The Rocking Chronicles
by Tim Van Schmidt
My first record
The place where we bought records in Harvard, Illinois was at a place called “Leo’s.” Leo’s sold record players and TVs and such, as well as maintained a pretty full stock of the latest 45 records. I had been in Leo’s before with my brothers and finally, in the spring of 1966, I bought my first single.
The event was inspired by a TV show called “The New Alice in Wonderland (or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?).” In the TV show, Sammy Davis Jr appeared as the voice of the Cheshire Cat and sang the main theme song. It was an upbeat, catchy tune- memorable especially for its long title- so that’s the one I plunked my money down for when I decided to take the record buying plunge.
For more than 46 years, I have always remembered that 45 single as being sung by Sammy Davis Jr. But, in my research into the music of 1966, I have discovered that the released version of the song- and the soundtrack album that followed the TV show- had been re-recorded. On the record, the vocals were being supplied by Scatman Crothers. So, in reality, I had no idea who was singing on the record, just that I liked the song. And it became my song to play over and over.
I will never forget being exposed to the 1966 hit single “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Sgt Barry Sadler in school. It was in music class and the teacher was so impressed with the record that he sat the entire class down and played it. I think he played it a couple of times and passed out mimeographed copies of the lyrics so that the patriotic thrust of the song sunk in.
The stack of records around our house was growing steadily in 1966- especially now that even I was contributing. The one in the stack that I played over and over was “Monday, Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas. The wistful effect of the song, supported by a full, even powerful blend of voices, followed strongly what I had heard in “California Dreamin’.”
But for fun, there were no better records to play than Tommy James and the Shondells’ singles. 1966 hits like “Hanky Panky” and, my favorite, “Say I Am (What I Am)” were custom-made for the teenage dance floor. Not that I was doing any dancing. The closest thing I got to dancing was being involved in a square dance club in 4th grade.
Also, the stack of records in 1966 included the fun new stuff by Paul Revere and the Raiders- and they were on a roll in 1966 with raucous hits like “Kicks,” “Hungry” and “Good Thing.” My oldest brother in particular was a fan of the Raiders and all of the 45s- plus the albums- littered the record collection.
Also fun from 1966, but in a much more twisted way, was “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Napoleon XIV. This added “funny farm” to the hip jargon for a while. The whole thing was propelled by a very upfront drum cadence and the vocal gets more and more strident- even effected- as this sad tale of nutty behavior unfolds. In 2012, I heard the song while shopping in a kind of Halloween department store and found it still had some fresh power to alarm the listener.
When my family moved from Harvard, Illinois to Phoenix, Arizona in the Fall of 1966, we spent the first week or two in the new city staying in a pair of rooms at a motel. My older brother and I shared one unit and my parents had another. My oldest brother was still in school in Wisconsin and it was arranged for him to come later.
While my parents toured the city looking at houses and choosing school districts, my brother and I hung out at the motel- watching TV, playing with my GI Joes and hanging out at the pool. While at the pool, we engaged a woman who was also just kind of hanging out and it turned out she was from Australia- and her husband was some kind of publicity agent with singer Roger Miller. Apparently Miller was in town for a show and so was the woman and her husband.
Emboldened by my success at getting TV stars’ autographs, I asked the woman if she could get me Roger Miller’s autograph. This wasn’t just a random request- of course I had heard his big hit “King of the Road” and had seen him on television. One of the Miller songs that really stuck with me, though, was his 1964 hit “Dang Me.” The woman agreed to ask for the autograph and said she would see us the next morning.
When we met our friend the next day, she did better than just get me an autograph. She presented me with the full concert souvenir booklet from the tour, with a huge inscription just for me- “For Tim- 10 goin’ on 11.” Wow!! To boot, the woman also gave me a dollar bill from Australia as an extra souvenir of our encounter. That dollar bill and that booklet remain prized possessions even today.
1966 Play List
The dusty stack of records in my basement in 2012 yielded a healthy stack of 45s from 1966. When I say “healthy,” I mean that there were a lot of great songs in there.
When I finally made time to spin the record selections from 1966, I thought I might divide the records, as I listened to them, between “good ones” and “not so good ones.” The basic rule for deciding was to answer the question, “would I want to hear that again?”
At first, I put a couple of the records over in the “not so good” pile. But, as I got going with spinning the tunes, the “good ones” pile just kept growing- and I wasn’t putting any more in the “not so good ones” slot.
On top of the “good ones” stack is the Yardbirds’ “Shapes of Things”- it’s a rousing and very electric production, that builds up with authority, gets chopped off dramatically, then comes back to do the same thing again in a fury of guitar feedback.
I was surprised to find that “fury” in the Yardbirds’ music in some other aggressive, 1966 rocking music, including records by the Del-Vetts, the Blues Magoos and Love. The classic sloppy rock tune “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians is also aggressive in its own way. It’s a medium tempo piece, but the band and vocalist hit it hard, the strident mid-range tone of the keyboards cutting right through the middle of it.
Other grittier stuff in 1966 include more of the gravely blues rock of Eric Burdon and the Animals. Another gritty 1966 blues-based record is Little Boy Blues’ version of Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready.” I was also surprised that the 1966 Herman’s Hermits records I pulled out of the stack- “Dandy/My Reservation’s Been Confirmed” and “This Door Swings Both Ways/For Love”- were not so weak, either, with a much more aggressive sound than ditties like “Henry the VIII” and “Mrs. Brown.”
Meanwhile, some of the bluesmen that the younger musicians were emulating were on a different track. T-Bone Walker is cool and laid back on his 1966 release “Reconsider Baby/I’m Not Your Fool No More.” Elmore James’ 1966 release “Shake Your Money Maker/I Need You” is certainly loud enough thanks to James’ fuzzy guitar tone, but the whole thing is based on an easygoing shuffle.
The best of the 1966 pop records in the stack include Nancy Sinatra’s very cool “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” The street-wise woman in this song is a far cry away from the ditzy dame in the Seekers’ 1966 hit “Georgy Girl.” Another successful girls’ tune from 1966 is Dusty Springfield’s “Little by Little.” That’s on the back of the “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” release- and it’s a better tune thanks to a perky rhythm and not such a tidal wave of production.
But the king of pop records in 1966 has to be the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”- it’s a whole pop symphony in one delightfully layered recording. This is where the “tidal wave of production” works- it’s crisply executed so you can hear all of the parts. It’s a relatively long 45- 3:35.
But then again- standing right next to “Shapes of Things” and “Good Vibrations” as pop record royalty from 1966 is the Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin'”. It’s a butt-rocking release. If that isn’t enough, just turn the record over for the second part of the knock-out punch this record delivers- “Mustang Sally.” It’s a dramatic, funky medium tempo workout.
Soul hits of 1966 include Eddie Floyd’s punchy “Knock on Wood” and, another “tidal wave of production,” the Four Tops’ dramatic “Reach Out I’ll Be There.”
But the most curious 1966 record from the dusty stack was Billy Stewart’s version of the Gershwin tune, “Summertime.” It begins with a vocal trill that leads into an exploration into a different kind of rhythm from all the records mentioned above. It has an island flavor, perhaps related to calypso, but it made me think I was listening to a reggae record. Not a roots reggae record, but a more sophisticated pop reggae sound. Except that sound didn’t really exist other places than on Stewart’s record, although Bob Kuban’s 1966 release “The Cheater” has some of that same musical flavor.
Finally, the copy of “Winchester Cathedral” in the stack turns out to be from my wife’s childhood record collection. The copy was a present she received from a friend at a Christmas party- the friend’s name and the date of the party- 12/22/66- are written on the label. The record itself, credited to the New Vaudeville Band, is an odd novelty for 1966. It is very retro, dipping back to a musical style from a bygone era. The vocal is effected just like a guy singing into a megaphone. It’s quaint and catchy- and not many lyrics to remember.
By the end of 1966, record albums started becoming an important new addition to the household record collection. Mom and Dad had plenty of record albums, but of old stuff. When my oldest brother joined the family in Phoenix after completing his term at the school in Wisconsin, he brought his album collection with him. That Christmas, record albums would become great gifts. My older brother received the coolest one- The Royal Guardsman’s “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.”
Not only did the Beatles release their landmark album “Revolver” in 1966, but their other 1966 album release, “Yesterday and Today,” would become one of the Holy Grails of record collecting.
The story is that the Beatles were so upset with the “butcher job” Capitol Records did with their album releases in America, that they did a photo session of their own for the cover of the new compilation-like American release. The band was featured in butcher coats, with chunks of raw meat and baby doll parts arranged on the group. The cover- “The Butcher Cover”- was then released in limited numbers. Apparently, Capitol Records was able to recall the records when they saw what had been done, shot a new cover and just pasted it right on top of the Beatles produced copies. Capitol then sent the paste-overs back out into the market place along with new copies without the cover underneath.
I was fortunate to find two copies of the pasted over “Butcher Cover,” both within just a few weeks of each other. The first one I found in a girlfriend’s record collection in her dorm room. We took her copy into the communal kitchen and steamed the cover off fairly well with a tea kettle. The girl took the record and I never saw it again.
However, just a little while later, I found a copy of “Yesterday and Today” at the Santa Barbara Swap Meet that looked suspiciously like it had something else under the cover. I paid 20 cents for the record and steamed off the top to reveal “The Butcher Cover.” That record is still in my collection.
1966 was also the year that John Lennon told members of the press that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” in context of larger opinions about the Christian religion. My Dad would declare that we were not to listen to the Beatles as a result of the furor the comments created, but that was never enforced.
