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1967 “All You Need is Love” The Beatles

October 12, 2012

With the passing of an unusually hot Memorial day weekend, it reminds me that it is the 45th anniversary of the “summer of love” in 1967. Yours truly, then an admittedly somewhat nerdy, 12/13 year-old spent much of his free time listening to WABC radio in NYC. I also began collecting 45 rpm singles. ( I was a well-known customer in a 23rd street shop “Sultan” records run by Harry Sultan–perhaps one of the original “Sultans of Swing”) . Every Tuesday afternoon,  Dan Ingram of WABC  presented the top 20 hits of the week (playing ” super hit #1″ as the second song at the top of every hour).  I eagerly listened to these new WABC surveys after school keeping a written list of the top 20. This took some doing because WABC played about 3-4 commercials for every song played so I typically multi-tasked (before I knew what that was!) and did my math homework at the same time. Though popular music was moving heavily to more explicit love and sexual lyrics and hidden and not-so-hidden drug references, I was mostly blithely unaware of all this at the time.

I also played Strato-Matic baseball almost obsessively, calculating the batting averages and ERAs for the shortened AL “season” that I played (To those who don’t know what Strato-Matic is , it is a board game played with dice and individual player cards based on the actual statistics of the players). I supplemented this with the occasional game of stickball, punchball and wiffle ball, though usually only when my mother yelled at me to go outside and play. This occurred typically when my brother, my friends and I started playing indoor baseball, basketball and hockey which could become rather rough–and particularly rough on the furniture, walls and the wooden closets.  

It was a great summer to follow Major League baseball both live (75 cents for a bleacher seat, $1.50 for a grandstand seat) and on TV even though my favorite , the New York Yankees, were last most of the year. 1967 featured an incredible A.L. pennant race between the Red Sox, Tigers, Twins and White Sox with all four in the race coming into the final weekend of the season. I got caught up in the race plus Carl Yastrzemski’s pursuit of the triple crown and even rooted for him to achieve the feat as well as his team to achieve The Impossible Dream from ninth the previous season (only two games out of last) to first in the AL. (This in spite of the fact that in later years, the Red Sox became my “Darth Vader” as a fan).

But as exciting as 1967 was for baseball fans, it also featured many new and exciting rock music developments. There was the Spencer Davis Group first hit “Gimme Some Lovin’ ” early in the year featuring an 18 yr. old writer  Steve Winwood ( who joined the group at age 14) who brought out the unique sounds of the Hammond organ as well as being an outstanding lead vocalist. (One actually wonders why the group wasn’t called the “Steve Winwood Group” even back then). This marked the beginning of Steve Winwood’s legendary and lengthy career which has spanned Spencer Davis, Traffic, Blind Faith, Traffic again and a very successful solo career that continues to this day. Winwood, who I recently saw in concert with Eric Clapton, still is among my favorite artists of all time.

Disraeli Gears was released in the UK in 1967 and at the end of 67 in US . It was the best album by Cream and featured the iconic songs– Sunshine of Your Love, Strange Brew and Tales of Brave Ulysses . It was also the breakout album success for the lead guitarist Eric Clapton.

The Beatles had an eventful year with the March release of the double-sided hit “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” simultaneously with two separate promotional videos. These were among the first “music videos” that  I can remember in which musicians weren’t just performing and predated MTV by almost 15 years. “Strawberry Fields” is one of the earliest and probably defining works of the psychedelic rock genre. In addition to unique instrumentation and lyrics and Lennon’s extraordinary vocals to “let me take you down” , the song featured a dramatic shift in musical tempo and key midway thru which creates a very unique effect. In fact, this all happened by accident as two separate versions of the song (that John had created) were melded together by the production genius of George Martin.

Of course, the Beatles were only beginning in 1967 and followed up with  the early summer release of ‘Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band” which is considered by many ( e.g. Rolling Stone ) as the greatest rock album of all time. And the summer and fall featured two new singles, All You Need Is Love,  the unofficial anthem of the Summer of Love, and Hello Goodbye/I Am The Walrus. The latter two-sided single included as an A side the fitting opening song of McCartney’s solo concert which I saw performed in 2002 and a great Lennon inspired B-side hit that took psychedelic rock to newer and even more avant-garde directions. “Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye….”

