PE 1963

The oldest Boomers become high school students and flock to the beach. Trouble ninety miles off the shore as Dylan sings, The Times They Are A-changing. America’s greatest salesman (TV) is suddenly struck dumb. (“Don’t you know) It’s the End of the World (it ended when I lost you”) is the Top Forty number one hit for seven straight weeks (just before the death of JFK!)

1963: The Doctors and General Hospital

 How did we miss the obvious media reflections and not recognize the detour sign in the road dead ahead? Network schedulers brazenly predicted catastrophe: Breaking Point followed The Outer Limits. New soap opera titles, optimistic since JFK took office, suddenly hinted where fate would soon take us: to General Hospital with The Doctors. Even the pop charts supplied us with easy clues as of the impending pain. (Don’t you know it’s) The End of the World? (It ended when I lost you.) topped the charts for seven straight weeks in 1963 and Can’t Get Used to Losing You climbed to #7.

Other thoughts preoccupied young Boomer boys at the time, and the Beach Boys hung ten on those brain waves. Where did kids want to be? Surfing USA. And whom did they want to be there with? Surfer Girl. And how did they want to get there? In a Little Deuce Coupe. The oldest group of Boomers would be seniors in the fall of 1963, and from this point every high school in America was totally ours for the next eighteen years. The Beach Boys urged kids to Be True to Your School. Surfing, girls in bikinis, fast cars and no more War Babies to kick us around. Cool.

Teen Heaven was located just a few miles west of Hollywood, and the camera crews rushed west on Sunset Boulevard to record the scene for posterity. Beach Party swept in as the first wave in a flood of endless summer, celluloid silliness, with eternal virgins like Frankie Avalon and ex-Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello.

But summer isn’t really endless, and pioneer Boomers graduated from high school. Now what? A job? College? The Army? Boomers experienced a reality check, and for the first time in their young lives, fun alone fell short. Could there be more to life?

Folk music predates the record industry. On occasion the sound paid brief visits to the pop charts (i.e. Tom Dooley by the Kingston Trio in 1958). Peter, Paul and Mary released Puff the Magic Dragon in 1963, a coming-of-age story of a boy outgrowing his imaginary playmate. (Parents later charged that Puff symbolized marijuana smoke.) Younger Boomers loved Puff and bought the album for the story of the lovable Dragon. First Wavers related to Little Jackie in the song, because they, too, teetered on the edge of adulthood, and they picked up the LP as well. War Babies added the album to their Folk collection because they still owned the genre (at this point). Together we heard Peter, Paul and Mary’s cover version of Blowing in the Wind. The single became the first real protest song to ever make AM Top 40. P, P & M and Joan Baez invited the 22-year-old Bob Dylan onto stage at the Newport Folk Festival in July to join them in singing his composition. Dylan instantly became a major force in the Folk scene.

Dylan was the first official spokesman for the Boomer generation. With biting wit and youthful impatience, Bob lashed out at the social injustices of the adult world of which Boomers were about to enter. In 1963, Dylan protested against war in Masters of War, With God on Our Side and A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, and against racial hatred in The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. Bob even provided us with our first (of many) Boomer Anthem, The Times They Are A-Changin’:

“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land

And don’t criticize what you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command

Your old road is rapidly aging

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changing.”

Remember the War Baby Anthem, penned by Chuck Berry, back in the Dark Ages: “Hail, hail, Rock & Roll/ Deliver me from days of old”? Teens wanted no part of the adult world with their stupid rules in the ‘50s. Dylan’s message in the Boomer Anthem of 1963 warned, “Look out, Mom and Pop, because we’re going to change your outdated rules.” Did Bob boast with the arrogance of youth, or was he responding to JFK’s “…ask what you can do for your country”?


Always ready to cash in on a hot fad, television jumped on the Folk bandwagon with Hootenanny. Would this new music show bring social protest to network television? Well, with certain restrictions… they didn’t allow songs protesting politics, religion, discrimination, war, class struggle, urban decay or any sponsor’s products. Acne and Communists were fair game. Hootenanny upheld McCarthy’s old blacklist of artists which banned most of the giants of Folk, such as Pete Seegar and the Weavers. The new generation of Folk superstars, including Dylan and Baez, boycotted in response. Thus, the only protest associated with Hootenanny during its brief existence focused on the policies of the show. The program did, however, inspire many Boomers to turn off their TVs in disgust, and go in search of authentic Folk music, which in turn began their habit of buying albums, rather than 45s. (Peter, Paul and Mary had the number two and three selling LPs for 1963.)

The public (and JFK) loved James Bond, and the tube offered us Espionage. Even the title of the new quiz show for the season had a spy flavor to it, in Password.

We soared back into the Space Race in 1962 when John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. The event received a tremendous amount of television coverage and Kennedy promised to take us higher. NASA launched “Telstar 1,” the first communications satellite, and that brought up an interesting question: “Who or what would we be communicating with?” Television responded quickly with an answer… My Favorite Martian. This alien crash-landed on Earth, took the clever alias of “Uncle Martin” and moved in with a newspaper reporter, who, of course, agreed to cover up the biggest news story of the millennium.

Another friendly alien invaded our shores on The Patty Duke Show. The Scottish, look-alike cousin of an American Boomer moved in and Patty’s family couldn’t tell them apart. The girls discovered that teenagers (Boomers) from opposite sides of theAtlantic had more in common with each other than they did with own parents or War Baby siblings. Cathy landed several months prior to the British Invasion in Rock & Roll… one could say that she spearheaded the attack.

What inspired ABC to import teens from Europe? Didn’t we have more than enough of our own? Mr. Novak certainly thought so… his high school on NBC overflowed with problem Boomers. (This program is sometimes confused with another new show on the same network in 1963: Wild Kingdom.) Unlike Our Miss Brooks and Mr. Peepers back in the ‘50s, poor Mr. Novak wasn’t having much fun.

The Fugitive was one of the classic Boomer favorites from the ‘60s. The police wrongly accused Dr. Richard Kimble of murdering his wife, and then society forced the innocent victim to flee in search of the real killer, the one-armed man. Lt. Philip Gerard pursued him relentlessly for years on end, and Kimble must have thought, “What did I do to deserve this, Lord?” Millions of Boomer boys felt the same way as they registered for the draft on their eighteenth birthday the following year.


The great personal tragedy that drastically altered Richard Kimble’s life struck on September 17, 1963. Barely two months later (on Friday, November 22nd) all of America received an even more devastating blow. As fate would have it, an emotional Walter Cronkite interrupted the soap opera As the World Turns to announce that the President had been shot. 
For four painful days our world stopped turning, as regular TV programs (and  commercials!) stood aside for breaking news and special reports. Most Americans hurried to a TV and camped out for the duration. We were stunned. How could this happen? Kennedy was so young and strong, so full of life. At first, Americans felt that television owed them a normal happy ending. Anything less than JFK’s full recovery just wouldn’t make sense. We waited. The usual half-hour passed, and we received no news. “Maybe this is a special, one hour pilot,” we thought. We continued to wait… but still no news, and no happy conclusion. This scraped right across the grain of many years of careful brainwashing/ conditioning by the networks. “At least give us some damn commercials as a relief from all this tension.”

For nearly two decades (and the entire lifetime of all Baby Boomers) television had provided Americawith a dependable escape from reality… entertaining, relaxing, reassuring, and never dwelling on unpleasant subjects or challenging the viewer to think. If we didn’t like the program, we simply changed the channel… until now. Every station carried painful updates, and finally the news broke that Kennedy was dead. Television had betrayed us! We had been cheated out of a happy ending. There was no a moral to this story, and the dream machine still gripped us by the throat and wouldn’t let go. The tragedy continued as bits of information and nightmare images came pouring in: the casket, containing the body of JFK, lifted aboard Air Force One, and minutes later, LBJ takes the Presidential oath, as the plane readies for takeoff. A stunned Jackie stands by Lyndon’s side, her raspberry pink outfit splattered with John’s blood. Every few minutes, photographs of the assassination filled the screen, and we relived those fatal few seconds a thousand times. Police trapped and arrested Lee Harvey Oswald in a Dallasmovie theatre (the marquee read: To Hell and Back), and soon, TV revealed every last detail of Oswald’s life, except the one we desperately needed to know… why?

Jackie, the model of eloquence and elegance for modern American women, hadn’t changed from her blood-splattered clothes as Bobby met her at Andrews Air Force Base. The TV cameras followed the two, as they accompanied the casket toBethesdaNavalHospital, and then to the White House. Most viewers thought, “Why don’t they leave the poor woman alone?” And yet we all watched with morbid fascination.

The worst was yet to come. The most shocking live coverage in television history burned right through our eyeballs, and branded a permanent image deep in our brains. Millions of Americans watched as NBC cut to the transfer of Oswald to another jail. Plain-clothes officers ushered him through a crowd of about seventy uniformed policemen, when Jack Ruby, a striptease-joint owner, elbowed his way up to Lee Harvey, and shot him in the liver with a .38 revolver. Through the miracle of television, it is quite possible that more people had witnessed this one vicious, cold-blooded murder than had observed all of the prior assassinations in the history of Mankind. For two long days and nights, we pieced together all the information, and tried to make some sense out of this tragedy. Instead of providing an answer, TV offered a live demonstration on how to commit murder. With Oswald, died our last hope of ever understanding the death of JFK.

The average American has absorbed thousands of celluloid killings on the tube, but in each story the bad guy had some sort of warped motive (usually one of the seven deadly sins), and the audience learned a moral lesson from his fatal mistake. What was Ruby’s motive and what did we learn from Oswald’s death? That violence begets violence? That no American is ever really safe, even standing amid an army of policemen? Or, did we finally realize that tragedy, in real life, doesn’t discriminate between good guys and bad guys, and seldom sticks around to offer a moral or an explanation?

That same day… Sunday, November 24th, we watched Jackie and daughter, Caroline, standing by JFK’s flag-draped casket at the White House. No one among friends and staff had the courage to tell the Kennedy children about the death of their father until several hours after the tragedy. Who could tell them why?

On Monday,America observed a long, slow funeral procession from the White House to Arlington National Cemetery. Jacqueline explained the JFK would be buried there, rather than the family plot in Massachusetts because, “John belongs to the country.” Indeed, the young politician had always been a welcome guest in our homes (via TV), more so than any president before or since.

Kennedy’s funeral served as the culmination of the most tragic series of events ever covered by television, and the most unbearable for Americans to watch. We felt as if we had been locked up in a dark dungeon for four days, and then beaten, tortured and brainwashed for no apparent reason. Our captors forced us to watch the same nightmare images over and over again: amateur Super-8 footage of the assassination, blown up, slowed down, and examined frame-by-frame. Ironically, police found the murder weapon among the history texts at the Texas Book Depository. We witnessed Jackie, stunned and splattered with Jack’s blood, standing next to LBJ as he took the oath, and live snuff footage on NBC. And finally, the entire country cried and prayed for the Kennedy children (no President has ever shown such open affection for his kids)… especially when Little John performed a goodbye salute to his father.

We Boomers, and America, lost our innocence in those four days. From that point onward, the most important piece of personal trivia for every First Wave Boomer is not your sign, or how you lost your virginity, but instead, “Where were you when you heard that Kennedy had been shot?”

For the first and only time in its glorious career, America’s greatest salesman hadn’t made a single pitch for nearly four straight days. Finally on Monday night, a few stations returned to their regularly scheduled programs. It seemed like an eternity since escapism had been offered and America jumped at the opportunity. The intro of the first program on ABC (Outer Limits) assured us that “There is nothing wrong with your TV set. We are controlling transmission… we will control all that you see, and hear (and think)…”

PE 1964

Amateur 8mm film of JFK’s assassination…repeated over and over…gave American a taste for violence. Slo-mo and instant replay debut on TV sports. First Wave Boomers graduate high school and the Baby Boom ends exactly nine months after JFK died. A non-incident at the Gulf of Tonkin…the draft…TV’s campaign to sell war…The Beatles assassinate Brill Building Pop, Wall of Sound, Teen Idols and Folk with one appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show…GI Joe (the hottest new Boomer boy toy) debuts in time for Xmas.

1964: Another WorldPeyton Place and The Young Married

Have you ever attended a good old-fashioned Irish wake? The strange event usually takes place in two, large adjoining rooms. One setting provides a dimly lit, tranquil area where friends and family can view the body of their loved one and grieve his or her passing. The other room hosts a wild, drunken party, where everyone tells happy stories of crazy times spent with the dearly departed between toasts. But watch friends and family pass from one room to the next and you will notice some people laughing, others crying, and a few displaying both emotions simultaneously.

America held a wake for Kennedy in 1964…a year of extremely complex feelings…of giddy laughter and dark fears, of absurd escapist fantasy and harsh reality, of the beautiful and the grotesque. Opposites converged and crossed over.

The American public acquired a morbid fascination for violence and pain from the repeated viewings of the Kennedy and Oswald murders, and the TV networks catered to this new taste with new technology. Instant replay, in slow motion, offered audiences a chance to fully appreciate the exact point of violent contact. “Watch closely…the injury occurred right there. What a hit! I didn’t know a human body could bounce that high. Let’s look at that again.” The ratings and advertising fees shot sky high, as sports fans stayed away from stadiums to watch bone-crushing tackles, baseball beanings and flaming race car crashes in slo-mo on TV. CBS became so excited about their new success that they bought the New York Yankees. TV sports had come of age, and corporations, rather than families (thanks to the agony of defeat in slo-mo) eventually owned all professional sports teams in America.

The Baby Boom ended exactly nine months after the assassination of JFK, but it would be too simple to point to that terrible shock as the only reason for a sharp decline in the birth rate. The current senior class, by far the largest in history, graduated from high school in 1964. The head of the pig, completely undigested and full of life, suddenly emerged from the other end of the python, blinking at the harsh light of reality. The adult world was neither prepared nor pleased with this new arrival. How could it possibly absorb such a large number of high school graduates into mainstream America? Not enough jobs or housing for all these kids. Many of them scheduled June weddings with their high school sweethearts, and then planned to pop out a few kids of their own. The senior class of 1965 would be even bigger, and the class of ‘66 larger yet. Kids have a nasty habit of growing up.

The Beach Boys wondered, “Well, I’m young and free/ But how will it be/ When I grow up to be a man?” Jan and Dean predicted a collision in Teen Utopia at Dead Man’s Curve. The tide went out for surfer movies with Horror of Party Beach, (one of the worst films ever in either genre.)

Teens couldn’t find permanent and/or summer jobs, especially in the inner city where the unemployment rate was already staggering. Black Boomers were Dancing in the Streets amid a Heat Wave in 1964. Might as well. Ain’t no work around.

Many of the teens from the pioneer Boomer class headed for college in the fall. Their group was 20% larger than the previous year’s, and they found themselves waiting in long lines, trying to get into overcrowded classes. The vast freshman army forced many colleges to install computers to handle the registration load. Boomer students wore T-shirts that read, “Do not fold, spindle or mutilate… I am a human being.”


Game show titles can be just as obvious in reflecting the mood of a time period as those of soap operas. The new titles for 1964 were Jeopardy and Let’s Make a Deal. TV cancelled The Price is Right.

Two popular new family sit-coms showed us that America’s most cherished institution had suddenly turned sour. The Munsters and The Addams Family presented two grotesque clans, completely out of synch with their environment. Although these family units had the best of intentions in their own demented way, outsiders saw them only as a menace. Visually, this year, families were ugly, and motherhood was unnatural. In addition to Lily Munster and Morticia Addams, Samantha (Bewitched) appeared as the only other new housewife/ mother on the tube in 1964. The world’s second oldest profession for females was about to experience massive downsizing. America now considered the role of stay-at-home-Mom a macabre fantasy. Those without supernatural powers need not apply. Even the most voluptuous new “woman” on the tube in 1964 turned out to be physically incapable of adding to the overpopulation problem. Julie Newmar, literally cast as My Living Doll, played a robot to whom pregnancy did not compute. As with most other professions in 1964, Boomer girls found little encouragement and few openings in the field of motherhood.

Why do women want to have babies anyway? The networks concluded that females were just looking for an excuse to stay home and watch the soaps, and thus made it easy for young Boomer girls during the transition to day jobs and/or college by offering a primetime soap opera. Peyton Place, the spiciest tube trash of its time, with sexy Mia Farrow and Ryan O’Neal, played two nights a week in TV’s patriotic effort to suppress the cravings for daytime soaps in young, potential mothers.

How did Americans really feel in 1964? Check the media reflections: World Without Love, Don’t Let the Rain Come Down and Suspicion placed high on the charts. The Drifters, Up on the Roof in 1962, now hid Under the Boardwalk. Harris Against the World and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea premiered on TV, and the titles warned of paranoia and depression in the year to come. Boomer kids really related to the characters on Gilligan’s Island… trapped, isolated, helpless and lonely, while The Fugitive (“What did I do to deserve this?”) continued to soar in the ratings.

Did anyone notice at the time, that our laughter was strained and mixed with tears? The media offered comedies on topics that never seemed funny before: castaways stranded on a remote island, a stumbling blind man (The Adventures of Mr. Magoo), monsters, witches, robots, Martians, spies and counterspies (Man From U.N.C.L.E.).

The movie industry must always find a way to top the tube, and in 1964 offered the hilarious subject of world destruction in Dr. Stranglove; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Fail Safe. The plot of both films involved the accidental bombing of, and retaliation by Russia (inspired by the Cuban Missile Crisis). Each film boasted excellent directors (Kubric and Lumet, respectively), writing and acting, and yet, Strangelove became a Boomer classic while the second film faded from memory. Fail Safe was too damn serious for the time. When the President (Henry Fonda) agreed to sacrifice New York City, as an eye for an eye, he forced Americans to consider the severity of the game that we played with the Russians. Kubric, hip to the times, decided to turn a serious novel, Red Alert, into a black comedy. The audience began laughing during the opening credits, as a B-52 bomber refueled in midair. The planes looked like two giant insects humping as Try a Little Tenderness played in the background. Kubric allowed us to laugh at our pain, and one our greatest fears… the bomb. We felt relief, rather than the anxiety on top of fear that we got from watching Fail Safe.

LBJ’s TV ad campaign people also recognized the mood of the country in planning his bid for reelection. Instead of giving Lyndon a positive image, they attached one negative reflection to Goldwater. Barry ran on a “no-nonsense” platform. His policy on Vietnam, for instance: “Let’s get in there and win the damn thing and then get the hell out.” In the most effective, and perhaps, the most misleading political campaign spot in the history of television, LBJ’s ad showed a little girl picking petals off a daisy, completely unaware of the violent mushroom cloud erupting behind her. The public made an instant connection between Barry and the bomb. Many Americans were fooled into thinking that if Goldwater became President he would waste no time in dropping the big one on Hanoi, and then Russia would retaliate and drop one on us. That fear magnified as the People’s Republic of China exploded its first atomic bomb just three weeks before the election. Meanwhile, Lyndon quietly used the Gulf of Tonkin incident (or non-incident, as we now know) to force Congress to give him carte blanche in Vietnam. Goldwater promised to abolish the draft during the campaign, and Johnson insinuated that he might do the same, but once the election was out of the way, LBJ moved in another direction. LBJ quickly went to work with Selective Service Director Hershey on a plan to speed up the classification of 18-year-olds (pioneer Boomers). The average draft age at the time was 23. A year later, the most popular joke among Republicans was: “My friends warned me that if I voted for Goldwater, we would be at war within a year. They were right; I did, and we are.”

Television embarked on the greatest sales campaign of all time, in an effort to sell patriotism. As usual, Boomers were the targets of the pitch. The networks pushed the “glory of war” concept with 12 O’Clock High, Combat, World War I and The Lieutenant, and tried to sell “War is fun” with Gomer Pyle, USMC, Broadside, No Time for Sergeants and McHale’s Navy.


Boomers wanted fun all right, but war wasn’t quite what they had in mind. They did, however, find something more to their liking. Our poor parents. Just when they thought that it was safe to turn on the radio… The dreaded din of Rock & Roll returned!

Everything seemed bland and lifeless on Top 40 radio after Kennedy split from the scene. Those four intense media days were a hard act to follow. Boomers wanted something new, exciting and fun, and station managers desperately searched everywhere for a different sound. They noticed faint rumblings from one group, far away across the Atlantic, whose joyful noise dominated the British charts for all of 1963, but remained virtually unknown in the USA. Capitol Records had recently rejected the band: “You just don’t have the new American sound, boys.” (Thank God for that.) Now, a few weeks later, radio stations scrambled to smuggle in some 45s of the Fab Four. The Beatles had just the right sound at the right time, loud, a real backbeat, and pure fun.

Capitol rushed to get legitimate copies pressed and into the stores. The single, I Want to Hold Your Hand finally became available in January of 1964, and by Feb. 1st, topped the charts in America. The Beatles made their first of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, which turned out to be the highest rated episode in the show’s history. Crime inNew York City stopped dead in its tracks for twenty minutes. Boomer girls went nuts and fell hopelessly in love. Boomer boys dug the beat, but laughed at those silly haircuts. After a couple of weeks, the girls continued to scream and the boys grew long hair and bought electric guitars.

In the Beatles’ first hit 45 in America, “the middle eight” (bars), as they called the break, contained the line, “It’s such a feeling that, My Love, I get high, I get high.” By 1964, Dr. Timothy Leary had already published the formula for lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters tripped across Americain a psychedelic bus, but very few Boomers ever used the expression “get high.” That would soon change. The “B” side, I Saw Her Standing There began: “Well, she was just seventeen…” Then, “she” was a Baby Boomer. The Beatles sang to, for, and about Boomers their entire career, because we were (and still are) the market.

The Beatles ruled the charts by April 1st, claiming the top five positions with several other Lennon/McCartney tunes on the way up. Parents prayed that those Liverpoolboys would fade away, or at least be deported, but instead, the Beatles became legitimate in August, as their film, A Hard Day’s Night opened to critical, as well as popular good favor. Many skeptics had to at last admit that the boys possessed a bit of talent, and were fun to watch… much more than a fad… Just ask the casualties:

Bam! The Beatles shot down the Beach Boys and the Suburban Myth. Boomers grew tired of “driving up and down that same old strip,” and now, they turned to a group who could harmonize with a real beat.

Bam! They shot down Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound. Boomers suddenly realized that the “wall” separated us from the backbeat. These four guys, a la Buddy Holly, made more and better sound than Phil and a whole studio full of musicians…so much for Spector’s bigger-is-better concept of Rock & Roll.

Bam! They shot down the Brill Building hit factory. Lennon/McCartney wrote most of their songs, and assembly-line music sounded shallow and dull by comparison. Boomers realized that artists should create their own authentic sound.

Bam! They shot down Dick Clark and the world of American Teen Idols. The Fab Four had the look and talent, the latter quality honed in marathon gigs in Hamburg, Germany (8 hours a night/ 7 night a week). The boys knew how to play, and Boomer teens approached an age when they could appreciate musical skill. The worst local garage bands began to sound better than the phonies on Bandstand.

Bam! Folk Music took a direct hit. Too serious. Boomers weren’t in the mood.

The Beatles had that certain something, just like Elvis in his day… But what was “it” exactly? The Black Magic of a Rhythm & Blues backbeat, performed by poor working-class Caucasian boys. As children, Boomers didn’t remember the First Golden Age of R & R, before Rock was suppressed in theUnited States. But the beat continued inBritain; in fact it flourished and developed during our awful Teen Idol and Beach Party eras. Who knows howAmericawould have reacted to the Beatles had Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, little Richard and Elvis been allowed to keep on rocking? The sound (with backbeat) was new to Boomer ears and they loved it… exciting, invigorating, rebellious, loud, outrageous and, most of all, fun… just when fun had been designated to the endangered species list. The Beatles brought it all back home to theUSA, right where it belonged.

The one sad note, barely audible during the Beatles’ meteoric Top 40 takeover during the summer of ‘64, was heard as the last dinosaur of the First Golden Age received a fatal blow. It almost seemed as if the American government blamed poor Alan Freed for the resurrection of Rock & Roll. After all, the noise went away the last time they knocked him down (during the payola hearings). It was only logical that they hit him again; this time with the IRS acting as executioner.

But the cacophony continued, and the Beatles proved to be only a vanguard of an overwhelming British Invasion: the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Animals, the Zombies, the Dave Clark Five, the Swinging Blue Jeans (with Hippy, Hippy Shake), Manfred Mann (Do Wah Ditty Ditty) and countless others.

Parents complained about the dissonance and the constant, pounding R & R beat, just as they had in the ‘50s. TV didn’t listen to their whining. The networks were too busy converting pounds into dollars. They cancelled Folk wannabe, Hootenanny and launched Shindig, featuring all the hot new British groups, plus American regulars, the Righteous Brothers, and “Shindogs” Leon Russell, Delaney Bramlett and Billy Preston.

Another important battalion of the British invasion of ‘64 received much less attention. That Was the Week That Was (or TW3) with David Frost became the first primetime program to include biting political satire on a regular basis. That same fall, Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement began, just as the first Baby Boomers arrived on the college scene. Teens felt rebellious, and undoubtedly the flames had been fanned by the return of Rock & Roll. The reflection soon glowed on the silver screen, as “underground cinema” finally found a market. Boomers loved Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, which included a clip from Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings (1927) showing Jesus riding an ass, while the soundtrack blared the Crystal’s He’s A Rebel. Could it be that society actually needs a rebel or two from time to time?

In what could have been just another get-us-to-the-show schlock rocker, Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night came as quite a shock to Boomers. They grew up listening to teen idols answer, “Yes, Sir, Mr. Clark” on Bandstand, but now they heard snappy comebacks from the Beatles: An Old Man scolds, “Don’t take that tone of voice with me, Young Man. I fought the War for your lot.” Ringo answers, “I’ll bet you’re sorry you won”…A interviewer asks, “Are you a Mod or a Rocker?” Ringo answers, “I’m a mocker.”

Those sassy Brit boys tested the limits of American AM radio. Did Mick Jagger really sing “half-assed games” in It’s All Over Now? Turn it up!


Teenagers were getting uppity again. How would the Powers-That-Be handle the situation this time? By the end of the year, the public received a few reflections that should have given them a clue. Bob Hope entertained happy troops in Vietnamon his Christmas Special, and Santa left an amazing new toy for younger Boomer boys under the tree… GI Joe and all his Friendly Fire Accessories. Joe (like Barbie) appeared as a realistic, grown-up doll, except for the absence of reproductive gear. But Joe’s huge guns dwarfed Wyatt Earp’s, so he, unlike Babs, found a release for his sexual frustrations. With Barbie as a role model for little girls, and GI Joe for little boys, it’s amazing that the Baby Boomer Generation turned out as well as it did.

Kennedy’s New Frontier faded away. Fess Parker returned to the old frontier, this time as Daniel Boone. Ronald Reagan also returned to the tube, as a replacement for the Old Ranger on Death Valley Days. Welcome back to the Great (“Gee, I really wish that it could be once again”) Society of LBJ.

Bonus: “Let’s Make a Deal” debuted on December 30, 1964.