My Manse years are now your musical challenge!

I suppose you might be wondering what Elvis Presley singing Suspicious Minds is doing atop today’s post.


People, I have decided that it’s time for me to get you to share a bit about yourselves. Don’t worry, nothing too too personal! Here’s what I want: tell me your favourite song from my growing-up-at-the-Manse years.

That  would be between July 1964 (when my dad and mum pulled into the driveway in their 1956 Chev with four-year-old me, two-year-old Melanie, and infant John in tow, to begin their life in Queensborough) and July 1975, when 15-year-old me wandered forlornly through the newly empty rooms of the Manse for what I thought (erroneously, as it turned out; decades later, I of course found out that you can go home again) was the last time, as our family moved to Campbellford, Ont., and my dad the United Church of Canada minister was about to take up a new pastoral charge.

I got thinking about this musical topic as I was chopping vegetables for a stir-fry for dinner this evening. It had been a long day, I was tired, and I needed something to pep me up, so I hit play on the old iTunes playlist. Man, there was some good music to chop leeks and carrots by! But the best – as it always is – was when Suspicious Minds came on. People, I am not much of an Elvis fan, but I love that song. How can one not? It just instantly takes you back to 1969, and what on earth could be wrong with that?

I am not saying that Suspicious Minds is my all-time favourite song from the 1964-to-1975 Manse era; but it is right up there. It invariably makes me stop whatever I’m doing and dance. I just can’t help myself.

Okay, so it’s your turn: what song from that era makes you have to stop what you’re doing and dance? Or just takes you back to a time and place when you were supremely happy? Or is just simply such a great song that you can’t help but smile every time you hear it?

Send in your picks via the comments, and I will do my best to rustle up entertaining YouTube videos of them to share from time to time. So that as winter 2013/14 sets in – as it seems to be doing in earnest tonight – we can all sit back and hum a few bars.

Or get up and dance.

Oh, and P.S.: You don’t have to pick only one song. Given that 1964 to 1975 was probably the best era there will ever be for popular music, there’s an awful lot of good stuff to pick from. Send a few nominations! Here’s one of my own runner-up choices, a classic. Enjoy!

34 thoughts on “My Manse years are now your musical challenge!

  1. What a great idea Katherine! The one that leaped into my mind first (and that will be first of many) is Hot Town Summer in the City by the Loving Spoonful. Perfect sound for winter in the hamlet!

  2. I recall Spike Jones and his great songs from the 50s. Doug Asselstine, who was an accomplished Belleville musician, who played with the RCAF Band and other groups in more recent years, did a great job on many of them. For example, the one where “the sun pulled away from the shore and the boat sank slowly in the west.” Or the one about the horse race . . . always good for a laugh. Do you remember Spike?

    • Gerry, I have to confess that until I got your comment, my only knowledge of Spike Jones was the reference to him in The Band’s song Up on Cripple Creek. But I looked him up, and what a kook! Amazing performances by him and his City Slickers band. So Doug Asselstine was in that band? Wow!

      That’s a great line about “the sun pulled away from the shore and the boat sank slowly in the west.” From Hawaiian War Chant, it appears. Once again you have broadened my knowledge, Gerry – thank you!

  3. We are not Irish, but we loved Irish music in our house, and played endless repetitions of one LP by Ruby Murray. I used to sing along to Dear Old Donegal and found tonight that I could still remember all the names in the final verse!

  4. I was a fan of the British invasion. I Saw Her Standing There always got this reluctant dancer out on the floor. Can still remember going to Stuart’s department store in Lowell and buying a pair of “Beatle boots,” convinced they would make me a better dancer. Ha!

    • Oh, that’s a good one, my dear. Though I have to admit that I came to know it when it got reissued as a single sometime in the early ’70s (as I recall). The first time around (when you were buying your Beatle boots), I’m afraid I was too young!

  5. What would that period be without this song, one that promised a new age, greater hope and peace? Add to that an ending of jubilation, and it’s no wonder this was such a huge hit. The 5th Dimension, and Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In:

    • Sash, you and I think very much alike! I am pretty sure the (subconscious) genesis for my post and musical challenge was hearing Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In on CJBQ‘s Freddy Vette show one day late last week. As I listened, I thought, “Man! That song just makes a person smile! And it was so hopeful! And wasn’t that a time!”

      Thank you for suggesting it!

      • You’re welcome! I saw the 5th Dimension in concert about a year after this big hit came out (at the CNE, 1970) and I remember how much the crowd loved this song. I saw them again this past summer (although, only one original member is in the group), and the crowd had the same reaction as in the 1970 concert when this song was sung. It still has that “feel good” magic!

  6. Yes, a fab idea, Kitty!

    Anything from Dionne Warwick but this will do:

    as well as the Boxtops The Letter ( Alex Chilton rules although they keep knocking down the vid with him singing but the dancing in this vid is boss. I think I spotted Ray in the audience:

    and of course, David Bowie… Lady Grinning Soul did it for me then:

    • Oh, Kitty, those are great! Dionne Warwick is absolutely divine, especially when she sings Bacharach/David, and that video is amazing: everything about it (including the chairs) screams mid-’60s. And the dancing in The Letter – well, that’s the subject for another whole post. Perfect! Now, I have to admit that Aladdin Sane is not one of the Bowie albums I’m familiar with, and Lady Grinning Soul was quite new to me. But a great song!

      • Dionne and Burt were staples in our car on any trip. My dad was a huge fan and we sang pretty awful backup from the back seat. She’s a staple in beach meadows. As is Burt and Elvis Costello. But that came much later. Lots of fun goin down memory lane, kitty. Thanks for the fun post.

  7. Did The Clash appear at the Grandstand, or at the Bandshell (next to the Grandstand)? The Grandstand was taken down a few years ago, and the BMO soccer field is in its place. So, now the CNE concerts are at the Bandshell. I saw Glen Campbell there a couple of years ago, as part of his Farewell tour (Glen has Alzheimers’ Disease, and he went on a huge “goodbye” tour) — the crowd loved seeing him, and we showed it (especially) when we heard, “I am a lineman for the County …” He had also been at the Grandstand around 1969, and I’ll bet many at the recent show were also at the ’69 show, too.

      • The Grandstand (then known as Exhibition Stadium) was demolished in 1999, and the space was used for parking until the BMO soccer field was built around 2006. Yes, Wichita Lineman … what a lovely song, and I’m sure it was the highlight for many people during Glen’s farewell concert. It’s the one that I specifically wanted to hear. However, Rhinestone Cowboy is the one that got the most applause, with the crowd singing along.

  8. Anyone old enough to remember where they were on Nov. 22, 1963, will remember where they were on Feb. 9, 1964. The first event was my generation’s 9/11, resulting in a winter of Cold War gloom, anxiety and a deep sense of loss. The first glimmer of cheerfulness in its aftermath that I can remember didn’t arrive until 11 weeks later when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. With the 50th anniversary of that historic event looming, I vividly recall the excitement my oldest sister Liz and I felt that night. I also remember how Dad, only 41 at the time, but perhaps alarmed that this was another sign that society was falling apart, tried to tamp down our enthusiasm by predicting that the Beatles would be a two-week phenomenon at best. If only he’d known how wholesome these mop-tops were compared with what would emerge in the following decades (i.e. punk, Ozzy Osbourne, gangsta rap, etc.). Over the years we never let Dad forget his prediction. But the early 1960s coincided with great sibling rivalry in the Withers household, and with my sister so gaga over the Beatles, I needed to latch onto a pop band of my own. The British Invasion soon provided that when the dickie-wearing, foot-stomping Dave Clark Five suddenly challenged the Liverpool lads in popularity. They really did, and their big hits included Do You Love Me and Anyway You Want It. For the purpose of your survey of old favourites, though, I’ll offer I’ll Bits and Pieces, and Glad All Over.

    But as much as I liked the DC5, their popularity soon waned. Unlike the Beatles, they weren’t able to evolve artistically and today the quintet is largely forgotten. But not by me. Their music transports me back to a time when we all needed our spirits lifted.
    My apologies for being so long-winded, but there are so many great songs from 1964-75 that it’s hard to rein myself in. Let me just list two more:
    Early Morning Rain by Gord Lightfoot, who was born in Orillia, near where I grew up, and whom I first became aware of when he appeared on a local talent show on CKVR-TV Barrie with partner Terry Whelan. They called themselves the Two Tones, and I remember how my mother commented on what nice voices they had. I had no idea then how great a singer-songwriter Gord would become. Early Morning Rain captures what it’s like to be melancholy, lonely and broken. You wouldn’t be human if you couldn’t identify with those feelings.

    And my favourite song from 1964-75, or any other time, is Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan. The Byrds, Judy Collins and others have done wonderful cover versions of it, but none compares to Dylan’s original. It’s not really a song to chop veggies to, but in the hundreds of times I’ve listen to it, I’ve never failed to have my mood altered in a positive way. It’s the perfect marriage of bare-bones musical accompaniment and poetry. Dylan’s whimsical, surrealistic imagery has never been more evocative. This is his masterpiece. I don’t really know what the song’s about, and I don’t want to know:
    “Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
    Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
    With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
    Let me forget about today until tomorrow.”

    • Jim, wow, thank you so much for the memories, and the videos, and most especially the music! I love all those songs, and was so happy to be reminded of an old favourite, Glad All Over. And also I was struck by your point about how soon after John F. Kennedy’s assassination the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan was. I had never put those two things together in my mind, but now that you mention it it makes perfect sense that one reason why America went so crazy for the Beatles was that those four brilliant (and happy) moptops offered the opportunity to lift the whole country out of a terrible gloom.

      And as for Mr. Tambourine Man and dancing “beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free” – I could not agree more. Easily one of the best (and most uplifting) song images ever.

      You made my evening with this, Jim!

  9. I don’t mean to monopolize your music survey, Katherine, but I had to include these because, well, I’ve always been a sucker for hurtin’ songs. Especially by these guys. This song, for me, will forever be associated with high-school heartbreak. We’ve all been there. I’ve loved the Bill Withers tune (below) ever since I first heard it when my friend Larry and I went on a Kerouac-like Penetanguishene-Victoria, B.C., road trip in 11 days in 1971. (One day we logged 1,300 klicks.) As for why Withers kept repeating “I know, I know” … I don’t know.

    The following song is the opposite of a hurtin’ song. In fact, it makes me feel all right. It takes me back to weekends in Georgian Bay-Huronia when the above mentioned Larry and two or three other friends and I would drive around town American Graffiti-style looking for “action”, the radio on Larry’s car blaring “G-L-O-R-I-I-I-A” and other rockers. We often ended up at Teen Town, a weekly dance at the Midland Oddfellows hall, where my late father was a member. It always cramped my style when it was my father’s turn to oversee what was happening at Teen Town. This video shows the words, which would have helped me when I was a teenager. I was infamous for mishearing lyrics – and I do mean mishearing them.

    Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman would have to make any list of great music from the 1960s and ’70s. I know this version was recorded in the ’87, but the song was released in 1964, and I couldn’t help including it, what with Roy’s all-star entourage. What a voice! And that intro riff is right up there with the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction (another favourite). I had a classmate in Grade 10 who was a Roy Orbison look-alike. I never heard him sing, but I seriously doubt that he was also a Roy Orbison sound-alike.

    How many folksingers does it take to change a light bulb? Four. One to actually change the bulb and three to sing about how much they miss the old one. … I love rock, blues and jazz, but no music is as likely to move me as folk. Eric Andersen never got to be as famous Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, etc., but I’ve been a devotee of his since I first heard this. Troubadour Eric’s still out there on the road, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing him perform at Montreal’s Club Campus a decade ago.

    • is is absolutely great stuff, with great stories to go with the music, Jim – thank you so much. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling – oh man, that song practically defines the era, doesn’t it? As for Eric Andersen, I know more about him than I know his music, so thank you so much for that video!

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