January 2021

Different Beats for Different Feets

Fifty years ago we would watch the ABC Evening News with Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith. At the end of each newscast, one of the two would would have a commentary. For some reason, Reasoner mentioned in several of his commentaries that he did not like the song Lonely Days by the Bee Gees. It’s not just that he didn’t like the song, he thought it was the most pathetic piece of dreck that had ever been put on record.

Not on Harry Reasoner’s hit parade.

One night he told his viewers that his 17 year old neighbor had been mowing his lawn and listening to the radio. The song came on and the neighbor clearly enjoyed it. Reasoner thought that he would expose the youth to what good music really sounded like. The newscaster called the boy over. Figuring that anything in his collection just had to be better than that trash the neighbor was listening to, Reasoner picked out a record at random and put it on his turntable.

I have not been able to find the record on YouTube or even any mention of it on the internet, but, as I recall, Reasoner said it went something along the lines of “I go nut nut nutty in the coconut tree over you.”

The kid from next door just looked at Reasoner with a blank expression. Reasoner took the tonearm off the record and took the record off of the turntable as the neighbor quietly left and went back to mowing his lawn.

While it is not one of my favorite songs, I do enjoy hearing Lonely Days from time to time. That is the thing with music. What one person may love, another person may hate. In fact, a song you may love today you may hate tomorrow and vice-versa.

Years ago I worked for a company that would have a booth at the yearly convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. While I worked for that company, they changed gears from showing just the wooden racks and tape cartridges that they sold to putting on fairly sophisticated displays of the equipment that they carried. In 1987 I engineered an operational radio station with a control room, a production room, and a working FM exciter (transmitter) with a receiver that allowed people to compare two different audio processing systems.

Me in Dallas, 1987

With that sort of setup we, of course, had to play music. We had a rule for the music we played: we did not play music that we liked. The reason for that was when something came on that we liked, we would make an effort to listen to it. Since we were a captive audience, we knew that we would grow to hate the music that we used to love. We did not play music that we hated, either. We played music that we didn’t care about one way or another. That made it easy to tune out without it grating on us. We could just ignore it.

Sometimes a person’s taste changes. In late 1962 there was a song that would make my brothers and me cringe whenever it came on. It seemed really sappy: Hey Paula by Paul and Paula.

Enough to make a 6 year old cry.

The song grew on me as years went by. While I certainly would not go out of my way to listen to it, I certainly don’t mind hearing it from time to time.

There was another song that my brothers and I despised, The Birds and the Bees by Jewel Akens from 1965. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now.

Oh, Please.

Maybe if I live to be 100 I will start to like this song.

I know some many people like those songs. That is fine. I know there are songs that I like that other people hate. In 1972 I bought the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. When I brought it home, my mother must have wanted to show interest in the music I liked so she asked me to play it. I said no. She asked me several times so I finally relented.

Not on my mother’s hit parade. Photo: CapricornRecords.COM.AU

“You wasted your money on that?”

I knew I should have held my ground.

Don’t let the music catch you crying

I lived in Germany, arriving in March, 1964 and leaving in June, 1966. My father would travel around Europe and often would use his own car. Before one such trip he took the car to the nearby Heidelberg Post Exchange (PX) for routine maintenance such as having the oil changed. They drained the oil. They changed the oil filter. They forgot to put new oil in. Needles to say, the engine did not take too kindly to that. The PX garage in Heidelberg did not have the facilities to change the engine so the car was taken to Stuttgart.

Our 1961 Pontiac Tempest, presumably with oil in the crankcase

We lived near the city of Heidelberg. Our radio entertainment came from AFN Frankfurt which had a relay station near Heidelberg. The programming on AFN had to satisfy a number of different interests especially since there was no Armed Forces television in the area yet. There were other AFN stations in Germany. When it came to music, it seemed that different AFN stations would pick their own music. Friends brought us to Stuttgart to pick up our car after the engine had been replaced. When we were in the Stuttgart area we listened to AFN Stuttgart. They played Doo Wah Diddy by Manfred Mann. That was the only time I heard the song when it was a hit.

Played in Stuttgart but not in Frankfurt

The reason I mention that is because I did not hear of Gerry and the Pacemakers until 1968 or 1969 even though they had seven top 40 hits on the U.S. charts released from May, 1964 through September, 1966 with five of them reaching the top 20. Maybe Stuttgart played those, too — but I don’t remember hearing them on Frankfurt.

In October, 1964, the group appeared in the film The T.A.M.I. Show. While I had heard of the film for years, I did not see it until about ten years ago. I was not expecting much, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The film opens with Chuck Berry doing a couple of his songs. As Berry performs Maybelline, Gerry and his crew enter the stage. When Berry is done, the Pacemakers pick up with their own version. They play a couple songs then Berry plays a song. They go back and forth.

Best part of the movie.

I never would have thought that going back and forth between Chuck Berry and Gerry and the Pacemakers would have worked, but it does. Is their music profound? No. While Marsden and company may not have made the same impact on music as did Berry, you cannot help but notice that they are having an absolutely great time. Their smiles are infectious. Gerry is often waving or pointing at the audience, obviously enjoying the crowd’s reaction and presence. What really wins me over is the big smile on bass player Les Chadwick’s face and the fact that, even though he is not heard and does not have a microphone, he often sings along. A good time was had by all.

Gerry Marsden was no slouch as a musician, either. Someone I follow on YouTube is an English musician named Fil from Wings of Pegasus. He analyses videos of live performances. He did the following video of Gerry and the Pacemakers in a Swedish TV performance from 1963. Fil spends 25 minutes talking about a two-minute performance. If you enjoy learning about music and performance this video is great and you may find it interesting.

What makes a performance tick.

While the girls in the audience are not screaming at the top of their lungs, if you look closely you can see that many of them are singing along. People who are not enjoying themselves do not do that.

Maybe much of the popular music of the 1960’s it short on profundity, but it is not short of fun. To me, music is emotion, be it is the moving beauty of a great classical piece or the magic of rock and roll that makes you dance and sing along. Gerry Marsden certainly represented the enjoyment that can come from people who are enjoying themselves.

Gerry Marsden passed away on January 3, 2021. Rest in peace, Mr. Marsden.