Category Archives: 1960s Movies

#150 – Bus Stop

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#150 – Bus Stop by The Hollies

Waiting for a bus?

– After almost five decades of listening, this classic pop song suddenly took on an entirely new meaning for me. There was nothing about the recording that had changed. It was still the original by The Hollies, who have always been one of my favorite British Invasion bands. And I’m pretty sure most of their first generation fans still pull up images of young love at bus stops every time they hear it.

And most likely, they’re thinking of the stops where they were waiting for a school bus while listening to this one on portable transistor radios.

But those similar types of memories have taken a backseat to what I now think about whenever Bus Stop hits on my personal playlist. Usually, that’s quite often. But for some reason I hadn’t heard this 1966 Top Ten hit in quite a while. Maybe it’s because of my recent memories? Well…, that’s doubtful because it’s a great song with a catchy tune. But when I woke up with these great harmonies and raga-style guitar riff (Indian music was a fad in 1966) in my head on November 17th, it was queued up in the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

Forty-nine years after The Hollies recorded and released Bus Stop, our triple threat (actor / singer / dancer) son Dangerous Paul was going into his junior year at a highly respected music conservatory in Cincinnati, Ohio. For some reason, the genius (have you ever heard of sarcasm? I just used it…) of a department head scheduled auditions for ALL the musical productions that would be performed during the entire school year on the FIRST day the students returned from summer break.

If for any reason a student missed these written in stone auditions, they could kiss goodbye any chance for a decent lead or supporting role in every production that year. If they couldn’t return to the conservatory in time, they might as well take their high-priced tuition money and flush it into the Ohio River.

A boomer box office smash hit!

For some students, this schedule wouldn’t be a problem. But for Dangerous Paul and many others who had been practicing their craft in musical theater productions around the country, the return trek to campus for these ultra-important auditions could play out like a favorite boomer movie, The Great Race. And if you’re not familiar with this 1965 Blake Edwards classic starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, I suggest you head to your library and find a copy in the classic film section.

Dangerous Paul had spent his summer playing the role of Link Larkin in a production of the musical Hairspray. It was in a beautiful summer lake resort in Maine that had only one strike going against it. The final performance of the show was the night before his afternoon auditions in Cincinnati. Oh yeah, I guess strike two could be called because airline flights out of the area and to Cincinnati were not frequent and very expensive.

Oh… okay… Strike three – he needed his car to get from the airport to his on campus auditions, and his parents, played in this classic boomer adventure by my wife Drivin’ Deb and myself – had it with us in Chicago.

So, The Great Race was on…

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We drove the car to the Cincinnati Airport, which is actually in Kentucky. To me, that begs for a joke. But there’s really no need because the real laughs are coming soon enough anyway. Dangerous Paul and a few fellow cast members made the late night drive through the woods of Maine to an airport in New Hampshire, made various flight connections and landed in Cincinnati (okay, Kentucky) with hardly any time to spare. We were waiting for him and did The Great Race to campus where he made the auditions.

In the meantime, after delivering Dangerous Paul’s car for the school year, Drivin’ Deb and I sat in his off-campus apartment trying to figure out how we’d make it back to Chicago. We found out very quickly the airfares were outrageous, the car rental fees were ridiculous, and passenger trains didn’t seem to have a direct route (and they also weren’t cheap).

Finally, I hit on a different idea.

Our ride

During our drive we had seen colorful buses that advertised super cheap fares. By that I mean, starting at one dollar and not moving that far up in price. We googled the company, found a number for reservations and purchased two cheap tickets home. The bus from Cincinnati to Chicago only made the trip once per day and our Bus Stop pick up was eight o’clock the next morning.

Drivin’ Deb and I stayed in a hotel downtown and made a night out of it at the local casino playing penny slot machines. We figured rest wouldn’t be a problem on the bus and planned to sleep during the seven hour ride to Chicago.

