In research for this novel, I've found some interesting things about the pop culture of the spring of 1966. There have been books and retro blogs dedicated to 1966. It has been called "the year pop culture exploded." There are some surprising things about the pop culture world that people seldom mention.
MANY CLASSIC ROCK SONGS WERE HITS FOR OTHER ARTIST
"Hey Joe," "Get Together," and "Babe I'm Going to Leave You," were already around in 1965 - 1966. However, they were not the versions we hear on classic rock radio today. The Kingston Trio recorded a version of "Get Together," under its original title, "Let's Get Together," on a 1964 live LP. The group We Five ("You Were On My Mind") had a Top 40 hit with the song in late 65 - early 66. There was also a version by the folk group The Back Porch Majority. In the summer of 1966, Jefferson Airplane put out a version on their debut LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. The Youngbloods recorded there softer and slower version in 1967 and released it as a single, which bombed, but became a Top 5 hit in 1969, after it was used in a religious PSA.
The Association's first single in 1965 was "Babe I'm Going to Leave You." It had been introduced by Joan Baez in 1962. The Association's version failed to chart nationally. In 1967, Quicksilver Messenger Service recorded a version of the song for the soundtrack of a movie called Revolution. In 1969, Led Zeppelin recorded their version on their debut LP. Interestingly enough, The Association began performing it in their live shows the next year. However, Led Zep never attempted to do "Cherish" or "Windy" in concert.
Next to the "Batman Theme," the most covered song of 1966 was "Hey Joe." The Byrds and Love both recorded it. An L.A. band called The Leaves had a Top 40 hit with it in 1966. All of these versions were fast and uptempo. In late 1966, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their slow, bluesy version. After that, few bands attempted to cover "Hey Joe."
DEAN MARTIN WAS A TRIPLE THREAT IN 1966
Dino was everywhere! Martin had been a star since the early 50s, when he was working with Jerry Lewis. After their break up, his career was a roller coaster ride through a string of hit records and a string of duds, a string a critically acclaimed movies and a string of flops and a handful of routine variety show hosting gigs for Timex.
His wining streak started in 1964 when he managed to hit Number 1 on the Billboard chart with a upbeat cover of a ballad his pal Frank Sinatra originally recorded, "Everybody Loves Somebody."It was the first of a streak of Top 40 hits that included, "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On," "I Will," "Remember Me, I'm The One Who Loves You," "I Will," and "Houston."
In the fall, he hosted the Hollywood Palace variety show on ABC for several weeks. During some appearances by an up and coming British band, the Rolling Stones, Dean began making jokes about the band. Someone at the rival network, NBC, thought Martin should be given his own show. It debuted in the fall of 1965 and ran until 1973.
In 1966, Martin made a second movie with John Wayne, The Sons of Katie Elder. This was also the year, Martin began playing secret agent Matt Helm with the movie The Silencers.
ON THE OTHER HAND, ELVIS SUCKED IN 1966
I realize people will hate me for that above statement, but the musical output of Elvis Presley was lackluster at best. Elvis was in a movie contract with MGM and what few single he put out were songs from the movies. He did put a non-soundtrack song called "Tell Me Why," which is forgotten today for a reason...it's not that good. It is a slow attempt at blues.
One of the better singles of this era was "Crying In the Chapel" from the summer of 65. It was recorded in 1960 for a gospel LP, but shelved because the Jordanaires weren't happen with their performance and Colonel Tom Parker couldn't buy the rights to the song. By 1965, RCA needed a new Elvis single to compete with the British Invasion groups, the publisher that owned the rights were bought out by another company who were willing to deal with the Colonel and new recording techniques could improve the original recordings. So RCA released it at Easter time and by the summer it was the first Top 10 hit for Elvis in since 1962. This lead to Elvis recording another gospel LP. A 1966 newspaper article said Elvis was considering recording only gospel from that point forward.
One thing about the songs Elvis recorded, at that time, was he used a soft, tenor voice. After his 1968 comeback special, Elvis began singing in a brash, bombastic, baritone voice on songs like "In the Ghetto," "Little Less Conversation," "Burning Love," "Kentucky Rain," and "Suspicious Minds." The mid-60s stuff songs almost out of character and kind of wimpy, which is probably why these songs don't have the impact of his early 60s hits or comeback hits.
