Nostalgic Boomer Songs

I guess I’ll file this one under reviews. This column is about a couple of songs that share the philosophy of I Remember JFK, which is, of course, Boomer nostalgia ROCKS!

I know of two songs that fill the bill perfectly. There are probably more, I’m depending on you, the readers, to help me out here.

One of these songs, Old Days, was released in 1975. I was sixteen. However, I was already waxing nostalgic for the 60’s. The song is definitely aimed at the elder members of the Boomer generation. But it’s still a fun nostalgic trip for anyone who can remember JFK.

Kids of the Baby Boom was released in 1987 by the Bellamy Brothers. Calvin Klein on the underpants was a red hot item in that particular year. Many of us were new parents. My own daughter was a year old, and my son was “under development.” And nothing changes your perspective on life like the experience of being a new father or mother. I wasn’t too big a country fan at the time, but I went nuts for this song anyway. It really connected with me.

What follows are the lyrics to these songs.

The Bellamy Brothers – Kids of the Baby Boom (1987)

Our daddys won the war and came home to our moms
They gave them so much love that all us kids were born
We all grew up on Mickey Mouse and hula-hoops
Then we all bought BMW’s and brand new pickup trucks
And we watched John Kennedy die one afternoon
Kids of the baby boom

It was a time of new prosperity in the USA
All the fortunate offsprings never had to pay
We had sympathy for the devil and the Rolling Stones
Then we got a little older, we found Haggard and Jones
A generation screaming for more room
Kids of the baby boom

Kids of the baby boom, we had freedom, we had money
Baby boom, here in the land of milk and honey
Counting our chickens way too soon
Kids of the baby boom

Now we all can run computers and we all can dance
We all have Calvin Klein written on our underpants
And at six-o’clock, like robots, we turn on the news
Watch those third world countries deal out more abuse
Remember the first man on the moon
Kids of the baby boom

(repeat chorus)

As our lives become a capsule they send to the stars
And our children look at us like we came from Mars
As the farms disappear and the sky turns black
We’re a nation full of takers, never giving back
We never stop to think what we consume
Kids of the baby boom

(repeat chorus)

Our optimism mingles with the doom
Kids of the baby boom

Chicago – Old Days (1975)

Old days
Good times I remember
Fun days
Filled with simple pleasures
Drive-in movies
Comic books and blue jeans
Howdy Doody
Baseball cards and birthdays
Take me back
To a world gone away
Seem like yesterday

Old days
Good times I remember
Gold days
Days Ill always treasure
Funny faces
Full of love and laughter
Funny places
Summer nights and streetcars
Take me back
To a world gone away
Boyhood memories
Seem like yesterday

Old days – in my mind and in my heart to stay
Old days – darkened dreams of good times gone away
Old days – days of love and feeling fancy free
Old days – days of magic still so close to me
Old days – in my mind and in my heart to stay
Old days – darkened dreams of good times gone away
Old days – days of love and feeling fancy free
Old days – days of magic still so close to me

Review: Life on Mars

Scene from Life on Mars

I Remember JFK proudly presents a new feature: Boomer Reviews! The purpose is to present my own opinions on releases (TV, movies, music) that will be of interest to Boomers who like to wax nostalgic. And of course, your own opinions are strongly encouraged as well!

We’ll start off with ABC TV’s Life on Mars. It airs on Thursday nights at 9:00 Central time. Its competition is NBC’s ER, which I stopped watching after its transition from medical drama to soap opera about 2003. If LOM can survive the season, its future looks bright, with NBC’s ratings horse stumbling to a series finale this year.

On to the show itself. Its premise is that detective Sam Tyler, a modern-day cop (played by Jason O’Mara), gets hit by a car, waking up to find himself in 1973. He wanders around in a daze until he stumbles into a New York precinct police station, where, presumably, he is given a job.

Okay, all a bit unbelievable, but it’s just entertainment, right? Besides, what comes next makes it a worthwhile viewing for the nostalgic amongst us of the Boomer generation.

What comes next is a sepia-toned, smoky, polyester-clad view of 1973 New York, complete with big cars, decent music, and perps getting whacked with chairs during interrogations. Doors are kicked down without warrants, gays are called queers, and hair is grown trashily long, just like we remember.

Of course, political correctness must be injected, and Tyler is frequently seen chiding his vintage teammates for their insensibility.

If that tendency is kept in check, this show has a chance to shine brightly.

Michael Imperioli, brilliant as Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos, plays detective Ray Carling. He instantly steals any scene he walks in on. If you’re looking for an underhanded cop character for your next series, Imperioli should fill the bill for the foreseeable future.

The precinct chief is played by Harvey Keitel, Ready for another Sopranos reference? He was married for eleven years to Lorraine Bracco, who played psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. Keitel is a familiar face who has been nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in Bugsy. He has the get-er-done police chief role down pat, with trivial things like warrants, Miranda readings, or requests for lawyers not deterring him a bit from busting bad guys.

With the streets full of slimeballs running free because someone forgot to dot an i somewhere, that alone makes you long for the old days just a bit, doesn’t it?

Tyler’s mission is to figure out why he was thrust into the past and get back home.

Right there I have my differences with the title character. I would invest in Wal-Mart and Apple IPO’s, buy myself a nice $20,000 house, and enjoy what comes next.

The plotline for episode three was believable. A Vietnam vet was beaten to death, the “Unwelcoming Committee” (radicals who would spit on Vietnam returnees and call them baby burners) were blamed until savvy-but-ignored-because-she’s-a-woman Annie Morris (Gretchen Mol) lets Tyler know her suspicion that the witnesses they are talking to seem to be homosexual. Women and their gay-dar! Eventually, the crime is solved as a lover’s quarrel, with a topping of political correctness sprinkled on just enough.

If the show sticks with its immaculate period look, and the preachiness is kept to a minimum, look for a long-term hit. In the meantime, the bald guy’s DVR is set for an automatic Thursday night recording.

George’s Candy by George Ratz

George’s Candy, by George Ratz

For Baby Boomers, one of the most pervasive memories we all have is the Vietnam war. During the 60’s, not a night went by without the nightly news telling us the latest figures on deaths on both sides of the conflict, as well as showing us images of Huey helicopters flying across jungles firing away (and getting fired upon in return).

For a time after it all came to a halt in 1975, we just wanted to forget about it. Soon, however, books started appearing on the shelves, closely followed by movies that presented the war to us in the form of incidents recalled by its participants.

The quality of these offerings has been overall very high, if not extremely graphic.

Let’s face it: the war was one of the most harrowing things ever experienced by participants on either side, and it was common for a soldier’s daily life to involve bodies blown apart, the deaths of civilians, horrifying flashbacks, and escape through drugs.

Thus, these are the things which are commonly highlighted in works like The Deer HunterPlatoon, and Apocalypse Now.

But what if you could receive a clear picture of the war’s horrors, as well as necessary covert missions afterwards, that skips most of the graphical descriptions? In fact, to use a simile that should hit home with most of us, what if there was a book out there that our own dear mothers would enjoy?

Well, if your mom was like mine, no prude, but no fan of gratuitous profanity, sex, or gore either, then the subject of today’s Boomer review would be one that both of you could enjoy.

The book is called George’s Candy. It’s a first-person account of a marine who found employment with the CIA after his hitch was up. And it’s a great read, I recommend you have a look.

The tale begins with Ratz’s first-person recollections of being a grunt in the jungle. He encounters a Vietnamese lady on R&R who turns up again years later, with the result being that he is drawn back into the country which he had left as a marine, this time returning as a CIA operative.

What follows is tale after tale of thrilling accounts of George and this mysterious lady named Candy, as the two of them work to eliminate rogue targets who are responsible for killing enemies of the Viet Cong government.

There are twists and turns that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief, but remember, truth is often stranger than fiction.

