound ( completely influenced by American Rock n Roll ) took over
Hundreds and hundreds of new artists began appearing in several urban centers around the U.K. Primarily Birmingham, Manchester, London and of course…..Liverpoole ! Where John, Paul, George and Ringo were one of over an estimated 350 new bands looking for work ! Along with other locals like The Searchers, Gerry and The Pacemakers and Cilla Black. ALL by the way managed by Brian Epstein. A similar scene was playing out in London where every night every club was sold out and London’s “swinging” youth rocked out to the very young Rolling Stones, Spencer Davis ( featuring a 15-year-old Stevie Winwood ) The Yardbirds, Dusty Springfield, Dave Clark Five and Moody Blues, while up in Manchester you could hear Graham Nash with The Hollies, Peter Noone with Herman’s Hermits and the wacky Freddie and The Dreamers. All getting a little traction in their hometown yet none of them ever dreaming they would conquer America. In the U.S, we heard little about these artist and their music. The only English Exports we were aware of was Cliff Richard, in the U.K. he was known as “The English Elvis” Although he had the looks and a decent enough voice,for Americans, there was nothing about Cliff that remotely resembled The King ! His slick pop songs only widened the musical gap between The U.S. And The U.K.Cliff struggled for acceptance in America but it never happened. The fact is prior to the British Invasion ,only two English recordings made it to the American top spot…. “Stranger on the Shore by Mr. Ackerman Bilk, an instrumental, and “Telstar” by The Tornados, yet another instrumental ! Reminding us of the quote from George Bernard Shaw “The U.S.A. and Great Britton, two great countries divided by a common language”…..Think about it !
The British Invasion quickly spoke loud and clear to that division, and somehow they did it without that odd sounding accent. The U.K. Was rich with talent and music was percolating in every corner of every city, town or hamlet. In retrospect it seems simply inevitable, the British Invasion would have to happen with or without The Beatles ! BUT WE SAY NO WAY ! Without The Beatles, there would never be “A British Invasion. We all agree on the incredible talent pool languishing within her Majesty’s gates, but between “The Old Garde” thinking in the U.K. And the “We know everything” thinking in the U.S. The “Invasion” needed a catalyst, something so original, yet so familiar! Something undeniable and worthy. Something to get and keep our attention across the pond and not on American Bandstand
We aren’t going to go any deeper on The Fab Four, you’ve been there, you already know it all, and we simply don’t have the time or space to tell their story once again ! Our point is…..”No Beatles, no British Invasion. However, we further believe you’d still be enjoying all your favorite English artists, only with slight variations. ( reader alert, blasphemous commentary coming ) We believe if the Beatles never came together only Paul is a “sure thing” in achieving “Superstar” status….his overall affable attitude, musicality, classic songwriting sense, musicianship, incredible vocals, stage presence and good looks makes Paul undeniable ! Lesser so with John mainly due to John’s anger and attitude, for us John also comes up a bit short on versatility. John would always be the creative focus for any band and could have enjoyed a successful solo career, but nothing like the heights McCartney would hit ! George would be well-regarded as an original and dynamic guitarist / songwriter. But it’s hard to imagine George having a solo career if he’d never been a Beatle ! Same goes for Ringo, he’d be a most “Sought after drum player with several credits on his résumé but regular folks wouldn’t know his name!
If The Stones never caught on we believe we’d still own records that feature Mick and Keith, their “perfect fit as songwriters collaborators and performers, as well as their bond and ambition would drive them on together…Somehow !
Only Blues/Rock Junkies would be listening to the Yardbirds, and without support and success in the U.S. It’s likely there would never have been a “Led Zeppelin, but Clapton would be…..Well, CLAPTON ! Eric may be the only British Invader whose career track would be exactly the same….With or without a British Invasion !
The same could be said for Peter Asher from Peter and Gordon. After his successful run with Gordon Waller Peter turned his energies to his ability as a manager and producer, remaining active, involved and meaningful…
AND….Dusty Springield, In 1964 the English press already named her “The Greatest Blue Eye’d Soul singer in the world. In the same week The Beatles debuted on Ed Sullivan, Dustys first single “I Only Want To Be With You” was shooting up the U.S. Charts ! Dusty’s soulful voiced would have shined on America no matter what !
Lastly, for the Freddie’s and the Hermans and the other drummers, bass players and keyboardist who populated The British Invasion but never got their ” Close Up” on The Ed Sullivan Show, many are still working doing reunion tours and special British Invasion appearances. If you want to see them, they’re out there especially in America !
But, before you rush out…. WHAT DO YOU THINK ? COULD THERE HAVE BEEN A BRITISH INVASION IF THE BEATLES NEVER CAME TOGETHER ?……….And of course any further thoughts you may have !
Yeah, Yeah, YEAH !
The 1960’s were so rich with innovation, creativity and originality, we all have our personal “Top 10 “lists of the Greatest records ever” However, there are a rare few that transcend the rest, are loved by everyone and endure time, trends, criticism and history’s fickle eye ! “It’s My Party ” is one of those records ! It’s My Party ” successfully mixed styles, genre’s and generations while delivering a huge dose of ” Teen Angst ” resulting in a record nobody could resist. Produced and performed by one of music’s first “Odd Couples.” In 1963 Quincy Jones had a successful career as a trumpet player in his big band, when Mercury records, in NYC approached him and appointed him Vice President of A & R ! A bold move in 1963 ! With the exception of Barry Gordy’s Motown label, Quincy would be the first African-American to head a record Company. But Quincy had tremendous talent, ambition and desire to look beyond his race and history in Jazz and make records that appealed to a mass audience. Meanwhile across town in Brooklyn is a fifteen year old junior in High School, Lesley Sue Goldstein….Lesley Gore! No contacts or relationships with anyone in the music business, just a powerful desire to sing. Lesley’s vocal coach insisted on recording Lesley to help her develop and created a tape with Lesley singing as a kind of demo. It turns out Lesley’s coach was friends with Quincy, and, YES….He hears Quincy’s looking for talent and immediately delivers her tape to Quincy’s office. The next day Quincy is on the phone with Lesley and by the end of the week Lesley is signed to Mercury Records, and the search begins for the perfect song to launch Lesley Gore !
According to Lesley it was an arduous process, each day she and Quincy would meet in the den of her family’s home and listen to hundreds of songs….” It’s My Party “was chosen by default. In Lesley’s den there was a pile of songs marked “Maybe” and another pile marked “NO! ” It’s My Party was the ONLY song she and Quincy agreed could be a “Maybe” neither LOVED it !
And now, arrangements and rehearsals begin, but it’s important to consider that at the same time Lesley is a high school girl struggling for good grades as well as her growing awareness of her Homosexuality. Yes, Lesley was gay ! But on March 30, 1963 she and Quincy went into Bell studios in NYC and cut what Quincy was sure was a number one record. Until the next night when Quincy attended a concert by Charles Aznavour, before the show Quincy ran into Phil Spector, as the two chatted Quincy inquired about what Phil was working on ? To Quincy’s surprise and horror Phil replied saying ” I just cut a number one with my girls The Crystals “..( you know what’s coming ) ” It’s a great song called It’s My Party”…..OMG ! Quincy immediately and politely excused himself before the show started and fled to Bell Sound studios and worked all night mastering and pressing 100 copies which he shipped to every major radio programmer in the country. By the end of the next week “It’s my Party” was on the radio all over the U.S. A few weeks later, it was NUMBER ONE !