Though not one of the better years, The Rolling Stones weren’t silent either in 1967 which featured an outstanding two-sided hit “Ruby Tuesday/Let’s Spend the Night Together” and later in the year “Dandelion”.  Being a naive seventh grader, I had assumed that “Ruby Tuesday” was about the day “Tuesday” rather than Linda Keith with whom Keith Richards had an on-and-off relationship.

In 1967, American born Jimi Hendrix had his first popular success in the UK as he formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience and released several singles before releasing his first, and in my opinion, “best” album. (Hendrix had spent several years prior in the US recording and touring with various acts including the Isley Brothers, Joey Dee and the Starlighters and Little Richard to name a few). The first album included such great songs “Purple Haze”, “Foxey Lady”, “Hey Joe”, “Fire” and the title track from the album “Are You Experienced” and gives a good indication of why Hendrix is considered the best rock guitarist in history by many.

Meanwhile from LA, the Doors burst onto the scene with their first album “The Doors” released in January which included fittingly “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” as its first track. The album featured one of the greatest rock songs of all time “Light My Fire” in its seven minute version as opposed to the three-minute version that AM radio played and made popular during the summer. (This marked the first divide between AM and FM radio as FM was  just beginning to play album music including all seven minutes of songs like “Light My Fire” ). The album is considered one of the best albums in rock history featuring “The Crystal Ship”, “Back Door Man” and  “Twentieth Century Fox” among other iconic songs. The album finished up with “The End” an 11 minute FM classic which it is truly unforgettable for those who remember the opening credits to “Apocalypse Now”.

Up north in San Francisco, Jefferson Airplane originally formed in 1966 decided to add a new then unknown female lead vocalist, Grace Slick for their second album “Surrealistic Pillow” in 1967. In addition, to her rather extraordinary rock voice, Grace penned two songs on the album which were path breaking—“Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” both among my favorite rock songs. At the same time, to memorialize the San Francisco rock and love scene, there were two popular hits, Eric Burdon and the Animals “San Franciscan Nights” and Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco”.

Buffalo Springfield hit its peak in 1967 with “For What It’s Worth”, its highest charting single and what was to become a political anthem of the 1960s. Later that same year, the group released its best album “Buffalo Springfield Again” which included three other classics  “Bluebird”, “Mr. Soul” and “Broken Arrow”.  The group featured Steven Stills and Neil Young which later made up half of the highly successful Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in a couple of years. The other half of CSNY was spawned by the Byrds’ David Crosby and the Hollies Graham Nash. The Byrds had an excellent album and two very good songs “My Back Pages” and the satiric “So You Want to Be a Rock N Roll Star”  from its 4th album “Younger than Yesterday” early in the year, but by the end of the year Crosby had been “fired” by the other group members due to his highly erratic and contentious nature. Meanwhile, Graham Nash left the Hollies on a high note after finishing the recording of the colorful “On a Carousel”. Both Crosby and Nash teamed up with Stills to start CSN in late 1967.

There were many other great individual rock song memories for me in 1967 including the Turtles “Happy Together” which I first saw performed on TV during The Smother’s Brothers Comedy Hour (before the Smothers Brothers were cancelled for their anti-war/anti-police skits in 1968.). Other pop-rock favorites included The Easybeat’s “Friday on My Mind” (even in junior high school I could relate to these lyrics), Procol Harem’s first hit “Whiter Shade of Pale”, “Windy” by the Association (one of the earliest songs my eldest daughter Kathleen at age 2 probably can remember and could mouth the words to), “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James and the Shondells, “The Letter” by the Box Tops, “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet” by the Blues Magoos, “Good Thing” by Paul Revere and the Raiders (Can you count how many times they repeat “Good Thing” in the song?) “Sock it to Me Baby” by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, and “Kind of a Drag” by the Buckinghams. The best slow ballad of the year belonged to Frankie Valli with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”.

