IT’S NO SECRET that most of us form strong emotional bonds with things during our teenage years. This includes attachments to humans, food, even sports teams. This seems especially so with music: whatever the hits were that we loved when we were 15, we are probably going to love for the rest of our lives.
Even if our tastes “progress” and we develop a passion for jazz or classical music, we usually keep our connections to those pop hits from our teen years. And here’s the best part—no matter when our teen years were, no matter how bad the hits were during those years, we think ourselves lucky to have been teens through those years and those hits!
Hell’s Belles, there are people who remember the ’80s with fondness! You may think, “How can that be?”
But it’s true! (It’s true! It’s true!)
There are “magic” records that transport me back in time to when I was 15-years-old and there was magic in the music.
There really are people who sigh when the synth sound of Flock of Seagulls, or the raspy voice of Bonnie Tyler, or the whatever-it-is-that-makes-him-so-annoying of Lionel Richie turns up on the radio or in a movie or even on the piped-in background music at their favorite shopping emporium.
I was lucky, as I grew up when the “oldies but goodies” concept and format was new and fresh and exciting. And it was everywhere, especially the northeastern part of the country.
Consequently, not only did I get the hear the Top 40 hits of the mid-1960s—hits so good that no one had to coin the term classic rock to sucker you into listening to them!—but interspersed among those hits were memorable blasts from the past—the past being the late ’50s.
To hear Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield alongside Brenda Lee and Connie Francis, and to hear the Miracles and the Temptations back-to-back with the Flamingos and the Platters was both a joy and an education. While Top 40 AM radio is long gone, there are faux “radio stations” that one can access online that somewhat compensate for those days when we heard our favorite jocks assuring us that “The hits just keep coming!”
Traveling through time at 45 rpm
I am not given to nostalgia, meaning I’m not inclined to a “wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for a return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.” When I listen to music from the past, I remain firmly planted in the here and now. And that past includes Bach and Haydn and Ellington and Mingus as well as Chuck Berry and Elvis and the Miracles and the Shangri-La’s!
I could spend months blogging about the vast array of good music that found its way onto the national and local charts, whether pop or country or easy-listening or soul or rock & roll. Instead, I’m going to focus on a very special type of record that I call a time travel record.
There are a handful of records that stop me in my be-here-now tracks and transport me back in time. When I hear them, a part of me finds myself not wistful or yearning for some bygone era where father knew best, but I find myself transported back to when I was 14/15-years-old and the magic was in the music and the music was in me.
If I was writing this in a story, this experience would not be listed under science fiction since there is no technological device or explanation as to what makes this happen. It’s magic. Like Stephen King’s 11/22/63 novel, it would belong in the fantasy shelves in your local bookstore.
Those magic moments
Aside from these experiences not being associated in any way with regular nostalgia, there are two things I want to stress about these magic moments with these records:
• they are involuntary, and
• I can’t make them happen with other records.
Regardless of their age, their proximity in time with these records, or how much I love them, the time traveling only occurs with a few records. Oddly, it’s not records by my very favorite artists (no Elvis or Dylan) or my faverave groups (no Beach Boys, Beatles, Byrds, Kinks, or Stones).
There are four records by artists, three of whom were among the stellar acts of their time. What they have in common is that they are groups (one being a duo) and they were released within months of each other in 1965.
Here are my Fab Four Time Machine Records, listed in order of their release date. Two were issued in September and two in November. I have included a nutshell look at the top of the charts at the time of their release.
During the first two weeks of September 1965, the #1 spot on the Cash Box Top 100 was held by the Beatles’ Help! Since my brother was a Beatles fan, I had to suppress my enjoyment of their music for several years, but who could help but love this record?
The Fab Four were followed by Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, which was stunning on first hearing: it stopped me in my tracks at Public Square Records and made me stop browsing and listen: I knew something was happening but I didn’t know what it was. Decades later and it remains stunning after thousands of hearings!
One week later and Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction was the toppermost of the poppermost! Alas, the forebodings of this song are as worthy of contemplation now as they were then, except we’re a little closer to midnight on the doomsday clock.
On the Billboard Hot 100, Help! was #1 for three weeks followed by Eve Of Destruction. That is, Dylan was squeezed out of the top spot on the most folk’s top survey.
