PE 1962

Camelot and West Side Story (a non-WASP Teen Dream)…Wall of Sound...The Cuban Missile Crisis inspires Bob Dylan.

1962: The Clear Light

“Where Were You in ‘62?” asked the ad copy for George Lucas’ essential celluloid exploration of teenagedom, American Graffiti (1973). The time frame of the film was not a random choice. 1962 will always be remembered as the last full, happy year of optimistic bliss and blind faith in Camelot and the New Frontier. Great problems lay ahead, but the public felt up to any challenge, with JFK at the helm. Millions of Americans read Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage… not the same old infallible history book full of demigods like Washington and Lincoln. Instead, the stories described real, flesh and blood men, many with checkered pasts, but who, in times of great moral conflict, somehow found the courage to stand up for their principles. Many of them lost careers and personal fortunes, but continued fighting until the end. JFK called their actions “grace under pressure,” and more and more Americans recognized that same quality in the author. Situations flared in Berlin,Cuba, Africa and Southeast Asia, but Jack always seemed to rise to the occasion.

Kennedy opened up his new home to the public, and for the first time millions of typical Americans felt like insiders. Jacqueline hosted a Tour of the White House, one of the most publicized and highly rated programs of the 1961-2 season. The beautiful, intelligent First Lady appeared just as charming as Jack and Jackie instantly became one of the most photographed women in the world. One couldn’t surf TV stations or flip through a magazine in 1962 without noticing the reassuring smile of Jack and/or Jackie.

The Kennedy’s symbolized what young Americans wanted to be and where they wanted to go…a young, strong, optimistic couple, looking forward to the future with great hope… rather than clinging desperately to a stagnant past. Eisenhower reminded Americans of a slow, tedious round of golf… the Kennedy’s, a vigorous game of touch football on the lawn. In superficial media reflections, Ike was The Edge of Darkness (1954) and the Flintstones… Jack was The Clear Light and The Jetsons (both 1962). Wimpy Gary Powers belonged to Eisenhower’s era, James Bond (Dr. No –1962) burst onto the scene during JFK’s reign.

Today, when watching Happy Days in reruns, Americans think fondly of the carefree ‘50s. How soon they forget. The 1950s were the Dark Ages in theUSA, a nervous time full of paranoia, fear, suspicion, suppression, censorship, scandals, false accusations, open discrimination, bomb shelters, McCarthyism, Rock & Roll hysteria, payola, and the vast wasteland of television. At the time, most Americans rejoiced at the passing of this dreadful era, and wanted to forget that it had ever happened.


The country felt in a festive mood in 1962 under Kennedy. “Running” had been the most popular word in titles on the pop charts in 1961, reflecting a nervous restlessness among young people. Now, radios urged the kids to use their energetic feet for a more positive, happier activity… like dancing. Chubby Checker revived The Twist in late 1961, and set off a national chain reaction. At least 25 variations of the song hit the charts in 1962, including Twist and Shout, Peppermint Twist, Twisting the Night Away and Slow Twisting. Instead of condemning the twist craze as “the work of the devil,” the Kennedy’s tried it out, and then demonstrated their skills for reporters. Other new dances, such as the “Mash Potato,” the “Wah Watusi” and “Pony Time” popped up on Bandstand every week.

Elvis picked up on the positive vibes and hit big with Follow That Dream, just as the oldest Baby Boomer turned Sweet Sixteen. Teens followed his advice to a WASP, suburban Teen Utopia, located on the beaches of Southern California, as the Beach boys hit the national charts for the first time. Westside Story, a non-WASP-only Teen Dream, opened on Broadway about the same time. Romeo and Juliet in aNew York City ghetto? The idea wouldn’t have flown in the Dark Ages of the ‘50s. Against a background of gang wars and racial hatred, Tony and Maria, a mixed and mixed-up couple found true love. Ah, “Only inAmerica, land of opportunity…” The concept of minority, ghetto kids with hopes and dreams shocked Middle Class America. The climate and expatiation’s of the inner city did brightened somewhat during the Kennedy administration. The drifters urged teens to “Climb right up to the top of the stairs…” because “Dreams come true if you just wish it’s so/ Up on the Roof.”

Teen Dreams became the hottest commodity in pop music in the early ‘60s, and one young man had his finger on the pulse of the market. In 1960, Phil Spector, a nineteen-year-old producer for Atlantic Records, knew exactly what fellow teens would buy. Ben E. King’s (There is a rose in) Spanish Harlem, put Phil two full years ahead of Westside Story in expressing the theme of “true beauty among the ruins” in the inner city. Spector also found the perfect mixture of Teen Dream and rebellion in songs like He’s a Rebel: “Just because he doesn’t do what everybody else does/ that’s no reason why we can’t share a love… He’s not a rebel to me.” By the time Phil reached voting age in 1962, he was a multi-millionaire and considered as one of the top geniuses in pop music.

Spector’s famous “Wall of Sound” changed the recording industry (for better or worse is another question) forever. Instead of employing the usual three or four-piece Rock & Roll combo (in the Buddy Holly mold), Phil added extra guitarists, backup singers, strings, brass, reed, percussion and keyboard players, in fact, just as many musicians as could fit into the largest recording studio available. This gave the music dramatic new dimensions at first, but after a while, the songs became the “Wall of sounds-a-lot-like-Spector’s-last-record” music. Boomers liked it anyway because they had grown accustomed to mass production mediocrity. Real R & R intimidated them at the time… the kids just wanted a few Teen Dreams.


Dreams sold wholesale on TV in 1962 and many of them reflected the image of our young President: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (a young, idealistic politician), Going My Way (Catholic), Ensign O’Toole (Irish Naval Officer) and The Gallant Men (displaying grace under pressure). Other reflections were subtle; for instance, a conniving Capt. McHale (Navy) replaced a conniving Sgt. Bilko (Army) on the tube.

One popular new show mocked the old version of the American Dream. The Beverly Hillbillies were an extremely poor, backwoods clan who by dumb luck became instant multimillionaires. But the Clampets never did adjust to the rich city life, and longed to return to their poor, but happy life in aTennessee shack. For the first time TV admitted, “Perhaps money cannot buy happiness.”

The big screen revealed new problems like Lolita. This twelve-year-old Boomer bombshell drove old Humbert wild. Little girls grow up fast, and in 1962 there were twice as many high school freshmen femme fatales as in the previous year.

Many Boomers now had an extended bedtime curfew, and Americaneeded a late night sitter to keep millions of young night owls company. On October 1, 1962, The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson filled the job.


President Kennedy scared the hell out of us on October 22nd, when the networks interrupted regular programming to report the President had just commanded Russia to turn back ships transporting missiles to Cuba and to remove the ones already in place on the island. America held its breath and waited for the flash. This meant all out nuclear war with the Ruskies…didn’t it? A little-known folk singer with a stage name of Bob Dylan quickly strung together several works-in-progress into one epic song in a desperate effort to spread the warning that A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. The Cuban Missile Crisis was actually over before JFK carefully staged his little drama on the air, but the public was unaware of his charade at the time.America truly thought that the world was about to end. When we heard the crisis had passed, the nation let out a collective sigh of relief, then felt elated that our great leader had valiantly stood up to Khrushchev and Castro and beat them back.

Americans felt invincible, as individuals and as a nation. Primetime TV played on those patriotic vibes, and claimed that war was glorious (The Gallant Men and Combat), and fun (Ensign O’Toole and McHale’s Navy), as Kennedy quietly increased Ike’s commitment to Vietnam. On the pop charts, faint omens of the future floated about. The Shirelles released Soldier Boy, and the Tokens warned that (In the jungle, the quiet jungle) The Lion Sleeps Tonight. But how long would the beast remain dormant? In just a few years John Fogerty would sing, “You’d better run through the jungle, and don’t look back.”

The folk music movement continued to grow, but seldom moved beyond the War Baby audiences on college campuses and local coffeehouses. Dylan wrote and recorded the antiwar classic, Blowing in the Wind, but few bought the record or even heard the song in 1962. Folk wouldn’t hit the mass market until young Boomers matured enough to embrace and adapt the music as their own.

“Sick humor” also played the college circuit with comedians like Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory and Mort Sahl exploring touchy subjects such as discrimination, sex, religion, and even brought up questions about the US government and big corporations…all taboo topics during the Eisenhower years.

Ken Kesey’s first novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest asked the most popular Boomer question of the ‘60s: “Who should be considered sane in an insane society?” The seeds of rebellion had been planted. Boomers would soon harvest the crop.

What subtle hints about the state of the nation did TV program schedulers give us in 1962? Saints and Sinners preceded The Price is Right, Monday on NBC, and that same night on CBS, I’ve Got a Secret followed To Tell the Truth.

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 1965

Martin Luther King and Selma rain on LBJ’s parade, and the cost of Vietnam cuts deep into social programs. TV tries to sell War Is Fun, but young Boomers turn to Folk Rock for amusement and protest. Rock & Roll becomes their official language and Teen Utopia sheds its dead skin on SoCal beaches and slithers up the West Coast to San Francisco. The FCC accidentally creates FM Radio.

1965: Days of Our LivesNever Too Young,A Time For Us, The Moment of Truth and The Nurses (New Soaps)

Poor Lyndon. He wanted so much to be able to step out of Kennedy’s shadow, and into the spotlight as one of America’s greatest Presidents. He might have made it, too, if a tiny, backward nation, half way around the world hadn’t shot him right in his Achilles’ heel. Play “word association” with any Boomer. The answer for LBJ is Vietnam. But contrary to popular contemporary Boomer thinking, Johnson wasn’t a complete idiot. Kennedy had taught him that, in modern America, the President’s image matters more to the public than the real man or his actions. Lyndon waited patiently for his turn, and now carefully molded his media reflection. LBJ leveled with a group of reporters on January 10, 1964: “If you play along with me, I’ll play along with you. I’ll make big men of you. If you play it the other way, I know how to play it both ways, too, and I know how to cut off the flow of news, except in handouts.” Lyndon had already written the scenario for his presidency, and those lowly newsboys better not mess it up. But sadly, even the President of the United States cannot write history in advance.

Act One of Johnson’s script actually worked. He looked good on TV during his State of the Union Message on January 8th, as he declared the War on Poverty and civil rights to be the major issues of the day. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act on July 2nd, and Lyndon signed it in a televised ceremony the same day. By the end of the year, 70% of Americans polled declared that LBJ was doing a good job, and only 10% said he sucked.

But the curtain barely rose on Act Two when an unexpected character from another story walked right out on to center stage. On January 2nd, Martin Luther King, Jr., just back from picking up his Nobel Peace Prize inSweden, pointed out that a law, such as the Civil Rights Act, is only a law if it is enforced. That line wasn’t in Johnson’s script. Martin was improvising! Lyndon had made a big show out of a Southern president signing the new-and-improved Emancipation Proclamation, and yet, not much had changed. Black adults were now guaranteed the right to vote, but local officials, especially in the South, blocked their registration with absurd “competency” tests and illegal voting taxes. King decided to expose the system atSelma,Alabama… the site of the Confederacy’s last stand at the end of the Civil War. Bigots there still fiercely protected their divine White Rights a century later. Most of the Caucasian adults in the town were registered to vote, but only about 3% of the African Americans.

During the past decade, coverage of a civil rights demonstration such as King’s would have been buried on the back pages of your local newspaper, but now, in 1965, “mobile” TV news crews finally lived up to their name. Cameras quickly reached the scene, capturing all the action: local police brutally unleashing bullwhips, night sticks, tear gas, fire hoses and attack dogs against unarmed demonstrators, of every race, including religious leaders and many women and children. A proud sheriff described the fine work of his men on network television, “You just gotta know how to treat them niggers.” The images outraged viewers, and instantly,Selmabecame a national problem demanding an immediate solution. Governor Wallace refused to protect the protestors, which forced Johnson (reluctantly) to send in the National Guard.

LBJ, however, didn’t hesitate to send teenage Boomer boys to the opposite side of the planet to protect a tiny third world country’s right to be ruled by an unpopular puppet government. As King planned a march from Selma to the state capitol at Montgomery on March 8th, the first American combat troops (3,500 Marines) landed in Danang, South Vietnam on Johnson’s orders. The event received only a brief sound bite on the network news, as did the first “teach-in” protest at the University of Michigan on March 25th, as did violent anti-USA demonstrations in Latin America, Europe and Africa a month earlier during heavy bombing of North Vietnam by the United States. These vague reflections would soon gain significance as they crystallized and magnified into the form of Lyndon’s Monster of the Id.

Vietnam loomed as the most threatening event in the lives of Boomers for the next decade. Ten million boys (out of thirty) served in the Armed Forces, more than three million saw duty in Vietnam, 58,000 died in action and hundreds of thousands returned maimed for life. Every Boomer was touched by the war.

The government recognized the plus side: the glut of Boomer teens did not affect the unemployment rates. Lyndon hired them. As the number of kids turning eighteen increased month by month (beginning in mid-1964), so did the draft quotas and the numbers of teens sent the combat zone. The only problem with this plan was the staggering cost of the war. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara estimated on April 26, 1965, that the price had surpassed $1.5 billion annually and continued to rise.Vietnamsiphoned off enormous chunks of federal money from LBJ/JFK’s domestic social programs, such the War on Poverty, enforcing Civil Rights, urban renewal and improving education, all of which Lyndon promised in his State ofUnionmessage. Now, he reneged, and many of the hopes and dreams that he and JFK stirred up in good faith, became blatant lies.

Thus began the year of the Gap. Johnson inadvertently caused a widening credibility gap, which in turn reopened the generation gap. A handful of students atBerkeleyin the fall of ‘64 kidded, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” but by the summer of ‘65, millions of Boomers accepted the joke as fact. This caused a communication gap. Teens shed their blind faith respect for politicians, teachers, and parents and no longer trusted the conventional communication network of newspapers, TV and schools. Boomers felt a compelling urge to communicate with each other, but not with “them.”

Rock and Roll

Rock & Roll became more than just entertainment for young people… the music transformed into a secret language in 1965, and Boomers only trusted leaders who spoke it fluently. R&R sounded foreign to our elders and separated us from them. So much the better, because the music brought our generation together as never before.

The British Invasion set up an International Teen Network, which turned out to be a two-way proposition. As the Beatles and their Brit buddies took over American AM radio, Dylan and folkie friends began nudging them off the charts inEngland. Each group influenced the other. Dylan morphed into a poet with an electric backbeat, and the Beatles realized that there was more to life and lyrics than just holding hands.

The young felt betrayed by their elders and this resentment reflected in their choice of music. Stop In the Name of Love, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and What the World Needs Now Is Love rode high on the pop charts. The Beatles released two albums (Help! and Rubber Soul) in 1965, and each showed a metamorphosis from their earlier upbeat, puppy-love lyrics to a thoughtful statement about the world around them. Help! reflected feelings of betrayal, and then moved beyond to accusation: “You tell lies, thinking I can’t see,” and “Were you telling lies the night before?” The next step, of course, is self-pity: “I’m down, I’m really down,” “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away/ Now it looks as though they’re here to stay/ Oh, I believe in yesterday,” and even, “Gonna play the part about a man who’s sad and lonely/ And all I got to do is act naturally.” The next step is desperation: “Help me get my feet back on the ground/ Won’t you please, please help me?” In December, we heard the final step of anger from the Beatles on Rubber Soul: “I’ve got a word or two to say about the things that you do/ You’re telling all those lies about the good things that we can have if we just close our eyes/ Do what you want to do/ Go where you’re going to/ Think for yourself, because I won’t be there with you.” And let’s not forget, “He’s as blind as he can be/ Just sees what he wants to see/ Nowhere Man, can you see me at all?” All steps complete, Boomers prepared to let go and sever ties with the over-thirty Establishment.

Bob Dylan played the role of angry young poet to a limited audience of War Baby Folk purists until he released the album Bringing It All Back Home. Dylan’s lyrics remained Folk Protest, but the music sounded suspiciously like Rock & Roll. Bob played his usual acoustic, but now an electric lead guitar was added and a rhythm section of drums and bass pushed the beat behind him. Dylan explained, “I may look like Robert Frost, but I feel just like Jesse James.” Jesse came out with guns a-blazing; taking shots at Lyndon: “Even the president of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked,” and his Vietnam policy: “Of war and peace the truth just twists/ Its curfew gull, it glides/ Upon four-legged forest clouds the Cowboy Angel rides/ With his candle lit into the sun, though its glow is waxed in black.” Bob took a shot at politicians in general: “Though the masters make the rules for the wise men and the fools/ I’ve got nothing, Ma, to live up to,” and “Don’t follow leaders and watch the parking meters.” Dylan hit capitalism: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears,” and commercialism: “Advertising signs they con you into thinking you’re the one who can do what’s never been done/ Who can win what’s never been won/ Meanwhile life outside goes on all around you.” Bob even proclaimed to the Great Society, “Your ancient, empty street’s too dead for dreaming.”

The path from betrayal to anger had been a long one, but Boomers completed the trip by mid ‘65. Is it any wonder that the number one song for most of that summer screamed, (I can’t get no) Satisfaction? The Bad Boys of Rock & Roll (the Rolling Stones) delivered the message. The lads tried their best to follow the advice of manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, who told them: “Drive parents up a bloody wall.” Obediently, they sang, “A man comes on the radio/ He’s telling me more and more about some useless information/ Supposed to drive my imagination/ I can’t get no satisfaction/ I can’t get no girl reaction.”


That same summer, TV continued their stale old sales pitch of War is Fun, with new shows like Hogan’s Heroes, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, Mr. Roberts and Mona McCluskey added to the ongoing Gomer Pyle, McHale’s Navy, No Time for Sergeants and Broadside. In honor of Texan, LBJ, TV even presented Army fun set in the Old West on F-Troop. Boomer boys did not rush right down to their local Army recruiters. TV networks decided to pull another old trick out of the hat… the Red Scare. “Look out! There are Commie spies everywhere!” Television then offered to save us with its amazing group of counterspies: a British spy (in honor of the Beatles) on Secret Agent, a black spy (in honor of MLK) on I Spy, and, “Would you believe,” a silly spy on Get Smart? Again, in honor of Lyndon, the networks even claimed that spies and counterspies once roamed the Old West in The Wild, Wild West.

“Like, sorry Mr. TV network Dude. Boomers aren’t digging the ‘War is Fun’ or the ‘Commies are hiding under our beds’ concepts. Kind of stale. Leaves a bad aftertaste in our mouths.” TV moved on to Plan C… Teen Utopia. That whole scene began with the movie Gidget in 1959, and TV tried to revive the dead with a series with the same name, staring Sally Field. The Beach Boys jumped back on the Beach Party bandwagon, with (I wish they all could be) California Girls.

Hollywoodjoined in, offering misleading hints of sex in Beach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. Boomers passed on Teen Utopia, and the Movie Industry snapped back (like a woman scorned) with Village of the Giants… a horror film that delivered a warning to, and about, rebellious teens. Plot: Six Boomer teens steal a young boy’s scientific experiment, and the formula enables them to expand their bodies to six times their normal size. The rebellious giants take over the town, terrorize the citizens, laugh at the local authorities and dance to a lot of music that could only be called Rock & Roll in the context of a low-budget teen-scene screamer. The tyrant teens overpowered the adults, but preteen scientist, Ronny Howard, saved the day by spraying an antidote on the big punks to shrink them back to normal size. The message was aimed at younger, preteen Boomers, to warn them that they must avoid the evil influence of their older siblings. Boomers, of all ages (the few that saw it anyway), thought that Village was the silliest flick of the year.

Rock and Roll

The Stones provided an answer to the Great Society’s sales pitch to the youth of America: Hey, You, Get Off of My Cloud and (Don’t play with me ‘cause you’re) Playing With Fire. The naughty band headlined the T.A.M.I (Teenage Music International) Show, which promised something for everyone… soul, teen idol, beach sound and British Invasion. But the raw power and excitement of Jagger and the Stones brought a live concert ambiance to the movie. When Mick sang, It’s All Over Now, the performance served as an obituary for jukebox musicals and lip-synch TV shows like Hullabaloo, Shindig and Bandstand, because now, the old styles seemed hopelessly out of date by comparison.

Barry McGuire, no less subtle, sang (“Why don’t you tell me over and over again, my friend, that you don’t believe we’re on the”) Eve of Destruction: “You’re old enough to kill, but not for voting/ You don’t believe in war, then what’s that gun you’re toting?” The song belonged to the new “Folk Rock” genre that saturated the pop charts in 1965. Dylan opened the doors with Subterranean Homesick Blues in March, and an army of imitators followed. The lyrics shouted angry protest, but the music rocked for fun… the ideal combination that Boomers needed. Many Rock bands covered little-heard pure folkies, much the same way that White Teen Idols covered Black R&B originals in the mid-’50s. The Byrds hit the charts for the first time in April with Mr. Tambourine Man, just a month after Dylan’s folkie version failed to dent the list. In June, they also covered Bob’s All I Really Want to Do. The Turtles debuted in July with Dylan’s It Ain’t Me, Babe. Glen Campbell scored a big hit with a cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s powerful anti-war song Universal Soldier in August (The original version had flopped in 1964).

Dylan announced the birth of Folk Rock when he walked onto the stage at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25th with an electric guitar in his hand. Accompanied by the Butterfield Blues Band, Bob blasted the sedate audience out of their seats with a rocking version of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Was he talking about acoustic music?). Folk purists (War Babies) hated it. Their Bob Dylan had defected to the Boomer Camp, and he smirked, Don’t Look Back. The Animals warned, We’ve Got to Get out of This Place, and some Boomer teens acted on their advice and ran away from home. A month later, Dylan asked, “How does it feel to be on your own/ With no direction of home/ A complete unknown/ Just like a rolling stone?”

Boomer kids still watched The Fugitive (an innocent man, forced to run and hide), and now, found a new show to identify with. In Run for Your Life, Paul Bryan learns that he has an incurably illness with only a few months to live, and then decides to use what little time he has left in the pursuit of adventure and happiness. With the draft hanging over their heads, Boomer boys could dig it. Didn’t Dylan just tell us, “Let me forget about today until tomorrow”?

Boomers understood images of alienation and isolation in Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence: “Hello, Darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.” Gillian’s Island felt like a tragedy now, and a new show, Lost in Space symbolized a dead end for Kennedy’s New Frontier. TV also created another presidential oater tribute to LBJ with A Man Called Shenandoah, in which Robert Horton, an amnesiac, roamed the Old West in search of his identity. (Lyndon in search of his Great Society?).

A riot exploded in Wattson August 11th… 35 people killed, hundreds wounded and $200 million in property destroyed. A year prior, Motown played Dancing in the Streets, this summer, inner-city kids dug Shotgun and Otis Redding’s (You’d better give me some) Respect. The reflections on TV news stunnedMiddle America. “Anger and frustration among Blacks in southernCalifornia, just a few miles from the Beach Boys’ Teen Utopia? I thought that sort of thing was isolated in theDeep South.”

The Defense Department issued the largest draft call since the Korean War on October 14th. Anti-war demonstrations on college campuses across the country broke out the next day, and young men burned their draft cards in mass for the first time. Phil Ochs released I Ain’t Marching Anymore and tension filled the air. TV debuted The FBI and abrasive talk show host, Les Crane, pointed a shotgun microphone at his audience.

Young people talked about returning to nature, escaping the Great Society and leaving the corporate/ military machine/ urban sprawl behind. TV’s response to their dream was Green Acres. Many Boomers pulled the plug on television for the next decade.

The Lovin’ Spoonful suggested a new lifestyle in Do You Believe in Magic?: “The magic’s in the music and the music’s in me.” Dylan asked Mr. Tambourine Man to “Take me on a trip upon your magic, swirling ship… Let me forget about today until tomorrow.” Buffy Sainte-Marie added “Don’t ask forever of me, just love me now.” The Beatles saw the light, and shared their revelation, “In the beginning, I misunderstood/ But now I’ve got it and the word is good/ Say the word, the word is love.” All these pieces of the puzzle began to mesh. Peace, love (both free and brotherly), drugs and Rock & Roll. Teen Utopia shed its dead skin and slid up the coast toSan Francisco.

The US government unwittingly gave the fledgling hippie movement a tremendous boost in 1965, as the Federal Communication Commission ruled that radio stations in cities with more than 100,000 people must avoid duplicating AM/FM programming for more than 50% of their schedule. Station managers scrambled to fill the time as cheaply as possible, and thus, opened the door for Underground FM radio. The counterculture would soon have a voice.