OK! I get it! You’re not a baby boomer like me. You’re probably tired of hearing about The Beatles, Ed Sullivan and whatever else the CNN/Tom Hanks “The Sixties” special series is talking about. I get it. Yet, 1964 was indeed a magical year in all sorts of ways.
Especially that summer when I turned 7 years old and was totally enamored of the British invasion of music and Vin Scully of baseball. Those two things made a transistor radio my most cherished possession. It was a great summer to go to Newport Beach with my older sisters and listen to the Dodgers or KHJ, KFWB and KRLA radio playing all the hits.
What hits they were. This was when AM radio was a smorgasbord of music. Everything from Broadway show tunes to Motown. And yes, it all started with The Beatles.
After their historic TV appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February, The Beatles went on to have the top five songs on the Billboard Top 100 chart in April: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”
Those songs would resonate throughout the summer of 1964, especially when the Fab Four added another No. 1 hit in July: “A Hard Day’s Night,” the title song from the movie I probably saw 10 times that summer (and recently re-released on DVD).
That opened the door for the legendary British invasion and it was a full-scale Anglo attack — The Rolling Stones (“It’s All Over Now” and “Time Is On My Side”), The Dave Clark Five (“Because”), The Kinks (“You Really Got Me”), The Animals (“House Of the Rising Sun”), and Gerry & The Pacemakers (“Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”). Songs that are still played on the radio today!
Perhaps the strangest British acts were two duos. Chad & Jeremy were graduates of Eton College who had a huge hit with the lovely “A Summer’s Song.” Yet one of the biggest tunes of the summer of ’64 was “A World Without Love” by Peter and Gordon, a No. 1 hit written by Paul McCartney.
We didn’t know it at the time but The Beatle was dating Peter’s sister, Jane Asher. Paul gave this song (and a few others) to her brother and, just like that, he was a pop star. Peter went on to produce Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor and now spends much of his time in Los Angeles.
It wasn’t just British rock I heard that summer, and that’s what made it so memorable. My sisters were also bringing home plenty of records by Motown artists such as The Supremes (“Where Did Our Love Go?”) and Mary Wells (“My Guy”). To this day, one of my all-time favorite summer songs is “Dancing in the Streets” by Martha and The Vandellas. With the line “Summer’s here and the time is right,” it’s a timeless tune that even Van Halen made a hit years later.
Hawthorne’s own Beach Boys released one of the greatest singles of all time at the beginning of the summer of ’64: “I Get Around” with “Don’t Worry Baby” and it went to the top of the charts. They also had a smash with “Fun Fun Fun,” which pretty much described my typical day at the beach with my sisters.
Scully and the Dodgers did not have such a successful year in 1964. Though my hero Sandy Koufax threw a no-hitter against the Phillies, the Dodgers could not defend their championship of 1963 and finished in sixth place. Yet there were days at the beach when the only thing I heard coming out of everyone’s radios was Scully’s voice, and I’m so grateful I still hear him today.
AM radio in 1964 knew no bounds. “Hello Dolly” from the Broadway play was a huge hit for jazz great Louis Armstrong. Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody” knocked The Beatles out of the No. 1 spot in August. Roger Miller scored big with the novelty tune “Dang Me.”
Disc jockeys such as Dave Hull, Bob Eubanks, B Mitchell Reed and Bill Ballance kept the chatter to a minimum while pumping out hit after hit. It was the first summer that I’d really remember and it was all because of what came out of my AM radio.
If you want to see and hear the summer of 1964, find the DVD of “The T.A.M.I. Show.” This legendary concert took place in October 1964 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and includes many of the acts mentioned here, along with Chuck Berry and Jan & Dean. This concert film, often called the best ever, was unavailable for decades until its DVD release in 2010.
It shows the Civic Auditorium in all of its glory (it also hosted The Oscars that year) and a wonderful variety of musical acts, including a legendary performance by James Brown. Whenever I watch it, I’m taken back to that magical time, the summer of 1964.
J.A. Mock is a writer and longtime Playa del Rey resident.
Submit your column to Stephanie Walton at email@example.com. Emails only. Please do not include attachments. You will be contacted only if your essay is selected.Tags: concert, film, movie, music, release, tv