Simon & Garfunkel
Columbia 4-43396, The Sounds Of Silence
This record debuted on the Cash Box Top 100 on November 20, 1965. It spent fifteen weeks on the survey, reaching #1 for one week on January 29, 1966. It was a bigger hit on Billboard: it topped the chart on January 1, 1966, surrendered the top spot to the Beatles’ We Can Work It Out for two weeks, then returned to #1 on January 22.
The basic track for this record was an acoustic version that appeared on S&G’s first album, WEDNESDAY MORNING 3 A.M., which very few people had heard let alone purchased in 1965. Without the duo’s knowledge, producer Tom Wilson recorded an electric backing track and added it to the original version, turning the forgotten folkie recording into one of folk-rock’s greatest hits.
Imperial 66134, Look Through Any Window
This record debuted on Cash Box on November 27, 1965. It spent eleven weeks on that survey, reaching #34, although it reached #32 on Billboard, making it the group’s first Top 40 hit in the US. In the UK, it was their seventh Top 10 hit in twenty-four months.
Many readers don’t know that the Hollies were second only to the Beatles as hitmakers in England between 1963 and 1970. Here is the tally of their Top 20 hits along with those of a few other popular pop groups:
Herman’s Hermits 17
Rolling Stones 16
Unfortunately, the Hollies were nowhere near as big in the US, where they scored only seven Top 20 hits. But they did do something here that they didn’t do at home: on September 16, 1972, Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress) reached #1 on the Cash Box Top 100, their only chart-topper in either of the world’s two biggest markets!
During the month of November 1965, the #1 spot on the Cash Box Top 100 was held by the Rolling Stones’ Get Off Of My Cloud for two weeks. I was a self-proclaimed Stones hater at the time but secretly liked the quirky sound of this record.
It was followed by the Supremes’ I Hear A Symphony—and everybody liked the Supremes and so did I—then Len Barry’s 1-2-3. I bought the Barry record then and still think it an under-appreciated gem now, but it’s probably doomed to be known only by those who were teenagers in the ’60s (or those doomed to grow up to be record collectors).
On Billboard, Get Off Of My Cloud and I Hear A Symphony split the four weeks between them, depriving Barry of the top spot.
The Mamas & The Papas
Dunhill D-4020, California Dreamin’
This record debuted on Cash Box on January 8, 1966. It peaked at #4 on March 12, 1966, where it stayed for three weeks, spending nineteen weeks on the survey. It also peaked at #4 on Billboard but, in what appears to have been a quirky decision by the BBC and British record buyers, it failed to even reach the Top 20 in the UK.
Although written by John and Michelle Phillips, the song was originally recorded by Barry McGuire for his THIS PRECIOUS TIME album. Dunhill’s main man Lou Adler knew two things:
1. California Dreamin’ was going to be a hit record.
2. The Mamas & The Papas were going to be a hit group.
So he took McGuire’s recording, removed the lead vocal, and had The Mamas & The Papas record new vocals. Adler proved himself correct and the rest is history.
Co & Ce B-232, Five O’Clock World
This record debuted on Cash Box on December 4, 1965. It peaked at #3 on January 29, 1966, reaching #4 on Billboard. While it topped Canada’s RPM survey, it received little attention in the rest of the world’s major pop market.
The Vogues broke into the national Top 40 with the great You’re The One, which was apparently given to them by one of the song’s co-writers, Petula Clark. The song sounds like it would have been a natural for the Turtles as a follow-up to their Top 10 success with It Ain’t Me Babe earlier in the year.
Like so many rock-based groups blessed/cursed with a lead singer with a heavenly voice (as the group’s Bill Burkette was), they gravitated towards easy-listening music, eventually sounding more like the Lettermen than the Turtles.
Are you a fellow time traveler?
If you have a time travel record, please consider this an invitation to mention it in a comment below. And mention how old you were when the connection was made between you and the record.
FEATURED IMAGE: Rod Taylor as H.G. “George” Wells in The Time Machine from 1960. There were very few science fiction movies good enough to justify a willing suspension of disbelief from fans of the genre in the 1960s. George Pal’s brilliant production of this Wells novel was a rare and wondrous exception—almost sixty years later and I can still recommend this movie to the discerning few among younger fans of the genre.