But that was only the incredible beginning, Quincy and Lesley were so confident, they began working on their sequel before ” Party ” peaked. In fact nearly and only two months from the release of ” Party ” the pair released their second SMASH…..”Judy’s Turn To Cry” maintained the momentum with the same powerful mix of Quincy’s Big Band horns that punctuated every line of lyric and the behemoth drum sounds with a snare drum that cracked like a big whip ! All of it in support of the unique, smooth, warm, ” Girl next door ” sincerity only Leslie Gore could deliver ! Even as ” My Party ” was selling like a runaway train on its way to the Gold certification of ONE MILLION RECORDS, we were all at the record store buying up copies of ” Judy’s Turn To Cry ” But this is where it goes from amazing success to a Phenomenon ! Remember ? Without hesitation Quincy and Lesley are in the studio working on “She’s A Fool, ” Maybe I Know, “… ” That’s The Way Boy’s Are ” and Their anthem for every Woman’s right’s movement from that day on, the plaintive ” You Don’t Own Me ” All of them certified gold and all recorded and released in less than 24 months, while Leslie is only in her mid teens ! Simply Stunning!
As the 60’s unfolded both artists were looking for change, Quincy ser his sights on writing and arranging for films, including the scores to “The Pawnbroker ” ” In The Heat Of The Night ” In Cold Blood ” and “Bob And Catole And Ted And Alice ” and soon became the most sought after film composer in the world ! But you are most familiar with his work with Michael Jackson, by taking a successful artist to a new stratosphere of success, producing “Off The Wall” “Bad” and “Thriller” for Michael Jackson. Lesley continued making records and having hits, Remember “Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows ” California Nights ” and “Look Of Love” ? Leslie Gore, working with other producers, like Marvin Hamlisch. Lesley began writing more and in the late 70’s received an Academy Award nomination for a song she wrote for the film “Fame ”
Like we said, Quincy and Leslie were an odd pairing, but there is no debate that their partnership is one where they each made each other a SUPERSTARS…
Here’s a rare live version of The great, “It’s My Party…
Meanwhile, we believe that there is NO WAY you didn’t own at least one Leslie Gore record….Sooooo, which one was it ?
We owned all of ’em !…
“I punched my buddy in the nose after lunch”…Wha?…Hunh? Yep, that’s what the man said, that man? Robert Velline! However you know him as Bobby Vee, and that is the opening line of lyric from his fourth hit single “Stayin’ In” you may not remember him as well as some of the other Bobby’s, Jimmy’s Billy’s, or Frankie’s but Bobby Vee enjoyed 38 chart hits, 10 of them hitting the Top 20….And between 1960 and 1967 that’s more than the other Bobby’s, Jimmy’s and Billy’s combined….But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. By the time you heard about Bobby “Cold Cocking” his best friend “In the cafeteria” Bobby already had 2-3 international smashes and it’s only 1962…Yeah in a little less than two years Bobby, was a certified international “Teen Idol!…Yes, the girls were swooning and fainting, but we all privately couldn’t resist the infectious quality and consistent appeal of the songs he would choose to record! Check this out, and admit it, you have at least one of these in your collection…Devil or Angel…”Rubber Ball”… “Take Good Care Of My Baby”…The nose punching “Stayin’In”…..The night has a Thousand Eye’s…”Run To Him” and in the later years “Come Back When You Grow Up Girl” “Please Don’t Ask About Barbara”and “Love you more than I can Say” Yes, way before Leo Sayer!….Staggering and we owned all of them!…Bobby Vee alone paid the rent and kept the lights on at the Brill Building! His earliest hits were penned by Gene Pitney and John D. Loudermilk with the great Carole King and Jerry Goffin delivering his later smashes…
Ah, but the plot thickens, Bobby’s Idol and influence was the great Buddy Holly, In fact the B-Side to “Rubber Ball was Bobby’s cover of Holly’s Everyday”….With many radio programmers believing it was Buddy, they began playing it confusing matters and distracting record buyers from “Rubber Ball” Bobby’s incredible A side! Furthermore Bobby’s hit “More Than I Can Say” was written by two of the members of Buddy’s band The Crickets, Sonny Curtis and Jerry Alison!
