Do You Remember This Album?

Memory is a funny thing, mainly because they’re completely unreliable. And it’s quite easy to have false memories. My memories for the Gypsy album tells me I bought it in the early 1970s, and when I was dating my wife in 1977, I went through her records and found a copy of it. I have a memory of saying, “Hey, you like this album too?” I thought it was cool we both loved an obscure record. I asked Susan this morning of her memory about the album, and she says she owned it before we met. That’s confirmation, but read on. We both might be fooling ourselves.

You can listen to the album while you read on. And if you owned this album please leave a comment. I’ve never met anyone else who loved this album.

All this dredging of memories came about because I got out my CD of Gypsy the other day and played it. I thought, “Wow, what a wonderful album, why wasn’t it famous? What happened to the group? Should I buy their other albums?” Checking Spotify showed they didn’t exist in that worldwide form of collective memory. Nor are their albums available to buy on Amazon. I then checked YouTube, which is becoming our digital attic, and found copies of their albums to play. That made me even more curious about what happened to the band. Then that night, while browsing new YouTube offerings on my TV, YouTube listed a documentary about the group Gypsy in my to watch feed. I know people complain about digital companies tracking our interests, but I was quite thankful for this intrusion. The 2016 documentary Gypsy: Rock and Roll Nomads answered most of my questions.

But when I started checking facts, I’m not sure I can support Susan’s and my memories. Gypsy by Gypsy came out in 1970, and according to the documentary, bombed because Metromedia Records did not promote it. Now I bought a lot of albums simply because of their covers, and this was one – I’m positive. But then this is a story about faulty memories. I could have bought it in late 1970, but I can’t remember that. I don’t have a memory for when and where I bought it. All I remember was loving the cover, buying it, and then loving the album when I played it. I played it for weeks, and then put it away. That’s what my memory tells me. That could have happened from 1970-1977 before I met Susan. However, because the album was so poorly promoted, I probably needed to have bought it right after it was first released in 1970. I have no memory of buying it that early. How long does an album hang around in record stores?

The information I found at Discogs implies it got better support than the documentary suggested since it was released on LP, cassette, 8-track, and reel-to-real, and it was also published in eight countries outside the U.S.

Now the Discogs information gives me a second theory, one that conflicts with Susan’s and my memories. The album was rereleased in 1979 on LP, the year after we got married. I could have bought it then, at Peaches, and we discovered we loved it together. Later on we both gave ourselves false memories that we had discovered it by ourselves. Unfortunately, we got rid of our LPs as we bought CDs, so I don’t have any physical proof of which pressings we owned.

Sometime after 1990 I bought Gypsy again on CD (AJK Music A 862-1). It’s a fantastic album, but no one we know is familiar with it. When I played the CD the day before yesterday, I played it loud, and it sounded amazingly great. I just can’t believe it’s not a classic rock album everyone knows. Watching the documentary explained why the band failed. It was the typical story of we could have been contenders, we were almost famous, we were at all the right places, had all the right opportunities, performed with all the other great bands, but we just didn’t make it.

But I had one last unanswered question. Why isn’t this great album on Spotify? I think I found an answer to that question too. Spotify doesn’t pay much and some bands won’t release their albums through streaming music services. From the documentary I learned that James Walsh keeps the band going and sells CDs online. He is the only original member of the band still trying to keep the band’s memory alive. All four of Gypsy’s albums are available from their website as a 4-pack for $60, as well as histories of the band. The site was updated 3/4/21, but there are no new concerts scheduled. I have a feeling the site was created to promote the CDs and documentary, but concerts are rare.

I wonder how many CDs Walsh still sells? I know streaming pays poorly but it does keep the music alive, and it’s worldwide distribution. I don’t know about the second, third, and fourth albums, but the first album, Gypsy, really needs to be out there for people to discover. Keeping it off Spotify is a big mistake, like when whey went with Metromedia instead of Atlantic.

