Category Archives: pop music

#201 – I’m A Loser

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#201 – I’m A Loser by The Beatles

Beatles I'm A Loser – When it comes to personal memories, this song is a double-edged sword. Good vs. evil. The White Knight against The Queen of Darkness. It represents a battle in the generation gap war that I lost at the time, but felt I’ve gone on to win. And in my own convoluted way, I’ll tell the tale…

Like probably every first generation Beatles fan in North America, I first heard I’m A Loser on Friday, October 7, 1964 when a film of their live performance was aired on the ABC television show Shindig. This was a highly anticipated big deal since we didn’t actually see the group very often. There were no VCR’s or even a science fiction thought of YouTube, so fans only “saw” The Fab Four during their three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (rerun on CBS that summer), a clip of Ed interviewing them on the set of A Hard Day’s Night followed by the performance of You Can’t Do That (edited out of the final concert scene in the feature film), or by going to the theater to see their first movie (as John Lennon called it, “The black and white one.“).

Interview Sullivan

Interviewing The Beatles

Many lucky fans saw them in person during the August – September tour or closed circuit theater showing of their first U.S. concert at Washington Coliseum. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those.

But other than that, all we had were the records and magazines.

So when ABC started running advertisements for their appearance on Shindig, I put it on my mental calendar as a “must watch” event. But I never realized that because it was on a Friday evening I would be called out as a “wannabe Beatle” in front of my classmates by an evil old school teacher.

Sound harsh? Yeah, I know…

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Thursday February 23, 2017 – Stow, Ohio!

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Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6:30 pm – show time 7:00

FREE admission – reservations suggested

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Friday evenings in the fall were “supposed” to be reserved for high school football games. I had been going since I was a little kid, mainly for something to do. We had absolutely no interest in what was happening on the field and spent our time running around under the bleachers and eating junk food. And since we lived in a small town in northern Ohio there was no danger walking to the games and home with friends. It was nothing out of the ordinary.

Host Jimmy O'Neill

Host Jimmy O’Neill

Not like seeing The Beatles on Shindig. There was nothing ordinary about that and was well worth skipping one game out of the entire season. So I stayed home to watch.

The next day I saw a kid in my class who told me our sixth grade teacher had been at the football game. From what I remember, she made a BIG DEAL out of going to only one game a year and wanted to make sure all her students were there because that’s where we were “supposed” to be on a Friday night. During her only appearance in the fall of 1964 she saw the other guys from my class and asked where I was.

They told her I stayed home to watch The Beatles. My friend said she wasn’t too happy about that.

Maybe I’ll set this scene a little deeper. I mean, why not. I’ve already said I sound harsh

The two teachers I had in sixth grade were a humorless old woman and old man that split the mornings and afternoons with two classes. They both should have retired years before. They were truly old school and I honestly don’t remember either being supportive or nurturing toward students. Their shared attitude was “learn this or suffer the consequences” and I blame them for making an entire year of school essentially joyless. To say they were verbally abusive to anyone that didn’t follow their golden rules would be an understatement.

In fact, I’ll go even deeper. The woman had been my father’s third grade teacher. My dad was an excellent trumpet player and taught me a lot about music. She’d also had our neighbor in her class, who was a teenager in the 1950’s. He was an excellent basketball player (earned a full ride to Ohio State University) but also liked Elvis Presley. When he was gone I’d sometimes sneak into his room with his younger brother and we’d listen to his record collection. Both were good students and good kids. So was I.

By the Monday morning following The Beatles appearance on Shindig, she’d had all weekend to stew over my absence at the high school football game and her BIG DEAL appearance. It was almost as if I had cussed out my mom, given apple pie to the communists and spit on the American flag. I have a vague memory of walking into the classroom and hearing her talk about being at the game, but not seeing everyone who should have been there.

Then class started.

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When she asked anyone a question, it was mandatory for the student to stand next to his or her desk to answer. I don’t remember whatever outdated nonsense she was trying to shove into our young minds, but before I knew it I was standing next to my desk and being asked a question I had no answer for.

That’s when the other edge of the sword came down.

