Category Archives: New York

#199 – Leave It To Beaver Theme Song

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#199 – Leave It To Beaver Theme Song

 – The television sitcom Leave It To Beaver portrayed the television image of Middle America in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Everything was perfect. The family unit included a nice house, a mom and a dad, and two kids. Dad supported the family; mom took care of the family and any problems the kids were in could be solved by the family within a half hour episode.

Were things really that simple? Maybe on television, but not in real life.

The 1960’s, as many of us remember the decade, was simmering in the background. The show was broadcast into our living rooms each week in glorious black and white beginning October 4, 1957 until signing off on June 20, 1963. Elvis was still pre-army when viewers first met the Cleaver family and when the final episode aired we were only five months away from JFK’s fateful trip to Dallas.

In May 1963 Bob Dylan released his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, with songs about civil rights and nuclear war. In August Dr. Martin Luther King declared “I have a dream” in Washington D.C. and went on to be named Time Magazine’s Man Of The Year. And The Beatles were gearing up for a televised surprise attack on our senses that came on February 9, 1964.

Along with many other factors including The Space Race, The Cold War and The Vietnam War, our generation was in for a change. A BIG change. The sitcoms – and many are considered classic and still very entertaining – were far from being reality shows for the era.

The Cleavers

Leave It To Beaver was one of the moving picture postcards of The American Dream delivered into our living rooms every week. As referred to above, it was broadcast in black and white. But when you think about it, there really was no “black and white” on television during these years. Except for African Americans appearing as guest stars or supporting players, the first black leading character on a network series didn’t happen until 1965 when Bill Cosby starred in I Spy with Robert Culp.

As a member of the younger edge of baby boomers (I was five years younger than Jerry Mathers, who played Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver), Leave It To Beaver was one of my weekly looks at the outside world. But it really didn’t seem that much different from where I was growing up in northern Ohio. School, friends, girls (not always the same as “friends”), dealing with teenagers and respecting adult authority were about as deep as things got. I was fortunate that my parents were always more open than some of the others. My mother was from Detroit and they both enjoyed taking me on weekend excursions to other big cities such as Cleveland, New York and Chicago.

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In all honesty, that’s where I’d see minorities. But the cities to me were exotic places with energy, excitement and adventures on every block and didn’t seem to exclude anyone because of color, sex or religion. As a young visitor in those days before the race-related riots of the 1960’s, I was never exposed to any inner city problems. Like the Cleavers and their social circle in Leave It To Beaver, it was life in a protected bubble. But these youthful real world experiences in big cities helped me form the opinion there were no reasons why we all couldn’t – or shouldn’t – live together.

Not The Cleavers

So when I write about the dramatic changes that still make the 1960’s the most talked about and studied decade of the Twentieth Century, The American Dream and The American Reality on how the 60’s played out serve as bookends. Start with Leave It To Beaver and end with the film Woodstock and you’ll understand why Boomers are so passionate about this decade of change.

For the first generation to be accused of having television as an adult authority figure, sitcoms were our windows to the outside world. And just like race, sex and religion, what we learned from television went a long way in defining how we look at the world – and how the world looks at us.

One of my favorite (and funniest) personal examples happened more than twenty years after Leave It To Beaver faded off into rerun land. I was living in New York City and breaking into the comedy biz. Before ending up with my career “behind the scenes,” I did stand-up comedy. But once again in all honesty, I lacked the necessary edge that in my opinion makes seasoned NYC comedians the funniest. After one particular bleak performance on stage at a famous comedy club, a couple of my black comedian friends (while laughing) told me I was too “white bread” to be truly funny. I was too Ricky Nelson from Ozzie and Harriett, which is another television postcard of 1950’s and 60’s American Dream.

And you know what? I laughed with them because it was true. There was no way around the stereotyping. But looking back, even my friends didn’t get it right. I was more Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver in the 60’s than the cool Ricky Nelson from the 50’s.

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The Leave It To Beaver Theme Song (actual title; The Toy Parade) is a classic example of the catchy tunes that lured viewers to their television sets and can still set off nostalgic memories for the boomer generation. I’ll even go out on a limb and say most of us can hum it all the way through (there are lyrics, but never heard on the show) just like we can sing I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You. This particular TV tune waxed nostalgic in my waking mind on May 9th. Since it doesn’t fit the classic rock requirements to be on my digital playlist, I can’t remember the last time I heard it and The Toy Parade falls onto the subliminal side of the Dream Song List.

