Thursday, July 16, 2009

More 1964 Memories

Kent -
Your story from this week's newsletter, written by David and titled "Countdowns", about his memories from reading "Be True To Your School", and the Scott Shannon mention about this particular week's hits in 1964, brought back a flood of memories from that summer to me, so "Thanks" for that.
I lived in Denver, and Denver was, of course, the home of Fabulous KIMN Radio, featuring DJ talent such as Ted Atkins, Hal "Baby" Moore, Pogo Poge, Jay Mack, Danny Davis and others. I hate to think I can't remember all their names ... they were in ALL our heads day in and day out, playing the hits and being our friends.
In that week of July, the band I was in, The Surfin" Classics, had just worked out that Beach Boys song "I Get Around" that David mentioned. We were playing in a lot of Denver Teen Clubs that summer, and in Colorado beer bars in the mountains, and we were thinking about changing the title to "I'll Buy A Round" ... and singing the words "Round Round Buy A Round ... I'll Buy A Round ... yeah" ... lol.
The Surfin' Classics played all the time for Frat parties in Boulder and at famous Tulagi's on The Hill there, and up in the mountains in Estes Park at Jax Snax almost every Friday night, and now and then up in the little mining town of Aspen at Galena Street East. Also I met the most beautiful girl in Denver, (and soon to be my wife) Sharon that summer, plus I had a 1953 Ford Convertible with a continental kit, plus I was in a "Boss" band, so as you can see, life was hummin' and the world was my oyster. What a summer!
Thanks for all the memories you churned up in my head Kent. Thinking back and remembering those times makes getting older a lot easier, having something to read from you and the others who write in, that focuses on those times. The Beach Boys added so much to our teen years it's incredible to me at times when I remember what great and innocent fun we had back then. I'm enclosing a recent 'remix' I did on my home studio of their hit song "Getcha' Back". I added some extra vocal and 12 string guitar tracks and boosted the highs a little. This is how The Surfin' Classics sounded back then, and soon we'd be managed and produced on Capitol subsidiary Tower Records by Roger Christian, who co-wrote "Little Deuce Coupe", "Don't Worry Baby", "Spirit of America", "Shut Down" and many other songs with Brian and also songs with Jan and Dean. If you want to, put this new 'remix' in the newsletter.
Always your fan and a regular and grateful reader,
Van Dorn
Thanks, Van Dorn, I appreciate your loyalty and support. "I Get Around" is simply a CLASSIC track ... but sometimes I think we forget or take for granted just how good it really is. It's one thing to listen to it now when it comes on the oldies stations but it was REALLY something else hearing that blast out of our radios for the very first time way back when ... when it was brand new ... an excitement I can't even put into words ... you just had to LIVE it. (I recently discussed this very topic on Jim Shea's radio show using "California Girls" as an example. Listen to that intro ... by 1965 standards, it was damn near SYMPHONIC!!! We had never heard ANYTHING quite like that in pop music up to that point in time ... Brian Wilson moved us LIGHT YEARS ahead musically and, although certainly highly regarded, I feel he sometimes doesn't get the full credit he deserves ... so much of that 1964 - 1965 period in music focuses only on The British Invasion ... but HUGE things were happening here, too, musically, with artists like The Beach Boys, Motown, The Byrds and soon, The Mamas and the Papas and Simon and Garfunkel and SO many others!)
Back then it seemed like EVERY new record was a HUGE step forward musically ... the artists literally challenged each other and the bar was raised with every new release. There was never a more exciting time in music ... and, because records typically only stayed on the charts for a month or two back then, there was ALWAYS new music coming out ... many of these artists were charting four or five singles a year ... and, in some cases, releasing as many as three albums!!! (By the '70's and '80's, artists were taking four to five years to complete a single LP!!!)
Surprisingly, as well known as it is today, "Don't Worry Baby" didn't get a whole lot of airplay back in 1964 when it was first released as the B-Side to "I Get Around", which was clearly the favored side by radio. (I've always wondered how they measured chart sales back then when two-sided hits were fairly common ... how did THEY know which side of the record we went into the record store to buy?!?!?) "Don't Worry Baby" peaked at #24 back in 1964 ... but today is probably played as much, or possibly even more often than the A-Side. (I've always wondered if it was the "intended" hit ... the picture sleeve at the time clearly showed "Don't Worry Baby" as the lead title!) It's been recorded by just about everybody since then, including a few times where The Beach Boys sang the background harmonies on someone else's record!!!