If only…

After only a few hours of shut eye in the hotel bed, we grabbed our bags, took a cab to the designated bus stop corner and found a long queue already waiting. And yes – I’m borrowing the British term for “line” used in the Hollies song because it fits with this topic. With the wait lasting past our promised time of departure, a car finally pulled up and stopped. A woman got out and announced – for whatever reason – the new bus stop has been moved to a corner across the street. Along with our fellow queue members we dragged our suitcases to the designated promised land, and again waited.

A long HOT wait!

Probably about an hour after it had been promised, our transportation arrived.

At this point, it should be noted this was a late August day in Cincinnati. We’re talking southern Ohio where it’s not unusual for the temperature to ride in the high nineties with enough humidity in the air to turn the outdoors into a steam room. By the time we started boarding the bus, all I could think about was getting off and taking another shower – after taking a needed nap, of course.

I don’t remember if it was a general announcement made to everyone, or someone had overheard the bus driver talking on his phone. Either way it doesn’t matter because the next glitch in our travel plans was this colorful bus having a broken air conditioner. The options were to sit by an open window or wait for the next bus – which wouldn’t be until the next day. Most of our group decided to sit on the upper level of the double-decker that had air vents – similar to car sunroofs. At least we could feel the rush of air over us as we traveled up the highway.

But we also could (almost) feel the brush of a big tree limb as our driver pulled out and knocked a few branches off a large tree. And yes, a few leaves fell into our upper deck through the open air vents.

Not going anywhere!

Then the fun really started – as in rain. As we whipped up the highway toward Indianapolis, the sky grew dark and a steady rain began falling. And yeah, that included falling into our upper deck through the vents. The heat was stifling, and it seemed the humidity wasn’t going to break anytime soon, despite the rain. So rather than screaming for the bus to stop and close the vents, Drivin’ Deb and I dug through our suitcases for hooded sweatshirts (with the college logo) and used them to cover our heads and faces to block both the wind and the rain.

Yeah – you’re right. It really sucked.

After picking up more passengers in Indianapolis, who must have truly been miserable stuck sitting on the lower deck of the bus without air conditioning or an open air vent, we were back on the highway headed north to Chicago. But it wasn’t as easy as it might sound.

In fact, it really sucked.

The State Police

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere Indiana, our bus broke down. It rolled to a stop on the side of the highway. The driver could be seen walking outside talking on his phone, while someone else that seemed to work for the company (perhaps joining our no-so-magic bus ride in Indianapolis), appeared in the upper deck and told us we might be more comfortable outside since the rain had stopped. With the heat turning the doomed bus into an easy bake oven, we exited to wait alongside a busy highway for what the bus company might have in store for us next.

Drivin’ Deb and I were part of a motley crew of bus travelers that had been subject to extreme heat, wind and rain for hours, and were now stranded on the side of an overpass built over a small creek. Trucks and cars zoomed past us, with a few blasting their horns, which made it sound like they were taunting us. More than a few times I saw the middle fingers from some of our fellow motley crew passengers respond to the blowers.

Rescue mission arrives!

Okay, to make a bad story come to a quick end, eventually a state police car pulled up behind our broken down bus and turned on the police lights. Calls were made and within a couple hours a replacement bus rescued us. We had a quick stop at a nearby McDonald’s for lunch, paid for by the bus company. Yeah, that might sound good – but it didn’t make the food taste any better.

A few hours later in an air conditioned bus, we had caught up with the rain and followed it all the way to downtown Chicago. Drivin’ Deb and I dragged our suitcases over the wet sidewalks to the train and eventually to the airport where we had parked our car. After picking up our family member Snickers from the doggy hotel, where I’m sure he had been much cooler and dryer than we were during our bus ordeal, we made it home.

Bus Stop? Yeah – I love the song by The Hollies.

Bus Trip? I’ve just given you the entire story of our Great Race home, starring Drivin’ Deb and myself. And as I’m sure you will agree, there was nothing about our bus trek that deserved to be put to music. And if it was, I’m sure the song would suck also.

Here’s a video of The Hollies performing Bus Stop in 1966 – with a great stereo remix. Enjoy!

