1965… Part One

Why 1965?  Well, after the epic previous post, I thought a more modest effort was appropriate here… and I had been thinking about this as a topic for a while.  First, let’s put the year in context.  It’s the year that Canada finally adopted its official (and current) flag (appropriate as I watch the this year’s Olympics).

It’s also the year in which The Sound of Music was released to enormous popular success (replacing Gone with the Wind as top-grossing film of all time and garnering five academy awards (including best picture).

I was 12 (for most of the year), in grade seven and on the cusp of adolescence (so to speak).  And I was becoming aware of popular music.  It would be incorrect to say that I hadn’t been aware of its role in “youth culture” previously.  Of course I knew about the Beatles, Elvis et al… but more as one peering “through a glass darkly” than feeling it a part of me.  That changed in 1965.  Why?  Probably a number of reasons.  My age.  The hype.  The media.  The music itself.  And this…

The 1966 Ford Fairlane 500

A car?  In a word, yes.  Now we had cars before this.  As a matter of fact I do remember a 1964 white Ford Fairlane.

A radioless 1964 white Ford Fairlane

But… it didn’t have a radio.  Our newest acquisition (obtained in late 1965) did.  An AM radio with good tone and reception that enabled the listener to discover stations hitherto unavailable.  Coincidentally our village had just opened its first laundromat equipped with toploading washers and dryers.  Although my mother had an older wringer washer (and “outdoor dryer”) the onset of colder weather made this new facility a tempting convenience.  As an only child I was constrained to tag along on these regular adventures.  I soon developed a strategy which made the occasion not only bearable but quite enjoyable.  As she spent several hours waiting in the laundromat I spent most of that time in the car absorbing the biggest hits of the moment. The convergence of new car and new local business suddenly made me an expert on the popular music scene.  Perhaps that’s why I particularly remember the songs which initiated me into this brave new world…

Here are five examples… they are not so much “favourites” (although I like them all)… they are just indelible in the ol’ memory banks.  From late 1965, first heard on that car radio…

It seems appropriate to start with “the lads”.  The song was teamed (as a single) with Day Tripper.  It was recorded in October and released in December of 1965.

The British Invasion continues…  Petulia Clark’s fame as a singer dates back to her childhood during World War II but she became a darling of pop Britain with hits like DowntownMy Love made its debut in December 1965 and remained #1 for two weeks in 1966.  (For the younger folks… that’s what a ’45 single looked like…)

The Turtles… even if you don’t know them, you probably know their best-known hit Happy Together (from 1967).  This song, a cover of Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe, is representative of the folk-rock genre which was proving very popular on both sides of the Atlantic in this period.  Their version reached the Billboard Top Ten in the late summer of 1965 and was still receiving air play at the end of that year.

Speaking of folk-rock, here’s a case where Simon and Garfunkel’s original composition (decidedly acoustic, decidedly folk) was later “rocked up” without their knowledge by the addition of electric guitar, bass and drums for release as a single in the fall of 1965.

About now you’re probably thinking that all these musicians enjoyed a string of hits and that this was perhaps indicative of the pop music industry at this time.  While it’s true that they did, 1965 also produced its share of “one hit wonders”.  A case in point… It’s Good News Week by Hedgehoppers Anonymous which charted at number five in the fall of 1965.

Unless you are a truly earnest seeker, you won’t find evidence of further attempts to repeat this singular success.  Translation: one hit wonders…

There were two radio stations which vied for my listening time… CKLW in Windsor (Ontario) and WCFL out of Chicago.  Of the two, WCFL was my preferred choice… but its signal was variable (especially with certain radios) and so CKLW (with its powerful signal) served as backup.  Not surprisingly, each station had its own idiosyncrasies and radio personalities.  WCFL (given its location) also favoured showcasing local Chicago groups such as the Shadows of Knight, the Buckinghams, the New Colony Six and the Cryan Shames. (By the way, they all achieved varying degrees of success in North America and beyond.)

If you want to experience a bit of the spirit of WCFL (and some of the current hits at the time [early 1966]) have a listen to this segment with Jim Stagg…

Of course I wasn’t restricted to the laundromat for my exposure to pop music.  Although my parents were by no means fans of popular music of the time and did not make a practice of listening to such stations, I snuggled up for sleep most nights (for several years) with my trusty transistor radio tucked under my pillow… many times forgetting to turn it off before I nodded off!

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