November 23, 2018

I Can Name That Song In 3 Notes

It is a holiday weekend in the U.S. So, something a little on the light side:


First radio job at 15
 For a dozen years I made my living as a rock and rock DJ. It was an exciting time of my life. My parents weren't too happy when I used a different name on the air, but they understood the need to keep the real me separate from the radio me.

Music was my job. I'm willing to bet it was an important part of your life, too, even if you weren't making a living that way. Studies show that the music you hear in your teens and early 20's becomes the music you take with you for the rest of your life.

 While you are likely to enjoy different styles of music as you age, those songs on the radio during high school and college became part of who you are. Music has an incredible power to trigger memories and feelings like almost nothing else.

Recently, I was looking at a list of some of the top songs of the 1960's and 70's. It occurred to me that some of the song titles were perfect representatives of how we thought and felt during that time. As the years advanced, the changes in society and culture could also be marked by the music. Just for fun I picked a handful of songs to make my point.

I Want To Hold Your Hand.  I can still remember where I was when I heard this song for the first time. I was listening to a transistor radio hidden under my pillow well past my school day bedtime when the song played. The Beatles sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. Instantly I was captivated. At age 14 radio suddenly became my constant companion.  While the music was up tempo and loud and different, the lyrics were not much different from the rest of the songs of that time. The focus was on innocence, acceptable limits of contact, and a form of chaste puppy love. Two of the biggest hit songs of the late 50's were April Love and Young Love. Their message was really no different from the one sung by the Beatles. Upheaval and rebellion were yet to come.



Ballad of the Green Berets. Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler had a number one song in 1966, extolling the bravery and glory of the Green Beret soldiers. This song reflected the mood of the country: military service was an honorable way to serve the United States, and Vietnam had not yet become a political land mine. The song was used in a movie of the same name staring John Wayne. Society was only a year away from the Beatles openly singing about drugs and the rumblings of discord on college campuses.



To Sir with Love. From the movie of the same name, British artist, Lulu, sang of respect for teachers and authority. She was expressing appreciation for an adult figure who helped change her outlook on life. The one interesting subtext in the song was the message of interracial tolerance and acceptance. Though the teacher in the movie was black (Sidney Poitier), Lulu's character in the movie didn't care. While the other students were less than open about having a black man as a teacher, she simply accepted what he could teach her.  During the time this song was released (1967) racial tensions in the U.S. and the rest of the world were building toward a climatic event just one year later in Memphis.



People Got to be Free. Only a few years earlier the Rascals had sung about Good Lovin'. Now, in 1968, the mood of the country had begun to sour. The riots in Chicago were only a few months in the future. The assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were soon to occur. The tide had begun to turn against the Vietnam war and the government. The Beatles were experimenting with LSD, and the movie Easy Rider became an instant hit among the young, glorifying a lifestyle of easy love, drugs, travel, and no responsibilities.



Songs demanding social change became an important part of rock radio. Ohio, about the shooting at Kent State helped propel Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to stardom. Edwin Starr sang against War. Helen Reddy became a feminist icon with her hit, I am Woman. Music was angry, aggressive, and demanding changes.

Flash forward almost a decade. The Vietnam war was history. The campus riots and political tensions had stopped. The gas shortage of the early 70's had faded from memory. The country's mood had changing dramatically since the late 1960's.

Music that was meant for dancing and sex took over the airwaves. The Bee Gees dominated the charts with the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever and #1 songs like You Should be Dancing and Staying Alive. Such a heavy use of falsetto hadn't been as popular since the early days of Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons. 

Everything was about the beat. Lyrics of disco songs were either unimportant, or strongly sensual. Society had become liberated in a way that made I Want to Hold You Hand look like a song from another lifetime. Rod Stewart wanted to know if you "Think I'm Sexy."  The group Exile wanted to "Kiss You All Over."



As the 1970's ended disco faded away. The 1980's began with hard rock groups like Queen, solo superstars Madonna and Michael Jackson and country flavored artist Kenny Rogers. There was a variety to the types and styles of music that radio hadn't played since the early 1960's.

I trust the handful of songs and artists I've highlighted began prompting memories from that jukebox in your mind. What songs had special meaning to you growing up during this time? Which groups or artists dominated your singles and LP collection? What about Elvis, Motown, Simon and Garfunkel, Three Dog Night, or The Righteous Brothers? Do you remember You're So Vain, Wild Thing, or Paint it Black?



8 track tapes...Do you still have any?


26 comments:

  1. Oh wow. I know all the songs above, but I went a very different direction. I liked a little bit everything but was a HUGE Motown fan in the 60s and early 70s, especially the Temptations, the Four Tops, and Gladys Knight and the Pips, and had the good fortune to see all of them live. I loved, loved, loved Crosby, Stills & Nash and CSN&Y and also got into Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and other bands, too many to name, and my love for screamin' guitars persists - my all-time favorite musician is Stevie Ray Vaughn (RIP). I never became a metal fan though. These days I like rap and hiphop along with my old rock favorites. One of the side benefits of having children later in life is that they have kept me somewhat up-to-date on what's going on in current music, and it's also been interesting to see what they like from the "older stuff."

    Our son is an expert on 1980s music, and has over 4000 CDs (with stuff from other decades mixed in), along with lots of vinyl and cassette tapes. He listens daily to his entire CD collection, in alphabetical order and it now takes him over a year to go through it all. He listens to every genre though, country through heavy metal along with quite a bit of Japanese stuff. You and he could probably have some interesting conversations!

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    1. 4,000 is a lot of CDs. Yes, I am sure we count play "name that tune" and have fun.

      Today, I listen to a wide variety of music and depend on Spotify to introduce me to new artists that I might like.

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    2. I have about 600 vinyl albums in boxes in the basement, I was in the process of digitizing them but along came Spotify and there's no need for that. I also loaded all my CD's (at least 100) into my system, however, I mostly get them from Spotify now. One thing I do miss is the album art, lyric sheets and other paraphernalia that used to come with albums. A bygone era.

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    3. I burned several hundred CDs onto an iPod, but rarely listen since streaming music is so simple and varied.

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  2. I am with you Laura. Though I could appreciate it I was never a big fan of Motown but The Who were the first live band I ever saw and what a place to start! I became quite dispirited with popular music as the 70s became all disco sounds until The Clash came along and shook things up big time in the final years of that decade. These days I am more into Jazz and on occasion Baroque but it's all good.

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    1. Luckily, by the time my on air period ended disco was just beginning so I never had to play such classics as "Disco Duck" and "Kung Foo Fighting."

      As a DJ I got to spend time with artists like Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Jethro Tull, and Grand Funk. It was fun as a 20-something year old. I have no idea how some of these people are still alive and still touring!

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  3. Meaatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" album and Steve Earle's Copperhead Road are classics for me. I really do believe that my grandchildren's grandchildren will appreciate those "classics". I was listening to a radio program last week that was playing songs from the late 60's/early 70's, my teen years. I felt at home listening to some of that old rock - Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin, The Byrds. When I was a young teenager we listened to the top ten on the radio in the evening when we were allowed to change the radio dial to our local rock station. I listen to many genres of music although I don't like to put any music in a box. Good music is good music; it's so subjective.

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    1. I am biased, but still believe the lyrics and structure of the music was classic, in that it will be played for many more decades because of the melodic hooks and simplicity of the songs.

