No. 56, Fifty-Six Years Ago

We’re heading into 1963 territory this morning, to the summer between fourth and fifth grade. It was a time when I was still getting used to wearing glasses (and the photographic evidence in the boxes of Dad’s slides shows that I didn’t always wear them, which I don’t recall).

By the time August rolled around, any summer school program I was in had ended; I’m sure I was in one that summer, but I have no memory of it. Earlier summers found me at the Campus Lab School on the St. Cloud State campus, 1964 would find me in an enriched program at Washington Elementary with students from across the city, most of whom I’d know in high school; and summer programs after that would take me to South Junior High and to Tech High School.

But 1963? I don’t remember, which is odd (and a bit disconcerting). And I have a sense that when I look at the music of 1963 – the last summer pre-Beatles in the U.S. – I’ll know the records but not remember many of them from that summer. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the first week in August 1963:

“So Much In Love” by the Tymes
“Fingertips (Part 2)” by Little Stevie Wonder
“Surf City” Jan & Dean
“(You’re The) Devil In Disguise” by Elvis Presley
“Wipe Out” by the Surfaris
“Blowin’ In The Wind” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Easier Said Than Done” by the Essex
“Judy’s Turn To Cry” by Lesley Gore
“Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” by Rolf Harris
“Just One Look” by Doris Troy

I don’t think we had any of those records in the house although I do remember my sister – three years older than I – picking up Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” earlier that year. I probably still have that copy of the record, as all of the 45s from Kilian Boulevard ended up in two metal carrying cases that are around here somewhere. And I vaguely recall hearing “Judy’s Turn To Cry” somewhere, probably from an older kid’s record player somewhere in the neighborhood.

Beyond that, I know I heard “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” that summer, which is not surprising, as those records were No. 1 and 2, respectively, on what Billboard then called the Middle-Road Singles chart (now called Adult Contemporary) as August began in 1963. (And with only occasional excursions to KDWB by my sister, all radios in our house were tuned to stations that offered records from the Middle-Road Singles chart). And I probably heard “Wipe Out” somewhere, too.

Four of those records are part of my day-to-day listening still, fifty-six years later: “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” “Wipe Out,” and “Just One Look” have places in the iPod. That’s more than I expected when I began digging into things this morning.

But now to the second portion of today’s exercise: What sat at No. 56 during the first week of August 1963?

Well, we get a piece of traditional pop that I do not recognize by its title: “Painted, Tainted Rose” by Al Martino. It was the Philadelphia native’s eighth entry in or near the Hot 100; he’d charted earlier in the year with “I Love You Because,” which went to No. 3 on the Hot 100 and topped the Middle-Road Singles chart for two weeks. “Painted, Tainted Rose didn’t do quite as well, peaking at No. 15 on the Hot 100 and spending two weeks at No. 3 on the Middle-Road Singles chart.

It’s a mournful tune sung from the point of view of a judgmental guy whose gal chose the “party life.”

She was a wild and lovely rose
Oh, how I loved her, heaven knows
But though my heart was true, it would never do
Party life was what she chose

Last night I saw my lovely rose
All painted up in fancy clothes
Her eyes had lost their spark, the years had left their mark
She’s just a painted, tainted rose

But though my heart was true, it would never do
Party life was what she chose

Her eyes had lost their spark, the years had left their mark
She’s just a painted, tainted rose

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