 

To purchase Greatest Hits by The Hollies with Bus Stop, visit Amazon.com.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

#162 – The Mighty Hercules Theme Song

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#162 – The Mighty Hercules Theme Song by Johnny Nash

 – Surprised? Yeah, I was too. I had no idea the singer, producer and songwriter of the 1972 Reggae hit, I Can See Clearly Now, was the same voice leading us into each episode of this 1963-1966 cartoon series. It’s amazing what can be learned through a quick online search for something – really, anything – about an obscure and mostly forgotten television cartoon theme song.

Okay, maybe not completely forgotten if you’re old enough to have watched and have a talent (or curse) for remembering catchy tunes. Since I fall into both categories, Hercules was muscling its way onto this Dream Song list on the morning of September 19th. And when you think about it, that means it’s been simmering in my mind for decades.

Do I own a copy? You’re kidding – right? This one is definitely subliminal, but admittedly a fun addition.

The Mighty Hercules was one of the many cartoons rushed into production and aimed specifically for the younger segment of baby boomers. Even though a television set was becoming fairly common in homes during the 1950s, the preteens of the early 1960s were the ones that didn’t know what life was like before the small screen became a regular piece of living room furniture.

Johnny Nash

I’m sure you realize that unlike Johnny Nash, Hercules was a mythical Greek strongman who could probably take Superman the distance. If you need a reference, think Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. Based on pure speculation and memories, the cartoon Hercules was sent down from the Mount Olympus of animation to ride the then current trend for Greek Mythology adventures. As young kids we still pulled ourselves away from the television for our hometown movie theaters where I remember watching the films Jason and The Argonauts (released on my birthday in 1963) and The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962) on a big screen.

On college campuses the trend was a little more risqué than heroic with toga parties. But I didn’t study that aspect of Greek Mythology until watching the frat boy documentary Animal House on another big screen over a decade later.

In our preteen version during the early 1960s, we’d run home from these movies and reenact our Hercules and Argonaut adventures. We’d crash through solid walls of cardboard boxes and sword fight using the cardboard tubes we’d slide out of the wrapping paper rolls our mothers were saving for Christmas or birthday gifts.

Think how much money they could’ve saved shopping if they had just given us the cardboard rolls and boxes as presents. Call it a Hercules Power Gift Pack and we would’ve been happy.

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Come to think of it, we might also have sung The Mighty Hercules Theme Song after a hard-fought victory and total destruction of our cardboard city walls. Maybe that’s why I remember more of the words to this song than I do the arithmetic formulas we were supposed to learn in grade school.

Truthfully, which is what I imagine they’d expect on Mount Olympus, I was never into The Mighty Hercules cartoons. At the age of ten it would only be a few months before The Beatles changing everything with their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and my most entertaining piece of furniture would move from the television set to the record player. The Hercules shorts (lasting no more than five minutes each) were probably part of my early morning TV viewing during breakfast before rushing out to catch the bus for school.

And when I think about it (again) the song has stayed with me for longer than I Want To Hold Your Hand. Yeah, it’s amazing (again) and I didn’t have to do an online search to realize that.

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On another note, this cartoon along with others rushed out for boomer entertainment, were not exactly works of art. The colorfully drawn cartoons our parents watched in movie theaters when they were kids were later packaged as kid’s programming and aired on television in black and white for our generation. And as mentioned in earlier Classic Rockers, that was also how we discovered The Three Stooges and The Little Rascals (Our Gang) from decades before.

The cartoons produced in the 1930’s, 40’s and early 50’s were made to be shown in theaters with feature films. Hercules and many others from the 60’s were quickly drawn to be watched on a small screen.

Clutch Cargo

Another I distinctly remember from this era was the series Clutch Cargo. It also couldn’t be classified as artistically drawn, but it was fascinating to watch since human mouths were somehow superimposed over the characters animated faces. If you know what I’m talking about – watching these cartoon characters “talking” – I’m sure, you’ll agree. But if not don’t think I’m being weird.

You had to see it to believe it.

