Friday, June 14, 2019

Turtles – "Happy Together" (1967)

Imagine me and you
I do!

Do you remember the movie Dumb and Dumber?  In that movie, Jim Carrey’s character – who is named Lloyd – is a limo driver who is hired to drive a character named Mary to the airport.  Between the time he picks her up and the time he drops her off, Lloyd falls in love with Mary.

When they meet again shortly thereafter, he declares his feelings for her and asks if there’s any chance of them having a future together:

Lloyd: What are the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me ending up together?

Mary: Not good.

Lloyd: Not good like . . . one in a hundred?

Mary: I'd say more like . . . one in a million.

Lloyd: So you’re telling me there’s a chance . . . YEAH!

(You can click here to watch the scene.)

*     *     *     *     *

I quote this conversation because it has great relevance to my junior high school band, the Rogues.

The Rogues were formed in 1965.  While there were probably a zillion similar bands in the U.S. in those days, I’m confident that the members of the Rogues were more talented musicians than most of those bands.  

The Rogues (circa 1967)
But were we good enough that we might have eventually got a record deal and become big stars?

Obviously, the odds were not good that any 1965-era band would make it big.  But I’m confident that the Rogues had a better chance of making it big than Lloyd had of winning over Mary.  So my answer to the question I asked in the previous paragraph is a resounding YEAH!

*     *     *     *     *

Every so often, I’ll hear a song on the radio and realize that it was one that the Rogues played.

The first song I remember rehearsing with the band was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound.”  (Not exactly a toe-tapper, is it?)   

“Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals was another one of the songs we covered.  (I was the band’s keyboard player, so I loved that song because it had a nice organ solo.)

I was picked to be the lead singer when we played the Animals’ classic, “House of the Rising Sun.”  I’m not sure why I was chosen to sing that song – I had a low voice, and I think I had to sing most of the song an octave lower than Eric Burdon sang it.  But I do remember handling the lead vocal when we performed it at a pool party at the local country club in the summer of . . . 1965?  Or was it 1966?

*     *     *     *     *

Of all the songs the Rogues covered, “Happy Together” – which was a #1 hit for the Turtles in 1967 – was our biggest crowd-pleaser.  

That comes as no surprise.  “Happy Together” was a great song, and I have no doubt that our version of it was a stick of dynamite.  (Perhaps even better than the original – although there are some who will question that.)

Our snazzy white dinner jackets and ascots didn’t hurt, of course.

*     *     *     *     *

The Rogues and I had a parting of the ways in 1967.

I could say the cause for the split was artistic differences.  (The favorite recording artists of the leader of the Rogues were Herman’s Hermits and Simon and Garfunkel.  My favorites were the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.  Your Honor, I rest my case.)

But the real reason was my inability to persuade my parents to shell out a few hundred bucks to buy me a Vox Continental or Farfisa Compact Combo organ to replace the $29.95 dimestore piece of crap that I played.

Vox Continental organ
There was no big blowup or anything – the other Rogues just stopped telling me when and where the band’s practices were going to take place.

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to listen to “Happy Together.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Supremes – "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (1966)

Let me get over you
The way you've gotten over me

Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was the lone Motown song in the inaugural group of songs inducted into the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME last year.

This year’s class includes two Motown classics: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by the Supremes.

“You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was a classic Motown song that was a #1 hit for the Supremes.  It was written and produced by Motown’s legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland production team, and I think it’s the best song the Supremes ever did.  It has a little more punch than most of their songs.

Last year, I included Vanilla Fudge’s cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” in the initial class of the OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” ALBUM TRACKS HALL OF FAME 

The Vanilla Fudge version of the song is such a stick of dynamite that it’s easy to overlook just how good the original recording of the song was.  

It’s flawlessly performed and produced – what Supremes hit wasn’t?  But thanks to the speeded-up tempo and the anxiety and frustration in Diana Ross’s voice, the song gets under the listener’s skin.  

Come on, buddy . . . just be a man about it . . . and set her free!

Click here to listen to “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, June 7, 2019

? and the Mysterians – "96 Tears" (1966)

Too many teardrops
For one heart to be crying

[NOTE: Adlai Stevenson famously said, “In America, anyone may become President.”  It’s equally true that in America, anyone can record a #1 hit single – as today’s featured song proves.  Here is a slightly edited version of my original March 7, 2017 post about “96 Tears,” which is the newest member of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME.]

Queen Victoria was devastated by the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert, in 1861.  

It was traditional in victorian England for widows to wear mourning dress for two years.  In the first year – “full mourning” – widows wore all black.  In the second year – “half mourning” – black predominated, but a small amount of purple or white was acceptable.  

