The Rocking Chronicles
by Tim Van Schmidt
1962 would debut several artists that would dominate the music scene far, far into the future. Early in 1962, the Beatles made it onto record backing singer Tony Sheridan on a rocking version of “My Bonnie.” By October, the Beatles had released their first single on their own, “Love Me Do.”
That was in England. In America in 1962, the Beach Boys were hard at work fusing vocal group harmonies with upbeat surf rock. But more, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan released his first album. Now, that’s important. It wasn’t about a single in Dylan’s case, it was about a collection of songs- a full album as an artistic expression.
All of the above was far away from Northern Illinois. The 1962 records that stick in my mind begin with the rowdy, randy instrumental “The Stripper,” recorded by David Rose and His Orchestra. I didn’t know anything about strippers at that point, but somehow I got the idea- the record is a kind of sinful delight.
Like every other kid, I also delighted at “The Monster Mash” by Bobby Boris Pickett and the Crypt Kickers. There was definitely a monster movie craze going on at the time and the theme plus its decidedly non-scary approach, made it a popular tune on the school bus. Also memorable as a kind of sing-along was the Rooftop Singers’ “Walk Right In,” also somehow sinful.
But one of my favorite songs of 1962 was by Pat Boone. That is, “Speedy Gonzales.” I didn’t look at it as a racist profiling of Hispanics, but more like a cartoon on TV. There was an easy sing-along quality to it, but the break-outs with Speedy doing the talking were what made the record stand out.
The best of the 1962 records I pulled out of my dusty stack of vinyl were the ones that weren’t so self-conscious about trying to be a hit. At the top of the list is Joey Dee and the Starliters’ “Peppermint Twist.” This record is a jamming party record from start to finish. The point here is the raucous vocal delivery, the extra crowd noise in the background and the band taking turns for solos.
Bobby Darin’s 1962 release “Baby Face” is kind of the same thing to me. That’s one annoying song, really- it is unrelentingly loud and graceless. In Darin’s hands, though, he gets a similar jamming quality as Joey Dee. Darin and the band just rip into it and seem to be having a good time in the process.
Having a good time would describe Chubby Checker’s 1962 hit “Limbo Rock.” It’s a custom-made party record that I guarantee became a regular challenge at teenage parties for years afterward- “how low can you go” indeed. But more than a novelty record, it’s an infectious song with a gently stirring calypso beat.
1962 also saw the release of the classic vocal record “Duke of Earl.” The recording is credited to Gene Chandler, but this is a vocal group effort including the plodding “Duke, Duke, Duke…Duke of Earl…Duke,Duke…Duke of Earl” vocal line that helps establish the progress of the tune.
The Four Seasons burst onto the vocal group scene in 1962 to give the whole genre a big shot in the arm. Big hits like “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” rocked a little and hammered on one main thing: lead vocalist Frankie Valli’s amazingly strong, expressive falsetto.
Meanwhile, Dion escaped the Belmonts and the vocal group arena with his roughed up 1962 rocker “The Wanderer”- the rollicking male counterpoint to “Runaround Sue.”
1962 also saw several great instrumental hits including the Tornadoes’ “Telstar,” musically going- with feedback on the guitar!!- where the first communications satellite was already going- into space. But also in 1962, B Bumble and the Stingers’ “Nut Rocker” brought some rocking instrumental music to the party, classical style.
Dripping from the radio in 1962 was a whole new crop of boy crooners, including Bobby Vee. Also dripping- Shelley Fabares’ vacuous “Johnny Angel.” “Good Luck Charm” had a little something going for Elvis Presley, but the rest of his 1962 output is pretty much just standard business.
Joey Dee and the Starliters- Peppermint Twist- Part I, Part II
Elvis Presley- Good Luck Charm w/ Anything That’s Part of You; Kid Galahad EP: King of the Whole Wide World, This is Living, Riding the Rainbow, Home is Where the Heart Is, I Got Lucky, A Whistling Tune
Gene Chandler- Duke of Earl w/ Kissin’ in the Kitchen
Bobby Darin- Baby Face w/ You Know How
Dion- The Wanderer
Shelley Fabares- Johnny Angel w/ Where It Gonna Get Me?
James Darren- Conscience w/Dream Big
Chubby Checker- Limbo Rock w/ Popeye The Hitchhiker
Steve Lawrence- Go Away Little Girl w/ If You Love Her Tell Her So
Bobby Vee- Sharing You w/ In My Baby’s Eyes
Four Seasons-Sherry; Big Girls Don’t Cry w/ Connie-O
Contours- Do You Love Me
Sue Thompson- Norman
Tornadoes- Telstar w/ Jungle Fever
B Bumble and the Stingers- Nut Rocker w/ Nautilus
Brenda Lee- Here Comes That Feelin’ w/ Everybody Loves Me But You
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree w/ Papa Noel
Other 1962 Records
Elvis Presley- Can’t Help Falling in Love; Return to Sender
Connie Francis- Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You
Sensations- Let Me In
Roy Orbison- Dream Baby
Dee Dee Sharp- Mashed Potato Time
Rick Nelson- Young World
Shirelles- Soldier Boy
Ray Charles- I Can’t Stop Loving You; You Don’t Know Me
Walter Brennan- Old Rivers
Bobby Vinton- Roses Are Red
Freddy Cannon- Palisades Park
Orions- The Wah-Watusi
Brian Hyland- Sealed with a Kiss
Neil Sedaka- Breaking Up is Hard to Do; Next Door to an Angel
Little Eva- Loco-Motion
Ray Stevens- Ahab the Arab
Bobby Darin- Things
Tommy Roe- Sheila
Nat King Cole- Ramblin’ Rose
Booker T and the MGs- Green Onions
Crystals- He’s a Rebel
Gene Pitney- Only Love Can Break a Heart
Brenda Lee- All Alone Am I
John Barry Orchestra- The James Bond Theme
Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan Debut Album
Coltrane – John Coltrane
The First Family – Vaughn Meader
I Left My Heart In San Francisco – Tony Bennett
Judy at Carnegie Hall – Judy Garland
Love Letters – Julie London
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music – Ray Charles
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Volume Two – Ray Charles
Moon Beams – Bill Evans
Porgy and Bess – Original Soundtrack
Sentimentally Yours – Patsy Cline
The Sound of Johnny Cash – Johnny Cash
Twist with Chubby Checker – Chubby Checker
West Side Story – Original Soundtrack The Phantom of the Opera
There was a significant ending in 1962- Marilyn Monroe died- and a significant beginning- “Dr No,” the first of the James Bond movie series, premiered in the United Kingdom. Actor Sean Connery created an indelible image as James Bond, Agent 007, having fantastic and dangerous adventures, stopping bad guys and romancing bad girls.
The series would go far beyond Connery, but he would always be the standard with those quick reflexes, those great weapons and that cool, knowing smirk. The women might have something to do with that smirk- Bond seems to have a way with the girls and in “Dr. No,” that girl is Ursula Andress.
Pressure Point ***
“Pressure Point” is significant, if for no other reason than it brings racial issues right up front and undeniably in your face. A black psychologist takes on his hardest case when he is assigned to work with a self-avowed American Nazi. Sidney Poitier is the psychologist, played with a simmering poise, and Bobby Darin is the Nazi, a man with some smooth talk but hateful ideas. The clash between the two during their sessions becomes emotionally heightened even with the psychologist’s best efforts to keep things professional.
But more than just poignant banter, “Pressure Point” also includes some adventurous moviemaking. Fantasy sequences in a meat locker, hallucinations of a tiny man falling back into a prison drain and a mish mash of younger and older voices and images of the Nazi while undergoing therapy keep things interesting visually. There is also an interesting soundtrack- including some electronic bloops and bleeps that might better belong in a science fiction movie.
But the most dramatic sequence in the movie is a flashback to an incident the Nazi describes with some relish- how he and his thug friends end up trashing a back road bar, scribbling tic tac toe games everywhere. When the Nazi begins playing tic tac toe on the bartender’s wife’s face, it gets more than just rowdy, it gets twisted.
Directed by Hubert Cornfield…1962…91 min…featuring Sidney Poitier, Bobby Darin, Peter Falk.
Two for the Seesaw ***
Two people meet in New York City and try their luck with each other. The woman is a bubbly dancer. The man is a stuffed shirt lawyer who ran away from a divorce in the Midwest. He tries every trick in the book to dominate her- smothering her with gifts and attention, all the while making condescending remarks and even giving her a smack- but she does not relent. Bully for her because the guy is most certainly a “square.”
Shirley MacLaine plays the dancer with equal amounts of moxie and self-depreciation. The best couple of sequences of the movie happen in the dance loft the square rents for the dancer. During one sequence, she is talking on the phone while a group of youngsters conduct a dance class in the background- the scene is interesting to watch while getting dialogue out of the way.
The very best sequence follows- when the loft clears out and the dancer gives her routine a try while she’s got the floor to herself. MacLaine is not untalented as a dancer, despite what her character decides about it, and the scene of her dancing a solo is set up with the loft’s sky light prominently contrasting the woman’s efforts.
Directed by Robert Wise…1962…119 min…featuring Robert Mitchum, Shirley MacLaine, Edmon Ryan, Billy Gray, Ken Berry.
The Road to Hong Kong ***
Another goofy Road movie- the seventh in a series. This “Road” is so well traveled that everything becomes an inside joke, including making consistent references to “special effects.” Bing Crosby and Bob Hope make for a dapper team, despite obvious aging, and the movie relies not only on their sly banter but also on plenty of sight gags. The whole thing is really like a live action cartoon- Hope and Crosby become the first humans to fly around the moon with various spy connections and misadventures. The whole sequence Hope does with Dorothy Lamour- singing with fish coming out of his suit- is really a crack up. That’s the bottom line here: laughs just for the sake of laughs and it works just fine.
Directed by Norman Panama…1962…91 min…featuring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Joan Collins, Robert Morley, Dorothy Lamour.
I have some very clear memories of several 1962 movies. That includes the exciting kids’ movie “In Search of the Castaways,” featuring precocious girl star Hayley Mills. This was another one of those in-the-big-theater-in-Chicago experiences, a thrill ride to the very end.
Up at my favorite drive-in movie theater- in Rhinelander, Wisconsin- I remember seeing the Western “The Man Who Shot Liberty valance.” I wasn’t real keen on the actual story of honor and guilt, but on the song. It had a snappy tempo and an ear catching hitch to it, something that could play over and over in your head.
My hometown, Harvard, Illinois, had one small movie theater and the owner’s son was in my class. Which meant a bunch of kids got to go to the movie free on the boy’s birthday. I don’t remember what the movie was that we saw the time I was invited to attend, but I remember the preview- it was for the 1962 horror movie “The Premature Burial.” I was petrified for weeks after with just the THOUGHT of being buried alive.
But the most memorable movie experience I would have in Harvard movie-watching would be in 1962, seeing “Zotz.” My brothers and I went together- we walked downtown- and I vaguely remember the story and the amazing power the Zotz coin gave to the guy, but what I remember more is the plastic Zotz coin that was given away at the theater for attending the movie. The three of us got only one coin and it was torture having to walk home, being third in line for any such cool object.
Television- the “Million Dollar Movie” and the like- would serve as the main reservoir for seeing 1962 movie productions. And there was a bumper crop of stuff, including “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” featuring Burt Lancaster, the great courtroom drama “To Kill A Mockingbird,” the epic and exotic “Lawrence of Arabia” and the super twisted “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Throw in sexual drama “Lolita,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “The Music Man,” “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Cape Fear” and you have a lot of the TV movie viewing of the next several years.
More 1962 Movies
The 300 Spartans
Advise and Consent
The Amphibian Man
Billy Rose’s Jumbo
Birdman of Alcatraz
Days of Wine and Roses
Divorce, Italian Style (Divorzio all’italiana)
The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador)
Girls! Girls! Girls!
How the West Was Won
In Search of the Castaways
It Happened In Athens
Jules et Jim
King Kong vs. Godzilla
Knife in the Water (Nóz w wodzie)
Lawrence of Arabia
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Lonely are the Brave
Long Day’s Journey into Night
The Longest Day
Love at Twenty
Love on a Pillow
The Manchurian Candidate
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The Miracle Worker
Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol
The Music Man
Mutiny on the Bounty
My Life to Live (Vivre sa vie)
My Name is Ivan (Ivanovo detstvo)
Panic in Year Zero!
Period of Adjustment
The Premature Burial
Requiem for a Heavyweight
Sweet Bird of Youth
Tender Is the Night, starring Jennifer Jones
Term of Trial
That Touch of Mink
To Kill a Mockingbird
Tower of London
The Trial (Le Procès)
The Trial of Joan of Arc (Procès de Jeanne d’Arc)
Two for the Seesaw
The Vanishing Corporal (Le Caporal épinglé)
A Very Private Affair
Walk on the Wild Side
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
Some bedrock viewing of 1960s television debuted in 1962, shows that would entertain plenty during their initial runs and as reruns for years afterwards.
The 1962 debut I am thinking mostly about is “The Beverly Hillbillies”- that show always seemed to be coming on in our house. It was goofy, but the juxtaposition of the Clampett family being rich and wealthy while coming from a dirt poor, back hills, down home background put a humorous spin on the status quo indeed. It was even slightly anti-establishment in the Clampett’s stubbornness to hang onto some of their old ways as a host of schemers and dreamers try to part them from their money. Plus, it became a thing to be able to sing the theme song all the way through- it was fun to sing in that deep, country voice.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” featured Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, Irene Ryan as Granny, Donna Douglas as Elly May, Max Baer Jr as Jethro, Raymond Bailey as Mr Drysdale (the scheming banker) and Nancy Kulp as Jane Hathaway (the banker’s level-headed assistant.) The show also featured guest appearances by stars such as roots music duo Flatt and Scruggs, Phil Silvers, Sharon Tate, Paul Winchell, Soupy Sales and Rob Reiner.
Another 1962 debut comedy that also won favor in our house was “McHale’s Navy,” which could be considered somewhat anti-establishment- after all, McHale’s scheming often had to do with working less and profiting more from each circumstance. The show featured Ernest Borgnine as McHale, Joe Flynn as Captain Binghamton and Tim Conway as Ensign Parker. Regulars on the show included Carl Ballantine, Gary Vinson, Billy Sands, Edson Stroll, John Wright and Yoshido Yoda.
My brothers and I also enjoyed “The Jetsons,” the color cartoon show following the everyday adventures of a futuristic family in a super-automated society. The Jetsons featured Jane, George, Elroy and Judy Jetson (Judy was cute!,) as well as the family dog, Astro (an early cousin of Scooby Do?) the automated maid, Rosie the Robot, and George’s boss, Mr Spacely, voiced by Mel Blanc.
Also debuting in 1962 was a British show that would have some impact on American viewing, “The Saint.” Star Roger Moore played a classy thief with lady-killing suaveness, if maybe just a shade goofy. “The Saint” and 1961 British super-spy show, “The Avengers,” would become the top British shows appearing on our TV screen throughout the years to come as reruns since everything British would become exciting in America in a very short time.
On the serious side, “Combat!” debuted in 1962 with true grit stories of a World War II infantry squad struggling resolutely to carry out orders- and survive. “Combat!” featured Vic Morrow as Sgt Saunders, Rick Jason as Lt Hanley and regulars such as Pierre Jalbert, Jack Hogan, Dick Peabody.
“Combat!” would play into an odd sort of prejudice I ran into at school. In 1962, I entered the First Grade and graduated to going to school all day long. What that meant was longer exposure to other kids and part of the exciting process of going to school- at first- was discovering other kids to play with.
I found some boys to chum around with at recess and at lunch and at some point we decided to play “Combat!”, pretending we were the characters. At this point, the boys all turned to me and said “You’re the German! You have a German name!” There wasn’t much time to protest- the kids started chanting “You’re a Germ! You’re a Germ!” Awful.
Other 1962 debuts: “The Virginian,” “The Lucy Show,” “Match Game,” “To Tell the Truth.”
The new president of the United States, John F Kennedy, had a lot more to do in 1962 than give commencement speeches at West Point and Yale. Like, a little thing called the Cuban Missile Crisis- a moment when nuclear war was possible.