Eddie Haskell

One comic element of Leave It To Beaver that has stayed real for me through the decades is the supporting character Eddie Haskell. If I were to ever list my all-time favorite television characters, he would have to be in the Top 10. Played by Ken Osmond who later left showbiz to become a police officer, Eddie Haskell embodies the heart, soul and devious mind of every wise guy kid who ever stirred up any type of trouble and tried to schmooze his way out of it by being overly polite and agreeable toward whatever adult authority was coming down on him.

My dad, who had a wonderful sense of humor and could make me laugh until I cried, would compare my friends and me to Eddie Haskell whenever we tried to talk our way out of whatever predicament we had gotten ourselves into. And I also used it to describe my son to anyone that might remember the legendary TV name.

Since he was born in 1995, I’m sure Paul has no idea who Eddie Haskell is. But when someone from my generation gushed over how nice and polite he was while growing up, I reminded them of this iconic television character. They knew immediately what I was talking about. Kids can still be typical kids before the BIG changes of adulthood and no different than we were growing up in the 60’s. And similar to when we started asserting our independence while moving into our teenage years, there were many times at home when I felt I was talking to Eddie Haskell in all his American Dream wise guy glory.

The only glitch in the process was that I had grown out of my Eddie Haskell phase. I’ve reverted back to being The Beaver.

The theme song arrangement changed during the years, with the final season using a “swing” style. Below is the opening sequence to Leave It To Beaver from season four, which is the one that scored on this list.

If you’re a dedicated fan, you can purchase the complete Leave It To Beaver series on DVD from Amazon.com. Also separate seasons and episodes are available through the link.

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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 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Beatles Program

#202 – Hold Me Now

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#202 – Hold Me Now by Thompson Twins

Thompson Twins – We were definitely into the MTV era when this song was riding high on the video charts during the winter into spring 1984. That’s when the network’s initials really meant what it provided: Music Television. And for that reason, Hold Me Now seems more of a fashion statement to me than just a catchy tune. It also stirs thoughts of a reality statement that carries a deeper message.

Let me explain that better…

MTV ran 24/7 and during the early years it was the same format as AM Radio. VeeJays played music videos, instead of spinning disks. And for the artists to make a splash – an impact – the visuals became just as important as the music.

But in reality, it’s always been that way with pop music – and real life.

Elvis’ greasy hair, sideburns and gyrations were visual magnets to teenagers and a nightmare for their parents. The same could be said about The Beatles’ mop tops and high heeled, pointy-toed boots. Along with the music, their appearances made enough of a splash to be the topics of news reports, comedian punch lines and an older generation’s scorn.

Thompson 2

A different look

Much of what made them different was how they looked.

Part of being an artist is having a recognizable image and as pop progressed into rock it seemed the coming generation has always tried to outdo its predecessor. Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper, The Ramones… Okay, those are only a few off the top of my head, but you know what I mean. Mention any of them and chances are good you’ll also have a strong mental visual image because they looked different.

So by the time MTV was pushing both visuals AND music into our lives 24/7 the artists that wanted to make a splash had to go all out. For your own visual think of the two biggest pop stars at that time – Michael Jackson and Madonna. Their songs alone were good enough to be hits on the radio, but add their unique images and the combination is a reason why both are still considered icons today. Mention Michael’s sequined glove or Madonna’s wedding veil and you’ll immediately “picture” the songs (Billie Jean and Like A Virgin).

You might also remember a portion of society did not like them because of how they looked.

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Hold Me Now had the same visual effect in 1984. (The) Thompson Twins were noticeable to a lot of us at first because there were actually three members instead of (two) twins. Funny. Also MTV threw this song into heavy rotation so it seemed whenever we actually looked at the television screen rather than treating it as background music, we would catch the video. And from my memory, it was part of the Big Hair Era the 80’s is still famous for.

Some liked the look – some didn’t and still don’t.

My NYC cohorts (as part of the boomer generation) were past the age of trying to shock the older generation with our looks. And I don’t remember being a big fan of 80’s music or fashion while it was happening. It all seemed more comical to me than cool. But I’m totally into creative artists expressing themselves through whatever medium they choose to work in. And during this segment of the 80’s it seemed like pop musicians were more concerned with grabbing attention visually rather than with music.