As for you guys making up your own words to "I Get Around" with "I'll Buy A Round", that, too, seems to have been a fairly common practice back then. I think we ALL did that ... and, in Bob Greene's book "Be True To Your School" (which it sounds like a bunch of you have been reading lately!), he mentions a party where he and some of his high school buddies got together and sang (to the tune of yet ANOTHER Beach Boys Hit, "Dance, Dance, Dance"):
"After five days of school, we've had enough of the class
We get a six-pack of Colt and get drunk on our ass"
"At a weekend dance, we never show up first
We gotta wait awhile so we can quench our thirst"
all brand new lyrics to THEIR song "Drink, Drink, Drink"!!!
And, finally, I'm happy to feature your latest remix on "Getcha Back" ... clearly a work in progress as you continue to tinker and fine-tune things. Thanks for sharing this one with our readers! (kk)

... and, speaking of Bob Greene's books ...

After reading about Bob's friends from '64 in his book "Be True To Your School", I thought it would be fun to look some of them up on Facebook.
Well, Kent, finding them on Facebook has proven quite interesting. Every time I search on a name from the book and find that person on Facebook, I look at that person's friends list and see more and more of the same names Bob mentions in his book. It's amazing how this network from Bexley has kept in touch - or at least has found each other online after more than 40 years. Bob, I'm seeing a book proposal here: The Bexley gang, 50 years later, courtesy of the Internet. I hope Bob's getting some real encouragement from the FH gang ... it's great that he's still writing new stuff ... lots of people care about him.
BTW, The Friday chart thing sounds like a great feature. I do agree that it was interesting how the stars aligned this week and you ran the '64 chart the day after Scott Shannon mentioned "I Get Around", and I and others have been reading "Be True To Your School". Perhaps that's a sign ....
David Lewis
Well, we're going to give the WLS Chart thing a few more tries ... maybe some of the local jocks will pick up on this and feature some of our Forgotten Hits suggestions on their programs. (Watch for a look back at 1971 on tomorrow's web page.)
If you enjoyed "Be True To Your School" ... and it sure sounds like you did ... then you've just GOT to read "All Summer Long" next. I'm quite sure that in his WILDEST dreams, Bob Greene never even IMAGINED someone having the interest ... let alone the technology ... to find some of these people via The Internet when he first published his book back in 1987 ... some twenty years ago. While "All Summer Long" is reportedly a work of fiction, it tells the story of three old friends who grew up together (in Ohio, naturally!) who decide to take a summer road trip after their 25th High School Reunion. Many of the memories shared clearly come from Bob's own youth. (In fact, you'll find a couple of "cross-over" references between these two books ... Bob is at his very best when he writes what he knows and feels in his heart ... and this era of music and Americana clearly touched him deeply.) Watch for references to the "Butter Cow" at The Ohio State Fair ... and an obvious affection for a particular Beatles song, "Things We Said Today":

FROM BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL: The stations play the greatest songs. It seems like there's all this good new stuff coming out right now, and the stations play it all the time. The whole "A Hard Day's Night" soundtrack album is always playing ... "A Hard Day's Night" ... "Tell Me Why" ... "I'll Cry Instead" ... "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" ... "I Should Have Known Better" ... "If I Fell" ... "And I Love Her" ... "Can't Buy Me Love". Plus, there's another new Beatles song that's not from the movie -- it's called "Things We Said Today" and I Like it better than any of the others. (Ironically, three of the jocks that Bob Greene listened to growing up in Ohio and mentions by name in his book ... Jim Runyon, Jim Stagg and Jerry G. Bishop ... would all make their mark here on Chicagoland radio, too!!!)

And then, his diary entry from ten days later:

I bought a new Beatles album today. It's called "Something New". A lot of the songs are the same ones that are on the "A Hard Day's Night" soundtrack ... the soundtrack was put out by United Artists records and "Something New" is put out by Capitol, the Beatles' usual label. I bought it because "Things We Said Today" is on it. That one song is worth the price of the whole album to me.
-- Bob Greene

And then this from "All Summer Long", which came out in 1993:

"I Should Have Known Better" had been playing on the car's tape deck, and it faded out and then there was the soft, insistent sound of a repetitive guitar chord, and, as if having been instructed, we fell silent. The evening had turned to full night, and there was just a touch of chill in the air, and the song we were hearing was "Things We Said Today".
It was never a huge it; it was a song on a relatively minor Beatles album called "Something New", released at the end of the summer of 1964. I don't know why "Things We Said Today" spoke to us so intensely; I suppose that is part of the magic of music --- a song insinuates itself into your life, and becomes a part of you, and you never know exactly why.
That August of '64, cruising in other cars in another town, "Things We Said Today" narrated the last days of summer for us. The song was about realizing how much you have, even as you have it, and knowing that you're in the middle of precious times. Tonight we were together again, and those voices from all those summers ago sang to us in the night:
You say you will love me, if I have to go
You'll be thinking of me, somehow I will know ...
Did we really understand back then? Did we even partially apprehend that the moments we were living through then would someday enrich our lives in ways so important that we would hardly be able to verbalize them?
Ronnie drove and none of us spoke.
Me, I'm just a lucky kind,
Love to hear you say that love is luck ...
Probably we couldn't have known; probably it was just a song. Even back then, though, even when we were just three friends on the threshold of a life we could barely imagine, that song had the ability to silence us. Even back then we would listen quietly as if someone were telling us something of consequence.
So tonight Ronnie drove on, down streets where children were growing up and people were sensing stirrings of romance and family secrets were forming. He drove down streets to which we'd never return, and we felt a little out in the open in that white convertible, three friends on a summer night. Hardly anyone else was out; a man and a woman walking hand in hand, and, on the other side of the street, five kids laughing as they hurried somewhere on foot. In the car, from all those summers back, the voices sang:
Someday when we're dreaming,
Deep in love, not a lot to say,
Then we will remember
Things we said today.
It ended, and a moment passed, and then Michael said, "I hadn't realized it was such a short song."
Depends on how you measure, I thought. How long is a song? This one had been playing, in our heads and in our hearts, for almost thirty years.
-- Bob Greene

You can add my name to the Bob Greene book club. At your suggestion, I just finished reading "When We Get To Surf City" -- and I'm now moving on to "All Summer Long" and "Be True To Your School". Just reading what you've already written about these two books makes me know that I'm going to enjoy them. Thanks to Bob Greene for expressing our memories so well -- and to Forgotten Hits for sharing them with us.
Mike Davis
"When We Get To Surf City" was the first Bob Greene book I ever read. (Actually, that's not entirely true ... I seem to remember reading his Michael Jordan book way back when but that one was devoted to a very specific topic.) What makes "When We Get To Surf City" ... and books like "All Summer Long" and "Be True To Our School" so special for OUR audience is EXACTLY what you just said ... Bob has a way of expressing those memories in a way that we ALL can relate to ... they truly ARE shared memories. Clearly, this era of music had a profound and long-lasting effect on Bob ... and while "When We Get To Surf City" is MOSTLY about life on the road with The Jan and Dean Band, it ALSO captures the spirit of what made this music so great and enjoyable in the first place. As soon as I read it, I contacted Bob and told him that he was going to LOVE Forgotten Hits and just HAD to get on our list ... basing it on nothing more than how well he conveyed his message in his book. He's been a devoted reader ever since and has told me about a number of people he's met this past year who have told him that they picked up a copy of his book thanks to the good reviews they'd read in our little newsletter. Well, it's real EASY to write a good review when the book is as powerful as this one is ... it SPEAKS to us and I believe that ALL of our readers will enjoy all three of the above-mentioned titles. While we may not yet challenge Oprah's Book Club, it makes me feel good to know that so many of you have trusted OUR instincts on this material and picked up copies for yourselves. Again ... the power of music shines through each and every time. (kk)

By the way, Bob Greene's LATEST book is now available online and at book stores everywhere ... "Late Edition: A Love Story" looks back at the glory days of the newspaper ...

("You remember newspapers, right??? It's what they had before blogs."

-- Craig Ferguson last night after Paul McCartney's appearance on The David Letterman Show.)

Certainly a topic that Bob knows well from his own illustrious career ... and once again he promises to take us back to that musical era that we all know and love so well.

And, real quick ... speaking of Paul McCartney's appearance last night on David Letterman ... was it just me or was some of that the most uncomfortable, awkward interviewing you've ever seen??? Both these guys are seasoned pros yet Letterman came off as a complete doofus with his line of questioning ... and it looked like McCartney was getting more than a little irritated on at least a few occasions. We expected more ... so Paul, if you're reading this today ... and I KNOW you are ... drop us a line and we'll give you The Forgotten Hits Treatment ... we'd LOVE to talk to you!!! (Although I have to admit that I really DID like Letterman asking him about the whole "Paul Is Dead" thing after all these years!!! lol)