We are a generation that has shared a time in history like no other! Most of us were born into a post World War II utopia. As we made our way through life, we questioned authority, tried to make the world a better place, spoke out against injustices, and all of the music we listened to were anthems for our generation.
There is nothing like music that can take you back to a place in time where you can experience exactly how you felt the first moment you heard that song!
Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1965. Most of us defined ourselves with the music we listened to.
I grew up 22 blocks north of the Brill Building in NYC. The “Brill Building Sound” may be the only subgenre of pop music named after a building, for it was in that very building, a former monolith of New York City’s Garment District located at 1619 Broadway (between 49th and 50th St., where producer Don Kirshner placed the best and brightest songwriters of the Camelot years. They were early-Sixties mainstays, almost all duos, whose very names became emblematic of great pop songwriting: Lieber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Mann and Weil, Bacharach and David, Pomus and Shuman, Sedaka and Greenfield.
I had this love for music as far back as I can recall. My parents bought the 45-RPM of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and I played it to death.
I guess that was where it all began. We had a piano that I would bang on for hours on end. I would sometimes grab a badminton racket and make believe I was playing a guitar standing in front of the black and white TV watching the Mickey Mouse Club. Of course, this was before the Beatles! Who would have known?
In the early 1960’s, every kid had a transistor radio. Summers In NY were filled with the sounds of the hits of the day. Every beach blanket from Coney Island to the New Jersey shore had a transistor radio blaring sounds from WABC, WMCA, or WMGM. Who could forget Cousin Brucie, Murray the K, and “Good Guy” Harry Harrison! My sister, who was 3 years older than I, and already embedded in the scene, was President of the local Rolling Stones fan club and was beginning to write songs. I remember one night we were listening to B. Mitchell Reed on WMCA and they had a call in contest for some WMCA sweatshirts. Well Denyse was bound and determined to win it, and of course, she did. A few weeks later a couple of sweatshirts arrived.
When I was 7, I attended PS 26, The Rufus King Public School, I signed up for band (yes, schools did have band programs back then!) and got myself a clarinet. I would come home after school and practice every day.
By the time I hit 10, the radio was my best friend. Even though my parents hated rock and roll, we would occasionally drive somewhere and one of “my” songs would come on the radio and they would leave it on. I felt it was a major victory for me.
To me, AM radio was an open palette. There weren’t all the distinctions that radio is today. No AOR, MOR, Pop, Soul. It was music, the charts reflected all of it and I loved it all!
AND THEN IT HAPPENED!
Sunday Feb 9, 1964 8 PM 73 million people watched as the Beatles sang All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want To Hold Your Hand.
Then, Feb 16, 1964 8 PM from their hotel in Miami, the Beatles sang She Loves You, This Boy, All My Loving, I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You and I Want To Hold Your Hand
Lastly, February 23rd 8 PM the Beatles sang Twist and Shout, Please Please Me, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. Oddly enough, these 3 songs were pre-recorded during the day on February 9th so in essence, they were the real first appearance of the Beatles.
From then on, I and all of my friends wanted to be the Beatles. I think those 3 shows did more to bolster musical instrument manufacturers and retail music establishments than anything since! Everybody had a band!
Then the music just exploded!
The Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Manfred Mann, the Who, the Hollies, the Yardbirds, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, the list goes on and on!
My sister took me to see A Hard Day’s Night at the Bay Terrace Theater in Bayside NY and I must have been struck by lightening! I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life!
For about 6 months, I took lessons on the drums. Living in an apartment put a quick stop to that. For the next few months I had no instrument to play. My sister played guitar, piano, and flute. She had perfect pitch! I would sneak in her room when she was not home, grab her acoustic guitar and make believe I was a rock star! My parents ordered her an electric guitar mail order and it arrived to much fanfare. About a month later, an electric bass came from the same store! Neither of my parents ordered it! I was told that if in a month no one asked for it back it would be mine. 30 days later I was a bass player. I have always said the bass came GOD versus COD! Moreover, I have had the opportunity to travel around the world because of this bass!
And that my friends is what brings us to….
Talkin’ About My Generation!
My sister Denyse was already a part of the NY music scene.
She was writing songs for pop groups like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Peppermint Rainbow ( And I’ll Be There ) and singer Karen Wyman. She was friends with many of the British musicians of the era. Tony Hicks of the Hollies, Eddie Hardin from the Spencer Davis Group, and Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds. She always had a large selection of music magazines from England that I would pore over. I would cut out articles and pictures of my favorite bands and put them into a scrapbook.
Recently, after finding the scrapbook, I decided to create this blog and take a trip down memory lane.
Most of the pictures and articles are from Melody Maker, Record Mirror, New Music Express. I was a real Anglophile. Anything British! Fashion, music, culture. I remember one of my sister’s friends coming home from England with the same jacket that Noel Redding wore on the US LP Are You Experienced. It was in bright red and I coerced her to sell it to me!
Being a bass player and wearing that jacket when I played my next high school dance was a highlight for me!
Come follow me as we take a trip back into the 60’s
People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby
Why don’t you all f-fade away (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby
Pete Townsend 1965|