JWH

The Albums I Didn’t Buy in 1971

by James Wallace Harris, 8/30/21

[The above photograph is the only one I have of myself from 1971.]

I’m old enough that every year I live is also the 50th anniversary of a year I remember. This year, I keep seeing remembrances of 1971, especially lists of albums that claim to be the best of 1971.

This got me to thinking. How many great 1971 albums did I buy when they first came out? Then how many 1971 albums did I buy on LP or CD before switching to streaming music? Then how many albums have I discovered since having streaming music? Finally, how many albums from 1971 do I still need to play? Spotify has turned out to be a wonderful time machine.

It’s kind of overwhelming the number of memorable albums that came out in one year. The number is impressive, and it’s taken me fifty years of listening to find most these albums, and I’m still not done. Thanks to Spotify I’m still at it.

Albums I Bought When They Came Out

These two albums by Marvin Gaye and The Allman Brothers Band are among my lifetime favorites. I’ve never stopped playing them. I’ve bought them on CD, and even got the Fillmore East on SACD, and they are still repackaging those concerts, and I’ve bought them too. One thing that’s very special in my memories, is I got to see the Allman Brothers in concert in 1971 before Duane was killed.

These next three were major albums for me, and I played them for years, but I eventually got tired of them. I did buy them again when CDs came out, and I play them once every couple of years. Most of the albums listed below held my attention for just a short while. Many I only played once. A great record buy was one I’d play for a couple weeks straight. A very good record would hold my attention for days. Maybe the best albums are the ones we keep playing for the rest of our lives.

Back in 1971 I loved going to record stores. I’d usually visit two or three a week. I didn’t have much money then, so I didn’t buy that many albums in the year 1971 – I’d guess less than fifty, and most of those were from earlier years. Mostly I flipped past albums I wished I could buy. I used to have a fantasy of robbing Peaches back in the late 1970s. It was the biggest record store I had ever seen up to that time, maybe since. Having streaming music is like owning the biggest record store ever.

Eventually I did buy over a hundred albums that came out in 1971. I’d love if I could remember when and where for each one, but I can’t. I also wish I could remember those I bought on LPs in the 1970s and early 1980s, and which ones I bought when they were reissued on CDs, but I can’t do that either. Over the years I’ve gotten rid of my LPs, and most of my CDs. Here’s the list of 1971 albums I owned at one time or another. I’ll bolded the albums I still own (I think). I saved about 500 CDs, but I seldom play them. I’ve forgotten what I own. I bought thousands of LPs and CDs, but I moved around a lot, and sold my collections. There are many albums I bought more than once when I got money to rebuild my collection.

Here are the albums from 1971 that I bought after 1971. I’d say most of them were bought before 1980. It’s funny how a year in pop culture can linger. By the way, I got to see many of these acts in concert.

  1. Tapestry – Carole King
  2. L. A. Woman – Doors
  3. Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart
  4. American Pie – Don McLean
  5. Crazy Horse – Crazy Horse
  6. The Concert for Bangladesh – George Harrison & Friends
  7. 4 Way Street – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
  8. Chicago III
  9. Quicksilver – Quicksilver Messenger Service
  10. Bob Dylan’s Great Hits Vol. II – Boy Dylan
  11. Anticipation – Carly Simon
  12. Rough & Ready – The Jeff Beck Group
  13. Byrdmaniax – The Byrds
  14. Farther Along – The Byrds
  15. Electric Warrior – T-Rex
  16. If I Could Only Remember My Name – David Crosby
  17. Santana
  18. The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic
  19. 4 Way Street – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
  20. Tarkus – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  21. Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren – Todd Rundgren
  22. Deuce – Rory Gallagher
  23. In Search of Space – Hawkwin
  24. Nantucket Sleighride – Mountain
  25. John Prine – John Prine
  26. Rory Gallagher – Rory Gallagher
  27. America – America
  28. Who’s Next – The Who
  29. Hunky Dory – David Bowie
  30. Aqualung – Jethro Tull
  31. Imagine – John Lennon
  32. Ram – Paul & Linda McCartney
  33. The Yes Album – Yes
  34. Pearl – Janis Joplin
  35. Madman Across the Water – Elton John
  36. The Inner Mountain Flame – The Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin
  37. Songs for Beginners – Graham Nash
  38. Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon – James Taylor
  39. Pictures at An Exhibition
  40. The Electric Light Orchestra – Electric Light Orchestra
  41. A Space in Time – Ten Years After
  42. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour – The Moody Blues
  43. Cold Spring Harbor
  44. Little Feat – Little Feat
  45. Deuce – Rory Gallagher
  46. Osibisa – Osibisa
  47. Osibisa – Woyaya
  48. Free Live! – Free
  49. Future Games – Fleetwood Mac
  50. Broken Barricades
  51. Link Wray – Link Wray
  52. Live in Cook County Jail – B. B. King
  53. Gonna Take a Miracle – Laurya Nyro & Labelle
  54. Welcome to the Canteen – Traffic
  55. 11-17-70 – Elton John
  56. All Day Music – War
  57. Music – Carole King
  58. Sittin’ In – Loggins & Messina
  59. Stephen Stills 2 – Stephen Stills
  60. New Riders of the Purple Sage – New Riders of the Purple Sage
  61. Gather Me – Melanie
  62. ZZ Top’s First Album – ZZ Top
  63. A Clockwork Orange – Various Artists
  64. Survival – Grand Funk Railroad
  65. Flying Burrito Brothers – The Flying Burrito Brothers
  66. Bonnie Raitt – Bonnie Raitt
  67. Cahoots – The Band
  68. Album II – Loudon Wainwright III
  69. Other Voices – The Doors
  70. If Not for You – Olivia Newton-John
  71. Linda Ronstadt – Linda Ronstadt
  72. Street Corner Talking – Savoy Brown
  73. Stoney End – Barbra Streisand
  74. Carly Simon – Carly Simon
  75. In The Garden – Gypsy
  76. Barbra Joan Streisand – Barbra Streisand
  77. Thirds – James Gang
  78. Edgar Winter’s White Trash – Edgar Winter’s White Trash
  79. I Don’t Know How to Love Him – Helen Reddy
  80. Leon Russel and the Shelter People – Leon Russell
  81. Moments – Boz Scaggs
  82. Collaboration – Shawn Phillips
  83. Boz Scaggs & Band – Boz Scaggs
  84. Meddle – Pink Floyd
  85. Blue – Joni Mitchell
  86. Teaser and the Firecat – Cat Stevens
  87. The Cry of Love – Jimi Hendrix
  88. White Light – Gene Clark
  89. Carpenters – Carpenters
  90. Weather Report – Weather Report
  91. The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions – Howlin’ Wolf

This puts me just under a hundred albums I remember owning. To trigger my memory I had to look at the list of Top 1000 albums sold in 1971. I’m pretty sure I owned more albums from 1971 because their covers look very familiar. I think I owned them, but I’m not sure, so I’ve added them to the to stream soon list.

Albums Streamed Recently

These are the albums I remember streaming in the past couple of years. I’m sure there were more, but I just don’t remember. Maggot Brain and Pieces of a Man are albums I wished I had discovered in 1971. They are classics. I’ve added them to my most played play list.

  1. Melting Pot – Booker T. & The MG’s
  2. Maggot Brain – Funkadelic
  3. Surf’s Up – The Beach Boys
  4. Nilsson Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson
  5. A Nod is a Good as a Wink… To a Blind Horse – Faces
  6. Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton
  7. Black Moses – Isaac Hayes
  8. Shaft – Isaac Hayes
  9. Pieces of a Man – Gil Scott-Heron
  10. Roots – Curtis Mayfield
  11. Al Green Gets Next to You – Al Green
  12. All Day Music – War

