Rock and Roll Never Forgets by
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Wow, what a topic! The playlist of my life. This could be an entire book, I think. I’ll just do the abridged version for now.

Sixties and Seventies music is still the best!

My two sisters were much older than I, so in my early days I listened to whatever they listened to. I remember Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin, and Wild One by Bobby Rydell, but the best songs were the ones with my name in them: Susie Darlin’ by Tommy Roe, and Wake Up Little Susie by the Everly Brothers. (Runaround Sue gets an honorable mention, but I never liked being called Sue, so it didn’t really count.) I can still remember the walk to elementary school past the house of Mrs. Snow, who would come outside whenever she saw me and start singing “Wake Up Little Susie.” This was entertaining for a while, but eventually got annoying. Since I only listened to the 45s my sisters bought, not to the radio, I wasn’t necessarily up on all the latest songs, as I discovered when I arrived at a new school in 7th grade.

Seventh grade, an awkward time at best, and I had just turned 11, while most of the kids were 12, and a couple on the verge of turning 13. I was still wearing bobby socks, and the other girls were already in stockings. On the first day of school, the boy sitting next to me (and I hasten to add, I was only sitting next to a boy because we were seated in alphabetical order, I would never have done it voluntarily) turned to me and said “Is Sherry still number one?” I said “what?” because I had no idea what he was talking about. “Sherry. Do you know if it’s still number one?” The only sherry I knew was the kind my parents drank. And what did it mean to be number one? He disgustedly turned around and asked someone else. It turned out that the answer was yes, this song by the Four Seasons was number one on the hit parade. I later became a Four Seasons fan, but I can never hear that song without remembering the humiliation of that day.

Then along came the Beatles, when I was in 8th grade, followed by the whole British Invasion. I loved all of them. Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, and oh my gosh, the Rolling Stones! I could never understand the supposed Beatles-Stones rivalry — I loved them both! Such incredible music. A little later it was Simon & Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, the Lovin’ Spoonful. I saw the Lovin’ Spoonful perform three times! Once they were actually the band at a dance I went to, as part of the East Coast Model UN in Washington DC. Amazing. And the Motown sound, Temptations, Four Tops, Supremes, which were the best for parties. Then there was the folk/protest sound, Joan Baez, and Dylan, and Donovan and Phil Ochs. I was madly in love with Phil Ochs, and when I was in Chicago for the 1968 Convention, he came to the Amphitheatre for a tour of the McCarthy operations. I got to show him around. I spent a half hour or more with my idol. Rumor had it that he was sleeping with all the girls of the McCarthy campaign, and I desperately wanted to be one of them too. But he took one look at 16-year-old me and was immune to my attempts at flirtation.

In college it was still Beatles and Stones, but also Cream and Led Zeppelin and In-A-Gadda-da-Vida, and so many more that it’s hard to remember them all. Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro were pretty important to my emerging feminist self. Learning all the Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonies, and singing them with my friends. Two memorable concerts I went to during college were Big Brother and the Holding Company and The Doors, and then the shock of both Janis and Jim dying very shortly afterwards. On a more upbeat note, there was that redhead who lived across the Quad from me in Bertram Hall and spent a lot of time playing her guitar and drinking Southern Comfort. What was her name? Oh yes, Bonnie Raitt. I was a friend and a fan, and still love listening to her music.

I have to say that I think the music from the ’60s and ’70s is still the best. My two older kids do too, so that’s what we always listened to in the car when they were growing up. My youngest daughter, who is a devout Taylor Swift fan, says that she had a traumatic childhood because she was forced to listen to classic rock! But then again, I have gone with her to three Taylor Swift concerts, so we’re even. And if she’s not around, and I’m driving in the car, I turn Sirius radio to either ’60s on 6 or ’70s on 7, and sing along at the top of my lungs.

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Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Patricia says:

    What an awesome list Suzy! I also grew up listening to my older sibs’ choices, but even before that I was weaned on my mother’s big band sound. I still love that.

    • Suzy says:

      I realize now that I didn’t even include musical theatre or Tom Lehrer, both of which were huge in my family when I was young. I still know all the words to most Broadway tunes of the 50s and 60s, and everything by Tom Lehrer.

      • John Zussman says:

        Your mere mention of Tom Lehrer brings back all those songs that so many of us were addicted to. I can even do a decent “Lobachevsky”—but if you really know ALL the words, I could use some coaching on the Russian.

        • Suzy says:

          If I have time this week, I’m planning to write another story about my love of musical theatre and Tom Lehrer. If the coaching you want is on the part where he supposedly quotes the reviews in Pravda and Izvestia (before saying “It stinks”), I don’t know it, but you can get it phonetically at https://genius.com/3135634.

  2. John Zussman says:

    Your journey through pop, rock, folk, and protest music rings true because it’s quite parallel to my own. I’m impressed that you danced to the Lovin’ Spoonful! The closest I can come is when the Pixies Three performed at one of my junior high school dances, just after their song “442 Glenwood Avenue” hit the charts. I still remember some of their choreography.

    Hats off to Phil Ochs for turning you down. There but for fortune, right?

  3. Right on, Suzy! No Sue fer U ;-). Such a wonderful speedthru of our fortunate musical legacy. Love you being honored, then taunted by the Everly Bros wake-up call. You made your 11-year-old arrival among 13-year-olds sound (as I’m sure it was) like the Clash of the Titans. Horrible memories! And your personal encounters were the best — Lovin’ Spoonful, the Phil Ochs story, Bonnie Raitt…

  4. Kit says:

    Such a wonderfully written account. I must say I’m impressed that you remember so much! I’m jealous that you had songs written about you (sort of). I always wished I’d find my name in a song, but if you have an unusual name, that’s generally not possible. (I also could never find my name on those little license plates they made for bikes.)

    • Suzy says:

      If you had gone with the conventional nickname for Katherine, you would have had Kathy’s Clown, but that’s not such a great song, and Kit suits you better. Sorry about the little license plates, but I couldn’t find ones with my spelling, it was always Susie.

  5. Jan Harris says:

    Turns out our musical taste at that age (in fact, right now) was surprisingly similar. I was also attached to Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, the BeeGees, and The Who (especially Tommy).. A peculiarity of mine—in which I seem to be utterly alone—was that I did not like listening to Janis Joplin (with or without Big Brother and the Holding Company) because I was so horrified by the damage she’d apparently done to her voice. I was a folksinger who periodically suffered from intense laryngitis and felt like I was listening to a threatening fate when I heard her sing.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jan. Nice to see you on Retrospect! Rereading my story, I am shocked to see that I did not mention Ian and Sylvia. I listened to their records constantly in high school and learned all of Sylvia’s harmonies. I remember being distraught when they got divorced.

      You’re right about Janis’ voice, of course, but I still loved her, and actually tried to imitate her on Piece o’ My Heart and Bobby McGee.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Suzy — Your list is the very essence of what Retrospect is about! You somehow named just about every group or solo performer from our shared youth — misspent or otherwise — that resonated with me as well. (Of course, more than a few of these we heard at the exact same time, so that is not entirely surprising.) Indeed, your story is like one of those PBS oldies specials — typically aired during fundraising season, with excruciatingly long breaks for pitches — but concentrated into one terrific, evocative story. So thank you so much for that! And, I am proud to say, my daughters non-coercively concede that “our” music is better than theirs (though we both claim Tom Petty).

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