APPLES, PEACHES, PUMPKIN PIE…KEEP THE BALL ROLLIN’…JAY & the TECHNIQUES, circa 1966
Come Back When You Grow Up Girl — Bobby Vee; A Little Bit o’ Soul — The Music Explosion; Come On Down to My Boat — Every Mother’s Son; Expressway to Your Heart — Soul Survivors; It’s So Hard Being A Loser — The Contours; Gimme Little Sign — Brenton Wood; Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone — The Supremes; Kind of a Drag — The Buckinghams; (We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet — Blues Magoos; Funky Broadway — Wilson Pickett; Thank the Lord for the Night… — Neil Diamond; Don’t You Care — The Buckinghams; Sweet Soul Music — Sam & Dave (Arthur Conley, 1967); How Can I Be Sure — The Rascals; It Must Be Him — Vikki Carr; I Think We’re Alone Now — Tommy James & the Shondells.
1966. 1967. 1968.
(With The Contours — 1974, Baby Hit and Run Album — somehow thrown into this mix).
What an era!
What a world!!
What a time!!!
My, my my…I can recite — from memory of course — the opening lyrics of every one of these songs.
Then again in 1966 I was twelve years old.
When you’re that age you’re hip to music — the tunes — even if you’re not. Tryin’ to be “cool,” a word and a sensibility both of which have certainly stood the test of time.
I may have been a bit too young to recognize it then but the mid-late sixties in particular — and the entire decade in general — represented an illustrious and storied time in our country’s social history.
Tumultuous political and cultural movements and deep awakenings marked the era.
At the decade’s beginning, the prevailing thought was that we were on the threshold of some kind of golden age (JFK?) which turned out to be folly.
By the end of the sixties it seemed as though the country was splintering, fragmenting and coming undone.
(‘Undun’ — The Guess Who 1969 ‘Canned Wheat’ Album & №4 on Ultimate Classic Rock’s Top 10 Guess Who Songs).
The Great Society; The Vietnam War; The Fight for Civil Rights; THE BEATLES; The ’60s Radicalism; & Death and Destruction in the 1960s all indelibly stamped the decade and in turn, American history.
There was a profound loss of innocence which was felt by everybody.
The world as we knew it would never be the same.
The Sixties were thought of as a cultural decade rather than an actual decade, beginning in or about 1963 with the Kennedy assassination and wrapping around ’72 with the Watergate scandal.
This era and the curious, complex amalgam of interrelated global, cultural and political trends became conjoined.
The term “counterculture” was birthed and an anti-establishment sentiment became a full-blown movement gathering steam and zeal which bordered on fury.
The phenomenon began in the UK and the US and spread like wildfire throughout much of the Western world with London, New York City and San Francisco establishing themselves as the first hotbeds of nascent countercultural activity.
The turn to the political left was in motion.
Early momentum was seized with the growth of the American Civil Rights Movement and transformed into a bare-knuckle revolution when the US government expanded its already extensive military intervention in Vietnam.
Widespread social tensions were fed by other issues as well including human sexuality, women’s rights, bastions of traditional authority, experimentation with psychoactive drugs and open interpretations of the American Dream.
Subcultural tributaries proudly started to flow, celebrating experimentation; the practice of questioning rather than blind or tacit acceptance; incarnations of Bohemianism; the rise of the hippie and other alternative lifestyles; and the embracing of creativity manifesting itself in the works of British Invasion bands such as the Beatles and filmmakers who were suddenly able to loosen the shackles of censorship.
Many other creative artists, authors and thinkers across numerous disciplines rose to help sculpt this new-found countercultural bent.
Absorption into popular culture and ultimately mainstream society was catalyzed and advanced with the termination of US military involvement in Southeast Asia, the end of the draft in 1973 and perhaps most poignantly, the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974.
The world of music had great fodder and lush soil with which to work.
Carlos Santana astutely remarked that “the 60’s were a leap in human consciousness.”
Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Che Guevara and Mother Teresa led a revolution of conscience.
The Beatles, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix created revolution and evolution themes.
The music was like Dali, with many colors and revolutionary ways.
“The youth of today must go there to find themselves.” (Citation — ”Carlos Santana: I’m Immortal” — Interview by Punto Digital, 13 October 2010).
The dulcet tones of 50’s folk and saxophone and the harmonizing blare of doo wop were to be upstaged by Motown, folk-rock, pop, reggae, blues and of course the British Invasion music of the 1960s.
The nurturing of the counterculture movement by the day’s youth mightily contributed to this transition in musical taste and popularity.
Cinema and then TV were also profoundly influenced.
Movies began to kick to the curb the social taboos of sex and violence.
The changing world and the notion of experimentation were highlighted and lauded.
Experimentation both on-screen and in production became common as the proliferation of light-weight and affordable cameras helped the underground avant-garde film movement gain a foothold and flourish.
The Studio System began to crumble slowly and with it, came the end of the classical Hollywood Cinema Era.
Stepping in was the New Hollywood Era pushed forward by the counterculture.
Independent producers worked outside the Studio System.
“Art house” films and theaters were popping up all over.
Bowing to 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Bob Dylan’s iconic title track of his 1964 album of the same name, “The Times They Are [Were] a-Changin.”
Television followed suit albeit more slowly and deliberately.
The Ed Sullivan Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Wonderful World of Disney, The Tonight Show, Star Trek, The Beverly Hillbillies, McHale’s Navy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, The Danny Thomas Show, The Lucy Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Gilligan’s Island, My Three Sons, Lassie, Gunsmoke,The Flintstones, Mission: Impossible, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Bonanza, Batman and The Red Skelton Show all promoted family entertainment.
The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and perhaps The Fugitive pushed the envelope a bit science-fictionally, extraterrestrially, extra-legally or otherwise.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and more thoughtful editions of Laugh-In offered at controversy by gently and humorously parodying the formerly unquestioned and ivory tower-like foundations of America’s corporate and governmental controls, comedically mocking world leaders and unforgivingly questioning US involvement in — and the blatant escalation of — the Vietnam War.
And then of course there was fashion.
The Beatles-inspired mop-top, boots and nehru jacket.
Hippiedom contributions of bell-bottom jeans, hand-woven 2-ring belts, tie-dye and batik fabrics & t-shirts and psychedelic paisley prints.
The beehive hairdo for women and then the bird’s nest before short hairstyles became the rage.
Long parted hair with equally long and full sideburns for men.
The sexual revolution.
FIFA World Cup Champions Brazil (1962) and England (1966).
Major League Baseball expansion.
Alternative sports: think Frisbee.
The introduction of Motorsports.
Expo 67 in Montreal.
The New Left and SDS.
Urban unrest; Crime.
The Space Race.
The first heart transplantation.
The counterculture movement dominated the second half of the Sixties, punctuated most boldly by San Francisco’s Summer of Love in 1967 and the Woodstock Festival in upstate New York in 1969.
Free love, psychedelic drugs (LSD), a burgeoning interest in Eastern religions and philosophy and the commune were all hallmarks of the era, powerful signatures of a time which brought monumental historical, social and political change.
We bade farewell to our naivete, shaped our identities, questioned what had been considered the unquestionable and began to grow up.
Twelve-year-olds then are sexagenarians today living in their seventh decade(s).
We were most fortunate to have experienced the sixties first-hand — to have lived and learned in a remarkable time.
Learning always as we go is the key which opens doors — then, now and forever.
“Keep the ball in flight.” (I.G. — 1967).
Better yet, Keep The Ball Rollin’…
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in December 2016.]