In 1966 we were still in the early stages of the quickly expanding and evolving British Invasion. My own 45 collection was still quite meager – probably no more than 400 or 500 singles. My new preoccupation was grabbing anything British from the record racks, primarily at the local Arlan’s Department Store adjacent to KIMN radio station, or sometimes venturing to the Denver downtown Woolworth Store – where the entire Billboard Hot 100 was maintained in inventory.
Simon & Garfunkel
The year started off with a “new” folk duo – Simon and Garfunkel. A high-school friend of mine – Gary Hall – brought a copy of the record to my house. He was really excited about the lyrics. “Not bad”, I thought to myself but not British. The song did hit the number 1 spot for a couple of weeks before being promptly dispatched by the Beatles (“We Can Work It Out”). YES!!!
A few weeks later a somewhat older and experienced Brit would land her second number one with “My Love”. Petula Clark had reached number one in January of 1965 with Downtown. I really liked the driving beat of “My Love” and still do today. The other British female hit that I have never grown tired of is Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You”.
With “My Love” Petula would establish herself as the first female British recording artist to have two number 1 U.S. Hits.
Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” hit number 1 in February of 1966. What I remember most about this song is that it was placed on the Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colorado) Student Union cafeteria juke box and remained there for most of my Sophomore year. Many female students had latched onto the “anthem” as their first foray into liberation.
I didn’t mind at all. Even though I tired somewhat of the rather mundane lyrics, I sure did enjoy the juke box picture cover depicting a very sultry Nancy. By the way, Nancy would later tell an interviewer in 1970 that the song did not depict her demeanor at all. She told the interviewer that the song was “hard” and that she was “soft as a kitten”.
Nancy later teamed up with her father of some renown in 1967 to record the number 1 single “Somethin’ Stupid” one of Frank’s very few number one singles (he had only three).
Sgt. Barry Sadler vs. Donovan
Another drama which played out at CSU in 1966 was a peculiar juvenile exchange that would take place in the student cafeteria. CSU had a very small contingent of “hippies” on the campus. CSU was so isolated that I remember other students calling them “Beats”. They first got some attention when they passed around flyers on campus with only the words “Gentle Thursday is Coming”. This was during my freshman year in 1965.
Well, back to the juke box in 1966. To set the scene, CSU had just become a University. For over 100 years the college was an Agriculture and Mining school – yes an “A&M”. The school had a large enrollment in it’s prestigious Agricultural and Veterinary departments (and Engineering as well). And let’s just say that their was a whole lot of tolerance for “hippies”.
So about once a week – usually on a Friday afternoon – one of the boys would select Sgt. Barry Sadler’s “The Ballad of the Green Berets”. The “Beats” would promptly respond by playing Donovan’s “The Universal Soldier” (the song had entered the charts in September of 1965 but remained on the juke box at CSU due to all the coins it was attracting – primarily from – the “Hippies”). This would go back and forth for several play exchanges. I vividly recall one time after about eight or nine cycles of “Universal”, a cowboy hat decked male student made his way to the front of the cafeteria where the juke box was situated. “Universal Soldier was about midway through when he suddenly wrapped his arms around the juke box and violently jerked it up into the air raking the needle across the record with a horrifying amplified screech.
The cafeteria went deadly quite. Soon about three more Ag students came to the front. They encircled the juke box. One put a quarter in and soon on came the familiar anthem intro “Fighting soldiers from the skys…”. The four Aggies calmly folded their arms and stood at what seemed to be a cautious parade rest – maintaining vigilance for a counter attack by the Hippies. It wasn’t to be. The Aggies probably had forgotten that these were the ones who had ushered “Gentle Thursday” into CSU!
“The Ballad of the Green Berets” stood atop the Hot 100 for a full five weeks, something very few hits would manage during the mid to later 1960’s.
Sgt. Sadler by the way resided for a time in Leadville, Colorado – at least up until his sophomore year in high school at which time he took off to see the country, finally enlisting in the Air Force. Later he would join the U.S. Army and serve as a combat medic in Vietnam with the Green Berets.
Later in life Sadler was involved in the shooting death of Lee Emerson Bellamy, a musician, songwriter and manager for George Jones, Marty Robbins, Bobby Helms and others. The shooting death was the result of a quarrel over a woman who Emerson had been married to. Sadler was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison for five years but his sentence was reduced to a few weeks.
Sadler later migrated to Guatemala where he would be shot in the head during an attempted robbery. He spent a long time in a coma and though he emerged never fully recovered from brain damage. He died in 1989 from complications from the shooting. He was 49 years old.
The Mamas & Papas
They would become the first equally male-female group (two of each) to go to number one with “Monday, Monday” in May of 1966 for three weeks. I tried reading their biography which started off well enough. But like so many narratives of the rock era musicians, quickly disintegrated into depressing tales of group quarrels and particularly Papa John’s drug use.
Well, that’s enough for now – “Peace & Love” & “Support our Troops”