And now for something completely different.
I don’t normally indulge in pop-music nostalgia, but… I recently happened to run across the first of the two songs embedded below. I remembered it clearly, and it reminded me of the second one, which had a somewhat similar theme.
Strictly speaking, both songs were before my time — I was still in my “latency” period back then, but the older boys were listening to those songs and singing along with them, so I remember them well. If I had been an actual testosterone-infused teenager when these tunes were being played on the radio, they would no doubt have had the same heart-wrenching impact on me that they did on the boys who were a few years older.
The first song is “Patches”, by Dickie Lee. It was recorded in 1962:
The second tune, “Rag Doll” (1964), is by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It has a similar theme, but omits the suicide motif:
There was no one like Frankie Valli. He sang like a gelding, but he could really belt it out.
The two relevant lines are:
“My folks say no, and my heart breaks inside.”
“My folks won’t let me ’cause they say that she’s no good.”
“Folks” meaning “parents”, of course. Two parents, a mother and a father. And still married. How odd!
The issue in both cases is the difference in social class between these lovestruck blades and their young fiancées, who are from impoverished circumstances. The parents — who are able to foresee the tragic results of such matches — refuse to let their sons go through with the nuptials.
Just think: the young men that the singers conjure up — who are presumably of legal age — can’t marry their sweethearts because their parents forbid it.
What world was that? Was it in a galaxy long ago and far, far away??
These songs were recorded between 1962 and 1964, just 55-57 years ago. I can remember the period clearly. But it might as well be the Middle Ages.
Thank goodness this stuff has been preserved on YouTube, like flies in amber.
I don’t want to get into an argument about whether or not the social norms of 1962 are better than those of 2019. I know the arguments that our regular commenters would make, and I can even predict who would come down on which side of the issue.
That’s not my point. My point is that 1962 was a different world.
By the time Frankie Valli sang “Rag Doll” in 1964, that world was already starting to come apart. Swinging London was underway across the pond, the Beatles ruled the pop music world, and the earliest hippies were starting to Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out in San Francisco.
But the norms of the old world were still in place in much of the country. There didn’t have to be a law against marrying a low-class girl, or requiring a young blood to obey his parents. If you were of a good family, and intended to lead a respectable life, you just did those things. That’s the way it was.
And less than twenty years later, Weird Al Yankovic was mocking (with great musical skill) those torch songs on the late ’50s and early ’60s. What happened in the interim?
I don’t know. I lived through it all, but I still can’t say. The old world disappeared, and the new one took its place.
I won’t presume to say which world was better. You all can evaluate the past sixty years and make up your own minds.
The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.