She was determined to make me the loser in front of the entire class. Immediately she was shouting full volume at me. But it wasn’t about not knowing the answer – but the fact that I had skipped a high school football game and stayed home on a Friday night to watch THE BEATLES ON TELEVISION! In her eyes I was the enemy of all that was good and decent and a pervert among angelic high school football fans. Her exact words still ring in my ear:

  • “Your father wanted to be Harry James!”
  • “Your neighbor wanted to be a hound dog!”
  • “And YOU want to be a BEATLE!!!”

I had been singled out in front of my friends and classmates and verbally attacked like I had done something wrong. After flushing her anger about me and disapproving musical memories of my father and our neighbor out of her evil system she told me to SIT DOWN!

Harmonica Contraption

Harmonica Contraption

At the time I was shaken up (what 11-year old wouldn’t be?). But you know what? It was the only thing she ever said to me that made sense. I won’t give her any credit as an inspiration, but I think it’s pretty cool I went on to write two books about The Beatles and none about high school football.

Harsh? Yeah, but I look at my books as being the fun result of the double-edged sword!

I’m A Loser assaulted this Dream Song List on April 28th. It’s been a favorite since I watched the Beatles on Shindig and is on my digital playlist. That also places it into the recent memory category since I had just heard it.

I’m A Loser is also especially memorable because the group already looked different on Shindig than earlier that summer in A Hard Day’s Night. Their hair, especially Lennon’s, was a lot longer. He also had a harmonica hooked to a metal contraption around his neck that allowed him to play it and his guitar at the same time.

I had seen photos of Bob Dylan with the same setup, but he was still considered a “folkie.” Lennon as a pop-rocker made it cooler.

But there was definitely a Dylan influence in this Lennon-penned song. The lyrics were a lot more introspective than we’d heard on The Ed Sullivan Show only seven months earlier. It also signaled a more country-twang feel in some of their newer songs such as Honey Don’t, Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby and I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party.

Even though we’d heard I’m A Loser in October 1964, we couldn’t own a copy until the U.S. LP Beatles ’65 was released on December 15th. On first listen I immediately remembered it was the song from Shindig with John Lennon playing the harmonica contraption and acoustic guitar. He was cool and the song was cool – and this hit of countrified Beatlemania went a long way to make my personal sixth grade double-edged sword a lot easier to deal with.

Here’s a video of The Beatles performing I’m A Loser on Shindig from 1965

To purchase Beatles ’65 with I’m A Loser 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

#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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Monday February 4, 2017 – Tiffin, Ohio!

Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6 pm – show time 6:30

FREE admission – reservations suggested

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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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The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

20% OFF Retail Price with FREE Shipping (Continental U.S. Only)

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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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20% OFF Author Signed Copies!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

20% OFF Retail Price with FREE Shipping (Continental U.S. Only)

Signed by the author and only through the website – BeatlesSheaStadium.com

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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.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#206 – She Loves You

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#206 – She Loves You by The Beatles

She Loves You – This was the drum roll into the 1960’s as many of us prefer to remember the decade. Yeah (yeah yeah), the “official” turn of the clock from the 50’s was four years earlier for U.S. baby boomers, but play any of us the opening of She Loves You and the reaction is similar to the first time we ever saw a color television.

Our senses took a direct hit and we were launched into the Swingin’ 60’s.

Okay, for a lot of us in early 1964 the only swingin’ we did was on a grade school playground, but it was obvious our world was changing. Only three months before (the length of summer vacation from school) JFK was in The White House and clean-cut pop crooners dominated the music charts. Folk music was considered edgy and the older generation(s) still made the rules.

Then it all changed. I set the date for this new wave at February 9, 1964.

My first notice of The Beatles was on Friday, January 3rd when Jack Parr showed a short film clip focused mainly on the group’s apparently out-of-control screaming audiences. At the beginning you can barely hear the song From Me To You. Then it switches to shots of The Beatles in collarless jackets performing She Loves You. This was after Parr’s tenure as host of The Tonight Show. Johnny Carson had taken over late nights in 1962 and The Jack Parr Program aired in primetime on NBC for one hour every Friday.

