The Isolation Generation Playlist – Manic

The Nineteen Sixties were filled with energy, excitement and adventure. Everything was changing, overnight. The largest generation in world history was reaching adulthood. And, they all wanted to have fun. Trying new things, re-mapping the world, not conforming, the Baby Boomers made up the rules, then, shattered every one of them.

The Boomers were the best educated, most eclectic and possibly most social generation, ever. They also redefined what power a teenager had in society. It really turned on the arrival of The Beatles, who are the featured performers throughout this era. Though they were born during World War II, there is a distinct synergy between this Liverpool Quartet and this mass of population, all evolving into the people they would eventually be.

The songs selected for Manic are meant to give a view of the happier side of this historic period. They also are intended to expose the subtext beneath the happy words and notes, some of the deeper meanings that might have gone unnoticed.

Love Me Do – The Beatles: As the “House Band” for The Isolation Generation, The Fab Four have a lot to say about these times, beginning with this gem: A simple pledge of devotion (“you know I love you/I’ll always be true”), a request for reciprocation. As is typical for the Baby Boomer mindset though, the “request” is phrased in the form of a demand. It’s a clear message, even over the crowds of screaming teen girls, more than willing to wholeheartedly respond.’+62

Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer – Nat King Cole: This song evokes the changes in attitudes America was starting to feel in the Sixties (“Just fill your basket full of sandwiches and weenies/then lock the house up/now you’re set/and on the beach/you’ll see the girls in their bikinis/as cute as ever/but they never/get ‘em wet”). The singer clearly points out, through the fun of a night at the movies or a day in the sun, this next generation is doing things in a much different way: a way that the oldsters might not agree with. It’s all fun, as long as you remember to make sure your home is protected (ah, those changing times).–Those+Lazy+Hazy+Crazy+Days+Of+Summer

Windy – The Association: We know the title character is a child because of the things she does (“peeking out from under a stairway”), but she’s growing up fast (“trippin’ down the streets of the city”). She knows right from wrong (“stormy eyes/that flash at the sound of lies”) and she has some special talents (“wings to fly/above the clouds”). On top of that, everyone knows her! Why not? She’s smiling at everybody she sees. All in all, she’s a groovy role model. The song ends repeating the hook and adding an element each time, representing this wild daughter of Mother Nature acquiring followers as she breezes on to her next adventure: Chicago’s Lakefront, perhaps?–Windy

Kites Are Fun – The Free Design: It’s children and the wind again, though this time, the focus is on several kids and their kites. The upbeat exterior covers a deep underlying sadness. It’s perfect for The Isolation Generation. The elements are all there: having fun by yourself, parents not understanding and the singers wanting “to be a zillion miles/away from everyone.” The listener gets the feeling that the paper and wood toy loves and understands the child better than his folks do. You know, maybe this song should have been included in the Depressive collection.–Kites+Are+Fun

Up Up And Away – The 5th Dimension: Intentionally written like a Broadway Showstopper by master song crafter Jimmy Webb, this tune features another theme of getting away from everyone. This time the escape is done in a “beautiful balloon.” (If you’ll hold my hand/we’ll chase your dream/across the sky.”) The almost blatant implication: the ‘dream’ is right there in the gondola with you (“if by some chance/you find yourself loving me/we’ll find a cloud to hide us/we’ll keep the moon beside us”). With the Space Age in full swing, who wanted to stay earthbound?–Up+Up+and+Away

Respect – Aretha Franklin: Both an anthem and a how-to song, just like The Beatles, Aretha wants something and demands it: (“What you want/baby I got it/what you need/you know I got it/all I’m asking/is for a little respect”). She isn’t the least bit worried. She’ll get what she asks for. Or, if not, she’ll keep her goodies (money, other interesting offerings) to herself. Barter or purchase, the end result is the same. It’s a lesson worth spelling out.–Respect
Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) – The Byrds: You don’t hear a lot of Biblical passages set to music, at least not outside of church. But this one (Ecclesiastes 3, v.1-8) was transformed into a timely protest song that could be applied equally well to the race riots throughout the south and in urban areas around the country, and to the raging war in Vietnam (“a time to every purpose under heaven”). As is common for the Boomers’ era, the final message is uplifting and positive (“a time for peace/I swear it’s not too late”).–Turn!+Turn!+Turn!

Expressway To Your Heart – Soul Survivors: With the interstate highway system in full working order, it was only a matter of time before love of driving and love of loving had a head-on collision. The metaphor is obvious: the girl is the destination and every driver (read: guy) wants to get there (“at five o’clock/it’s much too crowded”). Again, we get a positive and aggressive message: Don’t wait (“fellas started to shower/you with love and affection/now you won’t look/in my direction”). Go for it now, or be stuck on the turnpike to somebody else’s spleen.–Expressway+to+Your+Heart

Daydream Believer – The Monkees: The title says it all. Typical Boomer philosophy: make your vision come true. And again, a concept turned sideways, to suit the singers: awaken from sleep to enter your dream. The theme of Love versus Money is touched upon (“our good time starts and ends/without dollar one to spend/but how much baby/do we really need”). In the romantic world of the Boomers, love always wins the day.–Daydream+Believer

My Generation – The Who: With radio’s obscenity standards of the mid 60’s, it didn’t get any more aggressive than this anthem, stuttered to perfection by Roger Daltrey (“why don’t ya all/f-f-f fade away!”). This in your face brutal attack on the people in charge was a rallying cry for the kids. They seem to be saying: “We’re not waiting for you to give us power, old man! This is a coup!”–My+Generation

Grazing In The Grass – Friends of Distinction: There’s more than a hint that ‘the grass’ referred to has a second meaning. Seriously, how ecstatic can you get by just sitting on a lawn, under a tree, without help? Awareness is heightened, as the tiniest detail is noticed (“everything here is so clear/you can see it/and everything here is so near/you can feel it”). When you get the munchies, you gotta go graze. Can you dig it? You know, maybe this should have been included in the Psychedelic collection.|Grazing+In+The+Grass

Sukiyaki – Kyu Sakamoto: Only the next generation could do this. After Pearl Harbor started it and the A Bomb finished it, it was the Boomers who took a song sung entirely in Japanese to number one on the US pop charts. The American style dance hall orchestrations gave it a sweet and humble charm, and the 21 year old has a voice that resonates with true feeling, even though most English speaking citizens had no idea what he was singing. The Rhino CD release “Billboard Top Pop Singles 1963” had these two facts: “Ue O Muite Aruko” translated means “I Look Up When I Walk.” Tragically, Kyu (pronounced like the letter ‘Q’) was aboard JAL flight 007 and died, at age 43, with the other 519 souls aboard that plane, in 1985.–Ue+wo+muite+arukou–Kyu+Sakamoto
A Taste Of Honey – Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass: “A Taste Of Honey” was a Broadway show, and later, a film, dealing with an interracial relationship. This song was almost a dirge: sung sadly, slowly in those productions. A few years later, Herb and the “TJB” as they came to be known, grabbed it and ‘Tijuanafied’ it, only keeping a slight hint of the heartbreaking ballad intact. Marimbas, rifling drumbeats and Herb’s distinctive trumpet lifted this to a “Grande Fiesta.” Taking the sad and making it happy: are you learning the lesson of the Boomer Era?

Bus Stop – The Hollies: When is bad weather good? Here: (“bus stop/wet day/she’s there/I say/please share my umbrella”). Despite the differences in outward attitudes (“all the people stared/as if we were both quite insane”), it’s obvious that the Boomers still sought some of the same values as their parents (“nice to think that/that umbrella/led me to a vow”). Maybe the next generation wasn’t so different after all.–1966

Uptight (Everything’s Alright) – Stevie Wonder: Love and Money duke it out again, and, as usual, there’s no contest. Love always forgives poverty (“I’m a poor man’s son/from across the railroad track/only shirt I own/is here on my back/but I’m the envy/of every single guy/since I’m the apple/of my girl’s eye”). The important stuff is made clear (“my heart is true”) and even though the girl is well to do, she understands it too. Priorities straight? Maybe this generation is actually better than the last!

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Wouldn’t It Be Nice – The Beach Boys: Unlike The Who, these lads are in pursuit of happiness in a respectful, wished for way (“wouldn’t it be nice/to live together/in the kind of world/where we belong”). The desire of finding true love, getting married and having a home and family were all still very much alive for this generation (“maybe if/we think and wish/and hope and pray/it might come true”). It takes all kinds of Boomers to make this generation up.–Wouldnt+it+be+nice
Navy Blue – Diane Renay: Military jargon and wacky lyrics (“a walkie-talkie wind up/little china doll/that says ‘wish you were here’”) made this a cutie pie song with a patriotic (jingoistic?) spin. With the Far East references and the softer edged rock, the moms listening along to their daughters’ phonograph 45’s could relate to waiting for their men to come back from their tours of duty for some R and R.–Navy+Blue+gr8fl

Mais Que Nada – Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66: This is the group’s signature song, sung entirely in Portuguese by Lani Hall, though she’s originally from Chicago! “Mais Que Nada” is a Swingin’ 60’s happening! Once you hear it, you never forget it. It captures the frantic samba energy that was just exploding at that moment, and is truly a part of the Boomer experience.’66–Mais+Que+Nada

Only In America – Jay and The Americans: The great songwriting team of Lieber and Stoller were responsible for this piece, which almost sounds like it wants to be a part of the score of “West Side Story.” Again, it’s a battle of Love and Money. The singers, presumably serenading the girl from the stoop of their run-down brownstone, marvel at the amazing things that happen exclusively in the United States (“Only in America/could a dream like this come true/could a guy like me/start with nothing/and end up with you”).…..Only+In+America

Reach Out I’ll Be There – The Four Tops: This song hooks you from the first note: the sparse opening, immediately followed by the vocal scream. A support system was what the Boomers were forming. It was reflected here in a very passionate ‘end of the world’ way (“I know what you’re thinking/you’re alone/no love of your own/darling, reach out/reach out/I’ll be there…”). Could this be the most powerful love song of the era?–Reach+Out+I’ll+Be+There
These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ – Nancy Sinatra: Not daddy’s little girl anymore, the twenty-five year old singer made her declaration of independence in 1966. Like The Beatles, this war baby champions the spirit of the Boomers here. It’s all about attitude (“one of these days/these boots are gonna/walk all over you”). Whether it’s parents or peers, we cannot and will not sit still for actions we don’t like. Start walking!–These+Boots+Are+Made+For+Walking+(1966)

Walk Don’t Run – The Ventures: The ‘surf’ sound was crashing against the mainland shores in the ‘60’s and this was a great example: a twangy guitar and pounding drums echo the action and motion of the ocean. It’s all about fun, sun, surf and the carefree lifestyle… the mantra of the Boomers.–Walk+Don’t+Run

The Look of Love – Dusty Springfield: Perhaps the sexiest mainstream pop song ever recorded, it was lifted from the soundtrack of “Casino Royale.” In the scene: Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress are in her oh so plush bachelorette pad. In the background, we have the singer at her sex kitten peak, purring lyrics in a dream-like trance (“let this be/just the start/of so many/nights like this/let’s take/a lover’s vow/and then/seal it with a kiss”). And the sax, the sax: Nudging the notes out as if nudging a lover awake in bed. This is the definition of lounge music!–The+Look+Of+Love

A Girl Like You – The Rascals: A great, manic love song, so manic in fact that the singer is disoriented (“I don’t know/what it’s all about”) and he’s thrilled about it! This is a hard-core straight on passion rant from a singer who finds subtlety as easy to master as the intricate drum line that underscores this tune. Another message from the Boomers: if you have the feeling, let it out!