Queen Victoria wore this mourning dress
in 1894 – 33 years after Albert's death
Victoria was made of sterner stuff than the typical British widow.  She mourned Albert for the remaining forty years of her life.

I’m not sure how many British or American widows of that era followed Victoria’s example and mourned for forty years, but there’s no doubt that the Victorians took mourning very seriously indeed.

Some Victorian mourning traditions were downright weird.  When someone died in a house, any clocks in the room where he or she died were stopped at the moment of the death.  

Postmortem photographs of the deceased and close family members were taken, with the dead man, woman, or child posed in such a way that suggested he or she was still alive.  (The eyes of the deceased might be propped open, or pupils drawn on to deceased’s closed eyes in the studio after the photograph was developed.)

Coffin alarm
Tales of unconscious people being accidentally buried alive were legion.  To prevent this, a bell was mounted on the headstone and a chain was attached to the bell and the corpse’s finger so that the dead man or woman could sound the alarm if he or she suddenly regained consciousness while six feet under.

One Victorian funerary custom I only recently learned about was the use of lachrymatory vials, or tear bottles.  Mourners were given small, decorative vials and would shed tears of grief into those vials, which would be kept close by until the tears evaporated as a reminder of the dead person.

Victorian tear vials
The Victorians probably didn’t invent tear bottles.  Glass blowing was invented around 100 A.D., and it appears that Romans mourners of that era may have wept into tear bottles and then placed them into the deceased’s tomb.  

Some even believe that David’s words in Psalm 56:8 – “Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle” – indicate that lachrymatory vials existed a thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ.  

*     *     *     *     *

I’m not sure what the capacity of the typical tear bottle was, but I’m guessing that it would have held 96 tears.

The members of ? and the Mysterians were the children of Mexican-American farm workers who moved from Texas to central Michigan.

“96 Tears” was originally recorded by the small local Pa-Go-Go label, but was eventually picked up by Cameo Records, a big Philadelphia label.  With the help of Cameo’s national distribution network, “96 Tears” quickly climbed to the #1 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” in September 1966.  No record ever used the Vox Continental organ to better effect.

I’m proud that I grew up in a country where a crude and unsophisticated single recorded in a basement studio in Bay City, Michigan, by a bunch of farmworkers’ kids could make it all the way to #1 and eventually be certified as a gold record.  

“96 Tears” was written by ? – whose birth name was Rudy Martinez.  Some accounts say that the song was originally titled “69 Tears,” but the band’s manager was afraid that radio stations wouldn’t play a record with that title.  But ? told Carl Wiser of Songfacts that the song was always called “96 Tears.”

Here’s the best garage-rock song of all time, “96 Tears”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Animals – "It's My Life" (1965)

Taking all I can get
No regrets

In the late fifties and early sixties, the center of the pop music world was The Brill Building in New York City.

Many of the best songs that came out of the Brill Building were written by songwriting teams consisting of a composer and a lyricist.  For example, Burt Bacharach wrote the music for “The Look of Love,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” while Hal David wrote the lyrics for those songs.

The entrance to the Brill Building
Other well-known Brill Building songwriting teams included Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (“Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” “Stand By Me”), Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“On Broadway,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”), and Gerry Goffin and Carole King (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “One Fine Day”).

One of the lesser-known Brill Building songwriting teams was composer Carl D’Errico (who also worked with Neil Diamond and Gerry Goffin) and lyricist Roger Atkins (whose other collaborators included Neil Sedaka and Michael Nesmith).  D’Errico and Atkins wrote a number of songs together, but one of them stands head and shoulders above the others: “It’s My Life,” which was recorded by the Animals in 1965.

*     *     *     *     *

After the Animals struck gold with “House of the Rising Sun” in 1964, producer Mickie Most sent word to Don Kirshner – the most successful of the Brill Building music publishers – that the Animals needed new material.

Kirshner spread the word among his large stable of songwriters, who got busy writing songs that Kirshner could pitch to Most.  

Carl D’Errico and Roger Atkins
Three of the songs that Kirshner’s songwriters wrote in response to Most’s request – “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” and “It’s My Life” – became big hits for the Animals.

*     *     *     *     *

Every element of “It’s My Life” is perfect, but it’s Roger Atkins’ lyrics that makes the song worthy of induction into the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME.

“It’s My Life” is sung by a poor young man who is brutally honest – and completely unapologetic – about his ambitions and the means he intends to use to achieve them.