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  4. Lot of memories, Bob. I definitely epitomize your comment around the music of your teens and early 20s defining your taste for life. As for rock I am steeped in the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s, and the softer sounds before that largely from the Motown stars. I also seemed to continually go somewhat against the grain in which groups I liked versus the majority of people. While most people were huge Beatles fans, I preferred the Rolling Stones ("Sticky Fingers" is an amazing album, not only for the fast, up tempo songs, but the influence they had by being friends with Gram Parsons at the time - can you see the country rock influence of "Wild Horses"?). While many think "Stairway to Heaven" was the greatest rock song of that era, I don't believe it can hold a candle to "Layla" by Derek and the Dominos. I was also a huge Band fan (I still listen to "The Weight" almost every day and watch "The Last Waltz" now and then) as well as the Allman Bros. And as for the softer sounds of that era, many people preferred "Let it Be" by the Beatles (a pretty simplistic song if you ask me), while I thought it could not hold a candle that year to "Bridge over Troubled Waters" by Simon and Garfunkle.

    As a sidelight a couple of songs, among thousands, that had some special significance but probably wouldn't be on too many peoples list:

    1. "It's Too Late" by Carole King. First year at school (1971) it was the favorite song and album of a girl I met who would wind up being my wife today of 40 years next May. Deb also listened to Melanie a lot, and I have to admit she had a heck of a voice, particularly on "Lay Down".

    2. "Lost in the Ozone Again" by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airman. I plunked that in at the end of the school day every Friday night at the dorm, and it just set the stage for all hell breaking loose all weekend. I say plunked because it was, after all, an 8-track album.

    I could go on since I had so many great tunes I listened to, and experiences to go along with them, but in the interest of brevity I'll stop here.

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    1. Hot Rod lIncoln was the Commander Cody song I remember. Carole King's Tapestry LP was one of the best albums of all time. She started writing hit songs for others at age 16!

      Lyrically, Simon and Garfunkel were leagues above most of their contemporaries.

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    2. Enjoyed the Carol king mus!ical a few weeks ago. I don't know how many times my cousin and I looked at each other and said - I didn't know she wrote that!

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    3. BIG Rolling Stones fan here too - my first all-to-myself album was "Between the Buttons" and I always preferred them to the Beatles. Also loved Commander Cody - my brother and I nearly wore out our shared "Lost in the Ozone Again" album!

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  5. I got my musical start in the mid-70's. I clearly remember the first song on the radio that really captured me being "Band on the Run" by Wings. Saturday afternoons were spent listening to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 and his long distance dedications. I also recall getting ready for baseball games with my best buddy to "Lido Shuffle" and "Breakdown Dead Ahead" by Boz Scaggs. Later I became a huge Billy Joel fan and also enjoyed the new wave stuff of the early 80's, which my sons still mock me for. Someday I will get them educated. Today I like all kinds of music, including harder stuff like the White Stripes and Pearl Jam.

    Like Laura, we have two sons who are huge music fans and do their best to keep us up to date on new music. Their tastes range from old school classic rock to hip hop to folkie singer-songwriter stuff. My wife grew up listening to a lot of classical and opera. so it's quite an eclectic playlist when we all get together. Apple Music is a wonderful thing!

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    1. I chuckle when someone says "old school" and means the 80's or 90's. Devo, Soft Cell, Human League, Tears for Fears...all quite groundbreaking for their time.

      Streaming and Satellite music have contributed the death of music stores and CDs. But, what tremendous resources.

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  6. I pretty much ignored everything in the rock-and-roll arena. I started seriously listening to music in the early1960s. That was the time when it was a battle between Pat Boone and Elvis. I trended towards Boone. Then when I went to college in 1965 I was introduced to folk music ant that was it. Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Simone & Garfunkle, Guthrie,Donavan, Don McClean.

    I haven't heard music since 1988 and don't know much about any of it. I totally missed out on 'Rap'. But I still carry around sheets of paper with the lyrics of "Sound of Silence", "I am a Rock", "A hard rains gonna fall", "Where have all the soldiers gone..." When I'm alone I sing them. I'm sure I sound terrible but that is ok as I can't hear myself either... Ha.

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    1. You have missed nothing without experiencing Rap. The lyrics of the artists you mentioned are so powerful I can certainly understand you singing them in whatever way is pleasing to you. You may be deaf, but the music lives on within you.