But here is the saddest, ironic and most important connection between Bobby Vee and Buddy Holly. You are all familiar with “The Day The Music Died” when a plane carrying Buddy, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens crashed after takeoff in a winter storm in Feb. of 59! Killing all four passengers on board. The plane was en route to Moorhead Minneapolis for the first of a 24 day tour called “The Winter Dance Tour. At that point Bobby had released a regional record he wrote called “Susie Baby” a record that was clearly inspired by Holly’s “Peggy Sue,”
as you can imagine the promoter of The Winter Dance Tour was panicking…24 dates to fill and NO BAND! But the promoter heard “Susie Baby” on the radio and called Bobby ( although he was still Robert Velline) and offered him the job, Bobby and his band “The Shadows” we’re in Fargo North Dakota, so they packed up their gear and headed to Moorhead where they headlined the second night of the ill-fated tour and several nights thereafter. These dates are considered the most important period in young , 15-year-old Bobby Vee’s career for two reasons. He was offered a record deal on the spot by Liberty records and he met a piano player named Elston Gunnn…yes, that’s Gunnn with 3 N’s…Gunnn had heard about this incredible band called The Shadows with a front guy who did a mean Buddy Holly, Elston was out of work and he approached Bobby to be the piano player for The Shadows. Total Strangers Bobby asked who Elston had worked with? Elston replied by saying he just got off a tour with Conway Twitty!. Bobby needed a piano player, but he was also familiar with who was on tour and where, and he was sure that this odd guy Elston may not be telling “The Whole Truth” but…..Bobby hired him regardless, Elston Gunnn was now the piano player in Robert Velline and The Shadows. The two quickly became friends with Elston, fresh out of high school and nearly three years Bobby’s senior became a kind of mentor to Bobby and his musical direction. Things went well, but didn’t last for more than six months, ya see Elston could only play in the key of “C”
Yes dear reader, here’s the payoff Elston’s real name is Robert Allen Zimmerman…YES! Bob Dylan!
Through the years Dylan has sung the praises of Bobby Vee and on several occasions performed Bobby’s “Susie Baby”….
Bobby spoke infrequently but respectfully about his relationship with Dylan and they remained friends until we lost Bobby Vee from complications due to Alzheimer’s in 2016……Here’s “Stayin In” https://g.co/kgs/qezXuL
Were you a Bobby Vee fan?…We know you love Dylan!….Strange bedfellows, INDEED!
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In the 1960’s, when we weren’t listening to the greatest music of all time, we watched T.V ! No Hi-def flat screens with international satellite up links, just three networks and the most innovative and entertaining programming in history. Nearly all of the worlds most popular programs included opening and closing musical themes. Many of them established their own identity and remain with us, holding a place in our life and culture as powerful and memorable as much as the music we “tuned” into on the radio in The 60’s…Who hasn’t invoked “The Twilight Zone” theme anytime something weird happens? or tried to plunk out “Peter Gunn” on the piano?
……Right here, each week, we’ll focus on one of your favorite T.V. Shows from The 60’s and the GREAT MUSIC that accompanied them.
This week, SMS is going a bit “Out on a limb” sighting what we believe is thee quintessential T.V. THEME from the 1960’s ! It’s as much a part of our life experience and musical fabric as The Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys or Motown
Yes, Rod Serlings masterpiece of Science Fiction and The Bizzare, “The Twilight Zone” that ran on the CBS network from Oct. 1959 till Nov. 1964. There is no debate as to the originality and quality of this pioneering program, but it’s the program’s opening theme that has stayed with, and “haunted” us through the years and decades…
To this day, quietly whistle the simple eight note, ( de dee de de, de dee, de dee ) melody into any “Baby Boomers” ear and you’ll instantly invoke an uneasy feeling of anticipation, excitement and foreboding, as vision’s of floating eyeballs, breaking windows, and a spinning vortex with…..”E = MC 2″ drifting by…Remember? Of course you do! The theme is generally credited to composer Bernard Herrmann but, the truth is that spooky opening guitar riff was actually written by a French composer named Marius Constant and he did it as a “Work for hire” for a music library service, commissioned by CBS! Which quite simply means “Messrs. C and H” didn’t get rich from writing arguably, the coolest and most recognizable T.V. theme in history. In fact The Twilight Zone basic theme is 2 – 3 of these Library clips edited together…cut, arranged, embellished orchestrated and perfected by Mr. Herrmann!…Got it? Either way, IT REALLY WORKED !
