Friday, July 18, 2008

Where were you in '62?

Midway through the film American Graffiti John Milner (Paul LeMat) and his cruising companion Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) get into a spat over a song on the radio.
As the Beach Boys "Surfin' Safari" comes on the radio Carol turns the sound up; Milner turns it down; she attempts to turn it up and he stops her with the line "I don't like that surfin' shit. Rock 'n' roll's been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died."
Carol, being at least six years younger than Milner speaks glowingly of the Beach Boys, "Don't you think the Beach Boys are boss?"

Scott Miller tackles 1962 in his latest "Music: What Happened?" entry. According to boomers, "the Sixties" didn't start until late '63 or early '64 (when JFK was assassinated or the Beatles hit America), which would put 1962 somewhere in the pre-Sixties. Around the time of American Graffiti there was a popular song called "American Pie" claiming that "the music died" when Buddy Holly died in 1959. I wasn't around, but I think of 1962 as the year the music was reborn.

I was going to do a muxtape of Scott's songs from 1962, but didn't get to it, so here's my own muxtape of songs from '62 (with some of Scott's and some he neglected to include).

Where Were You in '62?
1. The Beach Boys - "Surfin' Safari"
2. The Beatles - "Love Me Do"
3. Bob Dylan - "Mixed Up Confusion"

Exhibits A,B, and C for the case of 1962 being the year the music was reborn are that it was the year that the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan all made their recording debuts. "Surfin' Safari" was the Beach Boys' first single for Capitol -- this is an earlier version from the Lost And Found album. "Love Me Do" was the Beatles first single for EMI -- this is their June 1962 audition version with Pete Best on drums. "Mixed-Up Confusion" was slated to be Dylan's first single for Columbia (after his first album), but was shelved. It features Bob playing with a full rock band three years before he "went electric".

4. The Everly Brothers - "Crying In The Rain"
5. Elvis Presley - "Return To Sender"
6. Gene Pitney - "Liberty Valance"

By 1962, most of the first wave of rock and rollers were on the wane. Buddy Holly was dead, Elvis was making movies, and Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis had fallen from grace. The Everlys kept making music and having hits though. And even Elvis came up with the occasional gem (like "Return To Sender" from Girls! Girls! Girls!). Gene Pitney also started singing songs from movies, but "Town Without Pity" and "Liberty Valance" (from the movies of the same name) were some of the best rock/pop of the pre-Sixties. "Liberty Valance" is a Bacharach/David composition.

7. Peter, Paul, and Mary - "If I Had a Hammer"
8. The Kingston Trio - "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"

The folk boom was still booming in 1962, with huge pop hits by the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Both of these future standards were co-written by Pete Seeger, and still resonate nearly fifty years after they were written.

9. Dick Dale & the Del-Tones - "Misrilou"
10. Booker T. & the M.G.'s - "Green Onions"
11. The Tornadoes - "Telstar"

Instrumental rock was also booming in 1962. These are just three examples of that. Dick Dale's "Misrilou" was a Greek rebetiko song rearranged for electric guitar. It gained a second life thanks to Pulp Fiction, but Dick Dale is still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Booker T. and the MG's were the house band at Stax-Volt, and "Green Onions", according to Scott Miller "has had the longest continuous record for sounding utra-cool in any context on earth". "Telstar" also still sounds as cool as it ever did, and is probably the crowning glory of the late Joe Meek.

12. Cliff Richard & the Shadows - "The Young Ones"

I had one song remaining to fill my dozen, so I included this song. It wasn't a hit in the US, and most Americans probably know it as the theme to an '80s TV show. This was one of the last hits by Cliff and the Shadows before the Liverpool steamroller, which is a reminder to live and love while there are songs to be sung, because we all won't be young ones very long.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good list. I don't think a 1962 rock comp is complete without a Phil Spector production - the Crystals' "He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)" by Goffin-King or their "He's a Rebel" (written by Gene Pitney)?