Can't Get It 

   Outta My Head

       

                 A Baby Boomer

 

                           Muses on The Music

In the Beginning, There Was AM

September 15, 2015

           Welcome to my new blog, Can’t Get It Outta My Head: A Baby Boomer Muses on The Music.

           CGIOMH’s purpose is to provide me with a forum to reflect on the music of my generation, and to entertain (and maybe inform) people who enjoy that music. My journey on this planet began fairy early in the Baby Boom, in the last year of the 1940s; I started listening to rock and roll/popular music in the very early 1960s.

            There was only one radio in the house when I entered my second decade, a Philco table-top, AM/record player (it could play those big, thick 78s) combo.  (Unless the floor-model Philco or Emerson or whatever on which Mom listened to the pre-TV serial comedies and dramas was buried in some corner.) The dial was permanently stuck on WCLO (Wonderful Clear Lake Oaks, from its genesis in Illinois, I think) in Janesville, which played Middle of the Road.

            From the perspective of 55 years in the future, I don’t recall how I got started listening to rock. It wasn’t because of Elvis; my brothers and me were barred from watching his Ed Sullivan Show appearance because his routine was too suggestive. My older brother probably got it started; two grades ahead of me, he might have brought it home from junior high in Janesville. Hard to go wrong blaming your brother …

            Whatever the impetus, in the early ’60s we started hijacking the Philco to listen to WLS in Chicago. This was problematic, because the fluorescent light fixture in the dining room, where the radio was situated, created static on the AM; we pestered Mom to turn off the light, but that made her housework harder to do.

            We mostly listened to WLS — I still can name pretty much all the DJs who worked there during that period, Ron Riley being my favorite — although we also tuned in to WCFL in Chi Town, KAAY in Little Rock, Ark., and WOKY in Milwaukee. (We were so obsessed with listening to music that we would switch from WLS to CFL at five before the hour, so we didn’t have to listen to the news.)

            It was an interesting time, musically, to be listening to an AM “pop” station, with more variety offered than in later years. The playlist included the early rock hits (Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holley, etc.), as first-go-round “oldies” and as covers. There were also covers of black rhythm and blues — the “race” music had to be filtered through the likes of Pat Boone — instrumentals that seemingly slipped over from MOR.

            We also watched “American Bandstand” on the black and white TV (which show actually had black and white kids together, something we didn’t see much in real life), finding out what tunes had a nice beat and were easy to dance to. Also, any interesting musical acts that Sullivan showcased.

            Those got a lot more interesting in a year or two, after the Beatles led the British Invasion ashore in the U.S. I was hooked on the Fab Four immediately — I think before they actually broke through, because I remember hearing a cut on WLS months before. (I think, but can’t prove, that it was “Please Please Me.”)

            Like a lot of teens, I was obsessed with the Beatles, trying to grow my hair like theirs (actively discouraged by my high school) and dress like them. We got into the usual Beatles vs. Stones debates — although, in my case, a best friend preferred the Dave Clark Five, so there were arguments about those relative merits. The Fab Four’s singles and early albums were Christmas presents, played to scratched death on our cheap equipment; when they started making movies, we anxiously awaited those, too.

            Of course, I listened to a lot of other music on the radio, too. Motown, the girl groups and the surf group/car music sang to our teenaged longings, and the mid-60s AM still offered a varied palette, including comedy acts like Carlin and Cosby.

            I graduated at the start of the Summer of Love, right after the Beatles had rewritten the book again, with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” (They’d started that rewrite with “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver,” but that wasn’t as obvious at the time.) “Sgt. Pepper’s” led us into new realms of music, and bands like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane became more common on AM.

            In 1969, I moved to Madison for college, and soon discovered Radio Free Madison on WIBA-FM, which broadened my horizons further and introduced me to different strains of “rock.” The following year included my Rock Festival Summer, and during it I heard a lot of live music: Hendrix a few months before his untimely (but unsurprising) demise, the Dead, Rotary Connection, Nugent, the Stooges and lots of regional and area acts.

            I moved away from Madison’s orbit seven years later, and have gone through phases where I listened extensively/exclusively to other styles of music: jazz, bluegrass, serious, country.

            But I’ve always come back to The Music, our music — most recently, while digitizing my album collection several years ago. That led me to add to the collections of favorite artists I already had, to buy music by groups that had always intrigued me and to explore artists that I had never heard or paid much attention to (with the help of the Deep Tracks channel on Sirius XM, which I consider indispensible).

            Which also led me to start this blog, so I can share my reflections on The Music with those of my generation, and younger listeners who enjoy it, too. I hope you’ll read regularly — my intention is to post new content at least weekly — and enjoy those musings.

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