Back in December LL2RNR asked folks who have written for us to start thinking about 5 songs that they have loved “their entire life.” If this seems like a strange or unusual request to you, then you should probably just stop reading this blog now.
Good ‘ol Carl was the first to come through on this request and so his list goes up first. We apologize greatly for the lack of posts lately. It ain’t easy keeping up with a blog.
P.S. Happy New Year! Happy Birth Month Carl!
I will be 58 in January, so I figure anything I loved prior to turning a world-weary six years old in 1966 is fair game, provided I still love it now as I did then.
And there is indeed quite a lot I loved a lot, and never stopped loving. I mean, 1966 through 1968 encompasses a wonder world of pop music. The ensuing years and decades brought me even more. But for me, it all started before that. It was a decent time to be an apprentice pop fan, eagerly learning whatever the radio, the TV, and the family record player could teach me. 1966 would bring a whole new cascade of personal discoveries: Batman, The Monkees, Marvel Comics, Lesley Gore, my first plane trip, my first surgery, and my first broken heart (courtesy of six-year-old Suzette Mauro). Before I turned six in ’66? Here are but five among many that have never left me.
CAST OF WEST SIDE STORY: “America”
My earliest memories stretch back to 1963, when I was three years old. I have no conscious memory of a time before I loved music. It’s likely there never was any time when I didn’t love music. As a little, little kid, I used to pick up 45s and spin them on my fingers, pretending I was a record player, warbling the single aloud as it “played” in my hand.. The fact that I could match the 45 with the correct song convinced many that I could read at the age of three or four, but I’d memorized which label went with which catchy tune. I also loved my parents’ Broadway show LPs; I was known to blurt out lyrics at inopportune moments in public, like the time I was in a department store and loudly and proudly sang out the line “Here’s to the son of a B, tra la!” from Carnival (which is still one of my favorite plays). Yeah, I was a joy to be around. My favorite show album was actually the movie soundtrack from West Side Story. I didn’t understand its urban milieu, social commentary, and Romeo & Juliet storyline until many years later; I dug the tunes immediately. “Gee, Officer Krupke” was my favorite, but I loved the song “America” nearly as much, and it has stayed with me ever since.
EYDIE GORME: “Blame It On The Bossa Nova”
Both of my parents worked. I often stayed with my Godparents the Klusyks, my Aunt Connie and Uncle Nick. I remember their house in Westvale, in Syracuse’s Western suburbs. I remember my first girlfriend, four- or five-year-old Mary Rose Tamborelli, who lived across the street from the Klusyks. I remember Mary Rose’s older brother playfully popping a toy percussion cap with his baseball bat in the Klusyk’s garage. I remember the neighborhood teens and/or pre-teens having a party one evening in the Klusyks’ basement, with li’l toddler me right down there with them, helping the big kids listen to their Four Seasons records; the music got too loud, and the adults killed the light as a warning to the kids to quiet down already. I was afraid of the dark, and this move freaked me out, prompting me to wail, upset and inconsolable. I remember the sight of my parents’ car pulling into the Klusyk’s driveway to take me home at the end of one of my Westvale stays. Good times.
But my most prominent memory of life at stately Klusyk Manor remains music with my Aunt Anna. Aunt Anna was Uncle Nick’s sister, and she lived with Uncle Nick and Aunt Connie. Every week day that I was there, I would greet Aunt Anna when she got home from work with one simple, urgent request: “Records, Aunt Anna!” Aunt Anna had 45s. I wanted to hear those 45s, again and again. I specifically remember Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist” as a Fave Rave, and ditto for “Downtown” by Petula Clark. I’m sure she had some Beatles records, too. My favorite songs were “Who Stole The Keeshka?” by Frankie Yankovic and “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” by Eydie Gorme. I can’t even tell you for sure whether or not those were among Aunt Anna’s 7″ slabs o’ bliss, but the memories of all of this–all of this–dovetail together so pleasantly in my mind, a happy image of music and love, a heaven on Earth abruptly terminated when Aunt Connie died in 1965. I was devastated, and this early lesson in mortality haunted me throughout the rest of my childhood. Even today, though, hearing “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” brings a smile, and transports me back to a cherished time I recall with affection and surprising clarity.
THE BEATLES: “A Hard Day’s Night”
Even four-year-olds knew The Beatles in 1964. The Beatles were synonymous with pop music, with radio. “All My Loving” was an early favorite, sung by that guy I thought was named Paul MilkCartoney. But the whole giddy sense of Beatlemania is best represented by “A Hard Day’s Night,” the title tune from a movie I saw with my brother, sister, and cousins at The North Drive-In in Cicero in ’64. All the girls in all the cars were screaming at the images on screen. I’ve often pointed to that experience as one of my three prevailing pop music epiphanies (along with hearing “Sheena Is Punk Rocker” by The Ramones and seeing a live show by The Flashcubes). Aside from a few brief moments of doubt in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there has never really been a time when I didn’t regard The Beatles as the greatest group in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
THE ROLLING STONES: “Get Off Of My Cloud”
1965 was pop music’s best year ever. I didn’t truly start to appreciate the year’s bounty until more than a decade later, when I began to discover essential ’65 gems by The Kinks, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Buck Owens, The Yardbirds, The Beau Brummels, The Byrds, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Fontella Bass, The Small Faces, The Dixie Cups, The Vogues, The Who, The Zombies, The Miracles, The Hollies, George Jones, Stevie Wonder, and so, so many more. Whatta year! The best stuff was popular, and the popular stuff was the best.
Even if I had to wait until teendom to understand the splendor that was all around me when I was five, there was still much I knew as it happened. I certainly knew “Get Off Of My Cloud.” I may not have had reason to believe The Rolling Stones were substantively different from contemporary hitmeisters like The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, The Castaways, or Gary Lewis & the Playboys, but I remember that voice bellowing out of transistor radios: Don’t hang around boy, two’s a crowd! At five, I thought the twisting of the familiar “Two’s company, three’s a crowd” maxim was interesting. This record was probably my introduction to the idea of a song having swagger.
THE T-BONES: “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)”
One of 1965’s final hit records was a cover of the music from an Alka Seltzer commercial. See? Best pop year ever! Granted, The T-Bones‘s “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” was really a 1966 hit–its Billboard chart peak at # 3 was in February of ’66–but it was released in December 1965, so…close enough, I say. I had the 45 on the Liberty Records label, and it was The Greatest Record Ever Made. I’d play that sucker on the family hi-fi, dancing around our little living room as the song created images in my daydreamin’ little head. I would close my eyes. I swear, I could see the music. I saw colors, shapes, figures, even a brightly-garbed clown a-boppin’ and a-swayin’ to the tune. I was a weird kid. Still am. Almost fifty-two years later, the music still means as much to me as it meant when I was five, and as when I was three, when I was twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, thirty-six, forty, fifty, and on down the dark and twisting path ahead of me. It’s best played loud. No matter what shape.