Saturday, August 31, 2013

It Feels Like The First Time: 1968

A couple of weeks ago we ran an EXCLUSIVE piece by Jim Shea, former morning man at Y103.9, reflecting back on some of the musical moments that changed and impacted his life.  (We also told you that Jim had just signed a deal with Prime Magazine, who will be running these articles on a regular basis.)  In fact, there may even be a syndicated radio deal in the making, which would allow Jim tell some of these stories on the air. 

Well, when Jim saw that we were saluting the '60's in Forgotten Hits ... and 1968 in particular the other day ... he sent this one over to me ... 

We've talked many times about the diversity of musical styles that made up the '60's ... 

And there may be no greater example of this than the two artists profiled here today. 

(Could there be two further polar extremes than The Doors ... and Herb Alpert?!?!?) 

But this WAS the musical landscape, circa 1968 ... and BOTH artists had a profound effect on Jim's life. 

So ... without further adieu ... here is yet another EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK of a piece that won't be published for MONTHS anywhere else!!! 

Check out Jim's memories of 1968 ...  


The tenth in a series of essays devoted to first impressions of classic music  


In 1968 television was still a long way from splintering into channels devoted solely to say, critter hunters, or people who hoard bizarre mementos of their own filth. The extreme political positions had no channels of their own and rubbed elbows for airtime, creating turbulence. On the six o’ clock news we saw weathermen who stood like professors with pointers and paper maps with smiley faced suns. We also saw Weathermen who blew up things.

The dominance of specialized radio formats likewise was far off. For the most part radio stations just played the most popular songs. You might hear White Room by Cream followed by Love is Blue by Paul Mauriat, then Honey by Bobby Goldsboro, then Fire by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. 

Everything you knew to be true was being updated daily. As a fifth grader I was torn between wanting to feed the pyre of Mom and Dad’s world and wanting to enjoy it like fiddling Nero before it was gone forever. My best friend this particular year felt himself being tugged both ways as well as he excitedly invited me over for a major personal announcement one afternoon that summer. 

He had a bubbly, manic joy for things he loved and this day he was about to burst. He said that his announcement would be preceded by a countdown of his favorite songs, and revealed with the number one song, but first … a brief fashion show. Whaaa? He disappeared upstairs. 

When he came back down he looked like a pint-sized maharajah; a biblical boy king. This drab green one piece vestige, he explained breathlessly, was a Nehru jacket. It was weird and cool. He proceeded to play me his top 10 songs of that moment. I only remember the top two because I remember him explaining his agonizing over which he liked best. 

Number two was a song by the Doors that chillingly referenced the hapless six o’ clock news and the public’s indifference to Vietnam’s daily devouring of young blood: “breakfast where the news is read, television children fed, unborn living, living dead, bullet strikes the helmet head”. The title itself was scary enough for me, as I had recently heard a legend of the Unknown Soldier whose face was revealed like Jacob Marley in the flames above his grave.

What could top this? A slow love ballad straight from Mom and Dad’s world that he sang along with as he announced that he was in love with a girl at school and, like the singer, was going to declare. Wow! Declare! I had seen this girl at school and was prone to run a little faster at recess to impress her, but this was the extent of my game. Declare! 

“I’ve heard some talk,” he crooned, “they say you think I’m fine … yes I’m in love, who looks at you the way I do?” He was really going to do it. “I want your love (gorgeous cascading piano) I need your love”. The singer, I was told, was Herb Alpert. The fact that I knew the man did not sing but was the trumpet player on my Dad’s favorite albums added to his credibility. “Say you’re in love, in love with this guy, if not I’ll just die” He was stepping out of his comfort zone, going all in for love, risking death. 

As I recall, the actual declaration was a bit anti-climactic. Eleven - year - old girls tend to respond with the same giggly derision when they hear a knock knock joke. Dating was really not in play. Even though the relationship status was still clearly up in the air I returned from our family vacation in California with a tiny “wedding present” of a vile of gold gleaned from an attraction at Knott’s Berry Farm. 

Listening to this song and seeing how it moved my friend led me to the literal truth of love. Love of anything or anyone must be heartbreakingly declared, and everything must be wagered upon it. Love is loving yourself in the garish garb of youth. Love is as sweet and savory as a finely crafted Bacharach / David tune and as scary as an unknown soldier’s face appearing in the flames above his grave.  
-- Jim Shea