Albums I Plan to Stream Soon

  1. Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore – Humble Pie
  2. McDonald and Giles
  3. Man in Black – Johnny Cash
  4. The Bill Evans Album – Bill Evans
  5. Randy Newman Live – Randy Newman
  6. Earth Wind and Fire – Earth Wind & Fire
  7. Yesterday’s Wine – Willie Nelson
  8. Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) – Elvis Presley
  9. Where I’m Coming From – Stevie Wonder
  10. The Sun, Moon and Herbs – Dr. John
  11. Live Johnny Winter And – Johnny Winter
  12. Super Bad – James Brown
  13. Distant Light – The Hollies
  14. Wildlife – Mott the Hoople
  15. Sugar – Stanley Turrentine
  16. Church of Anthrax – John Cale & Terry Riley
  17. Nose Roses – Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band
  18. Givin’ It Back – The Isley Brothers
  19. Where’s the Money? – Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks
  20. Nick Drake – Nick Drake
  21. Seven Tears – Golden Earring
  22. Fillmore East – June 1971 – The Mothers
  23. A Message to the People – Buddy Miles
  24. Back to the Roots – John Mayall
  25. Alone at Last – Gary Burton
  26. So Long, Bannatyne – The Guess Who
  27. The Doobie Brothers – The Doobie Brothers
  28. Manna – Bread
  29. Doctor Hook – Dr.Hook and the Medicine Show
  30. Sunwheel Dance – Bruce Cockburn
  31. Patchwork – Bobbie Gentry
  32. Rock Love – Steve Miller Band
  33. Rudy the Fifth – Rick Nelson
  34. Someday We’ll Look Back – Merle Haggard & the Strangers
  35. From the Inside – Poco
  36. Merry Clayton – Merry Clayton
  37. Nancy & Lee Again – Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood
  38. Lovejoy – Albert King
  39. Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves – Cher
  40. Ruby – Buck Owens & His Buckaroos
  41. Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream – Mason Proffit
  42. Elegy – The Nice
  43. Rita Coolidge – Rita Coolidge
  44. David Bromberg – David Bromberg
  45. Sunfighter – Paul Kantner & Grace Slick
  46. Take Heart – Mimi Farina and Tom Jans
  47. Dave Mason & Cass Elliot – Dave Mason & Cass Elliot
  48. 1969 – Julie Driscoll
  49. Nice Feelin’ – Rita Coolidge
  50. Garden in the City – Melanie
  51. Can I Have My Money Back? – Gerry Rafferty
  52. Me & Bobby McGee – Kris Kristofferson

Lists Used to Remember

JWH

How Well Do You and Pop Culture Remember Your Favorite TV Season?

by James Wallace Harris, 8/7/21

I recently joined the Facebook group The History of American Television. It has 73.4 thousand members, and I feel many are Baby Boomers. We were the first generation to grow up with a TV. It’s both remarkable and disturbing how many thousands of hours we’ve spent in front of a cathode ray tube. Television imprinted on us like ducklings to their mother. Now that we’re old, we nostalgically remember TV shows, and some of us even rewatch our childhood favorite series time and again. Everyone I know loves TV, but most stick to the new shows. However, a large percentage of my friends if they don’t occasionally rewatch TV from the past, wistfully remember shows from when they were tykes and teens.

My father (1920-1970) and mother (1916-2007) liked TV but they seldom talked about pop culture from their youth, or tried to reexperience it. And my mother’s mother (1881-1972) never talked about pop culture at all to me, and neither did my father’s mother (1898-1981). My generation, the Baby Boomers seems obsessed with remembering TV shows, movies, albums, books, games, sports – everything they loved growing up. That’s quite evident by all the diverse groups on Facebook devoted to wallowing in Oldie Goldie pop culture.

When the TV History Facebook group began discussing the first TV show they remembered I posted a photo from the show Topper (CBS 1953-55). That was the first television series I remembered watching when I was four or five. Up till then I never met anyone who talked about seeing Topper as a kid. I got 7,300 likes and 746 shares. I was amazed that so many people had the same blast from the past.