“It’s a hard world to get a break in,” he says, but no matter.  “[T]here are ways to make certain things pay,” and he tells the girl who is in love with him that he won’t hesitate to exploit other women if that’s what it takes for him to get ahead:

Are you gonna cry
When I'm squeezin’ them dry?
Takin’ all I can get
No regrets
When I
Openly lie
And live on their money

If the girl is willing to accept him on his terms, that’s fine.  But if she has any doubts about how he plans to live his life, she’d better hit the road.  It’s his way or the highway:

It’s my life
And I'll do what I want
It’s my mind
And I'll think what I want

*     *     *     *     *

Many of the hits that came out of the Brill Building back in the day went down as easy as a vanilla milkshake – simple songs for what we think of as simple times.  

But “It’s My Life” is more like a shot of 100-proof whiskey.  It’s slap-in-the-face honest. 

Click here to listen to “It’s My Life.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Rolling Stones – "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (1965)

Baby, better come back, maybe next week
'Cause you see, I'm on a losing streak

The title of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – which is the newest member of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME – contains an obvious double negative.

In some languages, the second negative of a double negative cancels out the first negative – leaving a positive statement.  (It’s like when you multiply two negative numbers – you end up with a positive number.)

In other languages, double negatives are used to intensify the negative statements.  

In English, a double negative can either be an affirmative statement or what grammarians call an “emphatic negation.”  It depends on the context.

When Mick Jagger sings “I can’t get no satisfaction,” the context makes it clear that he’s using the double negative as an intensifier.

*     *     *     *     *

Keith Richards has said that he came up with the famous guitar riff that kicks off “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” while he was more or less asleep.  Fortunately, he was awake enough to turn on a portable cassette recorder and capture the riff.  (When he listened to the tape the next morning, he heard two minutes of himself playing what would become “Satisfaction” on an acoustic guitar followed by 40 minutes of snoring.)   

*     *     *     *     *

“Satisfaction” gets an A+ when it comes to attitude.  Its Keith Richards riff and its Charlie Watts drumming are great, and its subtly irregular lyrical meter is much more sophisticated than the sing-songy structure of most Beatles lyrics of that era.  But the reason that the song is usually listed at or very near the top when rock songs are ranked is its attitude.  

Has there ever been a song that better captures the agita that teenagers feel?  The singer of the song offers several reasons for being aggravated (e.g., annoying TV commercials) but his aggravation doesn’t really have a cause – it just is.

I thought about inducting a different Stones single into my wildly popular little hall of fame this year – perhaps “Paint It Black.”  But le Rolling Stones, c’est “Satisfaction” – n’est-ce pas?  

*     *     *     *     *

“Satisfaction” was the Rolling Stones’ first #1 single in the United States.  It eventually hit #1 in the UK as well, but the BBC – which had a legal monopoly on radio stations in the UK – refused to play the song because it was considered too sexually suggestive.  

Jagger was amused that the BBC’s censors “didn't understand the dirtiest line” –  the line from the last verse where the girl asks the singer to come see her next week because she’s currently “on a losing streak,” which is apparently a reference to menstruation.  (Who knew?)

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to listen to the stereo mix of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which I think I like better than the mono version that we’ve heard on the radio for years.  (The acoustic guitar part is more noticeable in the stereo version – you can barely hear it in the mono mix.  Also, the tambourine is less prominent – and less annoying – in the stereo mix.)

Click on the link below to buy the familiar mono version of the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Beatles – "Eight Days a Week" (1965)

Love you every day, girl
Always on my mind
One thing I can say, girl
Love you all the time

[NOTE: The Beatles released close to two dozen singles that are worthy of serious consideration for the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME.  But none of them really stand out, so it wasn’t easy to decide which one to pick as the first Beatles single to induct into my wildly popular little hall of fame.  I ended up picking “Eight Days a Week” for two reasons: (1) it’s as good as any other possible choice, and (2) director Ron Howard gave that title to his fascinating documentary movie about the Beatles’ touring days.  I wrote three posts about that documentary and the Beatles in general in October 2016.  What follows is a slightly edited version of the third of those posts, which I think absolutely nailed it.]

In his review of Ron Howard’s new documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, Tom Shone of Newsweek describes the Beatles as “the original and best boy band.”

It may seem blasphemous to lump the Beatles in with boy bands like One Direction, the Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync, the Bay City Rollers, and the Monkees because the Beatles eventually matured into something very different from those boy bands.  

But The Ed Sullivan Show-vintage Beatles – the Beatles of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” — were not only a boy band, but the original boy band. 

The Beatles had a Svengali-like figure who took control of their career – Brian Epstein, who took the scruffy, leather-jacket-clad lads from Liverpool (by way of Hamburg) and put them in natty matching suits with matching haircuts.  And having a Svengali pulling the strings is de rigueur for a boy band.