For many of us it was our first exposure to the now famous lyrics, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

That’s important to note because it became a hook for The Beatles early fame in the U.S. From my memory it was pretty common for the older reporters to throw in a “Yeah, yeah, yeah” somewhere in their headlines or articles referring to what “the kids of today” liked or the simplicity of pop music when compared to the older standards.

There was even a report from the British theater world about how the Beatles’ music and influence was infiltrating the upper society in a not-so-sophisticated way. When the 1963 Broadway musical She Loves Me debuted at The West End Theater in London, one of the characters says to another, “She Loves You.” And of course someone in the audience had to finish the obvious by calling out, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

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Since the two song snippets aired by Jack Parr were not enough to really grasp onto, most of us didn’t experience the full force of Beatlemania until Ed Sullivan introduced them on February 9th. The first complete song I heard by The Fab Four was All My Loving. Reviewing their performance from that Sunday evening, it’s no wonder we were knocked into another dimension of pre-(or-full-on) teenager. Every song including their rendition of the Broadway showstopper ‘Til There Was You is considered a Beatles classic.

And with She Loves You we were hooked by three shaggy heads singing, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Hold Your HandI still find it strange this wasn’t the song that broke them in America. That didn’t happen until their next single, I Want To Hold Your Hand started getting U.S. radio play in December 1963. Capitol Records, the Beatles’ U.S. record company, refused to even release She Loves You – at first. The 45 rpm vinyl came out on Swan Records and did absolutely nothing until Beatlemania hit about six months later. Then it followed I Want To Hold Your Hand as the No. 1 song in March 1964.

Capitol wised-up that the group was making money for a rival label and very quickly took ownership from Swan and included the hit song on The Beatles Second Album released in April.

I’m sure The Beatles, their manager Brian Epstein and also movie director Richard Lester understood that “Yeah, yeah, yeah” was an important element in the group’s carefree image portrayed in the film A Hard Day’s Night. Though She Loves You would have already been considered an “oldie” (recorded in July 1963) when the Beatles’ first film was released in the summer of 1964, it was still included with their latest songs in the final concert sequence. I Want To Hold Your Hand wasn’t.

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Painesville, Ohio – Monday, December 19, 2016.

1966 Poster

The Classic Rocker will present The Beatles In Cleveland at Morley Library. Doors open at 6:30 pm with a display of Beatles memorabilia and FAB music. Program begins at 7 pm. Admission is FREE but seating is limited. Reservations are suggested by calling 440-352-3383. Includes rare films of the riotous concerts at Public Hall and Cleveland Stadium and never-before published photos. Books will be available at a special library discount following the program (think holiday shopping!). Morley Library is located at 184 Phelps Street, Painesville, OH 44077. Hope to see you there!

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Now putting my personal memory to use…

Following their February 9th debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, kids I knew had to have a copy of I Want To Hold Your Hand. I don’t remember how I got to my local record store since February in northern Ohio has always been too cold for a bike ride, but somehow I scored a copy of the 45 rpm (backed with I Saw Her Standing There) that week. But I really wanted an album.

That Saturday night my parents went on a “date night” shopping trip and surprised me with the LP Introducing The Beatles. Yeah (yeah, yeah) I had cool parents. But I really wanted the album showing their faces in half shadow and with shaggier hair. A week later I tagged along on their “date night” (three’s a crowd?) and came home with Meet The Beatles.

But none of these included She Loves You (no, no, no!). Once again, since I was only ten years old and my bike was not going to see the light of day until after the first thaw of spring, I had to rely on frequent Top 40 AM radio play to hear the song. Eventually within a couple weeks I ended up in a department store record section with a copy of She Loves You.

swanIt was on the smaller Swan label – and yes I still have it.

The song earned a spot on the Dream Song List on April 16th. Of course I own numerous copies, but it hadn’t been on my digital playlist for awhile, so it goes down as a subliminal memory. But with a hook as powerful as “Yeah, yeah, yeah” I’m sure it’s also been subliminally stuck in many other baby boomer’s minds for over half a century.