You’ll read of the dreaded flashbacks, of soldiers who are so disturbed by what they’ve seen that they have felt the need to flee society and live in the shadows, of treachery on both sides of the issues, and of the building of a very intimate relationship between comrades in arms who just happen to be a man and a woman, with all of the complications attached.

Ratz writes in a simple style that may well make you think of Hemingway. Similar to Papa, he covers subjects like sexuality and the horrors of war in a style that won’t make you flinch. The occasional typos only add to the charm, you’re not reading the works of a giant of literature, you’re listening to late night war stories with a good friend over a glass of bourbon.

To sum up, this is a good read. The price won’t scare you off, either, and as is the case with anything I review, I won’t make a cent off of any sales Amazon picks up from this article. I recommend you give this pleasantly unassuming book a try.

Boomer Reviews: Freedom Summer, by Bruce Watson

Freedom Summer, by BruceWatson

We Boomers were eyewitnesses to a bewildering amount of history in the making during the 50’s and 60’s in which we grew up. The death of an idealistic young President was the first memory that many of us can recall clearly. Man’s first steps on the moon are recorded indelibly in our minds. And we also recall the Civil Rights Movement, whether we were actual eyewitnesses to its painful birth, or we viewed its struggles in black and white on the TV set.

Many narratives exist. For example, there is the controversial movie Mississippi Burning, which paints the FBI in a heroic light for its supposed courageous stand in safeguarding equal rights for all races in the most segregated state that existed in 1963. Alas, the movie, while entertaining, takes extreme liberties with the sad truth: the FBI really didn’t want to be involved, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing its job of busting individuals and groups who violently sought to keep the blacks “in their place.”

Hollywood, for better or worse, will forever be Hollywood. Written books are more and more available in the age of the internet, and can be produced with a much smaller investment. Therefore, with the demands of a return on a large investment removed, greater honesty in storytelling is very much a possibility.

In the case of the book being reviewed here, the honesty is brutal indeed. The summer of 1964 saw a large number of white college students descend upon the most backwards state in the Union. Honesty is revealed in the humanity of many of the students, in many cases, their motives were less than 100% noble.

But even though the lure of adventure (and more earthly delights) may have been on the minds of the “Commie troublemakers” (as the local KKK chapters and their sympathizers referred to them), ultimately, the influx of outsiders succeeded in changing the most unchangeable of all southern states. It was, to steal a line from Dickens, the best of times, the worst of times.

This book, Freedom Summer, tells a most honest account about that long, hot, miserable, thrilling fight to finally put an end to one of mankind’s most embarrassing and despicable chapters. But keep in mind that honesty is often painful to the teller as well as the listener.

I found the book nearly impossible to put away once I started reading it. The New York Times crossword puzzles, my golf game, and other welcomed diversions had to take a back seat until I finished the 300-page account of courage, hatred, prejudice, and all that makes the human race what it is.

I suggest that this book should be required reading anyone in my modest audience who is interested in what really happened when the vestiges of Jim Crow and officially sanctioned racial hatred were finally smothered out in Mississippi.

Freedom Summer
ISBN: 978-0-14-311943-2

Growing Old NOT! A Review of Bruce Springsteen in Concert

Bruce Springsteen on his 2009 Working on a Dream tour

I first heard Born to Run on WLS sometime in 1975. It was a decent song, but didn’t really stand out above the other stuff I was into. Then, a couple of years later, I heard Thunder Road. My interest was piqued.

A little later, I began reading Rolling Stone magazine. Springsteen released Darkness on the Edge of Town in 1978, and in reviewing the album, a 1974 quote from RS critic Jon Landau, when he had just seen his first live show by the Boss, was cited:

“I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

I liked Landau’s reviews, and that statement made a deep impression on me. Thus, I began avidly listening to Springsteen. Sadly, it seemed like all of my buddies were into FM radio then, which consisted largely of Styx, Foreigner, and disco. Popular music was certainly in the midst of an overall talent recession in ’78 and ’79, IMHO.

Anyhow, I became a major fan of the Boss, and still am today. Not all of his albums have been brilliant, but enough have that I add every new one to my collection, which even includes some vinyl and digital bootlegs.

So when I arrived home from work last Monday and my wife surprised me with tickets to his Tulsa April 7th concert, well, you can imagine my reaction.

I have been fortunate enough to catch Springsteen twice, in 1981 and last week. What follows is a review of the experiences. Savvy Boomers may want to follow the Boss’s example in living so as to avoid any trace of ever getting old.

If you’ve never been to a Springsteen concert, here’s what you won’t see: an opening act.

The reason is that back in 1981, Bruce came onstage at 8:30, played for an hour and a half, took a forty minute break, and then played again until just after midnight.

2 1/2 hours of Springsteen and the E Street Band makes any need for opening acts look silly, indeed.

I took notes at that concert, including the playlist. I needn’t have. 28 years later, we have the internet, and sites like, which provided me with the complete playlist. However, if it wasn’t for my notes, you wouldn’t know that Clarence Clemons first came out in a conservative brown suit, and switched to a flashier red one after the break, complete with black derby. 😉

Anyhow, that was my first rock concert, and it was a terrible disservice to any acts that I would see afterwards, including the Stones, George Thoroughgood, John Mayall, and others.

NOBODY gave a concert like Springsteen in 1981.

Now, here’s the good news: all of these years later, the man has lost exactly zero steps to time.

When he erupted onto the stage at the BoK Center, I was blown away by the shape he was in. He was ripped, not an ounce of fat. The man is 59 years old, and looks 40! There must be some sort of elixir of youth at the Springsteen house, because 55-year-old Patty Scialfa is also in top physical shape, and GORGEOUS!

And the music? Well, most of the 1981 E-Streeters are still there, missing, of course, the late Danny Federici. Nils Lofgren is now a member, and his guitar work, particularly slide, is unbelievable. Steve Van Zandt has put on a few pounds (must have been that rich Italian food on The Sopranos), but hasn’t lost a step. Max, Roy, and Garry all look grayer, but are rocking like Carter is still President. Two other newcomers are violinist Soozie Tyrell and keyboardist Charles Giordano.

The show began a half hour late, but nobody was complaining. The audience was largely Boomers, some with grandchildren, but also lots of hooting, hollering youngsters like me, 29 years ago. When the stage lights came on and the band opened with Badlands (just like in Memphis!), the night was on. And a very good night it was.

What followed was 2 1/2 hours of sheer energy that left me (and my younger bride) thoroughly exhausted. I screamed, whistled, jumped, sang, and perspired heavily until the closing tune, Dancing in the Dark. Then, I drove home two hours and slept for another ten.

The show included tracks from most of his albums, and a couple of folksy tunes that sounded like they should have been on The Seeger Sessions. Even Youngstown, from The Ghost of Tom Joad, made it into the set. So did Seeds, which was about the misery of a laid-off oilfield worker, only released on 1985’s Live. I guess today’s economy sadly makes the tune relevant yet again.

Many years have passed since that February night in 1981, when I first experienced Springsteen live. But not all the changes since then have been for the worse. The pot smoke in the Mid-South Coliseum was so thick by the end of the show that I could barely see the stage a hundred feet away. I was also VERY hungry for Chee-tos ;-).There was nary a joint, or any other cigarette, for that matter, to be seen or smelled in Tulsa.

And Mr. Landau, your 1974 vision was prophetic, indeed. In fact, as far as I can tell, the future of 21st century rock and roll continues to be Bruce Springsteen.

Songlist for April 7, 2009:

Outlaw Pete
Out in the Street
Working on a Dream
Johnny 99
I’m on Fire
Working on the Highway
I’m Goin’ Down
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
The Wrestler
Kingdom of Days
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run


Hard Times Come Again No More
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Land of Hope and Dreams
American Land
Dancing in the Dark