Posts Tagged ‘Penny Lane’

There, atop the dresser in the photo to the left, is a portion of my record collection circa early 1982, when I was 16; I stored my 45s in a stack beside the turntable as well as in a shoebox on the floor that was situated beside another shoebox filled with cassettes. I also stored some LPs in a small rack near my desk, which was across the room.

After five years of intense music fandom, in other words, my entire music library clocked in at a little less than 100 LPs, about 40 cassettes, and maybe – and I’m likely stretching it – 100 45s. I’d yet to complete my Beatles collection, though – as the posters demonstrate – I was a big Beatles/McCartney fan. I owned the red and blue best-of sets (Christmas gifts both), plus everything from Rubber Soul onward (sans the Hey Jude collection), but it wouldn’t be until late 1987, after graduating college and landing a full-time job, that I owned everything Fab.

Similar situations occurred with other favorite artists. I fell in Mad Love with Linda Ronstadt in 1980 due to “How Do I Make You,” for example, but never picked up her first few LPs until the early 1990s, when they were only available as Japanese import CDs; and in late 1981, I bought my first Neil Young album, re*ac*tor, and then the one that preceded it, Hawks & Doves, but it took me most of the ‘80s to work my way through his backlog. 

It wasn’t that I wanted to wait, but records and cassettes were expensive. By the early ‘80s, new releases generally set consumers back $5.99 (the equivalent to $16 today) – but some were discounted to $4.99 and others priced higher, at $6.99 or even $7.99. Factor in sales tax, which in Pennsylvania was six percent, and buying an album was a major expense for a kid on a budget.

And once you consider other typical teen expenses, such as movie tickets, magazines and fast food, prioritizing a catalog item over a new release was an extravagance (just as hardback books were to paperback editions). That said, as I noted in my piece on Jackson Browne’s Hold Out album, I had a hierarchy of fallbacks whenever I walked into a record store; if A was out of stock, I’d look for B, and then C, and then, often, something totally unrelated would catch my eye and I’d walk out with that, instead. Later that year, I discovered a used record store where $7.41 bought three, four or more LPs instead of one, but the same basic rules applied. Wants waited.

I think of those times often, these days. If the streaming services existed back then, how much money would I have saved through the years? But, hand in hand with that, would I treasure specific artists and their oeuvres the same way I do now? Would the years-long journey that, as I outlined here, took me from the Byrds to Emmylou Harris have ended the same if it had occurred within a few weeks? I doubt it.

Which is to say, I have a love-hate relationship with the streaming services. Artists don’t get their fair share from the proceeds, which is a big concern, but another issue is whether the services actually help or hinder music discovery. As I noted last summer, the algorithms used by Pandora barely scratched the surface when I created a “personalized” station around the Bangles. While the results were fine for background music, they were sad for active listening. This Paisley Underground geek was not impressed.

Apple Music, which I subscribe to for simplicity’s sake – when driving in my car, or even hanging out in my living room, it’s easier to say, “Hey, Siri, play All I Intended to Be by Emmylou Harris” than work my way through the iPhone app – often denigrates the album as an art form, as does Spotify with its emphasis on playlists. I’ve added albums to my library only to discover, at a later date, the songs have been split between various collections or even different editions of the same album or, in the case of Juliana Hatfield, 22 “unknown” albums. (On the flip side, I’ve added specific best-ofs only to find the songs then listed under their original album homes.) It doesn’t impact the listening experience when I ask Siri to play the albums in question, but it does if I select the album through the app – which, if we ever return to our workplaces, is what I do in the office.

Anyway, at its best, music is the currency of the soul, and that soul isn’t as well nourished as it should be. Since 2000 or thereabouts, music artists have seen their revenue streams upended, first through the illegal-downloading craze and now via the streaming services. Live shows and merchandise sales is all they have – and for the young ‘uns, it’s likely all they’ve known. If you watch a live-stream and see a tip jar, and can afford it, send money their way – doesn’t have to be a lot. If an artist you like has set up a Patreon thing, and you can afford it, sign up. 