The Midnight Runners with Dexy

Looking different

They wanted to look different.

An example of what I mean would be Dexys Midnight Runners in 1983 with Come On Eileen. They wore bib overhauls and came off more as street urchins than musicians. And why am I suddenly thinking of the Broadway musical Oliver as I write this…?

Okay, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that when you consider all the fashion trends we’ve lived through. Even Ann and Nancy Wilson from one of my favorite rock bands from the 1970’s, Heart, moved into bigger success with the 80’s MTV generation when their managers reinvented the sisters with teased hair, frilly dresses and too much makeup. I read Nancy’s book and they weren’t happy about it. They were rockers closer to Led Zeppelin than The Go Go’s, but it was standard wear if you wanted to sell records and concert tickets via MTV.

You had to sound AND look different to stand out from the crowd. If you don’t believe me, ask Boy George.

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Thompson Twins are remembered because of Hold Me Now and a look that’s somewhere between big hair and street urchin. It’s a catchy song and definitely memorable since I’ve never owned a copy, but woke up with it in my mind on April 27th. That gives it a hold in the subliminal playlist of Dream Songs.

No, look at me now!

Way different!

A lot of the girls I ran with or saw around NYC were into the Madonna look that included teased hair and worn high. Yeah, a few even wore their bras outside their shirts. And Thompson Twins included three distinct looking characters that could be called MTV fashion icons in 1984. As the music scene continued through the decade, the clothes seemed to get even more outrageous and hair on both girls and guys was teased and sprayed higher and higher.

And you know what? Not everyone liked the look. It seemed some people were more concerned about it, rather than simply hearing the music. In a visual society first impressions often make lasting opinions.

And it’s always been like that.

But the good thing about being different simply through fashion is that images are easy to change. That’s why we can look back at the 1970’s fashions and cringe (at least some of us!) but not be labeled with how we looked in the past. Leisure suits, big bellbottoms, platform shoes, droopy mustaches and… Well, I’m done cringing. They’re all long gone and I won’t be looking at any old photos from that era any time soon. I’ve changed.

Which brings me to a more important opinion.

With the benefit of hindsight, I’ll compare the general outrageousness (looking to make a splash) of the 80’s to the 1960’s. But it’s not the 1960’s of shocking society with Beatles haircuts or hippie clothes. I’m talking about the differences in looks that lead to inequalities.

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For a showbiz example (this is The Classic Rocker after all), what I’m talking about is depicted in the 1988 movie Hairspray and the later Broadway musical and film. In the story there was a segment of society that wanted to hold back – discriminate against – people because of how they looked. It’s about the struggle and fight for equal rights and not being accepted based solely on appearance. The main characters were not accepted by the powers that be. The message is racism, but it occurs on many levels. Motor Mouth and Seaweed weren’t accepted because they were black. Tracy was kept out of the “in-crowd” because she was overweight.

Some people make judgments only on appearance. But wait, am I getting too deep based on a simple 1980’s pop song that actually has nothing to do with this topic? Well, as The Classic Rocker I’m allowed an opinion – and in my opinion that’s despicable, racist and wrong. It just took Hold Me Now with a visual image that some people didn’t like to remind me of it.

Too different?

Too different?

Like Elvis in the 50’s and The Beatles in the 60’s, many pop stars of the 80’s including Thompson Twins, Dexy, Michael, Madonna and Boy George were often judged on their appearance. They were expressing themselves as artists, but some people wouldn’t listen because they didn’t like the way they looked. And using Hairspray as a fictional account for what was actually going on in real life, it was much deeper than that. Some people are too quick to judge based on first impressions. And when it comes to equal rights you can’t just change your status by changing clothes or hairstyle.

It’s a problem that rocked the 60’s and is still around today.

But other than the more important and continual campaign for equal rights, a common thread between the two decades was making a splash. The ones who appeared different were the ones that were noticed first and were either admired or scorned because of it. So when I hear Hold Me Now I have a visual image of an era when the trend was big hair – teased, shaved, weaved, braided, curled, uncombed and sprayed. I thought the visual was comical in some ways, but didn’t knock it because it was different.

It also didn’t affect how I heard the music.

