Newsflash: Teenagers confound adults.
In 1966, however, they weren’t just confounding the older generations; they were concerning them, too, because of the largeness of their numbers. According to the unsigned editor’s note in this Newsweek issue, the “17.9 million young Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 loom like a subcontinent within U.S. society. Their numbers exceed the population of Australia and New Zealand, and at times they seem as far-off and hard to reach.” Thus, the magazine’s braintrust decided to delve deep into the world of the modern teen, to learn not just who they were but, as noted newsman Les Nessman might phrase it, what they were plotting.
That tongue-in-cheek reference to the WKRP in Cincinnati reporter serves a purpose. If you watched the show, odds are you remember the shy and sly Bailey Quarters –
Bailey was played by Jan Smithers – who, it just happens, is the 16-year-old girl riding the motorcycle on the cover. Inside, she’s afforded a mini-profile in a section titled “Six Faces of Youth”: “Beneath the Fluoristan smile, Jan worries. ‘Sometimes when I’m sitting in my room I just feel like screaming and pounding my pillow,’ she says. ‘I’m so confused about this whole world and everything that’s happening.’ But she wants to understand why.” She also observes that ‘[w]hen you’re young you might as well take advantage of it. And even if I become old and saggy, I’m still going to be young.”
As a whole, the in-depth investigation of all things teens paints kids as spoiled creatures who subscribe, more or less, to a parentally-approved lifestyle: “In contrast to the troubled minority, most teenagers seem docile indeed. They criticize themselves sternly: drinking, smoking, long hair, hot rods, eye makeup, net stockings, eccentric clothes.”
Anyway, onward to today’s Top 5: March 21, 1966 (via Newsweek).
1) The Beatles – “Nowhere Man.” There, on page 102, is an article titled “Bards of Pop.” In the last three years, we’re told, Beatle bards John Lennon and Paul McCartney “have written 88 songs that have been recorded in 2921 versions and have sold close to 200 million copies.”
“Their latest album of originals, ‘Rubber Soul,’ now fourth on U.S. charts, marks a turning away from the percussive electric backgrounds of rhythm & blues to more intimate settings and subtler forms. Still simple and direct, their lyrics are no longer concerned with handholding, but with desertion, seduction and satire.”
Later, McCartney makes a cogent point: “Our best influences now are ourselves. We are so well established that we can bring fans along with us and stretch the limits of pop.” He also says this: “I wouldn’t mind being a white-haired old man writing songs, but I’d hate to be a white-haired Beatle playing at Empress Stadium.”
Anyway, according to Weekly Top 40, “Nowhere Man” was the No. 4 song of the week – and here they are in Munich performing it:
2) The Temptations – “Get Ready.” There’s also a mini-profile of 15-year-old Tommy Brewer, a black kid from Chicago, in “Six Faces of Youth” section, that follows the peek into Jan’s life. He “travels 6 miles via two buses and an El” to attend Lindblom Technical High School because, unlike his neighborhood school, it has science labs, electronic courses, and woodworking and metalworking shops.” Out of school, he “divides his time between Look and Ebony. He listens to WVON, a Negro rock ’n’ roll station, and his favorite groups are the Temptations and the Miracles…”
“Get Ready” was one of the week’s “power play” songs, having jumped from No. 53 to 42; and here are the Temps, from an appearance on Where the Action Is…
3) The Rolling Stones – “19th Nervous Breakdown.” The piece on the Beatles opens with this line: “How long can Animals, Beatles, Stones, Spoonfuls or Supremes survive in the musical jungle? The cruel laws of pop says they will die commercially before they are 30.”
Perhaps. Perhaps not.
4) The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Daydream.” And about those Spoonfuls…they had the No. 10 single of the week with this cool confection. This clip also features John Sebastian explaining how the song was inspired by the Motown sound…
5) The Supremes – “My World Is Empty Without You.” And speaking of Motown, here’s the No. 30 single of the week…
And one bonus…
6) Stevie Wonder – “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” In the Jan Smithers piece, there’s this: “Most of the action centers on The Trip, a vibrating folk-rock haven…” I googled that club, and found this cool flashback. It was a short-lived venture, but – by looks of the pictures – booked quite a few happenin’ acts, including Stevie.
“Uptight” was the No. 40 single this week, having fallen from No. 13 the week before. Here’s Stevie from Top of the Pops in ’66…
And, for the curious, here are a few more looks inside this edition of Newsweek: