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Category: The 1960s (Page 1 of 2)

Green Tambourine Beats Out Bubble Gum Pop in ’67

When The Lemon Pipers recorded and released their simple, psychedelic tribute to a street busker, they had no idea the success of their single would start a music genre. But it did. Music critics hail (or decry, depending on taste) “Green Tambourine” as the first #1 hit in the world of bubblegum pop, a category still used to describe songs created to appeal to pre- and very young teenagers. 

Released in November of 1967, “Green Tambourine” reached the No. 1 sport on the Billboard Hot 100 in the first week of February, 1968 and remained on the chart for three more months. The song was written by Brill Building writers Paul Leka and Shelley Pinz. It tells the story of a street musician banging his tambourine and pleading for money (“Give me pennies, I’ll take anything”) in return for performing “any song you want I’ll gladly play.”  

Leka produced the song, which obviously included a prevalent tambourine. It also featured two signatures of the psychedelic sound, which exploded across America after the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival – an electric sitar and heavy tape echo applied to the word play in each chorus (Now listen while I play play play play play play my green tambourine.) 

In producing “Green Tambourine,” Leka established a bubblegum practice where the producer called all the shots in the studio, with the musicians simply following instructions in an assembly-line process. One of the best examples of this is the story of music publisher Don Kirshner, a major force behind the made-for-TV band The Monkees. The band rebelled against Kirchner’s strict creative control and NBC fired him in 1967. Seeking revenge, Kirshner came up with a cartoon band called The Archies based on the Archie comic series. That group’s single “Sugar, Sugar” held the top chart spot in 1969 for four weeks and is considered the epitome of bubblegum music. 

The Lemon Pipers’ song was the first bubblegum hit for the Buddha label, which soon became a major home for bubblegum artists. The band attempted to repeat the success of “Green Tambourine” but their two other singles “Rice Is Nice” (#46) and “Jelly Jungle” (#51) fell far short in that attempt.  

Here is the Billboard Top Ten the week “Green Tambourine captured the top spot: 

  1. Green Tambourine 
  2. Judy is Disguise (with Glasses) – John Fred and His Playboy Band
  3. Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin
  4. Spooky – The Classics IV
  5. Bend Me, Shape Me – The American Breed
  6. Woman, Woman, – Gary Puckett and the Union Gap
  7. Love Is Blue – Paul Mariat and His Orchestra
  8. Nobody But Me – Human Beinz  
  9. Goin’ Out of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You – The Lettermen
  10. I Wish It Would Rain – The Temptations 

9 Things You Might Not Know About The Lemon Pipers and “Green Tambourine” 

  1. The Lemon Pipers were a much heavier band than their bubblegum efforts would show. They first gained notoriety in 1967 by losing out in the finals of the Ohio Battle of the Bands in Cleveland to current Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh’s then-band The James Gang. 
  2. The group once made an appearance on a bill at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West with Traffic, Spirit, and Moby Grape. 
  3. The band left the Buddha label in 1969. It appeared in various reformations for the next few decades. 
  4. Three members of the original band – guitarist Bill Bartlett, keyboardist Reg Nave, and bassist Steve Walmsley – had further chart success in 1977 when they reworked an old Lead Belly song “Black Betty” and released it under the name Ram Jam. 
  5. In 1968, a cover of “Green Tambourine” was included on the Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra’s album Love Is Blue. The single reached No. 27 on Billboard’s Easy Listening Chart. 
  6. The song was featured in a TV commercial for the Plymouth Road Runner in 1970. 
  7. Robert Goulet, who provided the singing voice for the character Mikey, covered the song for the 2001 film Recess: School’s Out.      
  8. Actor Billy Bob Thornton, as the character Lorne Malvo, plays the song at the beginning of Episode 9 “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” of the TV series Fargo
  9. Paul Leka, who wrote the music for “Green Tamborine,” had one other hit – “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” for a group he made up entitled Steam. You’ve been hearing that song at all types of sporting events for almost 50 years. 

From Ape to Angel: Even After More Than 50 Years, 2001: A Space Odyssey Can Still Amaze

Since its debut in 1968, science-fiction enthusiasts and fans of great films have been debating the meaning of the epic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, a joint project from renowned movie director Stanley Kubrick and famed novelist Arthur C. Clarke.

That’s why many of them were hoping with the 2018 release of his book, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece, which celebrates the enigmatic film’s 50thanniversary, author Michael Benson would finally provide definitive answers to their questions.

However, despite years of researching, Benson readily admits he still isn’t certain exactly what Kubrick and Clarke were trying to say in their “implicit rather explicit” film.

“It is a masterwork of oblique visceral and intuited meanings which permits every viewer to project his or her own understanding on it. And that’s an important reason for the film’s enduring power and relevance,” Benson says.

In 1968, Kubrick claimed he wanted audiences “to pay attention with their eyes” as they viewed his epic, evolutionary journey of humans from “ape to angel.

”The director likened his and Clarke’s work more to a painting than a regular film, an idea solidified by the fact the 142-minute film contains less than 40 minutes of dialogue. The dialogue-free imagistic story telling is a non-verbal, more akin to a musical masterpiece than a typical film” Benson writes in the forward to his 497-page opus.

When it was released 50 years ago, the film was initially dismissed as incomprehensible. But it quickly found favor with hipper elements of the Baby Boom generation, who were looking to drugs and ancient Eastern philosophies to take them on an inner journey and viewed the film as a similar attempt to grasp the complexities of an even more mind-boggling universe.

Soon it began receiving critical praise as well. Today, it is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. 2001 was named the number 1 science fiction movie of all-time by the American Film Institute (AFI). It was also listed as number 15 on the AFI’s “100 Years, 100 Movies” list. In 1991, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on 2001, but I have seen the film a half-dozen times in my life, first as a 16-year old when it was released and most recently as a 66-year-old at a recent viewing at the Smithsonian Museum of American History which was followed by an engaging, thought-provoking talk by Benson.

So, after five decades, what do I feel certain in saying about the film?

First, as its title implies, it is a saga about a journey, one loosely informed by Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, a sequel to his equally famous The Iliad. While The Iliadis about the fall of Troy, The Odysseyconcerns the 10-year, action-packed journey of one of the greatest surviving Greek warriors, Ulysses, as he struggles to return to his kingdom in Ithaca. But while Homer’s tale was bound by the limited knowledge of the ancient world, 2001tackles the vastness of interplanetary, interstellar, and intergalactic space with a fantastic adventure encompassing 400 million years of human evolution from howling apes discovering that bones could be weapons of death to the fictional rebirth of a sole surviving space explorer as a new superhuman “star child.”

Other borrowings from Homer abound in the film. For example, the astronaut hero is named Dave Bowman, a not-so-subtle reference to the fact the Ulysses used a bow and arrows to vanquish the suitors for his wife Penelope when he finally made it home.

But the greatest homage to Homer is the fact that the eerily calm-speaking, yet decidedly evil rogue super-computer Bowman must “kill” in the film is represented by a glaring single eye, echoing the central characteristic of the mighty, one-eyed Cyclops Ulysses must overcome in his journey.

There is no question that Kubrick and Clarke were determined to offer their story of human evolution in mythic terms and were steeped in the ideas of author Joseph Campbell’s seminal work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In his book, Campbell contends that rite of passage for any mythological hero encompasses “separation-initiation-return,” a sequence which perfectly captures the tale of both Ulysses and Bowman.

Much of the mystery of the movie comes from the giant black monoliths – the first seen in the opening scene with the apes. Another black monolith, later discovered buried on the moon, proves the finding that launches Bowman and his fellow astronauts (who like Ulysses’ men do not survive) on their incredible journey to Jupiter and beyond. Here, I concur with the belief the monoliths are the creations of a super-alien race, which like the overlord gods of ancient Greek legend, has continued to have a hand on affairs on Earth.

Of course, the biggest impact of the film rests in its visually spellbinding scenes, which can still astound today. From the disturbing appearance of the murderous apes to the various spaceflights to the lobotomization of HAL-9000 (‘I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that”) to the final strange, abstract “Star Gate” sequence where Bowman ages, only to finally materialize as an ethereal, floating fetus, the film offers an experience which has yet to be duplicated even with our modern technological advances.

There is no question 2001deals with some of the major issues of modernity including evolution, the benefits and perils of technology, artificial intelligence, space exploration, and the concept of God. However, the film poses more questions than it answers.

In fact, the lasting brilliance of Kubrick’s and Clarke’s creation is it allows us to make our own decisions of meaning, much as in our actual lives we must weigh the possibility of human transformation through technology against the warnings of the dangers of that same technology.

Therein lies much of the disagreement about the film. Some viewers regard the film – especially its ending – as an optimistic statement of humanity. Others argue the film is a pessimistic account of human nature and humanity’s future.

But in the end, this is exactly what Kubrick desired from his masterpiece.

In 1968, he told a Playboy magazine interviewer: “You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film – and such speculation is one indication it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level – but I don’t want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he’s missed the point.”

And so, if its first 50 years are an indication, it appears that unlike Ulysses’ travels in the ancient Odysseywhich did finally conclude, the journey depicted in 2001: A Space Odysseywill continue as long as there are questioning humans on Earth, enticing planets to visit, and bright stars to light the sky.

If you have seen 2001: A Space Odysseywhat do you think of the film – is it optimistic about the future of humanity or a warning about the dangers of technology? What impact did it have on you as a viewer?

15 Facts About 2001You May Not Know

  • During the development of the movie, Kubrick and Clarke humorously referred to their project as How the Solar System Was Won, a play on the title of the 1962 western epic How the West Was Won.
  • The first working title of the film was Project: Space. Other temporary titles included Across the Sea of Stars, Universe, Tunnel to the Stars, Earth Escape, Jupiter Window, Farewell to Earth, Planetfall, andJourney Beyond the Stars.
  • Just before NASA’s Mariner 4spacecraft passed Mars in July 1965, a worried Kubrick attempted to take out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London – in case the actual discovery of extraterrestrial life ruined the plot of his movie.
  • Stanley Kubrick and lead actors Keir Dullea and Garyn Lockwood were all afraid of flying, with each traveling to England for the filming by ship.
  • Kubrick couldn’t come up with a way to depict his concept of how the film’s hero should make contact with extraterrestrial life, so he contacted noted author/astrophysicist Carl Sagan for help. Sagan said the best solution would be to suggest, rather than explicitly display, the alien beings.
  • Initially, for the opening scene with the apes, Kubrick auditioned actors and dancers to portray the chattering band. Finally, he decided to recruit 20 mimes for his apes. Two live chimpanzees were also used.
  • To portray as much reality as possible, Kubrick hired German-born designer Harry Lange, who had previously worked at NASA as the head of its futures projects section and Frederick Ordway, NASA’s former chief of space information systems and a scientist who helped develop the Saturn V rocket.
  • The scene where Bowman deactivates HAL, who is singing “Daisy Bell” was inspired by a visit Clarke made to Bell Labs in the early 60’s to see a demonstration of an IBM 704 computer singing the same song.
  • There has long been a belief that HAL is a sly reference to IBM, since each letter in the malevolent computer’s name is one alphabetical letter away from the letters in the computer company’s name.
  • HAL 9000 is often quoted as saying “Good morning, Dave,” but he never actually says that in the film.
  • Due to Kubrick’s perfectionism, 2001would up being $4.5 million over its original budget and was completed 16 months behind schedule.
  • Reactions to the premieres in Washington, D.C. and New York City were so negative that 241 people walked out of the New York showing, an exodus that reduced co-creator Clarke in tears.
  • Famous science fiction writers of the time were divided over the movie. Ray Bradbury and Lester Del Ray felt it lacked humanity, while Isaac Asimov and Samuel B. Delaney were greatly impressed.
  • Special photographic supervisor Douglas Trumball has said the total footage shot was about 200 times the length of the one-hour-and-42-minute film.
  • Some conspiracy theorists who believe the 1969 Apollo moon landing was faked contend that the footage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was actually directed by Kubrick using leftover filmed scenes from

Taking the Olympic Stand to Make a Stand

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC – 10.4.11

It is one of the most dramatic, revolutionary pictures of all-time. Two young black men, just moments removed from winning track medals in the 1968 Olympics, standing on the medal-platform, heads down, a single back-gloved fist raised in the air in silent protest. And tonight, 43 years later, John Carlos, one of those historic figures, appeared at the Busboys and Poets bookstore along with sports writer Dave Zirin,to discuss the book The John Carlos Story they had co-written.

In a lengthy, highly entertaining, often hilarious monologue, Carlos detailed his life which led him from the streets of Harlem to his historic moment in Mexico. Initially, he said, there has been much discussion of a boycott of the 1968 games by black American athletes to protest conditions for blacks here and in white-dominated African countries.

That boycott was to receive full support from Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.  In fact, Carlos said he had a chance to meet with King, who was then embroiled in a trashmen’s dispute in Memphis, and asked him why, with death threats escalating, he continued his crusade.

Carlos said Dr. King very simply told him: “John, I have to go back to stand for those who won’t stand 
for themselves and I have to go back to stand for those who can’t stand for themselves.”

Within months, Dr. King was assassinated and the boycott idea was dead. However, Carlos and his running mate Tommie Smith vowed to take some kind of a stand. And so, when Smith finished 1st and Carlos 3rd in the 200, an eternal visual symbol of protest came to be.

Interestingly, while all the focus was on the gloved raised fists, there were other aspects of the protest. Both athletes wore necklaces for lynchings of blacks in the South and  stepped up to the podium without shoes to call attention to the plight of the poor. Carlos further left his track suit unzipped in a sign of solidarity with oppressed workers.

Zirin, who is one of the most socially conscious sports writers in America today, said he had 2 major questions when he and Carlos started the book.  The first was – why did you risk what you did? (and indeed the  fallout was nasty and long-lasting).  Zirin indicated that perhaps the answer to that could best be explained in a quote on the front cover of the book:”How can you ask someone to live in the world and not have something to say about injustice?”

The second, and perhaps even more important question, Zirin said is – why does what Carlos did still seem to matter so much and resonate so loudly? “We still have injustice today and it’s still important for people to take a stand. John did that. And he paid for his stand, but he says he really had no other choice – it was the right thing to do,” Zirin said.

Beatles Tunes Power Pepperland

1967 was a year filled with psychedelic sights and mind-expanding sounds. 

On London’s Carnaby Street, fashion boutiques were offering hip, wild, colorful clothing for with-it British men and women. Meanwhile, young Americans from San Francisco to New York City were letting their hair grow long, while simultaneously tuning in and turning on to marijuana, LSD, and the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and the Vanilla Fudge. And reflective of all that was swirling around them, the Beatles produced their pot and acid-drenched masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

To say that the album was revolutionary in its time is understatement. But earlier this month, the Mark Morris Dance Group proved that more than 50 years later, there still is innovation to be found in the musical masterpiece.

For three sold-out nights at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, the New York City-based dance company, directed by noted ballet and opera choreographer Mark Morris, presented the group’s reworking of Sgt. Pepper’s titled Pepperland, a stunning visual dance performance set to six much-altered Beatles songs and seven original pieces composed by pianist Ethan Iverson. 

Here is a summation of the one-hour performance from score notes by Iverson, who led the seven-member live pit band which included a single vocalist, two keyboardists, a trumpeter, a trombonist, a percussionist, and, most interestingly, a theramin player. (For those not familiar with the theramin, and many in the performance hall were not, the one-of-a-kind electronic instrument is a single oscillator with two metal rods used to change pitch and amplitude controlled by a single performer using hand gestures above the rods):

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

  • The original album ended with an unprecedented effect, a very long chord. Fifty years later, perhaps a similar chord is a good place to begin …

Magna Carta

  • A formal invocation of personalities from the LP cover

With a Little Help from My Friends

  • When Ringo sang it, he was on top of the world. Our version is more vulnerable.

Adagio

  • In an age of Tinder, a Lonely Heart advertisement might seem hopelessly quaint. But everyone has always needed to find a match.

When I’m Sixty-Four

  • In between 6 and 4 is 5. All three counts (to the bar are heard) are heard beneath the music-hall scuffle.

Allegro

  • A single offhand line from “Sgt. Pepper” germinates into a full-fledged sonata.

Within You Without You

  • George Harrison’s sincere study of Indian music aligns easily with another Harrison interested in bringing the East to the West: the great composer Lou Harrison, one of Mark Morris’s most significant collaborators. The hippie-era sentiment of the lyric remains startlingly fresh and relevant today.

Scherzo

  • Glenn Gould said he preferred Petula Clark to the Beatles. Apparently, Gould, Clark, and a chord progression from “Sgt. Pepper” all seemed to have inspired this mod number.

Wilbur Scoville

  • The first thing we hear on the LP is a blues guitar lick, here transformed into a real blues for the horns to blow on. Wilbur Scoville invented the scale to measure hot sauce: The original Sgt. Pepper?

Cadenza

  • After seeing Bach’s Brandenburg on the telly, Paul McCartney came into the studio and told George Martin to add piccolo trumpet to “Penny Lane”. Indeed, detailed references to European classical music are one reason so many Beatles’ songs still stump the average cover band.

Penny Lane

  • Not on “Sgt. Pepper,” but nonetheless originally planned to be, and, of course, especially relevant to the city of Liverpool.

A Day in the Life

  • Theremin nocturne, vocal descant, apotheosis.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

  • Another unprecedented effect on the original LP was a reprise of the first theme, which is part of why it is called the first concept album. Our later vantage point enables us to project into the next decade, the ‘70s, and conjure a disco ball. Thank you, Beatles. Thank you, Sgt. Pepper.

Dave Price to Tour To Promote His Classic Rock Book Come Together

If you consider 1965’s “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones as the first two great classic rock singles and the Beatles’ Rubber Soul as the initial classic rock album (which most musicologists do), then that makes the genre 55 years old next year. 

But as 2019’s evidence shows, you can rightfully claim classic rock is barely showing its age for a type of music that, if it were a person, would be eligible for membership in AARP in 2020.

Times for older classic rock artists continue to be productive. For example, three of the top five grossing concert acts this year – Elton John, Metallica, and Fleetwood Mac – perform classic rock. Bruce Springsteen offered 236 solo shows over two years on Broadway, with ticket prices averaging $500 a seat from the box office and more than $1,000 from re-sale. Aerosmith, John Fogerty, Santana, Sting, Rod Stewart, Def Leopard, and Journey all played sold-out residency shows at Las Vegas’ top casinos. The Rolling Stones wrapped up their three-leg, three-year No Filter tour, a series of stadium concerts that attracted 2,290,871 fans and grossed $415.6 million for the band. And the Beatles’ re-release of Abbey Road climbed to #1 on the charts, exactly 50 years after the album first accomplished that feat 50 years ago.

These eye-opening facts evoke two big questions – how did the rock music now deemed classic, which evolved from 1950s rock & roll, become so popular with the Woodstock Generation and why does it continue to thrive despite the fact that most of its first listeners are now in their 50s, 60s, or 70s? 

In a three-book series he jokingly refers to as his Rock of Agers trilogy, Washington DC author and former journalist, educator, and classic rock keyboard player Dave Price explores the history of the music of the generation who came of age in the turbulent 1960s and ‘70s and attempts to explain the music’s popularity then and now.

The first book in the series, Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Young Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation was released in November. 

Come Together begins with the dropping of the first atomic bomb in 1945 and ends with the final notes Jimi Hendrix played on the last day of the historic Woodstock Festival in 1969. The saga is told in six chronological chapters. In the first, you’ll see how a connected series of innovations, influences, and influencers in the late 1940s and early 1950s paved the way for the rise of rock & roll. The second introduces you to some of the most important early performers of this new music. The third allows you to see how the Beatles reshaped rock & roll both on stage and in the studio. The fourth places you in San Francisco in the summer of 1967, where a new youth “hippie” counterculture was being formed around revolutionary ideas about the role of drugs, sex, and rock & roll in American society. The fifth demonstrates how two of the most significant artists of the late 60s – Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones – crafted some additional touches to the type of music that would be encountered at Woodstock. In the 6th chapter, we’ll end our musical journey and join a crowd of 400,000 to vicariously experience the most-noted music festival of all-time at the historic upper New York state farmland where rock & roll emerged as something which now would soon be known simply as rock.

The second volume in the series, What’s That Sound?  80+ Artists Who Defined the Music of the Woodstock Generation, will pick up with Hendrix’s fading final notes and conclude 50 years later at the 50th anniversary commemoration of that 1969 festival, held at the original site. It is scheduled to be published in late 2020.

The third and final “Rock of Agers” book is tentatively titled Long Live Rock: Why Do the Classic Sounds of the Woodstock Generation Continue to Resonate So Loudly Today. It will delineate two connected stories – the various ways the sounds of classic rock are being preserved and passed on to new listeners and how you can experience the entire history of classic rock by sailing on four Woodstock-like music themed cruises. Long Live Rock is planned for a late 2021 released.

Price will begin a four-month tour to promote his new book with an appearance in his former hometown of Bridgeton, New Jersey, where he lived for 59 years. On Saturday, Dec. 7th, he will stage a meet and greet and a book signing at the Bridgeton Free Public Library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. He will be donating $1 from the sale of each book to the library.

“The Bridgeton Library is a very special place to me so it’s fitting that I begin there,” Price says. “Libraries in general, and the Bridgton Library in particular, have always served as my secular cathedrals. They truly are amazing places. You can learn just about anything you need to know if you take advantage of all the resources a local library offers”. 

“I’m sure I wouldn’t have been in position to write any book without the enjoyment, elucidation, and enlightenment that I found in all the libraries I have visited over the years,” Price added. “To me, my library card is just as important as my credit card or my driver’s license. I never leave home without it.” 

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