A Manchester combo originally called the Jets, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders performed with a trebly guitar, shrill falsettos, and a breakneck purposelessness. In 1965, they released, as if by chance, one of the great party albums of the British Beat period: The Game of Love (Fontana MGF 27542).
It was 1966 or so. The 45 came in a box of potato chips, and it was mine, more or less, since no one else in my family called dibs on it. Until I heard Petula Clark, this is what Downtown was to me:
I thought it was pretty happening--we had the Majestic and Ellis movie theaters, Woolworth's (that's it at the end of the street, boarded up), a toy store, a shoe store, the A&P, the Gas Light Lounge. It was a revelation to me that there were downtowns in other cities, and they sounded a hell of a lot more interesting than Downtown Beloit.
Psychedelic rock was a mind-expanding consciousness, the first vestige of free-form experimentation in rock ‘n’ roll history. Prior to the spirit of psychedelia, rock ‘n’ roll was restricted by a certain form and melodic structure–teenage or British bands hacked out hits and atonality was taboo. As rock began to establish consciousness and to perceive its tradition, the mental state became as important as the physical condition.
When you realize the full contribution established by this sonic movement songs, the psychedelic experience seem awesome!
Consider that this consciousness gave us the following:
rock as a revolutionary force (social, political, and sexual)
the concept album
LP covers as art
rock criticism and its sense of rock aesthetics
rock lyrics as poetry
the notion that rock was every bit as important as blues or jazz….
That’s quite a formidable contribution from a supposedly footloose and haphazard genre, and its major influences certainly negate its minor irritations such as body painting and the overabundance of hippies and incense.
It is with much trepidation that I write of “beach music,” a phenomenon that has consistently been making waves across America and the world (yes, Virginia, there are even “beach enthusiasts” in Muncie) since the early ’60s. Over the past three decades, I have become increasingly fond of a questionable musical consciousness termed “beach music”. Yet, I fear writing about it, not just because I still do not know what IT is, but because neither does anybody else.
One thing beach-nuts do agree on is that the sounds which inspire partying on the East Coast have absolutely nothing to do with California and surf music. In the East, a beach party means shuffling a little bit in the sand (a dance called, appropriately enough, the shag) and guzzling beer or sipping bourbon. In the Wild West of the ’60s, a beach bash implied some surfing, and required the sounds of the Ventures and the Beach Boys as well as many weird bands such as the Pyramids and the Trashmen.
Beach music of the East Coast bears the light of nostalgia and beams it through the AM radio waves–a longing for a past that was never a part of the scene to begin with.
Unlike the music on the West Coast, which was by white kids on an instrumental warpath, beach music has always been primarily music by blacks. What’s more, whereas the classic image and style of surf music suggested a homosexual subtext (with rockabilly’s similar subtext right on its tail: Roy Orbison’s “Domino” being the first example of rock music emulating the sound of the waves), the theme of East Coast beach music is heterosexual love and desire, often thwarted but always remembered.