In the BIG picture we’re still looking for many preconceived opinions and inequalities based on appearances to disappear from society forever. The BIG fight for equal rights should never stop until it’s won. But in a very small way, fortunately for me and other boomers we were past the stage of shocking the older generation with our looks when Thompson Twins and the others were dominating MTV. And for that reason, our 80’s photos aren’t as cringe-worthy as they could have been. At least for some of us…

Here’s the video of Thompson Twins that was in heavy MTV rotation in 1984.

To purchase Thompson Twins – Greatest Hits with Hold Me Now 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 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#203 – Billie Jean

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#203 – Billie Jean by Michael Jackson

Michael 1One of the best things about living in New York City (and there are many) is never knowing whom you might meet next. Sometime between the months of March and May 1983 I met a very interesting guy in my Gramercy Park neighborhood. Now don’t get excited and think I’m going to drop Michael Jackson’s name, because I can’t. I never met him.

But I was forewarned that his performance of Billie Jean on the television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was going to be earth shattering.

The guy that told me this knew what he was talking about because he had been at the taping. In fact, he played a big role not only behind the scenes but also on camera.

I hung with a tight group of friends in Gramercy Park. I’ve always compared living in NYC to living in a small town. It’s a BIG place made up of small neighborhoods. We’d go Uptown, Downtown, Midtown and to The Boroughs for concerts, dinners, ballgames – whatever. But when it was time to go “home” we’d end up back in our neighborhood. And the main hangout was our own Cheers style bar restaurant, The Honey Tree, on the corner of 3rd Avenue and East 20th Street.

It was the type of place where everybody knew your name. And when someone new walked in and got involved in one of our conversations, arguments or just plain stupidity (“How’s it goin’ Norm?!“) it made the evenings into late nights a lot more interesting. Some of the names that dropped in were Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole, Ed O’Neill and the entire band Journey.

But those are stories I’ve already told or saving for later.

The Jacksons

The Jacksons

Since most of us were in our late-20’s and had the ripe old age of 30 directly in our sights, we were pretty set in our musical tastes. The jukebox at The Honey Tree was filled with classic oldies from the 60’s and 70’s. If you wanted to hear disco or punk, there were other neighborhood hangouts, which is another great thing about NYC.

When you’re looking for something else it can always be found.

So even though you’d have to live under a rock not to have heard of Michael Jackson, in 1983 more than a few of us would rather listen to his old songs with The Jackson 5. We really weren’t looking for something else. These were the big Motown hits, I Want You Back, The Love You Save and I’ll Be There. My girlfriend (at the time) and I would be up and dancing whenever one of these songs was placed on the jukebox turntable.

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Of course The Jackson 5 was only one of the many artists that put Motown on the music map forever. Boomers grew up listening to The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder and the other amazing artists that made up the Detroit sound. And it was a big deal when it was announced the television special celebrating 25 years of the record label would air on May 16th.

Lester Wilson

Lester Wilson

One night during the months mentioned above, a guy walked in and before too long he was in the middle of one of our conversations. Or it might have been stupidity… But that doesn’t matter. He seemed funny and had a lot of personality, so he fit right in. His name was Lester Wilson and when we asked what he did, he said he was a dancer.

We didn’t know any professional dancers, so we started with the questions. He told us he was also a choreographer, had worked on Broadway and in films, and had just finished working on Motown 25. Since I’m working off memory, I can’t remember why he was in NYC at this time – but after checking out his bio online it had to be something good. I’ll also guess he was staying at The Gramercy Hotel which is why he was a regular part of our Cheers crowd for the next few months.

Lester told us about Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean performance. I can’t remember the adjectives, but mind-blowing would be a good description. He kept saying we’re not going to believe it when we see it. So on May 16th we watched.

jjkrcyOkay, we all know the legend. Michael reunited with his brothers to sing our favorite Jackson 5 hits. When they finished the brothers left the stage and Michael pulled out the sequined glove, the fedora and moonwalked into music history.

But what was especially cool for us was seeing our new pal Lester dancing center stage during the show’s gala opening number. If you want to check it out, below is a link for the entire show. You only need to watch the first four minutes – he’s the guy in the red sweater with the long hair. The group is also billed as The Lester Wilson Dancers.

Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.

Since The Classic Rocker is all about memories I can’t simply focus on Motown 25 or Lester when I hear Billie Jean. Whether you like Michael Jackson or not this was his moment – similar to The Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He already had a successful solo career, but this put him in the stratosphere of pop music. Elvis was the 50’s, The Beatles were the 60’s and Michael was the 80’s. The other decades have their own musical personas, for example the 70’s went from hippies to heavy metal to punk to disco. The 90’s were grunge, hip-hop and rap. But those periods never had a single artist that overwhelmingly dominated and influenced our popular culture as these three.

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Billie Jean dominated my Classic Rocker mind on the morning of April 26th. At the time I didn’t own a copy, but that’s changed since and now it’s on my digital playlist joining my Motown and Jackson 5 favorites. But because I hadn’t heard it for a long time until that waking moment, it’s on my subliminal music chart.

Temptations and 4 Tops

The Temptations and 4 Tops

Lester Wilson was a very interesting guy. I can’t remember how long he was part of our neighborhood scene, but that’s another thing about living in NYC. People come and go (including me) and when you’re part of it, life is rarely boring.

Since I’ve always been a huge Motown fan I remember going with my girlfriend (at the time) to see The Temptations and The Four Tops on Broadway. It was at least a year later because the show opened with Levi Stubbs (lead singer for The Tops) singing Marvin Gaye’s hit What’s Going On to open the show. Gaye had been murdered by his father on April 1, 1984 and this was soon after. The curtain was closed and just a single spotlight was aimed at the stage. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Stubbs finished, but within moments everyone was on their feet dancing along to one of the best concerts I was ever fortunate enough to attend.

Afterwards we went to our neighborhood Cheers for a nightcap and Lester was at the bar. We raved about the show and I remember saying he should have warned me Levi Stubbs had grown a beard. I wasn’t used to seeing him that way from photos. Yes, that’s a small detail – but one I remember from our conversation, which also helps put all these years in some type of order.

I did an online search for Lester Wilson and learned he was much bigger than he had let on during this time. Not only did he choreograph Motown 25 and Broadway musicals, but also the movies Saturday Night Fever (coached John Travolta), The Wiz, Funny Lady, Sister Act and others. But I’m sad to learn he passed away only ten years after we met in 1993 at the youthful age of 50.

As I mentioned above, you never know whom you might meet next in NYC. I may not have met Michael Jackson, but I had been warned the music scene was on the verge of changing by a guy who had.

Here’s a video of Michael’s performance of Billie Jean on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.

To purchase The Essential Michael Jackson with Billie Jean 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 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#204 – I Got You Babe

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#204 – I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher

– It was all about the look when this duo hit the pop scene in 1965. Yes, they had a very catchy number one pop song with I Got You Babe, but the look was a publicist dream and what landed them not only on the covers of teen magazines, but also featured in mainstream newspapers and magazines.

Their attention grabbing look – or in showbiz terms, hook – happened because no one else looked like Sonny and Cher.

In this era of The British Invasion, if someone wasn’t tuned-in to the pop music scene (think older generation or too young to really know or care), it was easy to confuse one group with another. The look for most of the British groups included mop top hair, matching suits, Beatle boots and guitars.

I’m pretty sure even my dad, who was cool enough to take me to a Beatles concert in 1966, had a hard time figuring out what group I was watching on The Ed Sullivan Show, Shindig or Hullabaloo. It could the The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits or The Animals. Was that Peter and Gordon or Chad and Jeremy? A lot of adults weren’t exactly sure.

If you lived through it – you know what I’m talking about.

Borscht Belt comics (think Jackie Mason, Milton Berle and Jack E. Leonard) and television hosts (think Dean Martin introducing The Rolling Stones on The Hollywood Palace TV show) made jokes about all of the pop stars looking alike. They couldn’t tell one group from another and they all made the same “noise.”

Then they got a look at Sonny & Cher.

sonny-and-cher

They got the look!

I’ll go ahead and call them the first hippies, even though the term (derived from being hip or hep in the 1940’s) hadn’t even been used to define the counterculture when I Got You Babe was topping the music charts in August 1965. Sonny’s hair was shaggier than even The Stones or The Kinks (noted for being shaggier than the combed and blown-dried Beatles) and Cher fit the Carnaby Street look with bangs to her eyes and straight hair over her shoulders. But the look went way beyond that.

The first time I remember seeing bellbottoms, other than my dad’s Navy uniform or in WW2 movies, was either in a photo or television appearance by Sonny & Cher. There were no suits or “party dresses” that talent managers convinced their acts to wear to attract a larger audience (think Brian Epstein getting The Beatles out of their leather gear). They wore fuzzy sheep wool vests, striped pullover shirts, silky bellbottoms, wide belts and whatever other accessories you might find wandering around thrift shops and beach shacks in Southern California.

Their outfits were certainly nothing we would ever find in a department store in the Midwest.

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For comics their names became the punch lines. For adults they could finally pick out Sonny & Cher from the other acts. And for boomers, they signaled a new trend. Within two years the newly-named hippies took S&C’s look and added on.

I Got You Babe had the necessary music and lyric hooks to compete with The British Invasion and the oncoming American groups like The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Byrds. The song was constantly on the radio during the late summer of 1965 and impossible to ignore. And once it was in your head, it stayed there for awhile, which is how it landed on this Dream Song List on April 21st. I hadn’t heard it in a long time so it’s one of the subliminal tunes and has made a lasting impression.

It also has a lasting memory…

For a week in August 1965 my 14-year old cousin Johnny and I “camped out” in a large tent my dad’s cousin had set up for us in the backyard of his house in Sandusky, Ohio. I’ve been fortunate because most of my relatives are “colorful” people. That’s a term of endearment for me. I’ve always enjoyed being around people who are different, adventurous, opinionated, and in some ways a bit “crazy.” It seems my family has handed down those traits through generations, which makes reminiscing or eventually confessing to past discretions just as funny as a night in a comedy club.

Sign here please!

Sign here please!

I was only 12 years old and Cousins Carl and wife Melba were older than my parents – and at the top of my list when it came to “colorful.” I can’t remember ever being bored or not laughing when they were around. Their daughter and my cousin Mimi was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall in New York, which always added more “colors” to our get-togethers. If you’ve read my book The Beatles At Shea Stadium, Mimi had dinner with The Beatles the night before the concert in The Rainbow Room at the top of 30 Rockefeller Center.

We were at their house in Sandusky when she told me the story and gave me Ringo’s autograph on the back of a Rockette rehearsal schedule.

Carl had set up a huge canvas tent in their backyard. I noted it as “camping out” earlier because it was nothing like that in reality. Yeah, Johnny and I slept in sleeping bags on army cots, but we had electricity through an extension cord plugged into the house and full use of the kitchen, bathroom, record player and television. There was no “roughing it” when we “camped out.”

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Since I don’t have an older brother, John (we’ll drop the “ny” for now since we’re both a few decades older) was given that position in my mind. Our families are close and I can’t remember a Christmas night we didn’t spend together while growing up. And since we only lived a couple miles from each other (and still do) we shared many adventures. One includes the Beatles concert mentioned earlier.

John taught me the fine art of being an “all-nighter.” We’d have sleepovers at each other’s houses, which included mini “vacations” each summer. At those events bedtime was nonexistent. Parents would go to sleep and we’d sit up playing board games and watching old black and white movies until the channels signed off. There was no such thing as 24-hour television in the mid-60’s and it took years of mental reprogramming to not think The National Anthem ended with an electronic signal and TV test pattern.

To understand what I’m talking about, here’s a video of a channel sign-off from the 60’s.

In the summer these all-nighters would be outdoor adventures. Either walking or riding our bikes we could be cruising through our hometown anytime between midnight and dawn. In the 1960’s it was safe and that’s undoubtedly why I still find the nighttime much more interesting and exciting. I’ve never reprogrammed from that mental state and there’s a good chance it will be closer to sun-up than sundown when I post these ramblings.

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Cedar Point postcard

But we didn’t limit ourselves to nocturnal travels. One great adventure included taking a ferry from downtown Sandusky to the world famous “roller coast” of Cedar Point Amusement park. We stayed until closing and while taking the last ferry back we were caught in the middle of a loud and wild, Lake Erie wind-blown thunderstorm. I still remember the lightening and heavy rain as the large boat rocked through the waves. But we didn’t see it as any big deal since we grew up on the lake and after walking the couple miles through the damp darkness to Carl’s tent we spent a few more hours playing Monopoly under electric candlelight and listening to AM Top 40 radio.

And speaking of Cedar Point, the next year John and I finagled our way into a Dick Clark television special and rode go-carts with Chad and Jeremy for a couple hours.

But since that duo doesn’t finagle their way onto this Dream Song List until later, I’ll save the story for now.

During one of our daylight treks we walked a few miles to a shopping center where I bought the LP The Early Beatles on Capitol Records. It was the same as Introducing The Beatles on VeeJay Records, which I’d had since February 1964. But as a dedicated fan I needed this version for my collection.

sonny and cher fur

I got fur babe!

I also picked up I Got You Babe. The look may have caught my attention at first, but the catchy tune got my money. And since I’d had every song on the “latest” Beatles album memorized for a year and a half (Capitol Records also had a way of getting our money), it was good to have something actually new.

“They say we’re young and we don’t know…”

That first lyric by Sonny Bono says a lot to the Baby Boomer Generation. But my best memory is that we were still very young when I Got You Babe came out – and were in the process of learning. It brings back the first real feelings of freedom and independence that continued to grow during our teenage years. Sonny & Cher never made an impact on our generation like The Beatles and The Stones, but at this moment in 1965 they had the look and the sound of being different. And that’s a big part of how many of us remember the 1960’s.

Here’s a video of Sonny & Cher performing I Got You Babe from 1965…

 

 

To purchase The Best of Sonny & Cher with I Got You Babe 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 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#205 – She’s A Rainbow

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#205 – She’s A Rainbow by The Rolling Stones

Satanic Majesties Cover – Was it just me, or did everyone know the album Their Satanic Majesties Request was already outdated when it was released in December 1967? I don’t mean that as any kind of anti-Stones thing since I’m a huge fan of the group. But seriously, the psychedelic Summer Of Love had hit auto drive with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band more than six months earlier and by Christmas shopping season boomers were coasting into the pre-Woodstock era.

The pop/rock music scene was all over the place as we entered 1968 and The Stones would play a major role as they morphed into “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band In The World,” according to Mick Jagger’s self-proclaiming introduction kicking off one of the greatest live albums of all time, Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out. But with this release at the end of 1967 they were setting themselves up to have their rock and roll guitar licks thrown back in their faces by The Who, The Doors, Cream, Iron Butterfly and Jimi Hendrix. I didn’t even mention The Beatles since they were in a class by themselves. They hit their own speed bump with Magical Mystery Tour as their Christmas product that year, but they were the ones that set the standard with Sgt. Pepper in the first place. They could be excused even when the follow-up LP (in the U.S.) filled up side two with months old psychedelia (Strawberry Fields Forever) but also included future mega classics like I Am The Walrus and Fool On The Hill.

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Back on track

Lucky for all of us The Stones got back on track in May 1968 with Jumpin’ Jack Flash. But at the tail end of Flower Power they gave us Their Satanic Majesties Request with She’s A Rainbow. I’m not going to say it’s a bad song, but along with the album it doesn’t go down as one of the band’s highest moments.

On second thought, it was probably the result of some higher moments. One of the reasons the album didn’t make it into the actual soundtrack of The Summer Of Love was because of the group’s various drug busts, court appearances and jail time. Guess you could say the legal itinerary disrupted their scheduled recording dates and deadlines.

I remember seeing the album in stores that winter and picked it up only to watch the 3D photo on the cover. When you moved it around The Stones’ heads would turn. That was cool for a couple times, but then just as boring as any child’s game and definitely not as cool as the Sgt. Pepper cover.

We also heard the music that way.

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The album scored on the charts, but dropped out of sight fast. I never met anyone in my life that actually owned a copy until I went to college years later. One of my best pals was a Stones freak and owned every album, including the early ones before Satisfaction and Get Off My Cloud pushed them ahead of the other British Invasion acts, but still second tier to The Beatles. I wrote earlier about a road trip I made with college pals from Northern Ohio to New Orleans, through Texas and back in three days with Satanic Majesties as one of our few 8-tracks. We listened way more than a few times and dug it, but after that weekend as a captive audience in a Vega station wagon, my immediate reaction was similar to the music charts.

The album had been a hit for a few days and then done and gone. But not forgotten…

She’s A Rainbow joined this Dream Song List on April 17th. And as mentioned above, I’m a big Stones fan so – of course – I own a copy (but not the album). I had just heard it the day before, so this one goes into the recent memory list.