TWO POP STARS DIED AT THE HEIGHT OF THEIR POPULARITY (and wild rumors followed)
Bobby Fuller and Barry Young had two totally different styles. Fuller (above) was a Texas born musician, who mined the song book of fellow Texan Buddy Holly's back-up band, The Crickets; Young was a square-jawed, wavy haired, singer from Oklahoma, who sounded liker Dean Martin. Fuller and his band, The Bobby Fuller Four, had three Top 40 hits, "Let Her Dance," "Love Has Made a Fool of You", and (the biggest one) "I Fought The Law." In July of 1966, Fuller was found dead in the front seat of his mother's car, covered with gasoline. The coroner had listed his death as both accidental & suicide, but had added question marks next to each. Rumors that he was murdered by the Mafia, his manager, the owner of his record company, and L.A. law enforcement (upset over the hit "I Fought the Law"). One of his band members has put forth a theory that he was an early victim of celebrity-hating, cult leader Charles Manson. The truth is still unknown.
Barry Young has one hit. A (pardon the pun) dead-on sound alike of a Reprise era Dean Martin hit. It was a cover of a country son by Jimmy Wakely (many of Dean's recent his were covers of country songs), with a big string section, background singers and a electric rhythm guitar. Young even made a Scopitone music video for this song. Young died of a brain abscess backstage after a performance in December of 1966. Since Young had only one hit, his death was probably under reported. This was before social media and the mainstream media, at the time, was more focused on the war in Vietnam & the civil rights movement. Over the years, a story has been circulated, even by reference books and the liner notes of oldies compilations, that Dean Martin, with help from Reprise "Chairman of the Board" Frank Sinatra had Young's records banned from radio. The truth is much sadder than legend.
|Back Porch Majority performing with Tennessee Ernie Ford on the Lucy Show|
When younger people think of folk music of the 60s, they think of Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Judy Collins or Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction." Truth is that was the exception to the rule. Quite a bit of what was popular was the "family friendly" kind of stuff parodied in the film, The Mighty Wind. Groups like The Kingston Trio, Brothers Four, The Limelighters, Serendipity Singers, New Christy Minstrels (which Barry McGuire sang lead on most of their hits), and the Back Porch Majority were non-offensive and not going to anger anyone, except hard core fans of rock & roll. Some of the songs they sang were the ones we grew up singing in elementary school and elementary school teachers used their records in class. They were popular guest on TV variety shows of the era and heard on the radio.
By 65-66, Dylan was really more of a rocker with psychedelic lyrics and the British invasion groups inspired other many folk groups to go rock as well. As the times changed (wasn't that a Dylan song), the smiling, happy, folk acts of the early 60s seemed tame and antiquated. They disappeared or morphed into sunshine pop groups.
A VETERAN COUNTRY PERFORMER SANG A PROTEST SONG ABOUT CHEAPSKATES
A handful of country singers popped up to record lame answer songs to Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction." On the other hand, one well-established country western star decided to jump into the protest movement too. Little Jimmy Dickens (above), who sang about being a "tater-eatin" country boy and Bessie the educated cow, took on the problem of frugal people with his only Top 40 Pop hit "May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose." The song was written by a D-J, who got the chorus from on of the curses Johnny Carson used in his Carnak the Magnificent skits (I guess "May a spider spin a web on your toilet seat" is too long for the title of a hit song).
THERE WAS A SONG ABOUT A HOOKER FROM CANADA & A COUNTRY SONG ABOUT SOMEONE SOILING THEMSELVES
A band from Quebec called The Haunted released a Stones-ish rocker called "1-2-5." The record company made them change it because they said it was "obvious" the girl in the song was a prostitute. The group obliged, but added a verse that slammed the record company. "A room full of clowns looking back at me, A line of executives formed to the right." Since the band was from Quebec, it was issued in both English & French.
The Hardin Trio was a brother (Bobby) & two sisters (Arlene & Robbie) from England...England, Arkansas. In the 50s, they worked on the Ozarks Jubilee in Springfield, MO. In early 1966, they had a crossover hit called "Tippy Toeing." The song has a reference to someone soiling their pants. Girls "Well Daddy come a runnin' with the water and a rag, Gonna need another diaper maybe." Bobby: "No need a hesitatin' or a wonderin' and a waitin'. I know what's the matter with the baby."
I guess this past the censors since, as the group sang, "After all it's just a little bitty bay-bee." The song went to Number 2 (heh-heh) on the Country chart and Number 44 on the Pop Chart, but made several radio station surveys, more than likely because a program director or D-J said, "Let's play the song about the pooping baby" or they thought it would get them a date with Arlene Hardin (she was hot).
MUSIC VIDEOS WERE BORN
I mentioned the Scopitone music videos earlier. They were created in the early 60s for use with the Scopitone players, which were similar to juke boxes. They were on their way out by 65-66, due to problems with maintenance and the fact issues with censorship. Oddly enough, the one that caused the most problems was a video for the aforementioned Back Porch Majority's song "Mighty Mississippi," which featured a leering riverboat gambler lifting up the skirts of Southern belles, to look at their bloomers, as the boarded a steamboat. Scopitone also had a video for one of the major hits of this time, "These Boots Are Made For Walking" by Nancy Sinatra.
Of course, the intro to D. A Panebaker's documentary on Bob Dylan, Don't Look Back, begins with, what many consider, the first major music video. It's Dylan, standing in an alley, holding up cue cards with selected words from the song "Subterranean Homesick Blues," while the song plays.
Music videos were mainly used by the British invasion groups, such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who, as a way to appear on television shows around the world, without having travel to the United States, Japan, Italy, etc.
SOUL MUSIC WAS BIG, BUT MANY OF THE HITS ARE NO LONGER HEARD ON RADIO
Okay, as an oldies fan I thought I new every major Motown and Stax-Atlantic hit of this era. In doing research for my book I have found that I was wrong. There are several big hits from 65-66 by the major soul artist (Otis Redding, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Four Tops) that we never hear any more. How many times have you heard "One More Heartache" by Marvin Gaye (above); "Try Me" a power ballad by James Brown; "Something About You" by the Four Tops; "You've Been Cheating" by the Impressions, "My Baby" by the Temptations or Otis Redding's cover of the Stones "Satisfaction" on oldies radio?
Radio has been limiting the number of songs played on radio, due partly to automation systems. Another reason is the practice of "testing" songs for recognition by consulting groups. For oldies radio, it comes down to recognition. That is why much of what is on oldies radio are songs that have appeared in movies or commercials.
SOME HIT SINGLES WERE ON OTHER LABELS
Part of this was due to American record companies scrambling to sign British invasion groups. In 1964, The Beatles turned up on several other record labels, other than Capitol. "Twist and Shout" was first issued on a small record label called Tollie. The first Kinks single ("Long Tall Sally") was on Cameo/Parkway. The Who bounced around from Brunswick ("My Generation" & "I Can't Explain") to Atco ("Substitute") then to Decca/MCA, where they stayed until the 80s. Small Faces started off on RCA before going to Epic.
It wasn't just British groups jumping around. The Lovin Spoonful had one single ("Good Time Music") issued on Elektra and Sonny & Cher's "Baby Don't Go" was originally issued on Reprise.
RADIO WAS NOT AS RIGIDLY FORMATTED
There were only five main radio formats: Top 40, country & western, easy listening/adult contemporary, all news-talk shows, & classical. There were also religious stations (usually owned by a church) and ethnic stations (usually R & B stations with an African-American staff, some Spanish language, but also some German & Polish stations in large markets). However, there were many full service and block format radio stations. These were radio stations that aired everything in programming blocks. For example, early morning would usually be country & western, for the farmers; easy listening/adult contemporary in the midday for homemakers and office workers; Top 40 after 4 pm until sign off; religious programs (sometimes an hour before sign off) on Sunday morning and ballgames on Saturday. Yes, radio and TV stations used to sign off at midnight or 1 am.
There were also Owned and Operated radio and TV station. Some TV stations are still O & O, but it was nothing noticeable. Radio stations that were O & O, during this era, were still running programs from the network (NBC, CBS, ABC & Mutual).
Government regulations held media chains to one radio station per market, unlike today, with large corporations owning multiple radio stations in a market. The large corporations pretty much copy each others playlist and, as I mentioned earlier, limit the number of songs heard on a radio station.
In this era, radio stations had their own playlist. They were determined by what was on the Billboard or Cash Box charts, local sales and local request. Also, each radio station had its own program director, on staff, who determined what records got played on the radio station. No edicts from corporate headquarters. Sometimes, they threw in whatever they felt like or whatever the record company was pushing. There was more crossover of musical genres at this time. Roger Miller and Dean Martin would pop up between songs by the Beatles, Beach Boys and the Supremes.
|Click to enlarge|
Radio station also gave away "hit survey" list (I've included one above). Usually, these included ads, maybe coupons, from local business, as well as photos, or funny looking illustrations, of the D-Js (Yes kids, the radio stations used to promote the D-Js and the music) and information on your favorite recording artist. Some radio stations ran contest for "Teenager of the Week."