There are several unique elements to this show, not the least of which is, unlike any other show on T.V.the program’s creator and “Head Writer” Rod Serling is as well-known and celebrated as his dream child! To this day Impressionists and comedians still do their take on the clipped speaking, intellectual, chain smoking persona of Rod Serling… “You are about to enter The Twilight Zone”
Through the years their have been countless cover recordings of the theme.. Dozens of Jazz bands, and instrumental ensembles as well as every compilation album featuring music and themes from Television. In 1980, the pop quartet Manhattan Transfer Authority had a Top 20 hit with a song they wrote called “Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone” The song held little resemblance to the shows theme, but the record opened with a re – mix and “80’s enhanced audio clip of the actual original opening from T.Z. Featuring Serlings clipped introduction…
BUT ! The version you probably remember best and likely loved was a confused and controversial hit that went to Number One in October of 1962 by “The Markettes! A Rocking Surf Instrumental with French horns and a brief-drum solo. It was called “Out Of Limits” But things got messy…
Here’s the deal, In 1962 “The Twilight Zone ” T.V. Show finally had a rival and competitor program getting traction, that show was called “The Outer Limits” And it too was an Anthology series of Science Fiction and The Bizarre…
And, here’s the rub, The Markettes record sounded nothing like “The Outer Limits theme, however, it borrowed generously from “?The Twilight Zone ” theme basing its entire arrangement on the now famous “de de de dee, de de de dee”! The Markettes had a number one record but they were now facing legal action from not just Rod Serling, but, the producers of “Outer Limits” as well, claiming copyright infringement of their title “Outer Limits” Soooo, The Markettes quickly settled with Serling and then changed the title to their huge hit to “Out OF Limits”, playing havoc with radio programmers, juke boxes and most importantly the ASCAP royalty system, if you happen to own a rare copy of “Outer Limits” check E-Bay, it’s worth a few bucks!…As the man said…”You’ve now entered The Twilight Zone”….
So now let’s take a listen to the incredible full length arrangement of the Theme from “The Twilight Zone”
AND OF COURSE WE HAVE TO HEAR..” The Outer Limits” ( or, “Out of Limits”) from The Markettes…
How about you?…Does this ring “Home” for YOU?…We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience…
Yes, Virginia, there was a ” Laurel Canyon Mafia” Laurel Canyon, a cozy hamlet centered in the low-lying Hollywood hills, looming over the infamous Sunset Strip and acting as a geographical and cultural divide between L.A.s San Fernando Valley and West Hollywood. Laurel Canyon was a veritable magnet for all creative types, most notably in the 1960’s musicians and recording artists, but the names that make up the residents, friends and neighbors of ” The Canyon” read like a murderers row of “Hitmen and Women. They made the rules, broke the rules, but unquestionably they simply ruled the world of music in the 60’s. They worked together, created together and of course slept together while consistently making the greatest music of our generation or anyone’s. So, who were ” The Laurel Canyon Mafia? Let’s see if any of these names sound familiar. The Byrds, The Doors, The Turtles, The Buffalo Springfield, The Mama’s and The Papa’s “Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young” Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Linda Ronstadt. ” The Mafia” we’re a warm welcoming gang so the residents frequently included the transient Beatle, Stone or other rock royalty, just passin’ through and “Looking for a place to crash” The legend and tales of The Laurel Canyon Mafia are notorious and numerous, so let’s begin early on when a young Richie Furay and Stephen Stills were in Laurel Canyon working on material for their new as yet unnamed band, with Bruce Palmer and Neil Young. While discussing what to call the group they were interrupted by the roar of a steamroller working outside. Looking up, they saw the machine with its manufacturer’s name emblazoned on its side… There it was “Buffalo Springfield” BAM, history made from the blast of a diesel! Years later Mama Cass invited her neighbors Graham Nash and David Crosby over for lunch, Cass insisted she instinctively knew their voices would have a magical blend if they harmonized together. Graham and David gave it a try, next door neighbor Stephen stills dropped by, added a third vocal and awesome guitar fills and BAM, right in Mama Cass’ kitchen, Crosby, Stills and Nash are born. The influence this unusual community had on the artists is undeniable. On the day Graham Nash moved in with Joni Mitchell, he wrote about it (first Verse) ” I’ll light the fire, while you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today, ay, ay, ay,” ” Our house is a very, very, very fine house” Unfortunately, as word about the community spread, Laurel Canyon became a kind of tourist attraction especially among young women hoping to meet and “get to know” their idols. Perhaps the most blatant song about the growing saga of Laurel Canyon was the final hit single from The Mama’s and The Papa’s “Twelve Thirty” written by the groups patriarch John Phillips. History will indicate that John, perhaps revealed a little too much information, admitting lyrically in the song’s chorus, ” Young girls are coming to the canyon, and in the morning I can see them walking, I can no longer keep my blinds closed and I can’t keep myself from talking”Whaddya think ? The Doors classic ” Love Street” Yup, smack dab in Laurel Canyon !…..Any stories anyone?
