Monday, December 01, 2008

The Summers of Love

So, here’s the gig: I assigned my College Prep class a Top Ten assignment—a meme, if you will. The “rubric”: make the list, include images, and then write 50 words (no more, no less) about each item and why it made your list. Relevance to one’s collegiate preparedness? Blogskills, of course. Teaching up and coming urchins the skill of writing pieces that are immediately transferrable to Blogtopia.

I brainstormed a few ideas: Top Ten “Things”; Top Ten Songs for My Wake; Top Ten Gospel Songs (I don’t know ten of them by name, but I sure know ‘em when I hears ‘em); Top Ten Places; Top Ten Places in Tres Leches; Top Ten Movies (way too hard). I’ll spare you the urchin brainstorming I heard, other than the predictable Top Ten Guitarists (one urchin, cruising an online list: “Who’s Robert Johnson, Mr. Booker?”). I finally settled on Top Ten Junior High Love Songs (1966-1968). Goofy enough, but also serious enough to merit listing. What junior high Scorpio isn’t goofily, seriously in love, or seriously, goofily in love, I ask you?

I tried to set some parameters: must be slow-dance love songs; must not be breakup songs; must not be revenge songs; must be songs I actually danced to while in junior high. Many of the songs in the final ten fail on some count or another, but I can say that my surprising choice (even to me) for #1 song fit the bill on all counts.

One further note: for an old man as funkified as I am now, this list is shamefully white bread. Though Stevie Wonder was around in those years, it wasn’t until his string of genius albums from 1971-1976 that I climbed on that wagon. Chaka had not ascended yet and, let’s face it, my ears were just not tuned enough in those years. I was all about Sly, but his groove was more Agape than Eros.

Without any furthers, I give you, in descending order (as urchin KS-G reminded me the list should be), PMB’s Top Ten Junior High Love Songs (1966-1968). These were the days of “real” “junior high” “schools.”

PMB’s Top Ten Junior High Love Songs

10. “I Think We’re Alone Now” (Tommy James and the Shondells): This song would not make any other list of mine now, but I have to admit that tryin’ to get away into the night, well, that was what we all dreamed of, right? It captured the frenzy of nuclear vapors in bodies dying to explode, heart-throbbing at the very end.

09. “96 Tears” (? and the Mysterians): This song fails on all counts, because I HATED this song when it was out. Austin’s 1970s reggae Lotions revealed the evil genius of this song to me, with their bacchanalian 20-minute covers on stage at the beloved Liberty Lunch. Blame placement on ? himself; the song insisted on inclusion.

08. “Dedicated to the One I Love” (Mamas and the Papas): If memory serves, the moms and dads standing soaked in a swimming pool on the album cover. And speaking of “cover,” yes, they’re not the first, but I was a fool for it and them on this one. Choral out the wazoo, old-timey piano in the background, whispering and lovely.

07. “You Were on My Mind” (We Five): Way too damn fast to dance slowly (or at all) to, but it’s about as romantic-sappy as you can get in its bright shiny just to ease my pain yearning, its soaring vocals, and that breathless McGuinn-like Rickenbacker finish. Yes, I know they looked like frat boys and girl mascot.

06. “More Love” (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles): Learning to drive on FM 1049 in Uvalde County, this William H. Robinson beauty slipped onto the summer of ’67 airwaves; any time it came on, I’d crawl to 5 MPH to make sure I could hear the whole thing on the 1.5 mile drive from grandparents’ to uncle’s house.

05. “Today” (Jefferson Airplane; Surrealistic Pillow): We all remember how SP smashed our heads with Ms Grace and her shuddering “Somebody to Love” and hypnotic “White Rabbit,” but this is probably the most beautiful song on the list, from a most unlikely source. Imagine a junior high head blown by Ms Slick and then this follows.

04. “No Fair at All” (The Association): From their “flop” Renaissance album, which I contend is perhaps their best. I’ll take this beauty over “Cherish” and “Never My Love.” It may have been an American flop, but it was #1 in the Philippines. How’s that for marketing? I’ve never seen this side of you before—till now.

03. “Don’t You Care” (The Buckinghams): When I think of junior high dance parties, I think of the Buckinghams and one other group. I was probably responsible for the multiple playings. “Kind of a Drag” was vintage Chicago, too, but this one was had much more ache and moan and plaintive loss oozing out all over.

02. “How Can I Be Sure” / “A Girl Like You” (The Rascals): You had to be able to dance to show tunes to pull these off, but what a revelation they were during my lonely exile in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. My stepfather was an Army band conductor and even he could see how gorgeous these two songs were. Trouble’s gone, trouble’s gone…

01. “Whisper You Love Me, Boy” (The Supremes): Norma Torres. Beautiful brown coffee skin, draped in white jeans, white blouse, drenched in white moonlight. Not even, I believe, one of their hits, throwaway (throwaway?) Dozier-Holland-Dozier B-side. I think this one makes it on all counts, most certainly on the slow-danced to it parameter. Did I mention Norma Torres?



Blogger San said...

Most of these I remember, Paschal. I'm struggling with We Five's offering. Hum a few bars, would ya?

And as I was going down the list, I was thinking, Where's Cherish? Then I see you opted for #1 in the Philippines.

96 Tears. Oh no, I'm going to be hearing that in my sleep tonight.

8:41 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Sister San:

You're gonna cry cry cry cry now...

We Five are eminently youtubeable: you'll know it when you hear it.

This list does not reveal just how obsessed I was with The Association, seven albums beyond their three years at the top. What the later years showed was a very diverse, wide-ranging, versatile band, doomed, for the most part, by the success of "Windy." Another hidden gem of a band were the Cryan Shames out of Chicago, much more than their brief flaming with "Sugar and Spice." I almost used the image of their album Scratch in the Sky for this post.

Sundazed times for sure.

8:56 PM  
Blogger jsd said...

two of the songs may have been re-done by new wave bands.

my musical tastes have been greatly influenced by many-colored haired men wearing make-up who live on an island who where singing in the late 80's.

1:54 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

jsd: Shouldn't all our tastes be influenced by men wearing make-up? Here's to all our youths.

2:24 PM  
Blogger anno said...

Oh, this is a sweet list, brought back memories. Maybe I should be glad, though, that nothing about 96 Tears sounds familiar, nothing at all?

7:54 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

anno: As in, you've never even heard the song at all? Maybe more of a regional hit, but I don't think so. Here's a fun update from ? and his Mysterians (and Barbie and Ken?):

Imagine a wildly deranged Austin reggae band (the Lotions) taking this out for a 20 minute version.


10:56 PM  
Blogger anno said...

Thanks, Paschal, for the link to the video clip. That's one mesmerizing song, for sure, and you were right, I have heard it before. After today, though, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forget it again. I might need to find that 20-minute reggae version...

8:28 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

anno: You're welcome. I like ?'s little modulations on the word "tears" as they're fading out. I went searching for possible Lotions clips (not bloody likely), and then remembered that the Lotions actually have morphed into Austin's Mau Mau Chaplains. I haven't yet tracked down anything that might even begin to capture the glorious mania of Liberty Lunch.

11:09 AM  

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