Category Archives: 30 Rock

#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.

1964_blue_streak

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.

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