Vanishing 60s

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By Bill Levine

Like liberal talk shows  ‘60s music  has quietly drifted off into the ozone of   commercial radio airwaves, much to the chagrin of us first wave  boomers.  In fact  we children of AM top 40  can be heard ruefully singing to ourselves “where have you gone Joey Dee and The Starlighters  boomer nation turns it tri-focaled  eyes towards you.”  I personally got the missing ‘60s blues last year when  the last  true Boston commercial  ‘60s rock and roll station went contemporary.   Good bye to the artistry of  Little Stevie Wonder.  Hello to  Lil Wayne.   Good bye Disney Mouseketeer Annette. Hello dizzy Mouseketeer, Britney.    True  the radio conglomerates should be congratulated for retiring      “Wolly Bully” from viable air time.    But of course lack of boomer cultural and  commercial relevance,  and not  schlock musicality,  is why ‘60s music  on  Boston  radio  consists of the Beatles and  Red Sox anthems,   Sweet Caroline and Dirty Water.   Once we first wave boomers fell out of the prime   18 to 59 demographics, our music died and so did a  piece of inner  boomer hood, that inkling that we are still  important. 

So of course  radio content is a double whammy for us irrelevant  oldsters because the ads    as well as the playlists are not boomer friendly,   Stridex is favored over Celebrex .  Hair club memberships   are hawked all over  the airways by young  prematurely balding celebs like Wes Welker,    making us older   boomers feel  that we  would be black balled, if we tried to join up.  We do avail   ourselves of cruises , but  the  ads on radio with their tag lines “get out there” do  not necessary zero in on my cohorts cruise  goal     which could be summed up as   “stay put.”   As the first generation to live on competitive  green lawns ,  my generation knows  the importance  of owning a home free and clear so money can be spent on  automatic sprinklers.  Therefore  the surfeit of  mortgage company ads  are  of no interest to us   We don’t care that the rates are under 3%  and come with no closing costs, if you pay in cash, and a promise to foreclose gently. Ironically, the premise that older boomers are not commercially viable is based on the premise   that we stick with brands  till death due us part.  But actually marketing research has debunked this.   Personally,  I have the potential to be wooed by advertising.  Clearly, I  would give up  Ivory soap, if there were  additional brands in the marketplace.

What’s worse we’ve lost music    that was uniquely ours.   Today Taylor Swift sings about how cool it is to be an outcast. But in the ‘60s we had  Janis Ian’s   ultra kvetch  , At Seventeen,  in which outcasts were real  outcasts. Our ‘60s music was much more to the point then today’s long winded dittys.   It  takes Taylor a whole meandering  album to deliver teenage pain, but Lesley Gore in 1962 got right to the point when she belted out “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”   Nuf said,      Today’s rap can be angry  and  edgy, but its gripes  are usually limited  to the hood the dance floor.    ’60s protest  music took on the whole solar system showcased in such hits as   The Eve of Destruction,   by Barry McGuire .  Eve threatened   “apocalypse now” if humanity didn’t clean up its act or make Eve  platinum. Plus it was the only song ever to  rhyme  “Red China” and   “Selma Alabama”   We boomers grew up with songs that were relatively innocent compared to today’s hard core lyrics .  Connie Francis was freaked out  by  foreign  lipstick on her boy friend’s  collar.  Juxtapose this with Ke$ha who in song would probably see Connie’s plight as an invitation for a threesome.

Truly  though  radios  vanishing ‘60s songs  have also vanished  those  nostalgic moments in the car when we boomers   would hone in  on memories of first glomming on to  the powerful teen culture,  For me  it was  the  hits of the summer of 1962, when I was an 11 year old summer camper in a bunk with  a cool counselor and   more sophisticated 12 year olds, who actually knew  who Little Stevie Wonder was.   During rest period  our counselor gave us  top 40 creds  via his personal record  player   , advising  the cabin of   the truly cool songs, basically the sum of this 45s stack,.  He got me hooked on Sealed With a Kiss by Brian Highland,  The lyrics   had enough schmaltz for an 11 year to appreciate , even though  my epistolary  skills , were  barely good enough to furnish a post card to home.    At night I cruised  into teen hood   via   transistor  static infused   renditions of the Summer of ’62 hits as  laid down by those classic DJs of WMEX.     My preferences  were   mostly the dance songs  The Loco-motion, Wah Watusi     Mashed Potato Time,  Monster Mash,  whose choreographies I could probably  not discern from  the hokey-pokey.      Nevertheless  I remember confidently  dancing with a girl at camp social to the Bristol Stomp  and assuming that because I  could stomp to the beat I was  “as sharp as a pistol,”   My favorite song though that summer that    make me feel almost 13 was Sherry.   My fifth grade crush was a Sherry so just  like Frankie Valli, it was exciting to think of asking her to “come out tonight,”    though what would happened after Sherry  emerged from  her split level , I never could imagine .

I can  sadly though imagine where   of ‘60s music will marginal  reside  on the   FM dials of  the future.   We will hear  something like this:

That wraps it up here folks for this week’s edition of NPR’s  “All Obscure Music  Genres Considered”  We thank  Appalachian State musicologist Fred McCoy for  his exposition  on original blue grass lullabies  from his book “Rockabilly Bye Baby”     Next week we have a surprisingly  exciting show,   from the   early  ‘60s doldrums era of Rock.  We will be reviewing a history of the American  garage band  from is  heyday of June to July 1963.   The garage movement’s seminal band The Kingsman will be our guests and we will be deconstructing their quintessential hit   “Louie , Louie”  with its unintelligible yet bawdy lyrics , that is said to be the inspiration for Ke$ha and the Macarena song.     .

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