Meanwhile, enjoy this rare, unique and beautiful performance by Joni of her Masterpiece!
You, of course remember and loved “The First Movement of The Brandenburg concerto number three in G major” Dintja?
You should, it’s been a huge hit TWICE, although initially it was a regional hit breaking out of Germany. But, it caught fire and soon became an international favorite!
The original smash was written and performed by composer and “Keyboard player” Johann Sebastian Bach! But you’re probably more familiar with the popular cover version that hit The Billboard charts, some 200 years after Bach’s debut in the early 1700’s
In 1969, “Switched On Bach” by Walter Carlos stormed on the scene, shot into The Billboard Top 10 and began setting new records and standards. “Switched” was the first classical / instrumental album to be completely performed on a new device called “The Moog Synthesiser” The device was invented by a computer programmer named Robert Moog. His close friend at the time was Walter Carlos, a musician / songwriter working on his Masters degree in Music and Physics at Columbia University in Rhode Island. Although Moog’s basic device could produce basic “Monophonic sounds, it was Carlos who assisted Moog and introduced ideas and features which allowed The Moog Synthesiser to be more flexible and POLYPHONIC ( playing more than one note at a time ) Soon Walter, frustrated with no attention to his own music, came to the idea of an entire album of Bach compositions performed exclusively on The Moog Synthesiser!
After spending over One Thousand hours in the studio, Walter recorded and released his masterpiece in 1968 on The Columbia Masterworks Label. Music and Walters life would change forever…The public and the entertainment industry couldn’t get enough of “Switched On Bach. Dominating the Billboard Album Charts! But, get this in 1969 “Bach” shot to the number one position on the Billboard Classical Music Charts and held that lofty position for four years, till late 1973 selling well over One Million records!…
BUT NOW, “The rest of the story, while Walter was counting his money, juggling opportunities and interviews, Walter was struggling with gender confusion! Since Walter was a young boy he believed he was a girl living in a boy’s body! And now with a little money and power it was time to take action.
Walter began the process in earnest in 1967 by beginning hormone injections and therapy, by 1969 and the huge success of “Switched On Bach, the gender re-assignment process was taking its full effect, he lost facial hair, his voice and body changed!
Walter Carlos is rapidly becoming Wendy Carlos, but Walter wasn’t prepared to “come out” about his secret alter ego. To maintain a successful music career, an artist has to do a lot of personal appearances including T.V. So WENDY had to develop elaborate wigs, costumes facial attachments etc. to maintain her “Walter” persona……In 1970 Wendy made an appearance on The Dick Cavett show wearing a man’s wig, fake moustache and sideburns. This was Wendy’s standard outfit, along with sun glasses and a hat for T.V. And important meetings with Film and Music biz executives.
