What’s in a name? Not what you think
BY MIKE PODSEDLY
When you begin to listen to Inside The Gates Radio, either through the free app or the player on the website, the first visual is the title and artist of what is currently playing. This information alerts you to whether you have heard it before or is performed by an artist you favor.
Titles convey a hint as to the contents and play an important function in songs, books and movies. Song titles are usually contained within the lyrics so you are likely to hear the title again but in context. Sometimes the title may be tacked on later and never heard in the song.
Popular music reflects the current culture while new sounds and themes reside among the fringes, a precursor to changes in musical direction. In the 1950’s and 1960’s increases in disposable income led to more time and money directed to leisure activities. Teens had purchasing power which allowed them to have significant influence in the music industry. Rock and Roll songs were played on the radio much more than any other genre. With the advent of TV, The American Bandstand was a logical extension. The after-school show featured clean-cut average teenagers dancing to the latest hits. There was also a guest artist to lip-sync their songs. The most memorable segment asked participants to Rate-A-Record on a 35 to 98 scale leading to the phrase “It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.” that everyone associates with the show. Bandstand went national in 1957 and lasted until 1963. A weekly show then continued the format until 1989.
The primary themes of young love and rebellion were reflected in the songs topping the charts during that period. Dancing was instrumental for teens to meet and impress the opposite sex. A survey of hit song titles during that time include many references to dancing as well as demonstrating how to do them.
The Temptations suggest we “Take A Look Around” at some of the songs that were being played in the 1950’s. Danny & the Juniors invited us to remove our shoes so as not to mar the gym floor and join in “At The Hop”. Bobby Freeman asks the obvious question “Do You Want To Dance” while Chris Montez is more inclusive in “Let’s Dance”. Chubby Checker introduces a mild form of oblique exercise called “The Twist”. The Isley Brothers took it one step further with “Twist and Shout”. Joey Dee and the Starliters added a little sweetener with “The Peppermint Twist”. The Drifters focus on the most important part of the evening in “Save the Last Dance for Me. Martha And The Vandellas seek to expand the party by “Dancing In The Street”. Little Eva found her step with “The Loco-Motion” which was followed up by “Let’s Turkey Trot”. Dee Dee Sharp was prolific in her variety of dance crazes with “Mashed Potato Time”, “Ride!” and “Do the Bird”. In an effort to keep the party going The Dovells said “You Can’t Sit Down” especially when doing the “Bristol Stomp”. Bobby Rydell made it easy for teens on the low end of rhythmic skills with the “Sway”.
After discovering someone you like on the dance floor the vagaries of young love come to the forefront. Imagine The Everly Brothers panic over breaking curfew with a girl when they struggle to “Wake Up Little Suzie”. Ricky Nelson dreads meeting the girl’s father as he tries to navigate his choices when he realizes “It’s Late”.
Dion laments the range of emotions, both happy and sad, he faces being “A Teenager In Love”.
Approaches to finding love vary despite The Monotones writing the “Book of Love”. The “Dream Lover” pictured by Bobby Darin is for a lifetime and not a short fling. Buddy Holly thinks about striking up a romantic relationship “Everyday”. Once you become a steady couple The Flamingos describe the feeling as “I Only Have Eyes for You”. The Miracles took it a step further declaring “You Really Got a Hold on Me”. Smokey Robinson penned two songs of unconditional love, first for Mary Wells in “My Guy” and then for the Temptations to extoll the virtues of “My Girl”. The Shirelles brazenly declare that “Baby It’s You”.
Facing being apart for the summer Brian Hyland promises to send a daily letter that’s “Sealed With A Kiss” while on the other end The Marvalettes ask politely “Please Mr. Postman” do you have a letter for me?
Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs pleads for his girl to “Stay”. When she doesn’t, Neil Sedaka confronts the situation saying “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. Gene Pitney has a sadder reaction saying “Only Love Can Break A Heart”. Del Shannon stands in the rain and questions what went wrong with his little “Runaway”. The Supremes reflect on the situation asking “Where Did Our Love Go”. Dion’s remedy is to avoid attachments by becoming “The Wanderer”.
Frankie Lyman & The Teenagers are left to sum up the journey by asking “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”. The answer of course is because we do.
The sophisticated Inside The Gates listeners may find many of these songs trite now but for those growing up during that time they were important social guideposts. Plus, they led to the greatest era of rock music just ahead.
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