Devil With A Blue Dress On + Good Golly Miss Molly – Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels: How can you not dance (or at least tap your toes) when you hear this song? A nod to Little Richard (and to the almighty auto), this is, simply, non-stop, gas-powered, super-charged fun (“high heeled sneakers/and her alligator hat”). There’s nothing serious going on here, except maybe lust. But, that’s what devils do.–Devil+With+The+Blue+Dress+On|Good+Golly+Miss+Molly

Tower Of Strength – Gene McDaniels: A wonderful turnabout, in the grand tradition of “the power behind the throne.” The singer is fully in charge and plans to end the relationship (“I don’t want you/I don’t need you/I don’t love you anymore/and I’d walk out the door”). The truth is another issue entirely (“but a tower of a strength/is a something/I’ll never be”). Men are clearly the weaker sex. Especially when it comes to sex.–Tower+Of+Strength

Lazy Day – Spanky and Our Gang: Totally carefree, bright and breezy, and what images conjured: (“ice cream/daydream/’til the sky becomes/a blanket of stars”). With the flutes twittering like lovebirds in the background and the singer’s impassioned delivery of the lyrics (“and what a day/for thinking right out loud/I love you”), it’s a late spring afternoon captured permanently and preserved perfectly, in between the rallies for social change and protest marches against the war.

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(I Got You) I Feel Good – James Brown: If this was The Godfather of Soul’s only contribution to the era, his place in music history would still be secure. It isn’t the lyrics, it’s the unmistakable James delivery: those screeches and stops. The horn section, blasting away to match the maestro: “So Good! So Good!”–I+Got+You+(I+Feel+Good)

The Letter – The Box Tops: They don’t make songs like this one anymore: Just over two minutes for the whole thing? But, here, it’s very appropriate. The vocalist is in a hurry (“lonely days are gone/I’m a going home/my baby just a/wrote me a letter”). We even hear the jet engines roaring away before the band finishes its riff. In the Space Age, everything happens fast.–The+Letter

It’s Not Unusual – Tom Jones: “It’s not unusual/to see me cry/I wanna die!” Somehow, we knew the big-throated singer from Wales wasn’t going to succumb. There’s plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour here (well, we are talking Great Britain!) and that’s the fun of it. There are some winking accusations and hints of multiple lovers on both sides of the romance; however, it always comes back to the one favorite (“why can’t this/crazy love be mine”). The Boomers say: “you can’t know your true love until you’ve tried several.”–It’s+Not+Unusual

Sweet Blindness – The 5th Dimension: Laura Nyro was a brilliant songwriter. This tune, disguised as half tavern-style drinking song and half revival meeting hymn is, in fact, something quite different from either of those. Here, it’s brought to life by the group that made her famous, and it’s another hit she wrote to help them garner worldwide acclaim (“Wedding Bell Blues,” “Blowing Away,” others). Teamwork is paramount to the Boomers. Yes, the pleasures of the vine are celebrated (“ain’t gonna tell you/what I’ve been drinkin’/wine”), but listen for the “by the way” towards the song’s end to discover what the whole ‘Wild Turkey’ chase was really about.

Downtown – Petula Clark: If you couldn’t be in London during the 1960’s, the next best place was New York. And it’s clear that it’s Manhattan that Pet was referencing in this tune, all about fun and escape by doing the activities available in The City (“maybe you know/some little places to go to/where they never close”). Just like a British Blanche Du Bois, the singer is relying on the kindness of strangers to lift her from her ennui. So, maybe I’ll see you there!–Downtown

She Loves You – The Beatles: Arguably the sprightliest song in the Fab Four Canon, this bit of advice to a mate, as most of their early work, has that straightforward approach (“apologize to her/because she loves you”). Simple rhythms and major chords keep the presentation from overshadowing the message. Though, in truth, it’s hard to know if anyone at the time heard any of it (except, perhaps the ‘woos’), over the shrill shrieks of the audience: yeah, yeah, yeah.
More, on the way…


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