Don’t, however, feel compelled to blow your budget; and don’t feel guilty if you can’t or don’t contribute. (I’ve been very judicious, myself.) This pandemic’s economic fallout has caused many folks to lose their jobs – and even those of us who aren’t unemployed may well be, at some point, if the global economy continues to deteriorate. In some respects, then, this new reality isn’t all that different than the one many fans experienced during the 1960s, ’70s, ‘80s and ’90s, when every visit to a record or CD store forced us to whittle our wants down from the many to the few or even just one. Me, I always felt guilty heading home with a single LP, but such was life – and is life, again.

Fifty years ago today the fabled Summer of Love was still months away, but make no mistake: Life was groovy. Unemployment clocked in at 3.8 percent; inflation at just under three percent; and the median income per household was $7200 ($52,513 in 2017 dollars, or about $6K less than it is now). The average house cost homebuyers $14,250 ($104K in 2017 dollars, which is about $80K less than the present average). Gas cost 33 cents a gallon.

Lyndon B. Johnson was president; and, although his approval ratings weren’t super high, common wisdom held that he’d run for re-election in 1968 and win. What few foresaw: that the opposition to the Vietnam War, which at this stage was supported by most Americans, would grow as more and more soldiers were sent to fight in Southeast Asia and more and more died. As a result, almost a year later to the day – March 31st, 1968, to be specific – LBJ announced that he would not seek, nor would he accept, the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

At the local cinemas, Thoroughly Modern Millie and In Like Flint were attracting eyeballs; and, on TV, The Andy Griffith Show and Bonanza were tied at the top of the TV ratings chart, followed by The Red Skelton Hour, Dean Martin Show and Lucy Show. On the nightstand: Elia Kazan’s The Arrangement, a novel about a Greek-American WWII veteran who has a nervous breakdown, and Ira Levin’s Rosemary Baby, which inspired the classic movie.

The hippie scene was beginning to flower, too.

The generation of teenagers featured in Newsweek the year before was another year older, after all – and, if we believe the popular press, pushing even more boundaries than before. (See the above report.) And while that was true, to an extent, another generation of kids was leading a much more traditional life.

Valerie S. of South Pasadena, for instance, was all of 13 and change on this Sunday. She woke late – 10:30am! – as she did most weekends, ate breakfast, read the comics in the Sunday paper and, along with her brother, picked up fallen oranges from the backyard. She and her family then spent the afternoon and evening with friends, where they had dinner and played games. All in all, it was a good day. Her father even mowed the lawn! (Side note: It’s amazing what one can find on Ebay.)

Anyway, enough of my lead-in – onward to today’s Top 5: 50 Years Ago Today (4/2/1967) via my favorite chart site, Weekly Top 40. One note: the chart actually ended the day before.

1) The Turtles – “Happy Together.” Holding at No. 1 for the second week in a row is this feel-good song that’s never gotten old.

2) The Mamas and the Papas – “Dedicated to the One I Love.” Holding strong at No. 2, also for a second week in a row, is this cover of the classic Shirelles song.

3) The Beatles – “Penny Lane.” The Fabs have two songs in the Top 10: This at No. 3 and its flip side, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” at No. 8.

4) Petula Clark – “This Is My Song.” The No. 6 song this week was penned by Charlie Chaplin (yes, that Charlie Chaplin), who gave it to Petula to sing. It went on to top the charts in the U.K. and hit No. 3 in the U.S. She’s since said it’s one of the least-favorite of her hits.

5) Buffalo Springfield – “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound).” The first Buffalo Springfield single, “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” in 1966, went nowhere fast, as did its album home, the Springfield’s self-titled debut. Then the infamous Sunset Strip riots in L.A. inspired Stephen Stills to write this song, which went onto hit No. 7 in the charts – exactly where it is this week. (The track was then added to their album, fueling its rise into the Top 100, where it peaked at No. 80.)

And four bonuses:

6) Harpers Bizarre – “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” The No. 13 song is this, the first single from this odd duck of a group. One of its members, Ted Templeton, would go onto become a major music producer. Among his credits: the Doobie Brothers’ self-titled debut; Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic’s Preview; and six albums by Van Halen.

7) Aretha Franklin – “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).” The No. 14 song is this, Aretha’s first big hit.

8) Martha and the Vandellas – “Jimmy Mack.” There’s so much good music on this week’s chart that it’s kind of ridiculous. This is No. 18.

9) Arthur Conley – “Sweet Soul Music.” Jumping from No. 45 to 30: This classic homage to soul music, which was written by Conley and Otis Redding and based on Sam Cooke’s “Yeah Man.”