BOTH RADIO & TELEVISION RAN COMMERCIALS FOR CIGARETTES
The most advertised product on radio and TV in the 60s was cigarettes. One of the big hits of 1966 was "Happiness Is" by the Ray Conniff Singers, which was actually based on the popular Kent Cigarettes "Happiness to a smoker is a Kent" ad campaign. In 1964, the surgeon general's report on the effects of cigarette smoke came out, followed by the package warnings and eventually, in 1971, cigarette commercial were banned from radio and TV.
ONE OF THE BIGGEST SONGS ON RADIO WAS THE MUSIC TO AN ALKA SELTZER AD
The popular instrumental hit "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach Is In)" by the T-Bones, was a rock & roll version of the folk-jug band music used in an Alka-Seltzer TV campaign called (you guess it) "No matter what shape your stomachs is in."
WHEN YOU WANT A BRITISH INVASION GROUP ON A TV SHOW, BUT CAN'T AFFORD A WHOLE BAND - CALL CHAD & JEREMY
British Invasion bands appeared often on variety shows, but on sitcoms and other scripted TV shows, the British Invasion was represented by the duo of Chad Stuart & Jeremy Clyde (above). In 1966 alone, the appeared in episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show, Laredo (which was a pilot for a proposed Western to star them as English music hall performers in the old West) and, of course, Batman (Catwoman stole their voices).
NOT EVERY TV MARKET WAS SERVED BY ALL THREE NETWORKS
Some markets (Springfield, Missouri, for example) had two TV stations and these stations "shared" ABC programing until an ABC affiliate was established in 1968. Other communities, may have "shared" CBS programs or NBC programs. Sometimes, the technology at some of the TV stations was so restricted by budget that transition between networks could be sudden, like someone unplugged NBC and plugged in ABC. Some programs were taped and shown at another time. In Springfield, the NBC affiliate (KYTV) was showing Batman on Monday & Tuesday night, instead of Wednesday & Thursday. That changed when the rival CBS affiliate (KTTS, now KOLR) picked it up later in the spring and ran it at the correct time.
THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS HAD A TV SHOW, BUT NOT THE ONE EVERYONE REMEMBERS
Their cutting edge variety show was a year away. This was a fantasy-"high concept" sitcom. In this show, Tommy was a sailor, who was washed overboard. He is sent back to Earth to be Dick's guardian angel "I'm to get you out of jams and stuff." Of course, Tommy instead gets him into "jams and stuff." The show was gone by the summer. Both Tom & Dick have said they hated the show.
THE FANTASY-HIGH CONCEPT SITCOMS DISAPPEARED (Get it)
While many people think of these shows, in regard to 60s television, the truth is they were not around that long. As a matter of fact, most of them were cancelled in 1966. By fall, the only ones left were Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart and Gilligan's Island (which would only last one more year). Those three, along with the equally maligned rural sitcoms, would be around until 1970.
FIRST TV SHOWS TO TALK ABOUT HALLUCINATORY DRUGS WERE WESTERNS
If you grew up in the 80s and remember the "Just Say No" phase, you remember TV shows doing "a very special episode" where a character would learn the dangers of drinking and using drugs. LSD became a hot topic in the mid 60s. It became a plot line in TV shows, but not in the heavy handed way it would in the 80s. Also surprising was it first used as a plot line in two Westerns: The Wild Wild West & Laredo.
In a first season episode of WWW, Dr. Loveless invents a drug that causes "nightmarish visions" which he slips to Jim West, causing him to think his sidekick, Artemus Gordon, is trying to kill him.
|Reese (in front) doesn't bathe|
After that, Dragnet returned to NBC and most of the late 60s color episodes dealt with drugs.
THE MINISKIRT REALLY HADN'T TAKEN OFF YET
When you see photos of this era and even fashion & clothing ads of this time, you will notice a lack of miniskirts, which are associated with this era. The miniskirt really didn't take over fashion until 1967. Hemlines were coming up, but not to the miniskirt level yet. The above photos are from the 1966 & 1967 editions of the Southwest Missouri State College Ozarko yearbook.
CEREAL BOX WHISTLES & ORANGE JUICE CANS WERE POPULAR HACKS
Phone freaking became popular fad with college students as a way to make long distance calls for free. Remember, there were no cell phones or competing long distance companies, just the Bell System. Some how the freakers found that you could throw off Ma Bell's automation systems with whistles that came free in cereal boxes. Supposedly, the best one to use came from Captain Crunch, because it was the exact pitch and tone as the tone on the automation system.
