Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Month: December 1963

Just under the wire...

December 1963 was a relatively slow month, certainly when compared to the previous month.

12/3 - The Warren Commission begins investigating the JFK assassination.
12/7 - Instant replay was invented, and debuted at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.
12/8 - Frank Sinatra Jr was kidnapped at Harrah's Lake Tahoe in Nevada.
12/10 - Chuck Yeager was nearly killed during a test flight.

In the US, the #1 song in December 1963 (all 4 weeks) was "Dominique" by The Singing Nun.  The #2 song for 2 weeks was "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen.  (Beatles! Hurry up and get here!)

Over in the UK, the top songs were the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You", along with "Glad All Over" by the Dave Clark Five, and "You Were Made for Me" by Freddie and the Dreamers.

Notable movies released in December 1963 were "Charade" (starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn),  and Disney's animated "The Sword in the Stone".  (It was the next-to-last animated movie personally supervised by Walt Disney.)

12/18 - Actor Brad Pitt
12/19 - Actress Jennifer Beals
12/26 - Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, in Denmark.

12/02 - Actor Sabu Sabu - age 39
12/14 - Singer Dinah Washington - age 39
12/26 - Professional wrestler "Gorgeous" George Wagner

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Herman's Hermits (part 2)

Back in late September, I blogged that I was going to a Herman's Hermits' show at the end of that month. I saw them at the American Music Theater in Lancaster, PA, which has a lot of big-name acts from yesteryear.

What a great show it was! The opening act was Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees. This was a pleasant surprise, because although I knew Dolenz would be there, for some reason I thought he would just be sitting in with Herman’s Hermits for a few numbers. Instead, he did a whole set, with a 6-piece backing band (all non-Monkees), including his sister Coco on backing vocals.

For the 2nd number "That Was Then, This Is Now", the band was joined onstage by Vance Brescia, who wrote that song for the Monkees in 1986, and is now a guitarist and the musical director for Herman’s Hermits.

Mickey and his sister Coco did an a cappella duet on “Bye Bye Blackbird”, after saying it was the first song their mother taught them. Coco followed that song with lead vocals on “Different Drum”, a song written by the Monkees’ Mike Nesmith and recorded in the late-1960s by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. As she sung the song, Mickey retreated into the shadows near the drummer, so that the audience focus would be solely on her.

Throughout the show, Mickey praised the songwriters he had over the years, including Carole King, Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, and Mike Nesmith.

Set list (as best I can remember the sequence):

Steppin’ Stone
That Was Then, This Is Now
Sometime in the Morning
D. W. Washburn
Bye Bye Blackbird
Different Drum
Daydream Believer
Last Train to Clarksville
Pleasant Valley Sunday
Gimme Some Lovin’ (cover of the Spencer Davis Group song)
I’m a Believer

("Daydream Believer" was sung as a tribute to the late Davy Jones.)

After a short intermission, Herman's Hermits took the stage. Peter Noone mixed in a lot of comic narrative between his songs, sometimes going out into the audience exchanging banter (and distributing free CDs and t-shirts). He also did some imitations, specifically Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, and Mick Jagger (while singing their song snippets), and John Lennon.

Herman’s Hermits set list (not in order):

I’m Into Something Good
Listen People
Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter
I’m Henry the VIII, I Am (with audience participation)
Sea Cruise
Wonderful World
The End of the World
Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat
Just a Little Bit Better
Leaning on a Lamp Post
A Must to Avoid
No Milk Today
There’s a Kind of Hush

Do Wah Diddy (Manfred Mann cover)
Love Potion No. 9 (Searchers cover)
I’m Telling You Now (Freddie & the Dreamers cover)
It’s Not Unusual (sung in Tom Jones' voice)
Ring of Fire (sung in Johnny Cash's voice)
Start Me Up (sung in Mick Jagger's voice)

As an aside after singing "No Milk Today", Noone said that when he was a kid, his neighborhood milkman was Freddie Garrity, who went on to front Freddie and the Dreamers. Peter then sang their song "I’m Telling You Now".

Peter Noone’s "Hermits" include guitarists Billy Sullivan and Vance Brescia, Rich Spina on keyboards and occasionally on bass guitar, and Dave Ferrara on drums. Sullivan and Spina have worked together extensively in the past, mostly as latter-day members of Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

After the show, both Peter and Mickey were available in the lobby (in separate lines) for photo ops and autographs. We got autographs from, and took photos with "Herman", but by then, the line for Dolenz was gone, and he had left the lobby.