To the America that existed then, the Beatles were plenty threatening. To understand why, you have to understand the music scene of the time, and how utterly new the Beatles were in every way, how totally uncategorizable.Why this diary? I was 14 when the music changed, and, based on the response to some of the diaries about popular music of the 1960s I've published in Top Comments, if you aren't familiar with the groups who performed at Monterey Pop, you REALLY won't know about the groups that topped the charts in 1963. So, below the great orange tambourine, the #1 songs of the fall and early winter of 1963-64, and a brief review of what happened during the first six months of 1964
On January 26 1964, I Want to Hold Your Hand hit #1 on the Billboard chart, and stayed there for seven weeks. It was followed by She Loves You (two weeks) and Can't Buy Me Love for five. That's a four month period. Since there's a remote possibility that some of you may never have heard Can't Buy Me Love, here it is.
Lennon/McCartney, written in Paris right after the success of I Want to Hold Your Hand. By itself, sure, it sounds like all the other early Beatles songs - peppy, upbeat, so on. That's why I wanted to play you the five songs that topped the chats between October 6 1963 and January 19 1964.
First up, for five weeks, a peppy, upbeat song by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs:
Recorded in Clovis, New Mexico. About the folk-music scene (espresso was exotic at that point unless you were of Italian descent, and characteristically served at thecoffeehouses that the Coen Brothers memorialized in Inside Llewyn Davis). You will note that the attitude toward women expressed in the song is decidedly pre-Title 7, very much of its era ("girlie?, well . . .).
Next, for one week, one of the many versions of a song written in 1933 which had lyrics added in 1938. It's WONDERFULLY quirky (and it was the "diary me" moment that led me to write this).
Yep, twangy, and just so overwrought, and terrific. But still very pre-Beatles. This won the 1963 Grammy for best Rock and Roll record. I think you can see why.
Then, for two weeks, an appropriation from Donald Harris and Dewey Terry, who,as Don and Dewey, recorded this in 1957. Yep, still the issue of black artists on "white" radio.
Country music on the pop charts. Not crossover country, real, unadulterated country. I've linked Don and Dewey's version so you can see what differences existed between the two versions, and I have a diary in the works on the "appropriation" cover - it's probably a couple of months out.
There is no explanation I can come up with for this, except to say that maybe the resurgence of folk music is responsible too. For four weeks. Yes, this bridged the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
But sure. In 1966, a movie was made about the nun (whose name was Jeanine Deckers) starring Debbie Reynolds, and here's a story from Entertainement Weekly that explains the whole thing:
A more unlikely pop star is hard to imagine: a shy, bespectacled Belgian nun in full Dominican habit wearing cloddy but practical shoes. Yet Jeanine Deckers, known to the world as the Singing Nun, was the sensation of late 1963. Twenty-nine years ago this week, she held No. 1 on the pop charts, outselling Motown, Elvis, and surf music with ''Dominique,'' her folksy tribute to the founder of her order, St. Dominic. With its lilting, repetitive chorus (''Dominique-a-nique-a-nique ''), her French-language song provided an upbeat antidote to a world rocked by the recent assassination of John F. Kennedy. Teens and adults around the globe bought more than a million copies of the single and of her Singing Nun album, which also held a top spot on the U.S. charts that December.Finally, also for four weeks, Bobby Vinton.
That's what his songs sounded like. Of course, there's a story from my own life that goes with it. Jim and I lived in West Hollywood from May 1980 to August 1983, just up the hill from the Sunset Strip. Whisky-a-Go-Go was on the corner. If you've been reading my stuff you know that Nicole Brown and Fay Resnick lived in this building too. The nearest 24 hour supermarket was a Hughes on Beverly Blvd and Doheny Drive, and if you went in early in the morning you could usually see celebrities, like, say, Rosemary Clooney. I think this was in May or June 1981. We were out of milk at 6 AM (I've always been an early riser, and so was Jim), so Jim went down the hill to get it and threw on a t-shirt that had been part of the Oscar promotion for the 1980 Jane Fonda-Dolly Parton movie Nine to Five. Compressing the story, Jim said that a man standing on line at the cash register with him had been tremendously interested in the t-shirt, but how that translated when he walked into the apartment was "I've just been rude to Bobby Vinton."
One more thing. What followed Can't Buy Me Love was Louis Armstrong's version of the title song from the musical Hello Dolly, which is something I never need to hear again, for one week. So what followed THAT was one of Motown's hits, proving that R&B sung by Black artists could be pop music.
The Beatles and the subsequent "British Invasion," and Motown. Yes, music would change a LOT as the 1960s progressed.
UPDATE: I'm learning quite a bit from the comments, and thank you! I have an aversion to a lot of Jazz because my father tried to jam it down my throat as what I should be listening to instead of groups like the Beatles (and you remember how you were at 14 or 15, yes?). Not liking a song is not a sign of disrespect for the artist.