Sunday, June 28, 2015

Great Music

I usually share a song on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr and Twitter on Sundays. It is my version of #SongSunday. It is a rather eclectic mix that goes from some 1930's swing to some recent songs. Recently I have been posting whatever song was #1 that week in 1965. That was a great year for music. The Beatles and every other British group had invaded us. The Beach Boys were going strong. Motown had many stars and hits. There were still some of the old pop crooners around. Folk music was fading but still alive. There has always been country music on the charts. 

Radio was the main provider of music in 1965 and it was the AM band. There were very few FM stations and no FM radios in cars. Car radios were one of the primary sources for our music. The radio stations and the Top 40 back then were not as specialized as today. It was not unusual to hear a Beatles song followed by Frank Sinatra, followed by The Temptations, followed by Brenda Lee, followed by an instrumental, followed by a country tune and so on. I'll show some examples later in this post. 

I grew up in Jacksonville, FL which is a fairly large city. We had at least two great Top 40 radio stations all the time and usually a couple of other stations trying to break into that lucrative market. WAPE, the Mighty 690, was the big gorilla on the dial. It had a 50,000 watt transmitter and could be heard from central Florida to North Carolina along the Atlantic coast. Here is an example of what WAPE sounded like in 1965 -

The other big radio station was WPDQ, 600 on the dial. PDQ was always the #1 button on the car radio and The Big Ape was #2. The other three or four buttons varied based on what the parents listened to and what other stations were popular at the time. The only other station I remember listening to was WIVY that was somewhere in the 1200 frequency. I had a friend who was a radio DJ wonk so at some time during my youth I visited all three radio stations studios. WAPE was a stand alone station south of town in Orange Park with an indoor/outdoor pool that flowed into the lobby. WPDQ was in downtown Jacksonville in an old office building. WIVY was in San Marco in what  was then a new small office building. My friend and I could easily go there after school and watch the DJ at work. I think all three stations are gone now, at least their AM versions.

All the albums and singles were on vinyl back then. Albums were on 33⅓ RPM 12" LPs. Singles were on 7" 45 RPM records. Even the radio stations played vinyl records. Most radio studios had at least two turntables and queueing up the records was a DJ skill so there was no delay or scratchy static before the music started. Most of us didn't have a large collection of records for two reasons. One was they cost money and two most homes had one record player and it wasn't in the kid's room. Radio was the free alternative. Many of the DJs back then were pretty entertaining too.

So, back to the main topic. Top 40 music was diverse. Here are some of the top 20 songs from July 3, 1965

  • #1 (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
  • #2 I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) - The Four Tops
  • #3 Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds
  • #4 Wonderful World - Herman's Hermits
  • #5 Wooly Bully - Sam The Sham And The Pharoahs 
  • #6 Cara Mia - Jay & The Americans
  • #8 What The World Needs Now Is Love - Jackie DeShannon
  • #9 Seventh Son - Johnny Rivers
  • #10 I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding
  • #12 Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte - Patti Page 
  • #15 What's New Pussycat? - Tom Jones
  • #16 For Your Love - The Yardbirds
  • #17 Crying In The Chapel - Elvis Presley
  • #18 Back In My Arms Again - The Supremes
  • #20 A World Of Our Own - The Seekers
That's a pretty diverse list of some pretty terrific songs. I'm not saying that every week was like this, but it was not that unusual. Some of the popular groups of the time missing from this weeks hits are The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Dave Clark Five, The Temptations, The Miracles and many others. These other groups would be in the top 20 in a week or two. Here are the top 100 songs of 1965. Artists and groups often recorded two, three, maybe four full albums in a year so it often wasn't long between hits. 

It was a great time for music. Rock, R&B, Soul, Folk, Pop, Country and who knows what other genres were in play. Now days we are more diverse as a country but our music outlets are far less diverse. It is impossible to hear Country music on an Urban radio station or Rap on an easy listening station. If you want diversity in your music you have to make your own playlists in Google Music or iTunes. You can also shuffle diverse stations on Pandora or Spotify. In 1965 the radio DJs did the mixing and shuffling for us with information and humor between songs and all for free. 

I'm not complaining, I have plenty of options for music these days. I'm just glad that my options in 1965 provided me with great diverse music. I never got locked into one genre. I can't imagine listening to only one genre of music all the time. If you do, expand your horizons. There is a lot of good music out there, often in surprising places. 


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