Thursday

February 1971: BOBBY SHERMAN - "Cried Like A Baby"



Much like the Dave Clark 5 oh-so-briefly usurping The Beatles in popularity, Bobby Sherman had one quick moment where he almost took my attention away from David Cassidy. Yes, Mr. Sherman had Top 40 hits 2 years before David Cassidy blossomed, but it wasn’t until “My Awakening” that I noticed him. And then, I noticed him only because he re-tooled his image into a Poor Man’s David. Whereas David wore pookah shells around his tawny neck, Bobby wore velvet chokers. David’s luxurious shag blew free in the Southern California sun while Bobby’s new David-esque do was highly lacquered into place. But Bobby had racked up enough ultra-catchy pop hits to garner a Greatest Hits album (optimistically subtitled “Volume 1”) by the end of 1971, and when Mom purchased said album for me at the local IGA grocery store, I was beside myself with happiness at the expansion of my record collection.

Ultra-charming Bobby Sherman in satin fringe doing "Easy Come Easy Go."

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January 1971: THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY - Up To Date



The Partridge Family released another album! Today, as I look at my battered copy of Up To Date, I realize I must have crossed over into a new level of musical maturity. The only writing on the album cover is “Toby W.” written in the top right-hand corner by Mom, which is what had to be done to make sure you didn’t lose your records when taking them back and forth to listening parties. I did not scribble mercilessly all over it with magic markers. I treated it with proper respect.

This album was so much better than the debut. My 5-year old ears immediately noticed that the songs were much more solid and mature, and I liked all of them (whereas I had to skip over half the songs on the debut LP simply because David wasn’t singing). I have never stopped loving this album, and I actually get pissed when David Cassidy slams the Partridge music as useless crap. The songs written by Tony Romeo and Wes Farrell are as valid as the Top 40 Big Pop Extravaganzas that filled popular radio at the time. Wes Farrell’s “Wall Of Sound”-lite was made legitimate by a heaping handful of Phil Spector’s session players (hello, Hal Blaine!).

If, say, B.J. Thomas had recorded “You Are Always On My Mind,” or if Tom Jones had taken a crack at “I’m Here, You’re Here,” there’d be much less lingering prejudice against these songs. All songs can easily be divorced from their context and analyzed by its components, which is why there are so many cover tunes in the world. And I’d love to hear current-day Bob Dylan cover the Partridge’s “That’ll Be The Day.”

The Partridge Family - I'm Here, You're Here
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Wednesday

December 1970: LYNN ANDERSON - "Rose Garden"



I suppose this was my first country song, though I thought the record’s lush, string-laden sound was really no different than a Petula Clark song. But since it was country ‘n western, it was the perfect soundtrack to the coolest gift I got that Christmas.

My parents’ friends – Art & Ann Klein – gave me a cowgirl outfit! A matching vest and skirt of red “leather” with white fringe was accompanied by a white cowboy hat adorned with the Ford Mustang logo. When I wore this outfit with my black go-go boots, I looked sharp and felt great. Never once did I wear this ensemble to ride my pony, Sugar. Oh no, this cowgirl outfit was too precious to risk ruining it on an actual horse. Plus, the vest was very versatile, because with a little twist of imagination it transformed into a Partridge Family velvet vest which was worn while diligently practicing my green wiffle ball bat bass playing.

See and hear the song.
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Monday

December 1970: PERRY COMO - "It's Impossible"



Dad had a workshop in the basement, and now that we had a dog, he had to build a doghouse. If I could contain myself, he’d let me sit off to the side and watch him work. Since this was housing for my very first dog, I sat on my hands and clamped my mouth shut so as not to miss a moment. Of course he had the radio on as he worked; both parents always had a radio going. I vividly remember “It’s Impossible” playing as Dad drove in wood screws, and getting a little teary about it. I don’t know why. This may have been the exact moment my sentimental streak kicked in, which has always been accompanied by being nostalgic for a moment even as it’s happening. To this day, the song is my Dad building a doghouse and it makes me blubber like a baby.

Hear the song.

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November 1970: 5th DIMENSION - "One Less Bell To Answer"



Now here was a “grown up” song that I could get with. I was intrigued by the sound and the mood of the song, and it made me realize just how much I enjoyed the 5th Dimension. Their songs always sounded so warm and energetic coming over the airwaves, and seeing them on variety shows only reinforced this view. To later realize that this particular song came from Burt Bacharach & Hal David just sweetened the deal.

I was also intrigued that they were black, but no one seemed to have a problem with that. Because Black was a problem in my house; Dad didn’t like Blacks (or Jews), and was eager to share the many reasons why he didn’t like them. So, I was now aware of racial differences, but didn’t quite understand how having a different skin color than my own was an automatic detriment. And I was stumbling over Dad’s racial inconsistencies. If Black was bad, then the 5th Dimension should cause him a problem, but he didn’t have any opinion about them, which must have meant he was OK with them? Or at least he didn’t hate them, and seriously, how could anyone hate the 5th Dimension?

I just loved Marilyn McCoo’s voice. I still do; she’s one of the most underrated pop singers ever. And she was just so damn pretty and stylish. A few years later was the debut of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and during that first season, I immediately noticed that MTM had totally stolen Marilyn McCoo’s look, from the flip hairdo to the mini-dresses to the boots. Hey, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

See and hear the song.
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Tuesday

October 1970: PARTRIDGE FAMILY - "I Think I Love You"



We moved into a ranch house out where North County literally ends at the Missouri River. We might as well have been living in a little house on the prairie, as far as my thoroughly-citified Mom was concerned. Dad was blissfully happy to be closer to his farmer dreams. I was ecstatic, for I got a strawberry roan Shetland pony named Sugar (“ride a painted pony, let the spinning wheel spin”) and a dog named Trouble.

Also, the largest room in the house became my bedroom. It was once 2 small rooms, but with the wall knocked out I had a bedroom chamber as well as a recreation room. Since the other areas of the house were so small, they put the stereo in my room. I was now left alone with a Zenith “Circle of Sound” stereo system and all my parents’ albums. I quickly plowed through all of Barb’s musical soundtrack albums and Dad’s “make-out” music. I especially loved the stack of 45s and 78s, and then there was one record that had to be played at 16 RPM, featuring Barb singing “Lonely Wine.” I was memorized at hearing her husky singing voice coming from the speakers; my Mom was a music star!

Having taken command of the stereophonic world, new vistas opened before me, but Dorothy’s black & white shack was just about to land in Technicolor Oz.

My Pop Life officially began with the Partridge Family . The musical milestone started when Barb bought me the Partridge’s debut album at K-Mart. This was the first piece of vinyl that was exclusively mine, and was the welcome mat before the door of a new world…the world of pop and rock & roll, of fandom, of posters on the wall and a green wiffle ball bat turning into a guitar. The sound the world’s doorbell made when this fledgling music junkie pressed it was “Ba ba ba ba/ba ba ba ba baaah…Hey, I think I love you.” So let it be said that David Cassidy was the goal post of my cultural kick-off.

The Partridge Family Album was better than a teddy bear, and I abused it as if it were one. Ballpoint pen and Magic Marker decorated the covers, and interstate systems were etched into the vinyl from overzealous phonograph needle manipulation. I loved the music, certainly, but there was an added religious fervor due to this being my first multimedia experience. I need not spend a single moment without the Partridge Family! David Cassidy could be with me always….and he was. The faux-wood panel walls surrounding my bed were plastered with his gorgeous face. He watched over me as I furiously read every detail of his existence in such highly-factual periodicals as 16 and Tiger Beat. I spent every Friday night watching David and his “family” create scenarios that allowed them to play songs. When the episode was over, I could run to my room and play the featured song repeatedly, pretending to be “Keith’s” bassist brother “Danny,” and work myself into a tornadic lather until I collapsed into bed.

But it got even better! The rest of the world soon understood how monumental David Cassidy was when he (and OK, the Partridge’s, too) could soon be heard coming over the radio! Yes, the radio…what was once something that my parent’s had on in the background was now a direct connection to the outside Partridge world. The radio never played enough David, but luckily I had the album and could get as much as I wanted. I was now acutely aware of the importance of radio, the variety of radio stations available, and only the stations that played David, and similar pop tunes, mattered.

The Partridge Family - I Can Feel Your Heartbeat
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September 1970: EDISON LIGHTHOUSE - "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)"



I figured this song was simply called “Rosemary”, and I also thought it very clever when singing it to the neighborhood babysitter Rosemarie. Now, several months previous to this there was a song by Flying Machine called “Smile A Little Smile For Me,” whose love object was named Rosemarie, but ‘cmon, I was 4 years old! My radar wasn’t yet that keen. Anyway, shortly thereafter, we moved from the inner-ring suburbs of Ferguson to the positively rural far reaches of North County, where I could no longer bother this poor girl.



See and hear the song.