The song’s brief opening drum riff immediately transports us back to this era. It’s as important to the Beatles unique soundtrack as the count “1, 2, 3, FOUR!” in I Saw Her Standing There and the opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night. The song could have just opened with John, Paul and George singing “She Loves You, yeah, yeah, yeah” but it wouldn’t have been the same. The powerful impact of the drums sets the frantic tone that follows.

RingoThis credit goes to Ringo Starr. A number of years ago some music novices tried to downplay his importance and even suggested he wasn’t a great drummer. I’m pretty sure these knucklehead critics were either shouted down or embarrassed into obscurity. Their preferred heavy-fisted drum pounders or light-touching jazz percussionists could never have had the same impact. Ringo’s playing enhanced the vocalists and kicked in a beat that set the song’s pace without overwhelming what followed.

In my book that makes Ringo one of the best rock and roll drummers of all time. Case closed.

In 2009 it was announced She Loves You was the Beatles’ all time, top-selling single in England. That’s more than Hey Jude, I Want To Hold Your Hand and all the others. I’m sure it had to do with the hook. “Yeah, yeah, yeah” is tough to forget – even more than a half century later.

And here they are – in the glorious early days of technicolor – The Beatles singing She Loves You (yeah, yeah, yeah)!

To purchase The Beatles 1+ with She Loves You and every “must have” song 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

 

#207 – Green Tambourine

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#207 – Green Tambourine by The Lemon Pipers

The Lemon Pipers

The Lemon Pipers

– Like a lot of music we were listening to as teenagers in late 1967 going into early 1968, it’s tough to come up with a classification for this song. I considered it psychedelic, which was a trend that was definitely happening at the time. But after doing a quick online surf to find out what – if any – residue was left behind by this song in the annals of Classic Rock, it is given credit for inventing a category that had never been used before to describe a musical genre:

Bubblegum.

Lemon Fruitgum

Package of bubblegum

Going from psychedelic to bubblegum was a musical personality split comparable to sharing vinyl turntable space with Jimi Hendrix and The 1910 Fruitgum Company. It didn’t happen in a sane world. But looking back at our journey through the 1960’s I can see the “Y” in the road. Sitars, jingle-jangle tambourines and over-echoed vocals were part of the soundtrack for The Summer Of Love in ’67 and were still happening when Green Tambourine hit No. 1 on the music charts in February 1968. But it already seemed outdated in some ways. Pop music was evolving into the heavier sounding rock music and bubblegum was about as cool as a military crew cut in Haight-Ashbury.

Of course what did I really know about the hippie haven district in San Francisco? I was a 14 year old kid in Ohio and only knew what I heard on the radio or read in magazines. And since no one had come up yet with the term bubblegum for some of the new music we were listening to, it seemed as if the hippies from the summer of ’67 were still happening.

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In theaters with the documentary Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

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In my location of the world we hadn’t been exposed to hippies outside of the media lifelines I just mentioned above. The Beatles had changed their appearances with mustaches and colorful clothes for Penny Lane and Sgt. Pepper, but a lot of us couldn’t follow the trend. Mainly because we were still too young to grow decent facial hair and school dress codes strictly forbid it, along with hippie attire.

San Francisco hippies?

San Francisco hippies?

In fact, these creatures of psychedelia were so rare in our neck of the woods, to spot one was comparable to a rare bird sighting in the wild and untamed outdoors. It was around this time that we would visit family in Saginaw, Michigan and all pile into a car as tourists to drive past the “Hippie House.” I remember it was a purple house with bright symbols painted on the sides and doors. It might even have had an orange or yellow roof, but those details have been lost in the haze of years since. I’m not sure the Ohio family contingent ever even caught a glimpse of a legitimate hippie outside, but the Michigan relatives assured us they truly did exist.

I’m pretty sure the closest proximity hippies to us in northern Ohio were The Lemon Pipers. I say this because they were touted as being a band from Cleveland. It wasn’t until many years later I found out they were actually a group of students from Miami University. But forget about visions of palm trees and bikinis. This was the northern based school in Oxford, Ohio.

Closer – but not Cleveland.