More importantly, the Beatles had a legion of insanely devoted fangirls, which is even de rigueur-er for a boy band.  

Beatles fans
When I saw Eight Days a Week last weekend, I was struck by just how many of the fans at Beatles concerts were teenaged girls too young to have a driver’s license.  (I’m guessing about 99% fit that description.)

Writing on, Jillian Mapes notes correctly that “Beatlemania established the barometer by which all other boy-band-demonium has been gauged.  Is that not the defining aspect of what separates a boy band from merely an all-male pop group?”

Makes goes on to explain what made the Beatles uniquely appealing to their fangirls:

Certainly Elvis and even a young Sinatra inspired similar reactions in teen girls, and doo-wop and R&B groups had proven that there's a certain magic in male voices playing off each other.  But the Beatles marked the first time listeners were able to customize their fandom by claiming one of four distinct personalities that corresponded to their romantic tastes.  This is the model more or less emulated by every wildly successful boy-band since: a boy for every type of girl (however laughably reductive that may be).

Why did girls scream at Beatles concerts?

Rachel Simmons, whose website describes her as “an author, educator and coach helping girls and young women grow into authentic, emotionally intelligent and assertive adults,” believes that concerts give young females who are socialized to be polite, modest “good girls” an opportunity to let it all hang out:

In their day-to-day, non-concert-going lives, girls don’t have a lot of permission to scream.  A concert offers an oasis from the daily rules about being good girls.  Screaming is about letting go and leaving the confines of being the self-conscious pleaser.

Simmons also believes that screaming at a concert allows teenaged girls to be part of a group but also express themselves as individuals:

Adolescent girls are really invested in the acceptance of their peers.  But there’s a competitive element to fandom and fangirling — and screaming is an expression of that fandom.  So girls are doing it not only to assert their passion for the band, but to compete with each other and to signal to each other that, “This is what I care about.”  It’s part competition, but partly a way to connect.  During adolescence for girls, that’s a very complex and important drive.

I don’t find Ms. Simmons’s theory very persuasive, so I did some research to see what science might have to say about why fangirls scream at boy-band concerts.

Professor Harold Gouzoules, the chairman of the psychology department at Emory University, has been studying how rhesus monkeys use screams to communicate for years.  He believes that screaming by humans is also a means of communicating, and that the message that screamers are communicating is generally the same one: LOOK AT ME!!!

According to Professor Gouzoules,

If you got back to Nazi rallies in the ’30s, when Hitler was rising to prominence, there are historical accounts that young women were screaming.  There’s something about that kind of social event — there’s excitement being generated by somebody who has power or authority. . . . And those screams are attention-getting.  That’s how they serve monkeys.  That’s how they serve us a lot of the time.

In other words, young girls at Beatle concerts screamed for the same reason that young girls at Nazi rallies screamed and the rhesus monkeys that Professor Gouzoules observed screamed: because they were desperate for attention.

The girls who attended Beatles concerts did a lot of screaming.  They also cried and fainted.  But that’s not all they did.

From the Huffington Post:

Multiple people have claimed Beatles shows were known for their urine.  Notably, John B. Lynn, son of the owner of a venue the Beatles played, told The Washington Post that the concert hall smelled like the pee of overexcited girls after the show.  


Bob Geldof has admitted that he associates the Beatles with the smell of urine.

The singer revealed that he was stunned by the large number of young girls "pissing themselves" at a Beatles concert he attended in the 1960s and can no longer remember the band without thinking of the incident.

"The Beatles was a case of watching females in excelsis.  It's the old cliché, but you couldn't hear them for all the screaming," he told Q magazine.

"I remember looking down at the cinema floor and seeing these rivulets of piss in the aisles. The girls were literally pissing themselves with excitement.  So what I associate most with the Beatles is the smell of girls' urine."

(Hopefully, Geldof’s memory is better than his Latin.  In excelsis means “in the highest.”  I think Sir Bob meant to say in extremis.)

Click below to buy a new remastered version of the Beatles’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl album, which is a companion to Ron Howard’s Eight Days a Week movie:

Friday, May 24, 2019

Four Seasons – "Rag Doll" (1964)

Such a pretty face
Should be dressed in lace

[NOTE: Time flies when you’re having fun.  And also when you’re not.

Whether you’ve been having fun or not, a year has flown since I announced the songs that had been chosen for inclusion in the inaugural class of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME.  Which means that it’s time to pick another ten songs to honor.  

Actually, eleven songs – not ten.  Last year, I picked ten songs then realized I had left out an obvious choice – so I threw it in at the last minute.  I figured why mess with success, so I’m picking eleven inductees this year as well.