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May 1970: R. DEAN TAYLOR - "Indiana Wants Me"



After singing the chorus of this song at the top of my lungs for most of the day, Mom asked me to perform it for my Dad, Rich, when he came home from work. I clammed up and did the shy, shuffling feet business rather than taking the opportunity to sing him a song about a fugitive running from the law.



Hear the song.

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Monday

April 10, 1970: THE BEATLES - "Let It Be"



One afternoon while sitting on the couch intently watching Johnny Socko’s Robot on television, the front door slams open, and Melba roars into the room. She slams the door behind her, and leans back against it as if punched in the gut. Her Northland Cinema usherette uniform heaves with her every deep breath. She finally notices me starring at her quizzically and cries: “THE BEATLES BROKE UP!”

She screamed, stamped her feet and ran from the room in a hurricane of tears. I remained on the couch, staring intently out the window, deep in thought:
What exactly does “breaking up” mean?
What does that have to do with The Beatles?
I hear The Beatles every single day, and just ‘cos they “broke up,” it’s not like they’ll yank them from the radio.
Santa Claus is seen only once a year, but he exists all year long.
Santa will always exist, so will The Beatles.
They won't just disappear into nothing, right?

Looking back, April 10th, 1970 was also the date of my very first Existential Musical Thought.

Pertinent bits from the film Let It Be.
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April 1970: RAY STEVENS - "Everything Is Beautiful"



With 2 working parents, every day I either had to go to Conine’s or to nursery school. Whatever the option, we always had to drive by the last remaining horse farm in North St. Louis County. It stood at a busy intersection, and the traffic roaring by never bothered the languid grazing of the horses.

One morning while stuck in traffic at this intersection, I noticed a man sitting at the bus stop reading his newspaper. Directly behind him - like a dapple gray frame with a swinging tail - was a horse’s ass. Over the car radio, Mr. Steven’s provided editorial comment: “It's time to realize that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder/Everything is beautiful in its own way.”

See and hear the song.
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Sunday

February 1970: JACKSON 5 - "ABC"



Due to the cockamamie birth deadlines of public schools, I wouldn’t be able to start half-day playtimes (aka kindergarten) in the coming fall. With the public school system already having disappointed her, Barb began teaching me to do some serious reading right around this time. She gave me a head start on a real education; and added another entertainment option into my daily schedule: bigger books!

She got good backup on the education front from this new public television show called Sesame Street. Puppets made learning an adventure, but as I plowed through one Rand McNally after another, I got a bigger kick out of the Jackson 5 reading along with me over the radio.

See and hear the song.
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December 1969: Avon & "Shadrack"



Grandma Hester, aside from becoming a freshly minted widow, was a veteran Avon lady, so we had all of the Avon Christmas compilations. Sure, I liked a lot of the songs, but I mainly dug the record covers, which were modern, late 60s graphics that made me think more about The Jetsons than Santa Claus or the little Baby Jesus.

Even though it wasn’t exactly holiday music, I found the Peter King Orchestra’s version of “Shadrack” emotionally appropriate for Christmas. There was something so dark brown and crimson red about it, the male and female choir creating this pleasant tension. It was so dramatic that I was compelled to act out all the parts of the song, which could get exhausting during the rowdier passages. I’d discovered the concept of organic musical theater without any outside prompting, which is why suspension of disbelief for Hollywood musicals comes so easily to me.

See and hear a version of the song by The Larks.
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Saturday

November 1969: PETER PAUL & MARY - "Leaving on a Jet Plane"



My Mother’s father died. Grandpa Walter was my first corpse in a casket, and rather than being creeped out by the waxen sight, I was overcome with the sensation of missing someone who wouldn’t be coming back.

I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again,” was my explanation of where Grandpa went, and for days after the wake, I roamed about the house, singing this song while looking for him. I walked in on Mom ironing and told her to hurry up because we had bags to pack and a plane to catch, but she wasn’t buying my theory that Grandpa would be at the airport waiting for us.

See and hear the song.
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Wednesday

November 1969: The MONKEES - "This Just Doesn't Seem to Be My Day"



By now, the albums I once loved sprang to life because the Monkee’s TV show was being re-run as part of Saturday morning kids’ programming. And my parents gave Conine a bit of a break by enrolling me in Northland Day Care, a nursery school in Ferguson, MO run by Miss Ruth and her daughters.

A stormy morning kept us inside, and I got stuck playing with a set of pink plastic ballerina figures. Ballet meant classical music, and to my mind, the bridge of “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day” was classical music. I sang that part of the song aloud while spinning the figurines across the table until some snot-nosed girl snatched them away from me. I watched as she violently spun them around, and then she looked perplexed.