Steel Wheels Tour

Steel Wheels Tour

Though She’s A Rainbow is probably the best known song from the album, I rank 2000 Light Years From Home as one of my favorite all-time Rolling Stones songs. So it was a thrill to see them perform it live…

After about a decade of hard feelings between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, The Stones regrouped for a new album and tour in 1989 both titled Steel Wheels. Since their solo careers had not reached the same heights as The Stones you could say they were watching each other’s backs (and bank accounts).

I was living in New York City and when it was announced they would play the legendary Shea Stadium not once or twice – but for six concerts – my pals and I joined forces to score tickets. In those ancient times of rock and roll there were no online sales. You went to the nearest Ticketmaster in a neighborhood record store and hoped the line moved fast enough to purchase seats before all the outlets working in combination sold-out.

After the first two concerts on October 10 and 11, they would play four shows in Los Angeles and then back to Shea for four more. With a few of us working Ticketmaster outlets in Manhattan and Queens, we grabbed blocks of seats for three Shea Stadium shows.

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Of course every song at a Stones concert is a highlight and these shows were like a greatest hits rundown. Steel Wheels was a popular LP, so even when they played the new songs we listened. Based on Stones’ concerts I had seen in 1972 and 1975 I never would’ve expected a song from Their Satanic Majesties Request. So when 2000 Light Years From Home was played between Paint It Black and Sympathy For The Devil it really came out of nowhere. Wait… I’ll rephrase that.

With the fog and strobe lighting stage effects it could’ve been from outer space. It was a very psychedelic musical and visual trip back to 1967. All that was missing was a drug bust.

Here’s a video of the live version from the Steel Wheels Tour with added 3D effects.

When The Rolling Stones end a show, no one working today outside of Paul McCartney has a catalog of rock standards that can match. Following Sympathy For The Devil they worked the crowd into a frenzy with Gimme Shelter, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, Brown Sugar, Satisfaction and (encore) Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

Are you kidding me?? My head almost exploded just typing out the titles of those songs. Put those on your playlist one after another and for dedicated Classic Rockers it’s impossible to sit still.

And it was also impossible to sit still at Shea Stadium in 1989.

For two of the concerts we were in the middle (mezzanine) section. But for one of those classic rock ‘n’ roll nights we were in the upper deck facing the stage. And anyone that’s ever been in the upper deck of a stadium during an important sporting event or rock concert knows, the steel structures act differently in that higher atmosphere.

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Know how to close!

Once The Stones started bringing in the big guns to close the concert, everyone was on their feet and acting like they were Jumping’ Jack Flash. The effect made the upper deck bounce up and down like we were standing on the end of a diving board.

I knew what it was like to stand on the end of a diving board, but I had never felt this effect in the upper deck of a huge baseball stadium until that night. It was really intense, but none of us were about to sit down. But since we were seriously bouncing around so much it was hard to stay balanced and I remember my best pal Chris grabbing onto the back of my jacket to keep me from disaster. I’d grab my girlfriend (at the time) and we all felt like we were on an amusement part ride.

Honestly, I was glad he grabbed me. A few times it felt like we’d rock ‘n’ roll over the railing.

After the concert we were walking to catch the train back to Manhattan and I thanked him for hanging onto me. Then I asked why he would’ve saved me but left my girlfriend (at the time) to bounce around on this major league scale trampoline. “Because I can’t stand her,” he said. We laughed, but as guys we both knew he wasn’t lying.

When she dumped me a few months later (she wanted a wedding ring for Christmas and I probably gave her a Stones album) I knew what he meant. She was gone but we were still buddies. Sort of like Mick and Keith, it was good to know he had my back.

It doesn’t seem The Rolling Stones ever made an “official” music video for She’s A Rainbow.

I searched around online and found one that’s a bit strange, it’s labeled “1966” (release wasn’t until December 1967), but includes the song with video snippets from the band’s entire career. Included are shots of Brian Jones who was still the band’s master musician at this point, but would soon be spiraling out of control and eventually, out of the band and out of this world.

 

To purchase Their Satanic Majesties Request with She’s A Rainbow and 2000 Light Years From Home – which are also both on a lot of Rolling Stones compilation releases – 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing

August 15, 1965 – The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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– It started earlier than you might think…

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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.

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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