If you're a long-time music lover, you probably have a favorite music year, a period when the songs stand out for multiple reasons. For me, that year is 1966.
In 1966, I was 14 years old and a freshman in the South Jersey high school I attended.
Although I didn't know it at the time, it would prove to be one of the greatest years for garage rock, a type of music named because bands just starting out would learn and practice these 3- and 4-chord songs, which were relatively easy to rehearse and then perform live at local dances. And most of these bands would rehearse either in the garage or the basement of whatever member had the most tolerant parents.
I should probably add one more thing here. 1966 was the year I joined one of these garage bands as a keyboard player. It's a role I would find myself in off and on for the next 40 years. And even though I'm no longer performing live, I still keep a couple of keyboards set up for my enjoyment in my writing office.
So periodically here in Rock of Agers I want to highlight some of my favorite songs from 1966. I'll tell a little about the tunes and sometimes a little about myself. But more importantly, thanks to YouTube, you can listen to the artists and see if you can hear some of what I and the rest of my generation first heard then.
California Dreaming - The Mamas and the Papas
All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray
I've been for a walk on a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreamin', on such a winter's day.
This classic has to be one of the greatest wistful songs about being stuck somewhere you don't want to be, dreaming of someplace you do.
It was written by Mamas and Papas founder John Phillips, who was married to fellow group member, Michelle. In 1963, the couple were living in New York City during a particularly cold winter. As a California girl, Michelle was struggling with the weather.
Inspired by Michelle's homesickness, Phillips created this song about longing to be in another place.
Even though John despised all thoughts of religion, he and Michelle had visited St. Patrick's Cathedral together, a tour which led to the second verse ("Stopped into a church ..."). Phillips did point out that "the preacher liked the cold."
Although the song was written on a literal geographical level, it can also stand for any time we're in a dark place in our lives and mournfully yearn for a better "safe and warmer" time.
Rolling Stone ranked the song #89 in its list of the 500 Greatest songs of All Time.