Walter finalized his transition in 1972 when he successfully
Completed “Sexual Reassignment Surgery” however he continued making music as Walter Carlos including writing the scores for many films like “A Clockwork Orange”, “Tron”, The Shining” and “Marooned”
It wasn’t until May 1978 that Walter Carlos announced he was “Wendy Carlos” The first Trans Gender in the music business!
…ABOVE, Wendy as Walter!….BELOW, Wendy as Wendy!
Did YOU own a copy of “Switched On Bach?
When history considers the “L.A.” or “West Coast” sounds of Southern California in the 1960’s, we tend to turn our attention to a relatively small yet incredibly prolific and powerful grouping of Artists and Musicians. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and the various other writers, artists and producers, that made up the music community referred to as “Surf Music” and perhaps more importantly the Artists that made up “The Laurel Canyon Mafia” ( details to which you can read about here at SMS )…However, as disparate and diverse these ground breaking pioneers may have been,Their music and the “Sound of L.A.” was too often critically described as “Mellow” “Laid Back” “Heady” and “Harmonic” Not necessarily bad words, however, we’re here to look at what was going on in the streets and clubs of L.A. while Brian and his brothers were catching the wave and Joni, Graham, David and Cass were setting up house in Laurel Canyon….. Ten minutes East of Pacific Coast Hwy. and at the Southern most tip of Laurel Canyon Blvd. You are there! The whisky au, go, go” the London Fog” The Trip” and “Pandora’s Box”….A little further east and there’s “The Sea Witch” ” Bido Lito’s” and The tremendous “Hullabaloo Club” The Sunset Strip was home to an energized, vital and fertile Bar and Club scene. BUT ! The music coming out of these clubs in the mid 60’s was anything but “Mellow” or “Laid back” Quite the contrary, I spent my summer of 1966 hanging, hopping, and living in these clubs with the Artists and music they housed. Meanwhile, in your consideration of the bands we’ll focus on, keep in mind that on any given night in the summer of ’66 nearly all these bands were appearing, frequently at the same club on the same bill !
Do you remember “Love” with Arthur Lee? perhaps no other L.A. Band maintained and reflected the musical and cultural diversity of the city it called home, quite like “Love” did. Remember their breakthrough single, “My Little Red Book”? Of course you do, but did you know it was written by “easy listening” oldsters Burt Bacharach and Hal David ? who some of you may claim would be the purveyors of “Laid Back” and “Mellow” BUT NO, not after Arthur Lee and “Love” got hold of it, turning it into a brain pounding, eighth note driven rhythm and melody that thumped thru your mind long after the record ended. Additionally, Arthur’s vocals have been compared to Otis Redding and even Johnny Mantis. But on “Little Red Book” to me, he simply sounded scary. And live at The London Fog club on Sunset….HE WAS !
“Love” went on to sign with Jac Holzman’s Electra records ( The first band to sign with the label ) As a credit to “Loves’ creativity and Electra’s commitment “Love” recorded and released their first three albums in only 18 months, perhaps you own one…”Love”…….”Da Capo” and what critics call their masterpiece “Forever Changes”…
Have you heard them? You need to!