Like my peers, I’m hung up on memory and pop culture. Individually, we have personal memories, but collectively we have history. Both kinds of recall tend to forget and distort the past, often rewriting it. I’m old enough that every year is the 50th anniversary of a year I remember living, and the media celebrates with a string of significant anniversaries. For younger people it’s only abstract history. But if a kid today grows up watching Star Trek and digging The Beatles, do they have the same experience we had?

I find it enlightening to challenge my memories. Because of this Facebook group, I struggled to recall everything I could about the TV I watched in the 1966/67 season and compare it to how pop culture remembers those shows today. I was 15 and in the 10th grade. A great deal of real history happened during those months, especially regarding the Vietnam war, but I’m only going to focus only on TV shows.

First, my memories without using Google for help. Here are the shows I remember now and believed I tried to watch every week.

  • Star Trek
  • The Time Tunnel
  • The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
  • ABC Stage 67

Of course Star Trek has become a cultural phenomenon and I’ve seen all the first season episodes since, some several times. I’ve also read books about the creation and production of the program, meaning my memories have been reinforced. I do have a memory of watching the very first episode of Star Trek when it premiered, and I have vague memories of liking specific first season episodes that existed before I saw the reruns. I think it came on Thursdays.

My memories of The Time Tunnel are vaguer. In recent years I’ve caught a few episodes shown on MeTV, and I remembered seeing them in 1966 but I couldn’t have recalled them before hand.

I’ve never seen The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. again but I remember it starred Stephanie Powers and Noel Harrison, Rex Harrison’s son. I have seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in reruns, a show I also loved from that time period, but I find them impossible to watch now. I’d love to see The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. again, but I assume it would be just as stupid to me now.

I can only recall one episode from ABC Stage 67, a musical with Ricky Nelson. I think it was called “Yesterday’s Heroes.” I’ve always had fond memories of that episode and even tracked down a copy of the soundtrack years ago.

That’s not much to remember to believe the 1966-1967 television season was my favorite. I can’t watch Star Trek anymore, but I did love it for many years and watched all the sequel series through Voyager. Star Trek has made a huge impact on pop culture, and even young people today know about it. I’ve had dreams over the years where I’m flipping through the TV channels and find an episode of Star Trek I haven’t seen before. I wake up feeling this tremendous sense of nostalgia, and wanting to watch Star Trek again. When I do I’m always disappointed. It’s never as good as my memories.

Now, using help from Wikipedia’s page for the 1966-1967 television schedule. It triggered countless memories I’ve forgotten. And that makes me wonder just how many memories are still recorded in my brain? I can only access them when triggered with an external clue. Could complete ancient episodes be recorded in my brain?

Sunday: I watched Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea by myself, The Ed Sullivan Show with my family, and then my sister Becky and I would fight with my dad over the final hour. He wanted Bonanza and we wanted The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Monday: My sister and I would watch The Monkees and I Dream of Jeannie, then I’d watch The Rat Patrol. I’d skip the rest of the evening, but I think my sister and mom watched The Andy Griffiths Show and Family Affair.

Tuesday: I watched The Girl From U.N.C.L.E, and then the family would watch The Red Skelton Hour (which is probably why I don’t remember The Invaders, a show I would have watched), and then my dad watched The Fugitive. The Fugitive bored me then, but a few years ago I bought the complete season on DVD and got into it.

Wednesday: My mom commandeered the first hour with The Virginian, which meant I usually didn’t get to see Lost in Space. I remember the kids at school loved Batman, but I thought it stupid. The family would watch Green Acres and Gomer Pyle. Sometimes I would stay, but mostly I’d go read science fiction. If I came back out I’d watch ABC Stage 67 or I, Spy, shows no one else in my family liked. I, Spy was my favorite show from the 1965-1966 season.

Thursday: I’d hog the TV on Thursday for Star Trek. Me and Becky would sometimes watch F Troop or That Girl. And my parents like The Dean Martin Show.

Friday: I’d watch The Wild Wild West or Tarzan, and then The Time Tunnel, and then 12 O’Clock High, sometimes with my dad, but usually I was by myself with the TV on Friday nights.

Saturday Night: This wasn’t a big night except for Mission Impossible which I think the whole family enjoyed. However, we often skipped it for Saturday Night at the Movies. That’s the show we watched most as a family.

Before I started these memory excavations I assumed I watched TV every night, and caught every episode of my favorite shows. But when I’ve tried to watch these shows again as reruns, DVDs, or streaming, I seldom found episodes I remember, except for Star Trek or The Time Tunnel.

As I squeeze my brain cells I realize I don’t believe now I watched as much television as I thought I did, and I don’t think we had as many regular family viewings. But I’m not sure. I do remember what I watched, and to a much lesser degree, remember who I watched with.

My mother and father were separated for the first half of that TV season, so we couldn’t have had that many family viewings that year. And once they were reunited, and we were all together again, we did watch TV as a foursome like I describe above, but I’m not sure how often. Once I began remembering TV from 1966-1967 season other memories emerged like digging for fishing worms in cow pies.

On the other hand, most of the shows from the 1966-1967 schedule are still being rerun, streamed, or sold on DVD today. Well, except the variety shows, but even clips and compilations from The Ed Sullivan Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour still show up. Pop culture has a more powerful memory than I do, especially after digitizing it. I could recreate and relive my 1966 days from artifacts off the internet.

These efforts to remember watching television is unearthing all kinds of connected memories. I need to stop here otherwise this blog would turn into a book. But I have one last interesting observation. I no longer like the shows I loved as a kid, but I discovered I now enjoy the shows my parents loved back then. I’ve bought the complete series DVDs of my mother’s favorite show, Perry Mason, and my father’s favorite show, The Fugitive. In the 1960s, both bored the crap out of me. In the 2020s I enjoy them.

JWH

How I Finally Solved a Mystery of Memory

by James Wallace Harris, 7/27/21

I made a discovery this morning that’s very important to me. One I had to write about. Whether or not you find it worth reading will depend on if you also have memory mysteries that haunt you too.

I lived in South Carolina twice, however I was very young the first time, and for my whole life I’ve tried to figure out when and where I lived the first time. This mystery of memory only began to matter once I got into my forties and I realized my memories were fading. It became a tiny existential ache. I even remember being disappointed at the time when I asked my mother about this and she couldn’t remember either. How could someone not remember when and where they lived when they were an adult? As I catch up to my mother’s age I might be able to answer that too.

Today I was going through a box of old papers, letters, and photos I found at my mother’s house after she died in 2007. I had put them in a drawer in my closet and forgot about them. Going through them today I discovered clues that may answer the South Carolina memory mystery.

The first clue was a “Certificate of Training” from the Department of Air Force given to my dad for completing 88 hours of Apprentice Aircraft Mechanic (Jet Two Engine) at Shaw Air Force Base dated August 15, 1958. Now this isn’t proof I lived in South Carolina at the same time. My dad sometimes went off without us. For example, on the back of this certificate it says he had previously completed 12 weeks of training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas and I have no memory of the family living in Texas.

This 1958 date does jive with the one clue I found after the invention of the search engine. I remembered going to the movie theater for the very first time in my life to see Snow Fire when we lived in South Carolina. Google helped me then by providing the movie release date, May 18, 1958. At the time I thought it was a false clue, or a false memory because that was after I had started going to school and I have no memory of going to school when I lived in South Carolina the first time.

The next clue I found was the report card from the third 1st grade school I attended, Watkins Elementary in Hollywood, Florida. It has me finishing the year dated 6/6/58. I transferred there during the third six-week period in 1957.

So this puts me in Hollywood, Florida for the first half of 1958. That was at the Lake Forest subdivision house that I remember as being the first house my parents bought. That memory of ownership might not be true since its just a childhood impression. Some of my all-time favorite memories come from living at that Lake Forest house. [Here it is. Becky and I are wearing cowboy outfits. I’m guessing Christmas 1958.]

The next report card in the box is from 2nd grade at Lake Forest Elementary putting me back in Hollywood, Florida in the 2nd six-week period.

This accounts for the rest of 1958 from about October or early November on. That means I could have lived in South Carolina during June through October of 1958. But I don’t remember attending school there. I’ve always thought I attended two 2nd grade schools but never could remember the first. I can recall being taken to Lake Forest Elementary and enrolled after the year started. I never could remember the first 2nd grade school, but assumed there was one and I just forgot.

I have a new theory from these clues. My parents bought the house at Lake Forest in late 1957 or early 1958, but during the summer my father was sent off for training in South Carolina, and we went with him. We rented a house out in the country and I have many memories from then. But not of going to school, or of leaving. One thing I recall now is I have no memories of my parents ever telling me and Becky we were going to move. I’m guessing we stayed in South Carolina during the summer and my parents just didn’t send me to school at the beginning of the 2nd grade year. Becky didn’t start the 1st until I started the 3rd.

This kind of boggles my mind that my parents didn’t enroll me in school. I would have missed a whole six-week period and part of another. I do remember always being the new kid. I didn’t know it until I got older, but I was always a year younger than the other kids. I started 1st grade at age 5, and didn’t turn six until November 25th. I really should have been held back a year. This might also explain why my grades in elementary school were so poor, and my teacher comments were always about how little Jimmy needs to work harder.

I hope I’ve finally solved the mystery of when and where I lived in South Carolina the first time. I’ve thought we had lived in a city that started with a C, either Columbus or Charleston. Shaw Air Force Base is near Sumter, but Columbus isn’t that far away.

I was six years old that summer, which explains why I had no memory of when and where I lived. At six I didn’t know such things. I don’t think it was until 1959 that I knew about years. But I do have many major memories from that summer of 1958. And that’s another validation. I have no memory of it ever being cold. Some of those vivid memories include:

  • The house we rented had a large wooden porch on three sides of the house. I loved that house.
  • The house we rented had a second floor that wasn’t part of what we rented but me and my sister would go up the stairs to where all this old stuff was stored. I specifically remember stacks of old magazines as high as Becky who I now know was four, and strange old-timey furniture. We never turned on the lights up there so it was always spooky. For years after this I would have reoccurring scary dreams, and the scary place would always be this floor at the top of the stairs.
  • My father put up two homemade swings in the trees outside. I remember him throwing ropes over very high limbs. We could swing almost as high as those limbs. I also remember those trees had long strands of moss hanging from them.
  • We lived out in the country with no paved roads, and those roads went through hills that had been cut away, leaving large sides of exposed dirt that was very red/orange.
  • We had a henhouse and my mother bought 24 chickens and 2 ducklings. Wild dogs that I called wolves would come run off with them and my father shot at the dogs with a .22 he said his grandfather gave him and he would give me when I grew up. After we moved back to Lake Forest I would sneak the gun out to play with on the street and neighbors complained. It disappeared and I never saw it again.
  • The dogs eventually got both ducks and some of the chicks. I remember trying to get the chicks to fly by throwing them up in the air. (Feel bad about that now.)
  • My job was to carry the garbage out back to a pit. My mother promised to buy me a real pig if I did that. In my fifties she finally bought me a concrete pig to keep in the flowerbed because I kept telling her she never paid me.
  • This was the first time I learned about black people. Becky and I played with two kids from a farm nearby. We thought they were rich because they had giant hogs that I wanted. One day my mom told us to go out and play with our little black friends. I didn’t know what she was talking about. I thought black was the color of cars and she had to explain that she meant our friends who were only brown, and I hadn’t even noticed that since we were brown too. My father then told us to always be nice to black kids when this happened. Decades later I learned the Air Force had integrated in the 1950s and my father worshiped the Air Force, so anything they commanded was how we were going to act. I see that as the seed of my liberal philosophy.
  • I’ve already mentioned going to a movie theater for the first time and seeing Snow Fire, but one of my most cherished memories is waking up in the middle of the night and my dad letting me stay up with him to watch the all-night movies. The movie we saw was High Barbaree, which I didn’t know then, but realized later when I was in the 6th grade and saw it again and remember the previous time. I’ve written about this memory many times. The reason why the movie was so important to me was it featured two kids that got separated when the girl’s parents had to move away for a job. I had already been the kid to move away several times in my life by then, and had lost many friends. That scene really resonated with me.
  • I had my first nightmare about dinosaurs at that house that has reoccurred many times over the decades. One of my most popular blog posts is about dinosaur dreams.

