‘We Read In The Papers . . .’

Based on the evidence in my slender collection of 45s, Leo Rau – the vending machine and jukebox jobber who lived across the alley from us when I was a kid – must have given me a box of 45s sometime late in the summer of 1967. He did so every once in a while during the mid-1960s. The records were a mix of pop-rock and country, stuffed into sleeves that rarely matched the record inside (I recall a surplus of Sandy Posey picture sleeves), and – as I’ve noted before – not being a listener to either pop-rock or country radio, I happily used most of the Rau 45s as targets for my BB gun.

Maybe fifteen of the Rau records survived, however. (That’s a guess, and I’m not going to dig through my two hundred or so 45s to get any more accurate). Among them are three that came to mind this morning when I saw them listed in the Billboard Hot 100 released on June 24, 1967, forty-seven years ago today.

I’ve written about Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and its flip side “Lime Street Blues” and I’ve also written about the Fifth Estate’s “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.” But I’ve evidently never mentioned the third record whose title I spotted this morning.

Sammy Davis Jr. was a cool dude, sort of. He ran with the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest – and when the 1960s turned psychedelic, he wore Nehru jackets and medallions and flashed the peace sign and all that. He wasn’t the right age to be able to do that stuff and carry it off, really; he was born in 1925, and he should have come off as the embarrassing dad trying to be hip with his kids. And maybe he did. I’m not sure. But I have a sense that he pulled off the Hollywood/Las Vegas version of hippie chic in a less cringe-worthy manner than did his contemporaries. Whether that’s succeeding or not is likely an open question.

Still, as a member of several minorities – asked on a golf course one day what his handicap was, Davis famously replied, “Handicap? Talk about handicap! I’m a one-eyed Negro Jew!” – Davis seemed to get the Sixties a great deal more than did his Rat Pack pals. I say “seemed to” because that’s the way it felt at the time. And I suppose it felt that way at least a little bit because of my memory of the third record I spotted this morning, Davis’ “Don’t Blame The Children.”

Written by Ivan Reeve and H.B. Barnum, and cradled in a Vegas-worthy production, the spoken word piece with an over-the-top vocal chorus was sitting at No. 38 forty-seven years ago this week and peaked at No. 37. So the kids were listening a little. But Davis’ audience – given the lyric and the production – wasn’t the kids; it was their parents (and other adults). And by the only measure I have at hand this morning, the record failed, not making it into the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at all.

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One Response to “‘We Read In The Papers . . .’”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Using 45s as target practice? Blasphemy!

    Having said that, I would have happily granted a waiver for “Don’t Blame The Children.” God, how I hated hearing that on the radio (although not quite as much as Johnny Sea’s dreadful “Day For Decision” the previous year.)

    That’s a great observation about Davis seeming to “get” the sixties. His ‘fro fit right in on ‘Laugh-In.’

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