Soundtrack in my head: Petula Clark, “I Know A Place”
Somewhere between the TV themes to “Leave It To Beaver” and “S.W.A.T.,” pop music evolved in interesting directions but a lot of this interesting pop history has been widely forgotten. When people think of the 1960s, they think of beach and surf music, the Beatles, flower power, and acid rock. But there’s another aspect of 60’s music that was popular. This is a genre that I refer to as “mid 1960s cheese pop.” As a child born in the 60s, its influence embedded itself in my brain because the style could be heard everywhere–or at least it seemed everywhere, according to my toddler mind. Maybe it seemed that way to me because my parents weren’t avid fans of the rock n roll popular at the time. They had albums by Peter Paul and Mary, Kingston Trio and the 5th Dimension, but their collection didn’t include any Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Jimi Hendrix.
In any case, the number one hit the week I was born was the song “Windy” by The Association. I swear I have early memories of the song, and I absolutely love it. (A friend of mine born the same week as me can’t stand it.) You can hear the blend of folk, rock, lounge and pop styles within that band and even see it in their mode of dress. It’s simple, light, whimsical, and irresistible.
The Seekers were the first Australian pop group to enjoy major chart success in both the U.S. and the U.K.
While the name of Spanky And Our Gang might invoke the Little Rascals TV series of the 1930s, the band, formed in Bloomington, Illinois, brought a significant “flower power” element into 60s cheese pop. Notice the complex and somewhat experimental arrangement of the song.
Arguable the queens of 60s cheese-pop had to be Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield. Petula Clark, born in Britain in 1932, actually got her carer start as a child singer during World War II but her career peaked in the 1960s. (She stayed relevant and even caused controversy in 1968 when she grabbed Harry Belafonte‘s arm when the two singers performed an anti-war duet.)
Dusty Springfield, also born in England in the 1930’s, was heavily influenced by Motown and introduced several Motown artists into the UK while also producing her own distinct style of soul music. This arguably peaked with 1969’s Dusty In Memphis album, with the hit below.
It would only be appropriate to complete this list with this classic camp video from Nancy Sinatra.