1967 was a unique year, in that my own coming of age seemed to parallel that of America in general, and the music industry in particular. It was a time that the American public found that it could flex its collective muscle, and effect social change. There were the “love-in’s” in San Francisco, and there was the recognition that our government was pushing a conflict overseas, that it would not even dignify, by referring to as a war. Instead, Viet Nam was referred to as a “police action,” yet more than 500,000 troops at a time were deployed in this land so far away from home.
There were race riots in Detroit, Michigan; Tampa, Florida; Buffalo, New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, DC, among other cities, even as Justice Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court. Earlier in the year, in February, the minimum wage went from $1.25 to $1.40.
“Somebody to Love” (Jefferson Airplane); “How Can I Be Sure” (Young Rascals); “San Francisco, Wear a Flower in Your Hair” (Scott McKenzie); “I Say a Little Prayer” (Dionne Warwick)
June 1st: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles is released in Mono and Stereo LPs.
I was fourteen that summer, working as a bottle boy for Sunrize Market, and sweeping the parking lot every morning, with my ten-year-old brother, Matt. I was destined to go to work as a box-boy, on September 11th, of that year, exactly one week after my fifteenth birthday, but during that summer, I had a different occupation: I was a painter. I was never officially hired as one; I simply started to paint the family home, sometime in June, partially because I was available, partially because I loved to paint, but mostly because Mama really did not have any other options immediately available. I did three coats on the house, the first one primer white, and the second and third coats, fire-engine red.
“Standing in the Shadow of Love” (Four Tops); “Higher and Higher” (Jackie Wilson); “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” (Jay and the Americans); “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” (Petula Clark); “Reflections”(Supremes)
June 4th: Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream and Procol Harum, among others, performed a two-hour “Sunday Special” at the Seville Theatre in London.
In the beginning I inquired as to the rate of pay I would receive for this rather daunting task, and was told that as a member of the household, I was expected to do my share of work around the place. To be honest, painting appealed to me more than any of the other job options, among them, picking apricots and removing the seeds; weeding the berry gardens; cleaning-always cleaning; and a myriad of other available chores that Mama could come up with.
I decided to table the discussion as to my rate of pay, until such time as I had a substantial chunk of the job completed, figuring that I would be able to point a finger at my accomplishment, and demand payment. I was making a dollar an hour as a bottle-boy, even though I never told Augie, my boss, the accurate number of hours I had worked, fudging downward instead, and thinking of it as a good investment. It paid off in September, when I was hired on as a box-boy.
“San Franciscan Nights” (Animals); “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” (Peter, Paul and Mary); “Carrie Anne” (Hollies); “Up, Up, and Away” (5th Dimension); “98.6” (Keith); “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield);
“Western Union” (Five Americans);
June 16-18th- The Monterey Pop Festival, the world’s first large scale outdoor rock music festival, is held in Monterey, California. Stars include The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Byrds, The Association, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, with Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix.
I went to work, painting on the driveway side of the house, figuring that as long as I was still enthusiastic about painting, I may as well work where everyone could see me; later, if and when my energy waned, I would be on the back side, and out of the limelight. Always, I was accompanied in my endeavors by a little transistor radio, about three inches wide, by five inches tall, but it was all I needed to keep me plugged into KRLA, my radio station of choice. The music world was changing faster than I could keep track of, and with the Beatles having just released “Sgt. Pepper’s” and with the Doors rocking my world with “Light My Fire,” there was a sense of epic change in the air. Artists like Cream, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, were almost too much to cope with. Later in November, when I first came home with “Disraeli Gears,” I was so full of myself, I thought my head might explode. “Radical,” was the operative word in my house.
“I Think We’re Alone Now” (Tommy James and the Shondells); “Baby I Need Your Loving” (Johnny Rivers); “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” (Frankie Valli); “Never My Love” (Association); “Something Stupid” (Nancy and Frank Sinatra)
July 29th: Motown Records releases “Reflections,” the first single by the group’s new billing, “Diana Ross & The Supremes,” and after firing member Florence Ballard; Ballard, nevertheless, sings on the record and appears on the vinyl’s cover alongside group members Ross and Wilson because the song was recorded before her dismissal.
By now I was sleeping out in the Radio Shack, the low-slung shed, probably twenty by sixteen feet, which we had converted into a bachelors’ quarters, with the high-point being that we had successfully negotiated to have an electrical line put in by Papa, so that we had lights and...music! We even put up fifty bones for a cast-off refrigerator, which was mammoth, and into which I stuffed as much soda as I could afford. Later on, there would be beer, but that is another story. I decorated the walls with the classic portraits of the Beatles, a Grass Roots poster, and other musical icons, along with a picture of Raquel Welch, in “One Million Years, BC,” a 1966 film release, which I had never seen. All I had was the poster from it, but it was a dandy, and one that even Mama never seemed to object to. I guess, in retrospect, it could have been much worse.
“The Rain, the Park, and Other Things” (The Cowsills); “Georgy Girl” (Seekers); “Dedicated to the One I Love” (Mama’s and the Papa’s); “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (Gladys Knight and the Pips);
August 27th: The Beatles, in Bangor, Wales, with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, are informed of the death of their manager, Brian Epstein.
Noel was home for the summer from school, and we used to amble on down to Baldwin School, a half-hour away, to play over-the-line, a baseball game that did not require running the bases. Matt and Tom accompanied us, as did the transistor radio, eternally the bearer of righteous tunes. Though Matt and Tom were only ten and eight years old, respectively, over-the-line was a game that everyone could succeed at, because all the batter had to do was hit the ball past the infielder on the ground to get a base hit. So as we heard the Beatles singing “All You Need is Love,” just released as a single, we figured love, and a little luck, would get a ball into the outfield, and a “runner” on first base.
“Groovin’” (Young Rascals); “Windy” (Association); “Ode to Billy Joe” (Bobbie Gentry) “The Letter” (Boxtops); “To Sir With Love” (Lulu); “I’m A Believer” (Monkees); “Light My Fire” (Jim Morrison & The Doors
September 17th: The Doors appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and perform “Light My Fire.” Despite having agreed the the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” be changed for the show. Jim Morrison performs it the way it was written and The Doors are banned from the show.
So I carried on with the project, all summer, reveling in the painting on the back side of the house, because the poplar trees, which had been planted after the storm drain was put in, provided much-needed shade, to help get through those blisteringly hot, Southern California days.
When the job was completed, and I went back to the negotiating table with Mama, I realized that I had underestimated her resolve, not to defray the cost of the job, the way I felt was appropriate. Either that, or-more likely-there simply wasn’t any money to spare. So I settled for the five dollars that had been offered to me, figuring it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
It would take until I was in college, at nearby Cal Poly, Pomona, before I was able to talk Mama into upping my income to a third of what I brought home from Sunrize Market. I remember recognizing that I did, indeed, have a responsibility to help out with the maintenance of the household, but that didn’t prevent me from dragging my feet over the terms.
In the end, the five dollars that I received, was only a fraction of what the job should have paid, but then again, I also had a summer of listening to the best musical era of my generation, and probably that of any other generation. And that was worth a lot more than five bucks.
“ I Second That Emotion” (Smokey Robinson & Miracles); “Whiter Shade of Pale” (Procol Harum); “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends” (Beatles) “Happy Together” (Turtles); “Daydream Believer” (Monkees)