There’s little risk of running out of Hall of Fame-worthy songs anytime soon, so you can expect me to choose another eleven songs every year for as long as I live.

Unless I lose interest, of course.  (That’s a very real possibility – I’ve always had a short attention span, and it’s not getting any longer with age.)

“Rag Doll” is the oldest of this year’s group of inductees.  It was released in June 1964, just after my 12th birthday – or just about the time I entered puberty.]

*     *     *     *     *

When it came to cranking out top 40 singles, the Four Seasons were a machine.  But it took years for that machine to get started.

Lead singer Frankie Valli’s first record was released in 1953, and he and his bandmates – they used over a dozen different names – released a lot of unsuccessful singles.

Eventually, Valli teamed up with 16-year-old Bob Gaudio, the co-author of the 1958 hit Short Shorts. ”  Gaudio and producer Bob Crewe clicked as a songwriting combination, and the first three Gaudio-Crewe songs that the Four Seasons recorded and released as singles – Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, and Walk Like A Man – were all #1 hits in 1962-63.

There were more top ten hits over the next year, including the group’s fourth #1 single – Rag Doll.

The Four Seasons performing on TV in 1964
Rag Doll is about a wrong-side-of-the-tracks love affair.  (Billy Joe RoyalDown in the Boondocks is another classic from this genre.)  The singer – a typical, middle-class teenager – is in love with a poor girl, but as we know (borrowing Shakespeares words), the course of true love never did run smooth. 

All the other kids laughed at the girl's hand-me-down clothes and called her rag doll, little rag doll she moved into the town.  

The boys parents want him to break things off – they assume that just because shes poor, that sheno good.

The singer would change her sad rags into glad rags he could, but it doesnt really matter to him how she's dressed – I love you just the way you are, he asserts.

The Four Seasons only rivals for chart dominance until the Beatles came along were the Beach Boys.  Both groups sang simple songs aimed at a teenage audience, and both groups could sing harmony with the best of them.  

But in a way, the bands were mirror images of one another.  The Four Seasons were New York/Philly/Jersey boys, while the Beach Boys were pure southern California.  The Four Seasons were Italian-American, while the Beach Boys were WASPs.  

Rag Doll have worked for the Beach Boys because there werent any wrong-side-of-the-tracks girls in California in 1964 – everyone there (except for movie stars, of course) was middle-class.  It was a different story on the mean streets of New York City, Philadelphia, and the New Jersey cities that were in-between.

Rag Doll” was released in June 1964, just days after my 12th birthday.  I came down with the mumps that summer, and spent close to a week in bed.  I owned a copy of Rag Doll” – I only bought about half-a-dozen singles each year, so I must have really liked the song – and played it about a thousand times while I had the mumps.  

Here's a picture of my Rag Doll” 45:

I played the B" side of the single, Silence is Golden" (which was a big hit in 1967 for the Tremeloes, an English group), almost as many times as Rag Doll.

*     *     *     *     *

Shortly after I contracted mumps, a vaccine was developed for the disease.  You dont hear it much today.

But back in 1964, it was pretty common.  If you caught it when you were young, nothing much happened.  But it was a pretty scary disease if you were a postpubescent male.  

(Trust me, boys and girls, I was 100% postpubescent in the summer of 1964.  We dont need to get into the messy details of that, do we?)

Adolescent or adult males with mumps have about a 30% chance of suffering orchitis, and I do mean suffering.  Orchitis is inflammation of the testicles, which often is quite painful and can result in some pretty gruesome things.  

In some cases, orchitis results in sterility or reduced fertility.  This obviously didn't happen in my case, because I have four children.  (Here's a funny thing –  my kids look a lot like the mailman in our old neighborhood.  Weird coincidence, huh?)

I do remember having a bit of orchitis.  What I remember most is the excruciating pain I felt when I tried to eat a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich when I had the mumps.  Mumps cause your salivary glands to swell up, and chewing when you are in that condition is something that I dont recommend.

I bring up Rag Doll all these years because my mother-in-law recently treated my family to a performance of Jersey Boys, the hit Broadway musical about the Four Seasons.  

Its become a tradition for her to give all of us theatre tickets for Christmas.  Over the past few years, for example, weve seen South Pacific, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story

I voted that we go to a revival of Hair a couple of years ago, but a certain uptight and narrow-minded person who shares my last name has a problem with full-frontal nudity in the theatre, even when it is artistically necessary.  (I told her about driving to San Antonio to see a production of Hair when I was in college, and I guess I let it slip that the finale of the first act of the play was performed au naturel.  Live and learn . . .)

Click here to listen to Rag Doll.

Here's a link you can use to order the song from Amazon: