On Saturday, July 31, 2021, I will once again get to perform at the Taste of Roselle, my hometown’s annual summer celebration of food, music, beer and (most of all) community. Unlike many local summer fests, there will be no big name bands bringing in huge PA’s and light shows, and leaving with bags of big bucks. This is a local festival, manned primarily by volunteers, with the bulk of the money raised going to the Roselle Lions Club and local organizations. It is always an honor to be asked to perform and at any point that you drop in over the course of the three-day weekend you will hear your friends and neighbors “playing real good for free” (in the immortal words of Joni Mitchell).
As a performer, it is always a thrill to play in front of your friends and family, in the place where you have your roots. It can also be your toughest audience. You better bring your “A” game. This year, while we still struggle with what is “normal” in a world plagued by pandemic, this show seems to mean more than ever to me. We were denied the Taste last year; we can no longer afford to take our traditions and rituals for granted.
My first thought when planning my set, was to say “thank you” to Roselle for providing the tools with which I have made a career in music by playing the songs that a 1968 graduate would have listened to during his years at Lake Park High School. The problem with that idea is that the late 1960’s simply had too many great songs – songs that people still listen to and play. There were simply too many songs fighting to be included in the program. I had to narrow down a long list to one hour…but, HOW? I would have to do some research: it was time to go to the vault and refer to the SILVER DOLLAR SURVEYS.
For those of you not of my generation, the Silver Dollar Surveys were weekly lists of the songs being played on the radio and listened to by nearly everyone in CHICAGOLAND! Each survey was compiled by WLS Radio (the big 89), and showed when a song was released, it’s current position, how long it stayed on local radio and how high it climbed as it went from a pick to click to straight off the charts and into our hearts. Thanks to “the Internets”, every Silver Dollar Survey for the years 1960 through 1982 can now be found online and for a music nerd like me finding the solid gold from 1967 was a labor of love, for sure.
But finding out when the Lovin’ Spoonful asked “Do You Believe In Magic” (1965), and when Mick and the Stones introduced us to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (1968), was not enough. I didn’t want this to be a mere romp down some old Geezer’s memory lane. I wanted something relevant on which to hang my musical hat; a lens through which I could see how that music might relate to these time.
And then I realized something about 1967. Not only was it one of the best years of my young life, it was The Summer of Love. It was the year before America lost its innocence; before the Woodstock Nation lit a fire at the Democratic Convention in Chicago and flamed out totally at Altamont. 1967 was, as Frank Sinatra put it in one of its songs, both “when I was 17″ and “a very good year”.
And, oddly enough, all of us who were 17 in 1967, are now turning 71 in 2021. Some people may see this juxtaposition of numbers as just an odd coincidence, but it feels to me like more than just those two numbers had changed places. 1967 was the year when we had our driver’s licenses, were getting our first real jobs and had earned a say in how we would live our lives. In a word, in 1967 we were FREE. Probably freer than we would ever be again. We hadn’t yet faced the really hard life choices; we didn’t know yet about college, and married life, and the war…Now, most of us are retired and we have a chance to look back on the whole panorama of life, wondering what lessons were right there in the music of that year, if we only had the ears to hear them. What did we miss then? What can these songs still tell us, today?
So, on Saturday I will be playing only songs from 1967. I’ll weave a little history in, from time to time, to provide a little perspective, and hopefully a good time will be had by all. One thing I know is that the music will be fun and the crowd will be great (that’s, actually, two things). Life in Roselle was pretty darn good in 1967. And it still is. Like these songs, some things just get better with age. It’s good to remember that as we rock through some more difficult, turbulent times. Music always helps. So does a community of friends. A few beers don’t hurt either. So you’ll find me on the Plaza (next to what used to be Snyder’s Drugs and is now 8000 Miles) at 6:00 PM, on Saturday. I’m looking forward to seeing you there!