Sunday, April 29, 2007


In the early sixties kids played singles. When a little kid like me was privileged enough to hang out with older kids it was always in the basement or the bedroom where the singles were played. The singles were stacked and you always held your breath when a new record was released and hoped it and only that one it would descend correctly, ker plunk, to be played. The worse would be when one record would drop, the tone arm would move to the record and then the record above it would descend on top of the tone arm. Singles.

The music of these get-togethers was usually Lesley Gore, the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys, Bobby Vinton, or perhaps one of the girl groups. Novelty records like “Itsy bitsy teeny weenie yellow polka dot bikini” were also featured occasionally.

Adults, on the other hand, played albums. Albums were mostly boring things, Perry Como goes Hawaiian, or 1000 strings in Paris. However, there was another side of albums. Albums that were more sophisticated. Albums that adults played at cocktail parties.

My parents, although classic squares, were greatly influenced by the slightly hipper and richer couple up the street, the Mills. They were active members of the Young Democrats and lassoed my parents into participating in political work and cocktail parties. As a kid with no apparent life of his own, I found myself observing the doings and goings on. I learned about couples who got divorced, about wives who drank too much and fought with their husbands. And in whispers, I could hear party members debating about what their stand should be on civil rights.

The sound track to these events were albums. “Music to Break a Lease” was played and the slightly intoxicated “Young Dems” would sing “Five foot two eyes of blue” at the tops of their lungs. The next big album I remember was “My Son the Folksinger” by Allan Sherman. Apparently the joke was that he took popular folk song melodies and changed the subject to items involving Jewish New Yorkers. “How’s your cousin Ida, she’s a freedom rider” was a lyric from that l.p. At the time it was considered to be hilarious.

The biggest album of all was Vaughn Meader imitating Jack Kennedy in “The First Family”. This got huge laughs at the Mills cocktail parties.

After the Kennedy assassination the album craze died in my parent’s circle. Then with the Beatles, the kids discovered albums and better quality stereos migrated from the living rooms to the basements. In the album war, the kids won.

Dan Ingram and the Rolling Stones

I used to listen to the Dan Ingram Show after school in 1964. He always played the latest Beatle records and I was a regular listener. The second record of the hour was always “number one” and then, more often than not, it was a Beatles single. Over time, other records became number one. Louis Armstrong even had a shot with “Hello Dolly”. “My Guy” by Mary Wells got its fifteen minutes of fame. But I loved the Beatles, the Yankees, and liked to crack my knuckles, just like everybody else in the sixth grade at Fanny Hillers School.

Then the Rolling Stones came on the scene. I had read about them in my father’s copy of the New York Herald Tribune. Them and the Pretty Things were going to be the next big thing. I’m still waiting for the Pretty Things to get big.

Dan Ingram announced on his radio show on WABC that he would give twenty dollars of his own money to the letter that expressed the best reason to like the Rolling Stones and to hate them. No corporate money was involved, only cash from Dan Ingram’s pocket. I have no idea if that was true, but it’s what he said on the air at the time. I got to see the Rolling Stones on the Hollywood Palace and hear “Tell Me” on the radio. They were completely different from anything I’d ever heard and I became an instant life long fan. I loved “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, the Muddy Waters song that they put on the flipside of of “Tell Me”.

Dan Ingram finally had his contest results. I hadn’t entered but I was curious about the results. Two kids won. He talked about the group a little and then played “It’s All Over Now”, the only time I remember WABC playing that record on the air. I liked it, though, and bought it in a record store when my family was on vacation. A teenage girl I did not know came up to me in the store and said “Oh I see you like the Stones”. Why do you like them?”

I replied, “Oh, they’re sophisticated.” An eleven year old sophisticate. Later I saw them on the Clay Cole Show. In the fall of 1964 they got a lot of airplay, especially on WMCA, the rival of WABC. Throughout my adolescence, one of my claims to fame was that I was into the Rolling Stones before anybody else.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Presidential Election of 1960

I remember the presidential election of 1960 as my first exposure to the world of politics and government. As a seven year old I was strongly influenced by the viewpoints of my mother, who was involved in the election herself, albeit in a small way.

I remember especially the carnival aspects of the event. I remember singing "K-E-doluble N- E -D -Y oh he's a jolly good guy. Kennedy and Johnson they are voting in every town. I'll bet you all the beans in Boston...."

The bumper stickers on the car. The bumper stickers on the Mill kids wagon. Wearing campaign buttons to school. A campaign was like a sporting event. A months long sporting event.

The first convention to be broadcast was the Republican Convention. It featured a jowly man on the podium.I remember he said. "I won't be here next time."

My mother said, "Oh he says that every year." The jowly man was Herbert Hoover.

Next up came the Democratic Convention. My mother had a horse in that race. A proud Texan, she was a Johnson supporter all the way. Johnson lost out to Kennedy but our family was placated by his number two position on the ticket.

A few months later, my mother got a phone call from Mrs. Mills, the political activist of the neighborhood. Lyndon Johnson was landing in Newark Airport and they wanted to greet the next Vice President appropriately. Five people showed up at the airport, including someone's daughter. Lyndon Johnson kissed the daughter and talked to my mother about Texas. Paris Texas came up in the conversation.

The night before the election the Dobie Gillis show featured a plot where Maynard would predict the election. At the finale of the he didn"t predict the winner, not toanyone's surprise.

There was a huge snowstorm on Inauguration Day so me and my brother got to stay home and watch the ceremonies on tv. I remember seeing Nixon and Eisenhower in top hats. Cardinal Spellman spoke. "That was for the benefit of the Catholics who got Kennedy elected," Mother informed us. Robert Frost spoke." That's for the benefit of the Harvard intellectuals", Mother informed us. Kennedy then gave the famous "Ask not what your country can do for you speach. I guess that was for the benefit of the slackers who always wanted something from the government.

The next day it was back to school. I remember a voice of a young girl on the radio obstensibly a young Caroline Kennedy. "My Daddy is president..." I just remember the first line.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why the sixties

The sixties is the turning point in American society where everything changed. Before the sixties a man could walk into the office and the "girls" would be happy to make him coffee. Before the sixties you knew the first names of the owners of all the stores in your neighborhood. Before the sixties adults controlled what tv shows the families would watch and kids didn't talk back. Before the sixties students had respect for their teachers.

Before the sixties a fella could eat anything he wanted, buy as big a car as he wanted, throw his garbage anywhere he wanted, smoke if he wanted, drink if he wanted. Nobody heard of organic. Nobody heard of cultural diversity. Men didn't have to wash clothes, cook dinner, shop or do anything but drink beer and work on their cars. And most importantly, it was a time when women didn"t wear pants nor men sport ponytails.

After the sixties all that changed. I can't think of one aspect of American life that wasn't altered by the sixties. And so that's why everybody writes about those heady times. This blog will write about how a young kid experienced that memorable decade where everything changed.