1967 also marked the height of the Monkees popularity (which really only lasted the two years of their very popular TV show from fall 1966 to summer 1968). I was never much of a fan of their music at the time and cringed at the fact that the group didn’t even play on much on their first two albums relying instead on session musicians. However, several of their songs from 1967  have endured the test of time, largely benefitting from excellent song writing from the likes of Carole King (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”), Neil Diamond (“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, and 1966/67’s “I’m Believer”), and John Stewart of the Kingston Trio ( “Daydream Believer”).  

In addition, two of my favorite female vocalists near the end of their popular careers– Petula Clark and Lesley Gore– hit it big with “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” and “California Nights”, respectively . (In the latter case, Lesley sang this song while appearing as one of Catwoman’s girls  in an episode of “Batman”).  Another outstanding female vocalist Dionne Warwick had a big hit with “I Say a Little Prayer”.

Meanwhile, Motown and other soul hits were excellent. The most famous and long-lasting hit was Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”.  However, the year also featured the Supremes’ “The Happening”  and “Reflections”, Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love Her”, Smoky and the Miracles’ “I Second that Emotion”, the Four Tops “Bernadette”, the Temptations’ “You’re My Everything” , Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man”, Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” and Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “I Heard it Thru the Grapevine”.  But  my favorite of all was  ” (Your love keep lifting me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson –an always inspiring love song.

I am going on too long for a blog post, so I will leave it at that though there are surely groups and songs I have left out. I will let YOU fill in some other great songs and memories of 1967.

From → Music 60s70s

9 Comments
  1. Molly Holt permalink

    I will never forget the ’67 Tigers or the music that accompanied their amazing trip to the World Series. Thank you Bruce, for this lovely trip down memory lane.

  2. This took me down an entirely different passage from what you had in mind. Harry Sultan. Jeez. I haven’t thought of that place in decades. I bet that is where I bought my first (and second) records – a 45 of Paint It Black (a song I have never much liked – I wanted to get Satisfaction, but I waited too long – uh, probably half a year too long) and Big Hits – High Tide and Green Grass (which included Satisfaction). And many subsequent purchases, before I switched over to Sam Goody’s. My mom lived in Peter Cooper her entire life, and I spent a lot of time around 23rd street. The 23 st you just brought to mind no longer exists. I remember a pet store where I used to go after school with Robert Towner to watch a boa constrictor eat rats, and to hear a Mynah bird speak English. And when I was younger the best toy store in the world was on 23rd – Norvins. Green wooden frame around windows slanting back to the door. Way in the back room the best wooden blocks you could find.

    • I remember the toy store Norvins and the pet store too. And I think you got me to go to Goodys for the first time. I remember feeling like I was in music heaven with so many records around me!

  3. Neil Van Dyke permalink

    Great memories, great songs and a great year. Pretty sure we also played wiffle ball indoors, with one particularly hard smash taking out one of your mother’s prized family photos on the wall in the hallway. Maybe that was in ’66 which is why we were playing outdoors in ’67!

  4. Pretty sure that was before we expanded into the kids living area in 67′. I think my mom didn’t notice that broken picture frame for months though.

  5. Geoff Braine permalink

    Great post, Bruce. I’ll just have to mention a few landmark albums you missed … Disraeli Gears (Cream), Forever Changes (Love), The Velvet underground & Nico (the Andy Warhol banana album), Days of Future Passed (the Moody Blues), and Groovin’ (The Rascals). And in terms of singles, “Groovin” and “To Sir With Love” were really big hits and dominated the charts.

  6. Thanks. Its funny I never think of “Days of Future Passed” as 1967 since I discovered it when I became a true Moodys fan in 1969/70. (and of course, it really didnt become popular until 1972). As you know, I grew tired of Groovin when it was out owing to its endless airplay in 67 (and the same is true of “To Sir With Love”)–but like them both much more now in retrospect.

  7. @Geoff – thanks for remembering Velvet Underground And Nico – one of the most influential rock albums of all time. Bruce did catch Disraeli Gears, though, if you review his post. And let’s not overlook Moby Grape’s debut, and best, album.

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