I’m not going to say this song had any impact on me. It didn’t. It had a catchy tune and we heard it on the radio. And since it came out during my first year in high school, I’ll assume we danced to it somewhere.

But it was more the local connection that made a lasting impression.

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I remember watching The Lemon Pipers perform Green Tambourine on the Cleveland based “teen music” television show Upbeat. When the program first started in 1964 it was comparable to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand out of Philadelphia. The original title was The Big 5 Show because it aired every Saturday at 5 pm on Channel 5 in Cleveland. The host was Channel 5 weatherman Don Webster.

The show featured an impressive lineup every week that – again from memory – included pop stars such as Stevie Wonder, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Yardbirds, The Jefferson Airplane and Otis Redding’s final performance. When the show was syndicated into different markets, the local aspect was removed and retitled Upbeat.

Don Webster "Monkee'ing" around on Upbeat

Don Webster “Monkee’ing” around on Upbeat

The Lemon Pipers looked like San Francisco based hippies. But I’m sure Don Webster told us they were from Cleveland (or maybe just from Ohio). Either way, they didn’t look like anyone else in my neighborhood. I wonder if they had a “Hippie House” we could’ve driven by on a tourist outing. Then again, since they were still college students we would’ve just been driving by their dorm.

But if this song stands as a first “Y” in the roads leading to bubblegum or rock, I took the route forged ahead by Jimi Hendrix and left The 1910 Fruitgum Company trail for the younger teens and preteens. It also wasn’t long after this that Upbeat disappeared from my regular viewing schedule. As a newly minted high school teenager with friends, dances, sporting events and the possibility of girls being around all three, Saturday afternoons and evenings were not meant to be spent sitting in front of a television.

Green Tambourine “jingle-jangled” onto this Dream Song list on April 8th. Though I never owned a copy in 1968, nostalgia got the best of me during an online shopping spree and the song is now on my digital playlist. I had just heard it, so “listen while I play” it into the recent memory classification.

To watch The Lemon Pipers lip-sync Green Tambourine during what I’m pretty sure is actually their 1967 or ’68 appearance on Upbeat (it reads 1969 in the title, but by that time they were long past plugging the song for more sales) check out the video below.

 

To purchase The Best of The Lemon Pipers with Green Tambourine 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

#208 – Lady Godiva

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#208 – Lady Godiva by Peter and Gordon

Peter and Gordon – For a change of pace, we’ll dwell on the past by starting from a futuristic point of view. Let’s pretend aspiring pop culture historians a few decades from now are given the title of this song as a research assignment. They’re familiar with the story of Lady Godiva, who rode on a horse naked through the streets of Coventry, England to protest high taxes imposed by her husband on his subjects. That legend has been passed down since the 13th Century, so it’s safe to assume they’ll know that much (and now you do too).

Armed with only the title, they’re assigned the task of looking back into the 20th Century to find a pop song with the same name and the artist(s). Of course you already know that much (I gave you the answer above). But where do you think these futuristic researchers might start their search?

With Peter and Gordon? Let’s discuss…

Paul and Peter

Paul and Peter

The British Invasion duo was known mostly for their mid-tempo love songs World Without Love and Woman. And as pointed out in an earlier article by The Classic Rocker, both songs were written by Paul McCartney and given to Peter and Gordon. That’s what can happen when a Beatle is dating your sister and living in a spare bedroom in your parents’ house. In this case, it was Peter’s sister Jane Asher and the Asher mom and dad. It’s also one of the reasons Paul became the richest Beatle. While the others were spending their residuals buying mansions in a rich neighborhood, he was living rent free.

But in the fall of 1966 Peter and Gordon released a different style of song. Lady Godiva showed they had a sense of humor while also adding a little sense of risqué to their reputations.

Seriously – risqué?

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

————————————————————————

Okay, it’s not like they suddenly became the Hugh Hefner’s of The British Invasion, but this song’s storyline was different. While artists that year were singing about falling in love, making love, getting high and in many songs doing all three, P&G were actually singing about a naked girl riding a horse down a city street, being discovered by a Hollywood director and becoming a star in pornographic films.

Lady Godiva with P&G

P&G (with deejay) and The Lady

It had been a long ride from World Without Love.

But do you think our futuristic pop culture historians could find Peter and Gordon based only on this song title? It might take them a while since the above mentioned teenage angst love songs of their earlier career never came close to referencing “All the cats who dig striptease” and “Certificate X.” Peter and Gordon were more aligned with the smiling, clean-scrubbed, blow-dried hair and “I wanna hold your hand” image of The Beatles rather than the scruffy, dirty and scowling members of The Rolling Stones looking for some satisfaction.

Future pop historians may toss artists of The British Invasion into one lump category, but those of us that lived through it know there were differences. It’s like comparing The Animals to Herman’s Hermits.

Eric Burdon would sing about Lady Godiva. Peter Noone’s mum probably wouldn’t let him.

At this particular time in 1966 pop music was still pretty innocent.

Bob Dylan was talking over a lot of teenager’s heads with songs like Subterranean Homesick Blues and no one in my junior high class knew what the heck John Lennon was singing about in Tomorrow Never Knows. In the fall of 1966 the Beatles were limping off their last-ever tour and The Monkees were bringing innocent pop hits to primetime television. From our futuristic point of view we could say Peter and Gordon were only doing the same. But when it came to their latest single the subject matter felt a bit stronger than Davy Jones looking into a beautiful girl’s eyes and singing I Want To Be Free.

peter-gordon-lady-godivaI’m not exactly sure of this, but I seem to remember Lady Godiva was banned from the radio in certain areas including a bit of protest about the storyline in Coventry, England. I guess the residents needed to protect their reputation and a 13th Century naked lady on a horse was a lot more innocent than a 1960’s naked lady scoring big in Hollywood.

Lady Godiva road onto this Dream Song List the morning of March 26th. It falls into the category of recent memory since I had just heard it. It also falls into one of my favorite genres of pop music – Music Hall Rock. With the jangly banjo, hook-driven verses and Peter and Gordon harmony, the song is a classic example of a popular 60’s trend that past and future pop culture historians should understand.

For other examples of Music Hall Rock check out Daydream by The Lovin’ Spoonful, Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks, and Good Day Sunshine by The Beatles. With the roots of these songs influenced by the pop hits of the 1920’s, it’s obvious that sometimes you need to dwell in the past to find futuristic trends.

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And speaking of a futuristic point of view, what might happen to our future pop historians searching for any information about this song simply based on its title? If it were me I’d round up the usual suspects of rock stars with oversexed images – which would eliminate Peter and Gordon. I can envision a research team swarming through a dust covered warehouse (think ending of Raiders of the Lost Arc) and excavating through bins and bins of vinyl records until they reach…

The late 1970’s?

Not Peter and Gordon

Not Peter and Gordon

Yeah, that’s where I’d start my search for a record titled Lady Godiva. And to narrow my research, I’d head straight for the Rod Stewart section and examine the song titles on the back covers of his LPs. He had the reputation for asking, “Da’ya think I’m sexy?” more than Peter and Gordon or any other smiling, clean-scrubbed and blown-dried hair pop stars of the 60’s.

In fact, I can dwell back into teenage angst mode and envision a music video for Rod Stewart’s version of Lady Godiva. Basically, he’d come out in his 70’s spandex and rooster hair while a string of Hugh Hefner worthy blondes recreate the naked ride on horseback. At the end of the song Rod jumps on the back of one of the horses – riding bareback (meaning no saddle – he’s still in spandex) – and rides off into the sunset. Ooh-la-la!

Of course this non-existent music video is nothing more than fun speculation and fantasy, even though it’s probably closer to what was riding through the minds of many teenaged males at the time. Looking back from a futuristic point of view it wouldn’t be a song title or storyline expected from Peter and Gordon. But then again, no one else expected it from them either in 1966.

For a video of Peter and Gordon performing Lady Godiva – featuring McCartney’s ex-girlfriend’s brother on jangly banjo and a bonus introduction by comedy legend Milton Berle – check this out.

 

 

To purchase The Ultimate Peter and Gordon with Lady Godiva 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