I agree completely with Joan Jett. I love rock and roll. But that doesn't mean that I got to hear that much of it when I was little. As difficult as it is for my kids to imagine in an era where the gas prices are approaching $4 a gallon, one of my enduring early childhood memories was piling into the big ol' AMC Ambassador station wagon with my brothers Pat and Paul and my sister Carol (my younger siblings Margie and Mike the Stinger weren't born yet) as Dad took us out for a Sunday drive. Our car looked something like the one in the picture, although I think Dad's was a 1972 model and this one is a 1974.
Anyway, as we would cruise the highways to exotic locations like New London or Wild Rose or Shawano, Dad would have the radio on. And the station of choice was Appleton's own WHBY, which was a small-town version of WCCO or WGN. It was the station you listened to if you wanted the latest commodity prices, or to hear the venerable Bob Lloyd broadcasting the local high school basketball clashes. Bob even tried to broadcast girls' games later on, but he'd get confused ("here comes Maureen Riopelle down court for the Hawks - two men are on her"). But most of the time WHBY played music. And it wasn't rock and roll. No sir. It was all standards, all the time. WHBY was the place to hear Jerry Vale and Hugo Winterhalter. When they wanted to get exotic, they might break out Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66. But most of all, it was the kind of station that made Burt Bachrach rich.
Ah, Burt Bachrach. The consummate songwriter of the 1960s. His songs were all highly melodic and usually featured a complicated lyric from his partner Hal David, generally discussing the vicissitudes of l'amour. Dad loved it. Me? Not so much.
Thirty to forty years on, some of the stuff sounds better to me. Bachrach usually had ace singers and producers performing his stuff and a lot of the songs are standards now. Here are four examples for your pleasure this evening:
First, from 1964, a very young Dionne Warwick in an indelible performance while traversing a stage weirdly filled with a bunch of office chairs, with:
A year later, Bachrach offered his largesse to a young singer/songwriter from Kentucky, who had written a big hit for the Searchers with "Needles and Pins." But she would gain lasting fame by singing a Bachrach song. It's Jackie DeShannon with something short of go-go dancing going on behind her with:
Lord, we don't need another mountain. But three years later, Bachrach supplied trumpeter Herb Alpert with his biggest hit. This video is especially interesting because of the frankly alarming eye makeup the young lady accompanying ol' Herb is sporting. Despite the Tammy Faye on steroids look, Herb insists that:
As the 60s came to a close, Bachrach and David found their best vehicle, a brother/sister combo responsible for some of the biggest hits of the era. Roundly reviled by the rock intelligentsia, their stuff has actually held up pretty well over the years, in large measure because the voice of Karen Carpenter is such a pure and powerful intstrument. So here they are, the Carpenters, with Karen sporting a frightening vintage look, informing us that, like all the girls in town, she longs to be:
Just close your eyes, imagine an open two-lane road and rolling farmland, and you're there. Then cast your vote and, if you're lucky, maybe Dad will pull over at the Dog 'n Suds in Hortonville and get us a treat.