About Me

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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

SINGERS, SUPERHEROES, AND SONGS ON THE RADIO: My Life In Pop Culture, Part 2

Continuing my reminiscence of listening to records and reading comic books while growing up in the 1960s.  Part 1 is HERE


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1965 was pop music's best year ever.  Exhibit A for that claim is the list of records that hit # 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart that year.  1964 was pretty great, too, and so was 1966, but every single one of Billboard's # 1 hits in '65 was, at the very least, a better-than-decent pop single, and many of them were out-and-out classics:  "I Feel Fine" by The Beatles; "Downtown" by Petula Clark; "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by The Righteous Brothers; "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys; "My Girl" by The Temptations; "Eight Days A Week" by The Beatles; "Stop! In The Name Of Love" by The Supremes; "I'm Telling You Now" by Freddie and the Dreamers; "Game Of Love" by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders; "Mrs, Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits; "Ticket To Ride" by The Beatles; "Help Me, Rhonda" by The Beach Boys; "Back In My Arms Again" by The Supremes; "I Can't Help Myself" by The Four Tops; "Mr. Tambourine Man" by The Byrds; "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones; "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" by Herman's Hermits; "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher; "Help!" by The Beatles; Barry McGuire's epic everything-sucks anthem, "Eve Of Destruction;" "Hang On Sloopy" by The McCoys; "Yesterday" by The Beatles; "Get Off Of My Cloud" by The Rolling Stones; "I Hear A Symphony" by The Supremes; "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by The Byrds; and "Over And Over" by The Dave Clark Five.

When you back up all of the above with more '65 smashes by The Kinks, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, The Animals, The Turtles, The Beau Brummels, Buck Owens, The Who, The Vogues, Roger Miller, The Yardbirds, The Zombies, Gene Pitney, The Dixie Cups, The Ad Libs, Otis Redding, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Strangeloves, The Fortunes, Stevie Wonder, The Hollies, Jay and the Americans, The Sunrays, The Miracles, The Searchers, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, The Ivy League, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, Edwin Starr, Mavin Gaye, The Impressions, The Castaways, and a long list of others...well, you can understand why years later the British group The Barracudas saluted that miracle year with a song called "I Wish It Could Be 1965 Again."

(Oh, let's also throw in the fictional group The Wonders, and their faux-'65 hit "That Thing You Do!" Because we can.)

Oddly enough, I remember the music of 1964 with far more clarity than the music of '65.  Even though I was only four years old in '64, the pop culture juggernaut of The Beatles planted a huge, Cuban-heeled bootprint on the musical landscape; if you turned on a radio or a TV set in '64, you heard The Beatles, and you knew it.  I also remember The Dave Clark Five's "Bits And Pieces" from '64, but the only '65 records I remember contemporaneously are "Save Your Heart For Me" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, "Liar, Liar" by The Castaways, "King Of The Road" by Roger Miller, "Down In The Boondocks" by Billy Joe Royal, maybe some Herman's Hermits, and--of course!--the Whipped Cream & Other Delights LP by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.  I mean, the record had a naked girl on the cover, slathered in (fake) whipped cream--of course I remember it!

But, as '65 became '66,  my very favorite record was a rock instrumental based on an Alka-Seltzer commercial, "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)" by The T-Bones.  I put this Liberty 45 on my parents' hi-fi and danced to it every day.



1966 would also bring new favorites by The Bobby Fuller Four ("I Fought The Law"), Nancy Sinatra ("These Boots Are Made For Walkin'"), The Mamas and the Papas ("Monday, Monday"), Tommy James and the Shondells ("Hanky Panky") and The Royal Guardsmen ("Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron"), as well as music from a new TV show called The Monkees, which debuted in September of '66.  We'll be discussing The Monkees in due time.

For me, however, music in 1966 had to make room for my newest addiction:  superheroes.  I've written about the effect the Batman TV show had on six-year-old me HERE ; for now, suffice it to say that Batman hooked me, body and soul, on costumed crimefighters.  Prior to 1966, my parents would occasionally take me to J.M. Fields department store, and allow me to pick out one or two 45s to bring home.

But no longer!  Now, I wanted to go to Sweetheart's Corner grocery store instead, and grab two superhero comic books off the spinner rack.  (Though Fields had opened a department specifically for Batman merchandise, so they didn't lose any money on my switch.)  This is a mere handful of the comic books I remember owning in 1966 and '67:

 




That big issue of Superboy # 129 right above?  That was my favorite comic book when I was a kid.  We'll discuss that one at length another time.

Although I obviously bought a lot of DC Comics--Batman!  Superman!  Superboy!--I was not opposed to picking up superhero books from other publishers.  I was 6 and 7; I didn't know there were different comics publishers.  My first Marvel comic book was probably Tales To Astonish # 80, co-starring The Sub-Mariner and The Incredible Hulk.  

When I was a kid, we spent time most summers in Southwest Missouri, where my mother had grown up, and where my grandparents still lived.  I remember being in a grocery store in Aurora, Missouri in the summer of '66, trying to decide between three comic books:

 

Mom told me to buy the Batman and be done.  I did pick up the Tales To Astonish a little later that same summer (at a small general store in Verona, Missouri), but never owned a copy of that issue of Justice League Of America until much, much later.  And I wouldn't read my first issue of JLA until the following summer.

But if a fluke kept me from discovering the Justice League, I did discover one superhero group while in Missouri that summer of 1966.  It was an older comic book, from 1965, but my sister Nina and cousin Cheryl had found a copy while out on a walk, and brought it back for me to read.  My superhero universe was about to get even bigger.
 

 
NEXT:  Bigger!