More 1966 Singles
“The Sound of Silence” – Simon & Garfunkel
“We Can Work It Out” – The Beatles
“I Got You (I Feel Good)” – James Brown
“Over and Over” – The Dave Clark Five
“Fever” – The McCoys
“Ebb Tide” – The Righteous Brothers
“Help Me Girl” – Eric Burdon
“Day Tripper” – The Beatles
“The Men In My Little Girl’s Life” – Mike Douglas
“You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” – The Lovin’ Spoonful
“Barbara Ann” – The Beach Boys
“My Love” – Petula Clark
“Jenny Take a Ride” – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels
“Lightnin’ Strikes” – Lou Christie
“Crying Time” – Ray Charles
“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”
“Don’t Mess with Bill” – The Marvelettes
“Listen People” – Herman’s Hermit
“Nowhere Man” – The Beatles
“I Fought the Law” – Bobby Fuller Four
“Homeward Bound” – Simon & Garfunkel
“Daydream” – The Lovin’ Spoonful
“Secret Agent Man” – Johnny Rivers
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – B. J. Thomas
“Don’t Bring Me Down” – The Animals
“Inside-Looking Out” – The Animals
“Sloop John B” – The Beach Boys
“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” – Bob Dylan
“Gloria” – Shadows of Knight
“When a Man Loves a Woman” – Percy Sledge
“Paint It, Black” – The Rolling Stones
“I Am a Rock” – Simon & Garfunkel
“Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind” – The Lovin’ Spoonful
“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” – James Brown
“Strangers in the Night” – Frank Sinatra
“Barefootin'” – Robert Parker
“Cool Jerk” – The Capitols
“Red Rubber Ball” – The Cyrkle
“Paperback Writer” – The Beatles
“Sweet Talkin’ Guy” – The Chiffons
“Wild Thing” – The Troggs
“Along Comes Mary” – The Association
“Lil’ Red Riding Hood” – Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
“The Pied Piper” – Crispian St. Peters
“Summer in the City” – The Lovin’ Spoonful
“Sunshine Superman” – Donovan
“Yellow Submarine” – The Beatles
“The Land of 1000 Dances” – Wilson Pickett
“Working in the Coal Mine” – Lee Dorsey
“Blowing in the Wind” – Stevie Wonder
“Bus Stop” – The Hollies
“Cherish” – The Association
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys
“Cherry Cherry” – Neil Diamond
“Born Free” – Roger Williams
“Devil With A Blue Dress On / Good Golly Miss Molly” – Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels
“I’m a Believer” – The Monkees
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – The Four Seasons
“(I Know) I’m Losing You” – The Temptations
“If I Were a Carpenter” – Bobby Darin
“Lady Godiva” – Peter and Gordon
“Last Train to Clarksville” – The Monkees
“Mellow Yellow” – Donovan
“A Place in the Sun” – Stevie Wonder
“Psychotic Reaction” – Count Five
“See See Rider” – Eric Burdon and the Animals
“Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” – The Royal Guardsmen
“Sugar Town” – Nancy Sinatra
“Tell It Like It Is” – Aaron Neville
“Walk Away Renee – The Left Banke
“You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – The Supremes
“7 and 7 Is” – Love
“19th Nervous Breakdown” – The Rolling Stones
“634-5789 (Soulsville, USA)” – Wilson Pickett
“The 7 O’clock News/Silent Night” – Simon & Garfunkel
“Hazy Shade of Winter” – Simon & Garfunkel
“A Legal Matter” – The Who
“A Quick One, While He’s Away” – The Who
“A Sign of the Times” – Petula Clark
“A Well Respected Man” – The Kinks
“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” – The Temptations
“Alfie” – Cilla Black
“All I See is You” – Dusty Springfield
“All Tomorrows Parties” – The Velvet Underground and Nico
“And Your Bird Can Sing” – The Beatles
“Blues from an Airplane” – Jefferson Airplane
“Boris the Spider” – The Who
“Burned” – The Buffalo Springfield
“C’mon Let’s Go” – The McCoys
“The Dangling Conversation” – Simon & Garfunkel
“Eight Miles High” – The Byrds
“Femme Fatale” – The Velvet Underground and Nico
“Get Me To The World On Time” – The Electric Prunes
“Get Ready” – The Temptations
“Good Day Sunshine” – The Beatles
“Got to Get You Into My Life” – The Beatles
“The Great Airplane Strike” – Paul Revere & the Raiders
“The Hair of My Chinny Chin Chin” – Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
“Happy Jack” – The Who
“Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” – The Rolling Stones
“Hey Joe” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“I Got The Feelin’ (Oh No No)” – Neil Diamond
“I’m a Boy” – The Who
“(I’m a) Roadrunner” – Junior Walker & the Allstars
“(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” – The Monkees
“I Feel Free” – Cream
“I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” – The Electric Prunes
“I Just Wasn’t Meant for These Times” – The Beach Boys
“I Put A Spell On You” – The Animals
“It’s No Secret” – Jefferson Airplane
“It’s Not Easy” – The Rolling Stones
“Jug Band Music” – The Lovin’ Spoonful
“Just Like Me” – Paul Revere & the Raiders
“The Kids Are Alright” – The Who
“Let’s Go Get Stoned” – Ray Charles
“Mother’s Little Helper” – The Rolling Stones
“Mr. Dieingly Sad” – The Critters
“Mr. Spaceman” – The Byrds
“Nashville Cats” – The Lovin’ Spoonful
“Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” – The Buffalo Springfield
“Out of Time” – The Rolling Stones
“Pushin’ Too Hard” – The Seeds
“Reverberation (Doubt)” – 13th Floor Elevators
“Scarborough Fair” – Simon & Garfunkel
“Season of the Witch” – Donovan
“Sit Down I Think I Love You” – The Buffalo Springfield
“Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking)” – Janis Ian
“Somebody to Love” – The Great Society
“Solitary Man” – Neil Diamond
“Spoonful” – Cream
“Standing in the Shadows of Love” – Four Tops
“Stone Free” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” – Bob Dylan
“Stupid Girl” – The Rolling Stones
“Substitute” – The Who
“Try a Little Tenderness” – Otis Redding
“Try Too Hard” – The Dave Clark Five
“Under My Thumb” – The Rolling Stones
“You’re Gonna Miss Me” – The 13th Floor Elevators
“You’re On My Mind” – The Animals
More 1966 Albums
Sounds of Silence- Simon & Garfunkel
Just Like Us!- Paul Revere & the Raiders
The Best of The Animals- The Animals
Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)- The Rolling Stones
The Fugs- The Fugs
If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears- The Mamas & the Papas
Midnight Ride- Paul Revere & the Raiders
Small Faces- Small Faces
Pet Sounds- The Beach Boys
Blonde on Blonde- Bob Dylan
Freak Out!- The Mothers of Invention
The Incredible String Band- The Incredible String Band
Fifth Dimension- The Byrds
Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton- John Mayall
And Then… Along Comes the Association- The Association
Beau Brummels ’66- The Beau Brummels
Revolver- The Beatles
East-West- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World- James Brown
The Monkees- The Monkees
Jefferson Airplane Takes Off- Jefferson Airplane
Sunshine Superman- Donovan
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme- Simon & Garfunkel
Got Live If You Want It!- The Rolling Stones Live
The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators- 13th Floor Elevators
S.R.O.- Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Buffalo Springfield- Buffalo Springfield
Fresh Cream- Cream
A Quick One- The Who
Tim Buckley- Tim Buckley
All About Makeba- Miriam Makeba
Ascension- John Coltrane
Bus Stop- The Hollies
Country Joe and the Fish- Country Joe and the Fish
Down on Stovall’s Plantation- Muddy Waters
The High, Lonesome Sound of Bill Monroe- Bill Monroe
Ike and Tina Turner and the Raelettes- Ike & Tina Turner
Impressions of a Patch of Blue- Sun Ra
In The Beginnin – Paul Revere & the Raiders
Nothing Is- Sun Ra
Psychedelic Lollipops- Blues Magoos
The Real Folk Blues- Howlin’ Wolf
The Real Folk Blues- John Lee Hooker
The Real Folk Blues- Memphis Slim
Reflections in a Crystal Wind- Richard Farina and Mimi Farina
Road Runner- Junior Walker & the All Stars
Sam and Dave Roulette- Sam and Dave
Spicks and Specks- Bee Gees
Víctor Jara (Geografía)- Víctor Jara
Visits Planet Earth- Sun Ra
What Now My Love- Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
When Angels Speak of Love- Sun Ra
My strongest movie memory from 1966 is seeing the big budget remake of “Stagecoach” at the drive-in theater in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. I could feel the high tension of the situation as the characters waited nervously for impending attack. I was also aware, perhaps for the first time, of the power of the “ensemble cast.” The movie was ultimately about the characters, their stories and how they interacted, and with Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Alex Cord, Bing Crosby, Robert Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers and Keenan Wynn all in the cast, there was a lot of character to pass around. Most of the stars were people I recognized if not by name, then by sight from TV- I knew they were stars and this big collection of them was fascinating.
Perhaps the night I saw “Stagecoach,” it was part of a Western double-feature because I also remember seeing 1966 movie “Nevada Smith,” starring Steve McQueen, at the drive-in theater too.
My good luck at being able to see secret agent movies continued in 1966 with “Our Man Flint” starring James Coburn. My best friend and I went to the theater in downtown Woodstock, Illinois- not very far from Harvard. My friend knew all about it and I went along for the ride.
I can remember the fuss that was stirred up in 1966 over sultry actress Raquel Welch. She appeared in two movies- “One Million Years B.C.,” the Stone Age adventure featuring Welch in a furry bikini suit, an image destined to be a popular wall poster of the time- and the one that stirred my imagination- “Fantastic Voyage.” That was a sci-fi journey into the human body via a miniaturized craft sailing through the subject’s circulatory system. I would eventually see the adventure on TV.
But I wasn’t going to Raquel Welch movies in 1966. Instead, I was going to movies like the Fred MacMurray Boy Scouts adventure “Follow Me, Boys!” also featuring Vera Miles and Kurt Russell. The theme song for this movie would come into play in my music classes in my new school in Phoenix. It would be a featured song in our school performance and we practiced that sucker over and over.
Let’s also add in that at the end of 1966, on Christmas Day, my parents dropped us off at a huge theater in Phoenix to see “The Bible: In The Beginning,” directed by John Huston. It was a mammoth telling of Biblical stories, including stars such as Stephen Boyd, Ava Gardner, Richard Harris, Michael Parks, John Huston, George C Scott, Ava Gardner and Peter O’Toole- and probably provided my folks with a very long afternoon by themselves. I was so impressed by the solemn magnitude of the movie that I bought the souvenir booklet.
Some 1966 movies would become popular late-night TV fodder in the years to come. The king would be the “spaghetti Western” classic “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, “The Good, The Bad, the Ugly” was dirty, dusty, greedy and desperate.
Perhaps 180 degrees from “The Good, The Bad” was “A Man for All Seasons,” a movie they always seemed to make a big deal out of on “The Million Dollar Movie.” This one was directed by Fred Zinnemann and starred Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw and Orson Welles. It had a grand scope historically and was much more complicated and refined, concentrating on such things as principles rather than criminal loot.
1966 would also produce a “cult movie” I would enjoy several times at the Midnight Movies in Tempe, Arizona during my early college years. The movie was “King of Hearts” (Le Roi de Cœur), starring Alan Bates. It’s a twisted movie in gentle way.
During World War I, a British soldier is sent into a French town in advance of his unit and discovers a population of natives who are just not normal. In fact, they are escaped inmates from the local insane asylum and they took over the town when the other residents- and the German enemy- fled after rigging the town square to explode.
For just a short time, the British soldier allows himself to enter into the world the inmates create for themselves. But the fragile spontaneity of the unpredictable mind is no match for the grinding wheels of war and reality has its way. It’s a charming movie with more than just a hint of protest.
Fahrenheit 451 ***
Though the movie itself has not aged well- its idea of the future seems kind of quaint in 2012- the ideas discussed are still plenty poignant. The movie follows the disintegration of a model citizen of a future society that pops pills, watches endless television programs and burns books because they contain unhappy subjects and information. This citizen is a “fireman,” part a special unit charged with tracking down books wherever they are hidden and destroying them.
There is certainly some innovation going on in this movie. For example, the beginning credits are spoken, not printed. There is also a sense of humor here with books being hidden inside fake television sets. The newspapers the characters sit down to “read” are nothing but comic strips without words. One of the books that goes into the fire at one point is a Mad Magazine paperback and one of the Book People claims “Fahrenheit 451” author Ray Bradbury’s other popular title “The Martian Chronicles.”
The scenes with the fireman’s wife watching a huge screen TV, along with faux interactive features, is, in fact, visionary. You should see the size television screens we have in 2012- as well as the wealth- or poverty- of material to watch.
Directed by Francois Truffaut…1966…112 min…featuring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack.
The Group ***
A gaggle of 8 young women graduate from college in 1933 and face various trials in the years ahead. The men in the movie are horrible, leading to the terrible irony the movie is based on. That is, young women with so much promise are just wasted by limiting attitudes and both psychological and physical abuse. Strength here comes from the bond the women share throughout their lives, offering, at the least, some sympathy for bad marriages and poor choices. That bond becomes their lifeline.
Directed by Sidney Lumet…1966…150 min…featuring Candice Bergen, Joan Hackett, Elizabeth Hartman, Shirley Knight, Joanna Pettet, Mary-Robin Redd, Jessica Walter, Kathleen Widdoes, James Broderick, Larry Hagman, Hal Holbrook, Richard Mulligan
An isolated castle becomes the setting for this odd thriller as a couple of wounded criminals hole up with an unpredictable man and his young French wife. The lines blur as to who is in charge as the criminals’ conditions worsen. That this castle is regularly cut off from land by the tide further enhances the tension. Lionel Stander’s portrayal of the criminal Dickie is gritty and distinctive. Donald Pleasance is very curious indeed as the loose cannon “lord of the manor”.
Directed by Roman Polanski…1966…113 min…featuring Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran, Jacqueline Bisset.
Kill, Baby, Kill ***
A doctor travels to a spooky village to perform an autopsy and gets mixed up in a supernatural showdown between the residents and a murdering ghost. Again, the copy I streamed was pretty bad quality. Still, the creepiness of the dramatic Gothic atmosphere came through just fine. Decaying buildings, creative lighting, effects like plenty of stage smoke and a general darkness to the images work together to underscore the story of a malevolent spirit and her cowering victims. There’s a great sequence where the doctor chases the ghost but ends up chasing himself through the doors of the same room, over and over again.
Directed by Mario Bava…1966…85 min…featuring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabienne Dali, Piero Lulli, Luciano Catenacci, Giovanna Galletti.
Queen of Blood ***
“Queen of Blood” is, at the least, an imaginative production. Some real work was applied to providing futuristic settings, space ships and cool costumes. The imagery goes a long way toward fulfilling the purpose of the movie- Sci-Fi entertainment, plain and simple- when the plot itself kind of runs out of ideas.
You see, an alien race has contacted the Earth, but their initial Ambassador flight has crash landed on Mars. The Earthlings, lead by a dry, stuffy head scientist played by the venerable Basil Rathbone, decide to send help. The mission recovers one of the aliens- and leaves one of their own on a Mars moon- and then the movie falls flat.
The alien, it turns out, is a vampire and wants to drain the blood of her rescuers. She’s creepy alright, but an easy out for writers as the movie winds down.
Directed by Curtis Harrington…1966…81 min…featuring John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper, Florence Marly.