1962 started out in January with the Pope excommunicating that rascal Fidel Castro. Meanwhile, Castro and the Soviet Union were busy signing a trade agreement. By October, the United States had air photographs of Soviet weapons in Cuba. After a tense few weeks, the Soviet Union backs off, making a deal with the US over weapons in Turkey. By November, the missiles are dismantled and the US blockade is removed. Cuba ends the year by releasing Bay of Pigs prisoners for food.
The result: in my First Grade classroom in small town Northern Illinois, we had regular duck and cover drills under our school desks, “in case there were bombs.”
Other 1962 News
The first Kmart store opened in 1962 in Michigan. In July, 1962, the first Wal-Mart store opened in Arkansas. Both of these stores would clog up the landscape all across the country for decades to come.
In March, basketball star Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in one game and in July, pop artist Andy Warhol introduced his Campbell Soup Cans in Los Angeles. Also in July, the first commercial communications satellite- Telstar- was launched, activated and relayed a live trans-Atlantic TV signal.
Also in 1962, Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff?” premiered on Broadway, a black student registered at University of Mississippi and Johnny Carson took over as host of the “Tonight Show. In November, the United Nations condemned South Africa for apartheid and in December, a US spacecraft successfully transmitted information as it flew by Venus.
Contemporary American Poetry, Edited by Donald Hall- Includes my former teacher from Santa Barbara- Edgar Bowers! Plus William Stafford, Sylvia Plath, WS Merwin, Robert Lowell, Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, Adrienne Rich, Gary Snyder.
The Penguin Book of Russian Verse, Introduced and Edited by Dimitri Obolensky- It’s somehow appropriate that 1962 would also mark the publication of the Russian Book of Verse, considering the political and military posturing going on between America and Russia. But I’ll bet this book was not published with comparison in mind. I don’t believe there was a “verse race” going on- this was an academic effort, including Soviet and pre-Soviet work. Inside, all the heavy hitter names plus many more: Aleksander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Count Aleksey Tolstoy, Konstantin Balmont, Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Evgeny Evtushenko, Andrey Voznesensky, Bella Akhmadulina.
Fantastic Four 7 October- “Prisoners of Kurrgo, Master of Planet X”
The Incredible Hulk 1-4 May, July, Sept, Nov- “Is He Man or Monster or…is He Both”- so asks the cover of the debut issue of the Incredible Hulk. His origin story is inside- a scientist exposed to radiation becomes a raging, angry giant whenever he gets upset. 2- “The Terror of the Toad Men!” 3- The Ringmaster. 4- Two “thrillers”: “The Monster and the Machine!” and “Mongu!! Gladiator from Space!”
Archie 130 Aug- Archie doesn’t like the “Automatic Juke Box” that’ll put your money in for you and make the selection too- that’s just on the cover. Inside, Archie confesses that he is a juvenile delinquent- which makes his Dad laugh. Also Li’l Jinx plus three more Archie stories.
House of Mystery 129 Dec- “The Man in the Nuclear Trap!” plus “The Hand-Made Catastrophes!”, Moolah the Mystic, “The Ride to Disaster!”, Hamid the Hypnotist.
Action Comics 292 Sept- “When Superman Defended His Arch-Enemy!”- Lex Luthor, that is. Plus Supergirl meets Super-horse! Oh, please- how about Super-Horsefly?
Amazing Fantasy#15 August features first appearance of Spider-Man.
Topps- a fairly cool design where the player photo peels back from the lower right corner, where the name, team and position info is revealed against a wood-grain background. Ron fairly, Whitey Ford (Sporting News All-Star, featuring no peel to the photo and a red oval with yellow player name), Rocky Colavito (Sporting News All-Star), Colavito’s Power (3 photo action card), Checklist 1st series, Warren Spahn, Brooks Robinson (Sporting News All-Star), John Powell, Casey Stengel, Nellie Fox, Ron Santo, and some favorite cards- the “Babe Ruth Special” including “Babe as a Boy” and “Farewell Speech.”
Post Cereal- same basic design as previous year, giving some continuity to the effort. Roberto Clemente, Felipe Alou, Harmon Killebrew.