So, I’m sitting here flirting with my friends on Facebook, when up pops a link from my pal Kimberly Mack, asking me to watch the “Gym Mambo” segment of Wests Side Story on Youtube. Oh yeah, give me a good film clip, and I’m good to go!
I fire up the feed from ’61 with all its dancing and musical splendor, and soon I recall many of the great tunes we enjoyed while dancing in our Studio City living room on Pacoima Court.
Being blessed with four teen-age siblings, Teresa and I were privy to all sorts of great music from the '50s and early '60s played on our little turntable, with those saucer-sized 45s. Remember that plastic gizmo that fit in the center of the record? With a click of a lever, the disc would drop down. We'd plant the needle into the groove, and soon, we'd wail away to the song that played.
One of our favorite games was playing Name That Tune in the afternoons; our own version of that famous TV show which premiered on NBC radio in 1952 before it ran from 1953 to 1959 on NBC and CBS.
In true TV form, my sister Lynn would select a 45, and soon, the pops and clicks would unleash into a mega sound of a musical hit.
She’d only play a few seconds of the song, before we’d both race to her side, screaming out the title of the hit. We’d play for points, and before too long, there was a winner.
Then we’d rotate, and somebody else would DJ. This went on for hours. I don’t know where my brothers were at that time. They were probably setting off firecrackers on Ventura Blvd., stealing cars, or smoking, but Teresa, Lynn and I were mesmerized into the seductive hits of the time.
I remember so many of the artists that were popular during the late '50s and '60s like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Drifters and Billy Haley & the Comets. One of Lynn’s favorites was “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis, one of her favorite heartthrobs. She would go into a frenzy whenever any of his songs played, and like so many teen-aged women, fantasized about him during many waking hours.
I remember “Teddy Bear” also getting its fair share of rotations. To this day, Lynn still knows all the lyrics to most of his songs, although when she sings, it’s a bit like listening to polar bear trying to belt out a mating call.
I remember “Long Tall Sally” made famous by Little Richard. On TV, you could watch him perform with his frenetic pace and seductive gyrations. I’m surprised they didn’t pass out contraception at his concerts.
On the slower side were favorites like “Earth Angel” by the Penguins, “It’s All in the Game“ by Tommy Edwards, and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” by Paul Anka. Lynn played them all, fantasizing about boys she liked, but could not have.
As we got older, both Teresa and I found our own music to enjoy. In 1964, I remember cutting our hair so that we looked like the Beatles. I fancied Paul, and Teresa gravitated toward George. In the living room, we’d lip sync to such tunes as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and other Beatles favorites, our bowl cuts flopping tirelessly to the beat of the music.
Soon, we'd embrace many other types of music, but we'll have to talk about that another time.