“Where’s the sound?” she asked, jabbing a pink plastic pirouette in my face.
I pointed to myself and said, “Right here.” Then I walked away and left her with her silent toys.

See and hear the song.
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Tuesday

Summer 1969: BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS - "Spinning Wheel" & "And When I Die"



I was deep into a Cowboys & Indians phase, complete with dime store plastic figurines and a hand-me-down Paladin leather holster and gun set. What with “ride a painted pony” and the jauntiness of “swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray there ain’t no hell,” Blood, Sweat & Tears became the house band of my imaginary Wild West saloon. I thought the definition of “swagger” was David Clayton Thomas’ voice, making him seem so much more macho than those John Wayne westerns Dad watched on Sunday afternoons.


See and hear the song.
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Monday

May 1969: THREE DOG NIGHT - "One"



For a family vacation, we drove the bright red station wagon down to the Lake of the Ozarks. This song played on the radio as we tooled down a sunny, country lane. Dad turned down the volume to talk to Mom, and I was afraid the song would die if we couldn’t hear it. So I repeatedly sang the chorus to keep it alive until they turned it back up.



See and hear the song.

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Saturday

January 1969: DUSTY SPRINGFIELD - "Son of a Preacher Man"


I vividly remember hearing this song come over the radio, because it felt like the singer was in the room with me. Her voice was so warm and alive, and I swore she was standing behind me, breathing in my ear. I could hear each intake of breath, I could feel her sly smile.

The lyrics also made an impression because we’d just finished the Christmas season, and the concept of people going to church for Jesus’ birthday had finally clicked in. Hearing this pretty lady (and with a voice like that, surely she was pretty) sing about a Preacher Man allowed me to connect the dots: When religion took place in a church, it was the voice of God. When religion took place outside of church, it was Dusty’s voice.

See and hear the song.
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Tuesday

1968: PETULA CLARK & The YOUNG RASCALS



The Batman Theme
song sent me on a flying frenzy through the house, with a cape (actually, a pink and white striped bath towel) around my shoulders. This uncontrollable behavior culminated in spilling grape juice on the (we just took off the price tag) new couch, leaving a permanent dark purple stain on the olive green and harvest gold floral upholstery.


Petula Clark songs always made me very happy. She always looked so graceful and friendly on TV variety shows, but what exactly about those songs snagged my attention?

Her hits were full-bodied, lush arrangements with big, gooey choruses, it’s true, but for a 3 year old, it’s all about the tambourines! Check into any of Petula’s big hits and note that it hits lift off the very moment the tambourine enters the mix.

I also remember twirling madly about the room to the bridge and final chorus of The Young Rascal's “How Can I Be Sure.” I’m fascinated by how this song - along with Petula Clark and Bacharach/David - enchanted me as a cherub and then went on to remain my most enduring favorites. I instinctively loved intricate, orchestral pop then, and marvel at it now. This doesn’t prove that, with potty training out of the way, I was able to develop good musical taste. It only proves that great art communicates on such a primal level that even a 3-year old gets it.

Intro to Batman TV show.

Petula Clark - I Couldn't Live Without Your Love

Hear Young Rascal's How Can I Be Sure
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Sunday

1967: BURT BACHARACH & The MONKEES



The radio was always on in our house or cars, and what spoke loudest to my toddler soul were the songs
of Burt Bacharach & Hal David.

I was not yet aware of California’s existence, but when Dionne Warwick asked “Do You Know the Way To San Jose?” I answered yes, because I was sure I could find such a magical place just by wishing it so. Anything that came from The House Of Bacharach enchanted me then, does so now, and will till the day I die.

Conine’s teenage daughter, Melba, had a strange little box of a record player. I was intrigued at how the vinyl records hung over the edge of the box, and that a penny was taped to the moving arm that made noise when it hit the vinyl.

Melba had many albums but the ones that caught my toddler eye and ear were The Monkees. On the album covers, they were always smiling and jumping about. Pick any song, and during the first listen, I could sing along by the halfway mark. There were so many repetitions of “Papa Gene’s Blues” that Conine would demand I move onto another song.

It would be another 3 years before I caught their TV show as Saturday morning re-runs, but everything I needed to know about them was right there in the records: these guys were cute and their music was fun. Later in life, I’d demand so much more of the bands I liked, but I’m enchanted with the basics established as a toddler: Cute & Fun & Catchy Songs. There’s majesty in that simplicity.

See Burt & Dionne working together in the studio, 1970.

The Monkees do "Sweet Young Thing."
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