It would be another decade before I’d hear the name Johnny Nash and as mentioned earlier, many more before I’d discover his link with The Mighty Hercules. But during my college daze in 1972, somewhere deep in my mind, the mythological cartoon connections to Mount Olympus must have still been simmering. Otherwise I have no excuse for wearing a toga at a frat party and doing my best dance moves to I Can See Clearly Now.

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Here’s the opening theme for The Mighty Hercules sung by Johnny Nash

 

 

To purchase The Mighty Hercules on DVD visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

August 15, 1965 – The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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– It started earlier than you might think…

sidbernstein

Sid Bernstein

During the winter of 1963 Sid Bernstein, a New York producer and entrepreneur, decided to expand his horizons by taking a course in Political Science. The instructor said if students wanted learn about democracy they need to study Great Britain, so Bernstein trekked down to Times Square every week and bought the British newspapers.

After reading updates about the government, he turned to where his real interests were – the entertainment section. He noticed the name of a pop group called The Beatles. At first the articles were small, but each week they continued to grow in size. They also included two words about their performances that caught Bernstein’s eye:

SOLD OUT!

To his producer’s way of thinking, these were the same words that described fame-predicting appearances by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, two of the BIGGEST names in showbiz. Since expanding his horizons could also mean taking a chance, he located the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and booked the group – then unknown in the U.S. – for two shows in February 1964 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Epstein Beatles

Brian Epstein and “The Boys”

When dealing with Epstein there were always stipulations. If The Beatles were not getting radio airplay in the U.S. by December 1963, the deal was off. It was a long wait, but as history tells us they made the deadline. I Want To Hold Your Hand broke the airwave barrier, they were scheduled for three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – and Bernstein SOLD OUT both shows at Carnegie Hall.

Following the Beatles summer and fall 1964 tour of North America, Bernstein took another chance and scheduled them to appear in the brand new, state of the art Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Again there were stipulations that included no advertising without a paid deposit, but Bernstein made a bold guarantee and backed it up by selling 55,600 seats through word of mouth. Once again…

SOLD OUT!

Nothing on this scale for a pop concert had ever been attempted before. Elvis had performed a handful of stadium shows leading up to his army induction, but the largest had been in front of 26,000 fans at The Cotton Bowl. The Beatles had to more than double that number to fill Shea Stadium.

Dressing Room

Away from the crowd

On August 15, 1965 The Beatles landed on top of a building at the neighboring New York World’s Fair and were delivered into Shea Stadium via a Wells Fargo armored truck. The dressing room was crowed with visitors including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and future kingpin business manager for Apple Corp and three of the four Beatles, Allen Klein.

If only Brian Epstein had known…

Their entire visit to New York, beginning Friday, August 13th through Tuesday, August 16th, was filmed for a Beatles In New York (not the title, but the idea) television special. Only backstage and concert footage was used for the final version.

Introduced by Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ran to a small stage set up over second base on the baseball playing field and performed ten songs in about thirty-seven minutes. Whether anyone heard them depended on where they were seated, if they were screaming – or if they were next to someone screaming. Many of the male fans thought they sounded great. Many of the female fans don’t remember.

Shea on stage

Never before in the history of popular music…

Filmed in 35mm, the quality of the concert footage is similar to blockbuster Hollywood movies of the era. For comparison, The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock movies were filmed in 16mm.

The resulting television special, The Beatles At Shea Stadium, was planned for holiday (Christmas) airing in December 1965. One member of the Beatles inner circle approved the version submitted by Ed Sullivan Productions, while five others didn’t. A secret recording session took place in January 1966 to correct the sound and the special wasn’t broadcast in the U.S. until a year later. By that time fans were only weeks away from the release of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever by a mustached, psychedelic-clothes-wearing, pre-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The film has been restored, color-corrected with both the overdubbed and original audio remastered for mono and stereo. It has yet to be released.

But on television that January evening in 1967 they were still the mop-topped Fab Four riding high on the release of their summer 1965 film, Help! And they played, sang, laughed and sweated during a hot New York August night in front of a SOLD OUT audience of 55,600 fans.

It was 50 years ago on August 15, 1965.

It was the birth of stadium rock.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing