Tonawanda News

November 17, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: Fifty years later, the songs remain the same

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a defining event in our nation’s history, along with man landing on the moon and the Sept. 11 attacks. Even though I was not born by 1963, it was an event that still had a major impact on my parents, and maybe some of my readers.

Since this is a column devoted to music, I thought it might be interesting to look back to 1963 and what was happening in music around the time of the Kennedy assassination.

It was an important year for The Beatles. They released their first album, “Please Please Me” in March of 1963 and their second album, “With the Beatles” on the day of the assassination. Those albums were only released in England. The very first Beatles album released in America was titled “Beatlemania! With the Beatles,” which had the same songs as “With the Beatles” but a different cover. It was released Nov. 25, 1963.

Fifty years later, both of the surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, are touring this year, and McCartney released a new album last month.

One thing has changed dramatically since 1963 — I can’t think of any band that would put out two new albums four months apart.

Another song of note in 1963 is “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen. The song is reportedly the most recorded rock song of all time, the second most recorded is “Yesterday” by The Beatles. The song also was the subject of an FBI investigation to determine if the song’s lyrics were obscene. If the FBI still investigated song lyrics to determine if they were obscene, they would be pretty busy.

In 1963, three influential bands formed, one in Kingston, Jamaica, and the other two in England.

In Jamaica, the band that went on to become arguably the most popular reggae band in the modern era is Bob Marley and The Wailers. It would be a few more years before the group was on the national radar. In those days, as now, they were billed simply as The Wailers. The group continues to tour, even though only two of their original members are alive.

In England, a group called The Ravens featuring two brothers, started performing and looking for record deals. Within a few years, the band changed its name to The Kinks and went on to record timeless classics like “You Really Got Me.” Brothers Ray and Dave Davies both still tour and have hinted they may reunite as The Kinks sometime next year.

Also in England, a band featuring guitarist Anthony “Top” Topham formed. Topham left the band in October 1963, just a few months after their formation. Topham’s replacement was a young blues guitarist named Eric Clapton. The band was The Yardbirds.

Clapton was later replaced by Jeff Beck, and Beck was later replaced by Jimmy Page, who tried to form a band called The New Yardbirds that eventually was called Led Zeppelin.

Fifty years later, The Yardbirds are still active and this year marked the return of Topham to the lineup.

Finally, the No. 1 song the week of the Kennedy Assassination was “I’m Leaving it Up to You” by Dale & Grace.

One other note, Kennedy’s death did have an impact on the album charts. The “John Fitzgerald Kennedy — A Memorial Album” sold 4 million copies in its first week of release, a record that still stands today as the fastest-selling recording. I bought my copy at an estate sale many years later.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at