Saturday, October 26, 2013

My early record-collecting days

My interest in listening to rock and roll radio (and buying records) began in December 1966. Prior to that, I recall only listening to the radio when I stayed home from school because of illness. When we missed school, our mother would confine us to our room (after all, if we were too sick to go to school, etc, etc) with only the radio to listen to. For some reason, it was always set to the easy listening station (Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Petula Clark, Roger Miller, etc) and it never occurred to me to see what other stations were playing. Even though I knew about the Beatles (and had collected Beatles cards in 1964), I was content to listen to whatever Frankie and his pals were singing.

This all changed in December 1966, when I went on a field trip to the WFIL radio and TV station in Philadelphia, one of the two AM radio stations playing rock and roll in Philly. I’m not sure how the field trip came about, but it may have been with the Cub Scouts.

Anyway, I don’t remember anything about the trip other than that I took home one of the weekly Top-50 record surveys that radio stations distributed to record stores back then (to help kids decide what records to buy). This one was a special Christmas issue, with tree ornaments drawn on the cover – each one containing a photo of one of the disc jockeys. I’m sure I still have it, but when looking around for it a few months ago, all I could find were the smaller surveys from the early 1970s. I did find some of the mid-60s surveys posted on one of the blogs on my sidebar (Nick's Radio Corner), but not the survey I described above. The closest one I could find on that blog was from 1/23/1967 (shown below).

I’m going to assume that first record survey I took home was for the week of 12/10/1966 and not 12/17/1966 – since it had a Christmas theme, but who’s organizing field trips one week before Christmas? That week, the top 5 songs were Good Vibrations (Beach Boys), Mellow Yellow (Donovan), Winchester Cathedral (New Vaudeville Band), Devil With the Blue Dress On (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels), and You Keep Me Hangin’ On (Supremes).

Now armed with this souvenir from WFIL Radio, my brother and I immediately made more use of the radio, switching it from “our parents’ music” to WFIL. This was quickly followed by our first of many trips to the local record store. Looking back, my record-buying days were from early 1967 to about 1972 or 1973 when I switched over to 8-track tapes. (I still have almost all my old 45-rpm records, and a quick look through those produced no records released after 1972.)

So, why is the “Georgy Girl” 45 at the top of this post? That may very well be the first 45 I ever bought. If not, it’s certainly among the first half-dozen, along with Penny Lane (The Beatles), Lady Godiva (Peter & Gordon), 98.6 (Keith), and Kind of a Drag (The Buckinghams).

Besides buying various current singles, I made up for lost time and bought many of the Beatles singles going back to 1964. (In fact, between my brother and me, by 1970 we ended up with all the Beatles singles and LPs. I tended to have all the singles up through Penny Lane, and all their albums before “Help!”, while my brother bought all the later stuff.)

With all the Beatles 45s, plus some Beach Boys singles, Georgy Girl, and several Peter and Gordon 45s, I was quickly awash in Capitol’s orange-and-yellow swirl. By the early 1970s, I was also a Grass Roots fan, and had many of their singles too. I recall my brother accumulating as many Creedence Clearwater Revival and Guess Who singles as possible, and by the mid-1970s, I think he had all of the Kinks’ LPs.

Earlier, I mentioned switching over to 8-tracks around 1973. My early 8-track collecting was influenced by what my friends had, as I bought many of the same tapes: Who’s Next (The Who), Seventh Sojourn (The Moody Blues), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John), Hot Rocks (The Rolling Stones), and (now embarrassingly enough) something by Bread.

Recently, I have been buying some old 45s as I find them at flea markets or antique stores, and digging into my old record collection from back in the day. (In fact, that sparked my interest in starting this blog.) In future posts, I will delve into specific records and artists.

(WFIL survey courtesy of Nick's Radio Corner blog)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Astronaut Scott Carpenter

Scott Carpenter, one of NASA's original 7 Mercury astronauts from the early 1960s, passed away today at age 88. He had recently suffered a stroke.

Carpenter was selected (along with John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, and Deke Slayton) for the original team of 7 Mercury astronauts, who were also the subject of the movie "The Right Stuff".

Carpenter was the 4th American in space, and the 2nd (after Glenn) to orbit the Earth. There were a few discrepancies during his flight, including running very low on fuel, and overshooting the landing area by 200 miles. Some in NASA attributed this to pilot error, and unlike the other 6, Carpenter never flew in space again. He did later take part in deep-sea exploration.

His passing leaves John Glenn as the lone surviving member of the Original 7.

New York Times obituary

CBS News obituary

I fondly remember those days in the early 1960s, when in the event of a space launch, our elementary school teachers would gather all the students into the gymnasium to watch the launch on TV. To this day, I love movies like The Right Stuff, Moon Shot, From Earth to the Moon, Failure is Not an Option, etc, etc. (In fact, I own all the above-mentioned films.)

About 10 years ago, I took my kids to a Gordon Cooper book-signing at the local mall. We've also visited Cape Canaveral twice in the past 10 years. I'm basically a 1960s' NASA nut!

Godspeed, Scott Carpenter!