In today's post I have added links to youtube if you are interested in hearing some of the music that I am talking about.
In a post from last week I described how as I was growing up my musical taste was primarily developed according to what my parents had in their record collection. I don't recall listening to the radio much, but I listened to my parents records on their hi-fi often. There was always a wide variety of music to listen to so my musical taste became eclectic and I was pretty open-minded to hearing new music sounds.
In elementary school I played in the school orchestra and took private violin lessons. Also music appreciation periods in school introduced to classical and other forms of music. I was becoming fairly well musically educated. However, I was not really too aware of the rock and roll scene. All of that changed in 1963 when I entered junior high school in San Diego.
Almost a teenager entering a school mostly populated by those who were already teens was jolting. Childhood was officially over. I felt out of place. Now the day consisted of several classrooms and several teachers instead of the security of one classroom with a teacher who knew you. Now there was phys ed where we had to change into gym clothes and take communal showers, language class where I was going to learn Spanish, and school orchestra where I was no longer the best violinist in the lead chair. It was like starting school all over again.
One of the new experiences was a greater freedom at lunch. There was a Snack Shack where we could buy tacos and hamburgers. As we sat outside eating our lunches, music was being played over the loudspeakers. Day after day I recall hearing one song, the big hit of the fall of 1963, and that song was Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer. I don't remember hearing any other song. For all I know "Sugar Shack" was the only song they ever played. My musical sensibility was resisting the pop sounds I was hearing, but at the same time I couldn't help but kind of like it as well--just a little bit. The teen chart hit sound was starting to worm its way inside of me.
Less than two months after I started junior high my family moved to Indiana. The transition was major, but occurring in the middle of the school year like it did it wasn't really that bad. No more orchestra, but there was a sort of general music class that all 7th graders were required to be in. But there was still the popular music that was starting to intrigue me. And then came the British invasion. I became hooked.
I started buying 45 RPM records--those were smaller records with one song on each side. They were less expensive than albums. Then I started finding albums that were intriguing to a 13 year old male. Early on I bought a knock off version of James Bond themes. I also bought a series of novelty records by Frankie Stein and his Ghouls. It was instrumental beach dance music. The one pictured here was Ghoul Music (1964) by Frankie Stein and his Ghouls. Much of the music sounded alike and eventually I realized a lot of the songs were repeated from album to album and just had different names. I still loved them at the time.
In 1965 I graduated to a different type of more sophisticated instrumental music-- Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. With an album cover that intrigued every adolescent boy, Whipped Cream provided hours of listening enjoyment for me. I built a collection of Tijuana Brass.
At this same time I was beginning to take note of my sister's Beatles records. Those are the records she was collecting. I had already began to appreciate some of the other English groups, but my sister owned the Beatles records. Then I discovered one that I could appreciate. The Chipmunks had been popular since the late 50s, and I had enjoyed their novelty songs. Now as they performed the Beatles hits, the music of the Fab Four was mine too. I could enjoy the harmonies Chipmunk style.
From here something happens to my memory. Music is everywhere and I am obsessed with it. Are the dates on Google and other internet sources wrong? I remember the time much differently than what the internet sources cite. Here is what I remember. I recall one very bizarre night in what I think is early 1966. I am with my family traveling to Rochester, NY where we are to perform in the Shrine Circus. It is the early hours of the morning and there is a great deal of snow. My father has the radio tuned to a station that is playing some very interesting music. First I hear "All My Loving" by the Chipmunks. Then I hear a bright and peppy vocal quartet called The Sugar Shoppe singing a vaudeville sounding song called "Poor Poppa". Then finally a hauntingly beautiful version of the Beatles song "A Hard Day's Night" performed by a sweet vocal duo call Tee and Cara. I swear it was all there that early morning, lost and circling the snowed in city of Rochester, New York in the mid-winter of 1966.
There was so much music then. Everywhere. It was on the radio in the car, on the school bus, and at home. My mind was filling up with great songs and new sounds. I began reading about music and watching it on television. It was a long time ago and I seem to remember it all so well, but then as I think about it I begin to wonder: How well do I really remember it all? I should have written it all down, but I never thought I'd be trying to remember it all later. I'll have to ask my mother and see if she can remember.
One thing I do remember for sure is that in December of 1965 everyone was waiting for the new Beatles album. Rumors were going around that this would be a very different album. I don't recall the exact date, but I remember hearing some songs, perhaps the entire album, debuted on WLS radio in Chicago. Every night thereafter, when WLS would play the most requested song for the night, it would be "Michele". I had to have this album. I got it for Christmas. From that point on my sister was not particularly interested in the Beatles, but I got every Beatles release after the release of Rubber Soul. I began building a collection of records that was only limited by how much money I had to spend and how many albums I would get for Christmas or birthdays, which was limited. In other words, the collection built slowly, but steadily. I only showed symptoms when I was getting those early novelty albums and 45 RPM records. With RubberSoul I became fully infected with musical fever.