However, it could be argued that the greatest contribution that Arthur Lee made to Electra records was when he convinced Jac Holzman ( Electra’s founder and CEO ) to make a visit to The Whysky au go, go and hear his friends band. His friend was Jim Morrison! Holzman was so impressed with Jim and The Doors, he offered them a deal on the spot. You know the rest of the story. ” In L.A. You know Where That’s At”
Yes !…Jim Morrison and The Doors, no doubt, your favorite from L.A. back then and without question the most successful and notorious! and no other band worked harder. They were the house band at The whisky, The London Fog and The Galaxy clubs, as well as regulars at Pandora’s Box, Bido Lito’s and The Hullabaloo club with its revolving stage and perception altering Strobe light production. On a really good night, you could catch The Doors early show at The Hullabaloo club, then hitch hike west on Sunset 2-3 miles back to The whisky and catch them closing for The Seeds or The Music Machine just prior to last call. Even in those early days there were no questions regarding Morrison and sobriety and it is an unfortunate truth that my friends and I would rush to a late Doors show, just to see how annihilated Jim could get….But, he, along with the best drummer, John Densmore, Guitar player, Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzereck in L.A, would always “tear down the house” The Doors were neither “Mellow” or “Laid back”The Doors were young, the band was incredibly TIGHT and they were writing great songs……Did you know, by the way, that “Light My Fire” was written by guitarist Robbie Krieger, not keyboardist Ray Manzerick, and it was the first song Krieger ever wrote….”In L.a. You know where That’s At”
The Seeds played everywhere, all the time. Do you remember The Seeds led by Sky Saxon? perennial Wannabe’s ! They worked hard and put on a very loud raucous show. But they just never took first position on any club stage. No one went out into the warm Hollywood summer night to SEE THE SEEDS, nope, they were there, but as the opening act. Sky’s voice was nasal, a bit whiney and the band was unremarkable, except for Keyboard player Daryl Hooper. He brought a sense of style and fashion to an otherwise drab outfit with hair to his mid back and knee-high boots “Quite the Dandy” actually. It should be noted that The Seeds were the first band to not include a Bass player in their live show. Daryl provided the bass parts by playing them on the keyboard. This is something that Ray Manzereck and the Doors got a lot of attention for doing. But it was Daryl Hooper in The Seeds that did it first. The Seeds struggled to break beyond just L.A. notoriety, but you may remember a title or two. Do you recall “I can’t seem to make you mine” ? The band and their label, Crescendo, believed in it so much they released it twice…..But, do you remember it? I’ll bet you don’t. The Seeds actually appeared and performed it on two popular T.V. Shows
“The Mothers in Law” and The Patty Duke Show, you still don’t recall it, do ya ? Furthermore those T.V. Appearances added to the bands lack of credibility. Crescendo released two more tracks Mr. Farmer” and “You’re Pushin To Hard” The latter being the one song you may remember. It received a fair amount of national attention. But The Seeds still couldn’t break thru the second place or opening act position in the So. Calif. music scene. They have been referred to as Ground Zero for garage rock and Proto Punk. Unfortunately for Sky Saxon and The Seeds, even that generous comment just isn’t true.
However, just down the street, we would stand mesmerized watching a L.A. Band that had the diversity of “Love” the darkness of The Doors and raw attitude of The Seeds……..The Music Machine. Do you recall them? I’m certain you recall and loved their third single and mega hit “Talk Talk” a mere one minute and fifty-six seconds of runaway energy, drum breaks and “fuzz” bass, all delivered by lead singer/ songwriter and founder Sean Bonniwell “Talk Talk” was sonically irresistible, and at 1:56 no disc jockey could avoid playing it. But it was the bands relentless live shows where Bonniwells vision of a Music Machine was realized. The band entirely dressed in Black, hair dyed Black and wearing one Black glove, the look and image was dark, imposing and even, yes, Surrey. However, to truly drive the point home, The Music Machine’s standard set ran One hour and ten minutes, NON STOP! That’s right Bonniwell wrote short segues to string all their songs together. No space, irrelevant banter or even a breath between songs….Just non stop, aggressive Rock, ripping your ears off and completely void of “mellow and “Laid back”. One night, at the Hullabaloo club, some joker from a rival band cut the power on the band in the middle of their set. What followed was incredible, in front of 800 dazed fans…. In silence Sean moved to the edge of the stage, proclaims “Nothing can stop a Music Machine and singularly hurls out a searing a capella performance of “Talk Talks” b-side ” Come on In”……One dark voice, under one dim spot, but as the old saying goes “There wasn’t a dry seat in the house” my friends and I held on as Sean Bonniwell brought the house down at The Hullabaloo Club….”In L.A. You Know Where That’s At”
Meanwhile, it’s time now to hitch down the street catch “Spirit”at Bido Lito’s and back to The Hullabaloo to see the closing set from “The Palace Guard”…Check out “Talk Talk”
Didja ever see them? Wereya ever there?
( SMS just hasta know )