Blood Bath ***
This rating could go another way depending on your mood. The copy I streamed was very poor quality- a little hitch occurring in just about all the movement on the screen. You could easily dismiss the movie as unwatchable. But taken as an aesthetic element, the poor quality even kind of enhances this tongue-in-cheek drama. The intent of “Blood Bath”- to kind of lampoon contemporary culture and specifically horror movies- immediately reminded me of “Bucket of Blood.” Am I seriously discussing these movies? As social satire, they’re much better than a lot of serious movies.
This one has a loose plot about a crazed artist who channels a long dead relative who was burned at the stake as a sorcerer, but was really a vampire instead. This makes him kill girls, mutilate their bodies, produce a painting from the scene, then dip their bodies into wax and display them in his studio as sculptures. This produces plenty of disturbing, gory imagery.
There is just a little bit of daylight in this character’s psyche- there’s this girl he likes, meeting her on the beach for swims and picnics, but he never invites her into his private world. Sweetly, he resists her advances, trying to preserve one thing in his life that isn’t twisted. That falls apart when she gets too aggressive about pursuing the relationship.
Like “Bucket of Blood,” the social satire in “Blood Bath” comes in during scenes in a coffeehouse with some artist and beatnik types hanging around, discussing art and outrageous ideas about how to make it- like shooting paint balls at an otherwise reasonably skilled painting in an attempt to create “quantum art.”
Otherwise, the acting and sequencing is so overly dramatic, it’s nearly impossible to take any of it with a straight face. Rather, it’s more like a guessing game as to what the producers are going to throw at you next. In my reading about this movie, I discovered that this production used footage from different projects and the slapdash effect of that is obvious especially in the way the artist totally changes appearance as a vampire- they’re completely different actors. However, this also somehow adds to the dirty delight of this howler.
Directed by Jack Hill, Stephanie Rothman…1966…80 min…featuring William Campbell, Marissa Mathes, Lori Saunders , Karl Schanzer, Sid Haig, Jonathan Haze, Fred Thompson.
Curse of the Swamp Creature *
A TV production of very poor production quality- it’s a real stinker! A geologist gets mixed up with bad people and a mad scientist when he enters a swamp area to find oil.
The bad people are posing as his local contacts and are looking for some quick money out of the oil discovery. The scientist happens to be operating his own research lab in the middle of the swamp, working on devolving a human being into a fish man.
The two groups meet and things reach a dramatic conclusion when area native residents, who practice secret ceremonies in the swamp, appear to confront the scientist about missing loved ones. Now, that’s a long explanation for a lousy movie- as I read in a review on IMDB: don’t waste time on this one!
Directed by Larry Buchanan…1966…80 min…featuring John Agar, Francine York, Jeff Alexander.
More 1966 Movies
Agent for H.A.R.M.
Around the World Under the Sea
The Battle of Algiers
Beregis Avtomobilya (Beware of the Automobile)
A Big Hand for the Little Lady
The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (Signore & Signori)
Black Girl (La Noire de…)
The Blue Max
Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!
A Bullet for the General (El Chucho, quién sabe?)
Carry On Screaming!
Closely Watched Trains (Ostre sledované vlaky)
Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD
The Deadly Affair
Don’t Look Now, We’re Being Shot At
Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Duel at Diablo
The Face of Another (Tanin no kao)
The Family Way
The Fortune Cookie
Frankie and Johnny
Funeral in Berlin
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Gamera vs. Barugon
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery
How To Steal a Million
The Hunt (La Caza)
Is Paris Burning?
It Happened Here
Let’s Kill Uncle
Lord Love a Duck
Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.
A Man and a Woman
The Man Called Flintstone
“Manos” The Hands of Fate
Meet Whiplash Willie
Mission to Death
The Naked Prey
The Nun (La Religieuse)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style
The Plague of the Zombies
The Rare Breed
Return of the Seven
Ride in the Whirlwind
Run, Appaloosa, Run
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming
The Sand Pebbles
The Sandwich Man
The Shop on Main Street
The Singing Nun
The Sword of Doom (Dai-bosatsu toge)
This Property is Condemned
Three On A Couch
The Trouble with Angels
Trunk to Cairo
Walk Don’t Run
The War Is Over (La Guerre est Finie)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Wild Angels
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
The Wrong Box
The Young Rounders
I clearly remember the debut of the new “Batman” TV show. My best friend, who I often talked television news with, came over to see it with me. His Mom picked him up before the credits were even through, but we both got to see the new face of Batman- actor Adam West- and the deliciously twisted Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. Robin was being played by the youthful Burt Ward, but perhaps the best regular character was Alan Napier as the ever-helpful butler Alfred.
Eventually I would even send in to join the Batman Fan Club, receiving a cool membership card and a button in the mail. I also collected the cool Batman bubble gum cards offered around the same time. These cards were not photos from the TV show, but rather comic book art.
But the show that debuted in 1966 that would most capture my attention was “Star Trek.” It didn’t take long before I became a passionate fan of the show. Shortly after the series started, my family went out to a restaurant to eat on the night “Star Trek” was on. The dinner went long and I could hardly sit still in the car on the way home, knowing that I was missing the latest episode.
Fortunately the entirety of the original “Star Trek” series has become considered classic material, the show living on through decades of constant reruns, and inspiring clubs and conventions. There has been plenty of time to see all of the episodes. But in 1966, no one knew that- once you missed a show, you might get to see it in the summer during rerun season, or you might not ever.
Of course, William Shatner as James Kirk, the suave captain of the spaceship Enterprise, was dashing, displaying plenty of charisma. But most curious would be the character Mr. Spock, played by actor Leonard Nimoy- a humanoid but from another planet- Vulcan- who displayed some pretty pointy ears and a strident sense of “logic.”
The other new 1966 Sci-Fi show that would work well for me was “The Time Tunnel.” I remember watching the show during its brief run, but it would also become great fodder for rerun TV in the future. I can clearly remember being sick in bed on a school day and being entertained by “Time Tunnel.”
The concept of “Time Tunnel” was compelling- two scientists get stuck chasing after each other through a device that opens up portals into various historical times. The trouble is that no one knows where they’re going to end up. The show featured James Darren- who I knew as the singer responsible for “Goodbye Cruel World.” He and his buddy visited a different historical time each week, in between efforts at getting back to their own time.
Also new and inventive in 1966 was the Gothic-style soap opera “Dark Shadows.” It was an afternoon show, one you could tune in to after school, and my oldest brother was a fan. Streaming this show decades later reveals what a thin production wire they walked. The acting is stiff and hesitant and apparent gaffes are just passed over. But the creepy ambiance of the show and the development of the monster-oriented characters made it favorite viewing.
Another landmark series that debuted in 1966 was “The Monkees.” Now, the world had already been prepared for the madcap antics of a rock and roll band by the Beatles- both in the movies and in the Saturday morning cartoons. “The Monkees”- featuring a group of four distinct characters- just brought that concept directly to the little screen. It was a perfect marketing situation too- the commercially created group and their associated products could be promoted on the show.
We watched “The Monkees” TV show in our house, but it often didn’t make a lot of sense to me- just goofing around. But the Monkees records I heard on the radio always pricked up my ears- they were great, classic pop records with lots of shine and energy. The music went a long way to legitimizing the goofiness of the TV show.
More 1966 debuts included ones I didn’t find so interesting- like “Family Affair” and “That Girl.” And ones I found more exciting like “Rat Patrol” and even the new “Tarzan” series.
Despite not much interest, I somehow became familiar with the characters on “Family Affair”- at least the distinctive “Mr. French” played by Sebastian Cabot. “That Girl” was even more familiar- perky actress Marlo Thomas was kind of ditzy, kind of cute and had a distinctive way of talking.
“Rat Patrol” was much more interesting- following the adventures of a bunch of World War II Allied commandos who bedevil the German forces in North Africa with a couple of jeeps, big guns and endless amounts of ammo. The group was lead by actor Christopher George and action was the key here. Action was also the key for “Tarzan,” featuring actor Ron Ely in the lead role.
Other shows I didn’t much care for included game shows. They were just a part of the deal on television and something we watched only in passing- when “nothing else was on.” Two new 1966 game shows- “The Hollywood Squares” and “The Newlywed Game”- would certainly become part of that. “The Hollywood Squares” succeeded because it put very familiar faces- TV and movie stars- into unfamiliar, spontaneous situations, revealing a little bit of their personalities.
“The Newlywed Game” was much more foreign to me. Just as I found “The Dating Game” curious without being interested in dating, “The Newlywed Game” was curious to me without any actual interest in marriage- heavens no. But that people who were married would sit down together in a game bent on tripping them up was interesting. The guys in particular always seemed to be getting into trouble with their answers.
But 1966 will also be remembered for another quality show. Standing right next to “Star Trek” as classic 1966 TV is “Mission: Impossible.” This was slick, cool and sophisticated. The super secret, special operations unit used gadgets, sleight-of-hand and precision timing to get their dangerous missions accomplished.
You always had to be there for the beginning of “Mission: Impossible” because that’s when the “mission” for the episode was revealed. You see, Peter Graves, the actor playing the mission leader, always received his instructions via a tape recorded message with details of the mission. He might be on a plane or in a phone booth or some random place- and it was always hush hush. Then the tape would automatically disintegrate after playing- poof and the episode started.
I ended up liking the whole “Mission: Impossible” team which, besides Graves, also included Martin Landau, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus and Barbara Bain. Each of their characters had specialties and each was cool and collected.
But more than the great cast and engaging stories, “Mission: Impossible” had a great, instantly recognizable theme song. Actually, this era of television is ripe with great theme songs. 1966 also produced that great instrumental “Star Trek” theme song- after Shatner’s brief intro monologue. “The Monkees” theme song was a great, catchy pop song, custom-made to keep the group’s name up front. The “Batman” theme song was also classic instrumental work- a gravelly boogie woogie with some sassy vocals adding the name “Batman” at key moments. This was all great stuff musically- prime examples of doing a whole lot with a limited amount of time.
Such was the national television landscape when I moved to Phoenix. In Phoenix, however, I soon learned of and would tune into nearly religiously a local after-school kids’ program, “Wallace and Ladmo.” The central figure here was Wallace, who literally ran the show. His main buddy was a big, tall goofy looking guy named Ladmo, whose distinctive hat and big, friendly grin were a trademark. Wallace was played by Bill Thompson and Ladmo’s real name was Ladimir Kwiatkowski.
There were other characters on the show including a carrot-juice drinking, spoiled brat type named Gerald and an ineffectual hero named Captain Super. These characters were played on the show by a local radio personality named Pat McMahon. Together with other regulars like a singer named Mike Condello, the troupe would do skits that often lampooned contemporary attitudes, in between running cartoons and such.
One of the most exciting features of the show, presented in front of a live audience of very lucky kids, was the presentation of the “Ladmo Bags” to the audience. The Ladmo Bag had all sorts of great stuff and candy in it- which Ladmo would display before presenting them to the attendees in the studio- and just the thought of it made you so jealous of those kids getting the prizes: I wanted a Ladmo Bag bad.
I would become such a big Wallace and Ladmo fan, that my older brother and I would join the throngs at the theater at the Cristown Mall in Phoenix for a live Wallace and Ladmo presentation one busy Saturday morning. I was dressed in a Wallace-like shirt with polka dots, just like a lot of boys that day. The characters from the TV show appeared in the theater and participated in some loud, goofy hijinks, in between reels of old, exciting serials. It was a riot in the theater, full of kids screaming and big belly laughs.
A life-shifting change was ahead of me and my family in 1966. That is, we moved from our small hometown in northern Illinois to big, dry Phoenix, Arizona. Looking back, this was a major shift on my planetary axis. Though sad at leaving the only town I’d really known, and both sets of grandparents, it was also exciting to be in a new place.
Our move was urged by my Dad’s new career as a professional working for the Boy Scouts of America. He had done some volunteer work and started his professional career in Illinois and took a chance on the job in Phoenix for a better position. As a result, my brothers and I had all been Cub Scouts and were all destined to become Boy Scouts. In Phoenix, I remember perhaps one year of trying to stay in Cub Scouts before being old enough to join the Troop that formed at our new church.
My folks ended up installing us in a flat, ranch-style tract house located in a development close to the foot of Squaw Peak. The mountain- and indeed it was a mountain to some Illinois people- loomed close by and provided an immediate boyhood challenge- to climb to the top. My brothers and I would do the hike several times. It was pretty much all hot rock the whole way, but interesting for the view you gained by going higher- and for an outcropping of raw copper.
Our house was located a short distance from the home of Republican Senator Barry Goldwater. I was aware of who Goldwater was by name as a result of the 1964 Presidential election. This is my first real memory of American politics- in the race between incumbent Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Goldwater, I favored Johnson because my best friend’s family were Democrats and I wanted to agree with him.
In Phoenix, Goldwater’s house hung out on its own little hill off of the major road stretching across the top of the city at the time. You couldn’t miss it- and it must have had a great year-round view of the Valley of the Sun.
The one main interest I brought with me from Illinois to Phoenix was baseball card collecting. I had not been very interested in the baseball side of collecting cards before 1966- although baseball cards were around in our house- but in 1966, I dove in- just like I dove in memorizing the prime time television schedule. I bought pack after pack that last summer in Illinois.
In Phoenix, arriving right at the end of the season, I bought many packs too. It was a connection back to my old life. Additionally, it seemed that the cards I bought in Phoenix had a different mix of cards in the packs. I wasn’t getting the same players, hence, not so many doubles. That is, until I bought enough packs in Phoenix to start getting doubles there.
Fortunately there would be a market for baseball card doubles in Phoenix. After arriving, I quickly made friends in the neighborhood from school who collected and got together to trade baseball cards. There were no price guides at the time- just how much you wanted to give up for a card according to the player’s skill and popularity. The most common way to collect cards was by teams, which meant sometimes being able to get a stack of lesser players for better players from other teams. But it wasn’t about money or “investment value.” It was just about owning something cool and looking for more of the same.
At school, the main activity before classes and during recess was playing marbles. We had marbles- cats’ eyes, clearies, bird cages, bumble bees, both in regular size and bigger “shooters”- and I collected a few on the playground as a result of the play. There were marbles circles as well as free ranging games all over the sand pit where “bombsies” were the main attack. In Phoenix, there was also a movement to use really gigantic “clearies.” They weren’t really glass marbles, they were a clear, colored resin poured into a glass mold to make what was originally intended as a gear shift knob.
The materials to make the gear shift clearies came from a hobby shop located near the school. For the next few years, my older brother and I would frequent the shop to buy kits and model making stuff. My brother was also into homemade rockets as well.
Meanwhile, as I was getting used to my strange new desert surroundings- and staunch Republican “neighbors”- a lot was going on elsewhere in 1966. In San Francisco, the Beatles played their last concert and people started taking LSD. The Black Panther party was founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The great entertainer Walt Disney died in 1966 and Ted Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Also in 1966, the Soviet Union landed an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon and crashed another one onto the surface of Venus.