In the novel, a character, who is a phone freaker says he uses a whistle from a Post Sugar Rice Krinkles box. Not sure if they ever had a whistle as a prize, but I picked Sugar Rice Krinkles because 1) it is a defunct product, and 2) there is a lot of hate directed at this product on the Internet. Not because it had a politically incorrect Asian stereotype as its original mascot, but because their later mascot was a clown.
|That Sugar Krinkles Clown that frightens wimps on the Internet|
People frequently circulate a 1960 TV commercial featuring a clown and whine "This clown scares me. Waa Waa Waa! I'm scared of the clown. WWAAAAAA!"
|This hairdo was created with orange juice cans & Dippty-Do|
While on the subject of life hacks of 1966, that utilized breakfast foods, frozen orange juice cans were popular with girls. What did they do with orange juice cans? They used them to create curls for their flip hairstyle. Apparently, many girls felt that regular hair rollers didn't create big enough curls, so they began rolling their hair on empty orange juice cans. Pretty ingenious if you ask me. This look was held in place by Dippty-Do, one of the first mass marketed hair gels. They also ironed each others hair with a steam iron on an ironing board. OOOWWW!!!
WORST MEDIA ABBREVIATION OR "WHO THE HELL IS SOLON?"
Newspapers of the day would run headlines like "Solon Condemns Viet Cong" or "LBJ Speaks To Solon" or "Solon Gives Nasa More Money. So, who is this Solon person. According to the Merriam - Webster Dictionary, "Solon was a particularly wise lawgiver in ancient Athens who was born in approximately 630 B.C. and lived until about 560 B.C. He was one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, and he implemented a number of reforms in Athenian law. In English, his name has been used generically since at least 1625 to refer to any wise statesman. Contemporary American journalists, with whom the term is especially popular, have extended the meaning even further to include any member of a lawmaking body, wise or not. In fact, today the word is sometimes used ironically for a legislator who displays a marked lack of wisdom, rather than a profusion of it." Solon was used, as an abbreviation, by newspapers of the 60s (which were still limited by typeset spaces) for both the Congress and the Senate. It is rarely used today since most people probably didn't know what it was referring to.
HOT NEW SOFT DRINKS
Pepsi began distributing a regional soft drink called Mountain Dew. It was originally marketed with cartoon hillbillies and a variation on the country-bluegrass standard "Mountain Dew" as its jingle. Mountain Dew is still popular with several different varieties on the market, including Mountain Dew Throwback in the original white, red & green cans with cartoon hillbillies on them.
At the same time, Coca Cola introduced the diet cola Tab. Tab was an acquired taste. Tab was phased out after the introduction of Diet Coke in the 80s.
THE GREAT POP CULTURE MOMENTS OF 1966 THAT HAPPENED AFTER MY NOVEL TAKES PLACE
Television shows that hadn't appeared yet:
Band that wasn't around yet: The following bands first recorded in 1966, but were not around yet:
|Mothers of Invention|
|Jimi Hendrix Experience|
as well as the Blues Magoos, 13th Floor Elevator, Electric Prunes, & Chocolate Watchband.
Music not around yet: "Wouldn't It Be Nice" & "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys; "Paperback Writer", "Rain", Yesterday and Today & Revolver by the Beatles; "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra; "Wild Thing" by The Troggs; "Summer In the City" by the Lovin Spoonful; "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan; "You Can't Hurry Love" & "You Keep Me Hanging On" by the Supremes; "Along Comes Mary" & "Cherish" by The Association; "Tell It Like It Is" by Aaron Neville; "Reach Out I'll Be There" by The Four Tops; "96 Tears" by Question Mark & the Mysterians; "Poor Side of Town" by Johnny Rivers; Aftermath by the Rolling Stones; "Hazy Shade of Winter" & Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme by Simon & Garfunkel; Projections by the Blues Project and Blonde On Blonde by Bob Dylan.
Movies not around yet: That would be most of the major movies of 1966, from the critically acclaimed Man For All Seasons to the MST3K favorite Manos The Hands of Fate (above), were released in the summer or Christmas season. The big hits were left over from 1965.
Comics characters not around yet: While Peanuts was as big as Batman during this time, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Franklin & Woodstock were not yet a part of the comic. Patty & Marcy didn't appear until August of 1966.
Black Panther makes his first appearance in a July issue of Fantastic Four.
I hope you enjoyed this trip back in time.