Tag Archives: pop music

#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

#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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The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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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

#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!

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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