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    2. My own music journey was rather interesting. Like you, RJ, I started listening to music when the music was very white and very safe (Pat Boone, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vee). In my radio career I began playing everything from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles on the first few stations. Then, top 40 rock, followed by beautiful music (called elevator music by many). That segued into soft AC, a touch of country, and then classic rock and oldies.

      Radio was a great place to be exposed to a wide variety and learn appreciation for each.

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    3. I have to say I was never a fan of rap (and still wouldn't really consider myself one) but our boys have taken the time to play it for my wife and me, and the intricacy and meaning of the lyrics can also be very powerful and interesting once you listen to it.

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  7. I like all music from classical to Ganstas Paradise..in the modern stuff I prefer classical and blues, Motown and showtunes. And my kids have been educated in that vein. The Rolling Stones are coming in May and on the one hand I know it's my last chance. On the other hand, stadium seating, man.

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    1. I saw the Stones in 1965 in one of their first American appearances...they were the warm up act to Herman's Hermits. How things have changed (and not changed) in 50+ years!

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  8. I remember all those songs! I was a big Motown fan, and My Girl was my first special song with a boyfriend.

    However, your post title brought back other memories. In a college music history course I took, the teach liked to torment us with tests on identifying pieces of classical music. Okay, fair enough, but he would choose a few seconds that did not include any identifying theme. For example, he would play a short transition in the second or third movement. That is only one example of his professorial sadism!

    Anyway, back to happier music memories!

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    1. Teachers like that can ruin any subject. As you well know, a good teacher teaches a student how to think and analyze, not just to memorize. I bet you were a very different kind of teacher when it became your turn.

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  9. My husband and I laugh that his days in Vietnam were spent listening to the same music as I did in Junior High. By high school I gravitated to the folk music (although I did see the Rolling Stones and later Queen in concert). Celebrity Theater had season tickets---and I worked to buy them three years in a row---Harry Chapin, Loggins and Messina, Carol King, Billy Joel, the list was long. I also was at the concert for the Phoenix preserve---Barbara Streisand, Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, Carpenters....three days of 1976 music.
    Now we have a record player and play our albums for work outs. Again, my husband laughs. While I was earning money babysitting, and buying albums, he was on the road with a ruck sack in Vietnam and then in Alaska- living the life that so many wrote about. Both of us can "name that song" from just about anything from 1966-79.

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    1. Fascinating how music bonded the two of you...through very different times of life. As you probably know, Celebrity Theater is still quite active and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. Actually, it began life as the Star Theater, opening in 1964.

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  10. I have always loved music, and it continues to be an important part of my life. However, when I was a teenager coming of age in the early 70’s in a fairly remote part of the Canadian north, it was hard to access contemporary music. We could not get FM, and had only two radio stations - CBC, the national radio station, and a local station that had a small playlist that was 5-10 years out of date. We had one record store in town. Eventually, I joined the Columbia record club, and received an album a month, by mail. Not surprisingly, my small collection was rather eclectic: the Beatles (Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Cat Stevens (every album), Three Dog Night, Led Zepplin, Willie Nelson, Joni Mitchell, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, Don McLean (American Pie), David Bowie (Space Oddity), Bob Dylan, Chilliwack, Osibisa. My close friends at the time also listened to Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, Paul McCartney and Wings, Gordon Lighfoot, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, and John Denver, so those albums also were burned into my brain, along with what my younger brothers were listening to: the Rolling Stones, Queen, KISS, BTO, Rod Stewart, and Frank Zappa. And of course, the local radio station was pumping out: Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town, and It’s My Party, and any number of country and western tunes.

    When I moved to the city at eighteen, I discovered the Blues and Jazz! Taj Mahal, Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Alberta Hunter, J. J. Cale. Blues continues to be my favourite genre, along with Jazz, Folk, and Oldies.

    Thanks for the walk down a musical memory lane.

    Jude

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    1. You are welcome. I'd say your musical universe is rather eclectic, which is a good thing. There is so much good music that we miss because we tend to listen to just what we know.

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