I have many other memories from this time period, and that amazes me when I now realize I was only six years old. That’s why for decades I’ve wanted to know when and where all this took place. I’m glad I didn’t throw all this stuff away. And it looks like I will find other clues to memory mysteries in this box too. So be forewarned.

I believe this is what I looked like in 1958.

JWH

How Will We Remember the 1960s?

by James Wallace Harris, 5/16/21

Anyone who knows me, or reads my blog, knows I’m obsessed with memory. Even before my memory access speeds began declining I’ve always felt a desperation to hang onto what I learned even though I know most of it slips naturally away. I guess all those tests in school gave me a complex about poor recall.

Memory has many fascinating aspects, especially all the ways our memories fool us. We believe things are true because our memories tell us they’re true. Even when confronted with conclusive evidence, we often prefer what our memories tell us to external facts. All through my sixties I’ve been examining what I thought I remembered from growing up in the 1960s. Too often, the impressions I’ve maintained have proved wrong.

Because of an online discussion about science fiction in the 1960s my instant recall told me there must have been several hundred great science fiction novels published during that decade. However, as the discussion progressed my memory had trouble dredging up all those great titles.

My memory gave me the illusion there were enough wonderful science fiction novels published in the 1960s to fill a huge bookcase. Where did that impression come from? I assumed because my memories told me I read hundreds of science fiction novels I loved while growing up. Were those memories true? Thinking about it now I realized there are a number of ways to double check my brain’s records:

  • Look up the actual number of successful SF books published in the 1960s
  • Recall and list all the books I remember reading in the 1960s
  • Recall and list all the SF books from the 1960s I read in later decades
  • Research the memories of my contemporizes about what they read
  • Find out what books young science fiction fans read today from the 1960s
  • Read what literary scholars studying the 1960s consider the best SF books

I realized that my initial reaction to the online discussion was I wanted young people to replicated what I found great in the 1960s. That’s a typical old person hope, but it’s completely unrealistic. Newer generations are busy consuming all the books coming out in their own decade. What they read from past decades is always very minimal.

In other words, younger generations and scholars get a distillation of the past. Not only that, but they are going to interpret the past by current day mindsets. The chances of them experiencing what I remember is very small. So why do geezers want their cherished past persevered? Is it to validate their own memories? Is it the hope of keeping the things they loved alive across time?

For whatever reason, I want the essential aspects of the 1960s remembered accurately by history. The trouble is I’m not sure I correctly remember the 1960s myself. I’m probably not. Maybe what I’m doing is trying to write my own correct history now that I’m older and working on my wisdom skills.

For the purpose of this essay I’m using science fiction novels as one tiny test case of remembering the 1960s. I have a model in my head built from memories of what the 1960s were like. I’m interested in the mental models people are constructing today about that decade. Even focusing on this one microscopic piece of pop culture leaves many problems regarding memory to consider.

Is my white male American viewpoint of the 1960s science fiction too limiting? Do my contemporaries who were women and minorities remember 1960s science fiction differently? Bookworms growing up in Russia, China, Brazil, Vietnam, etc. will have experienced a much different decade than I did. For the purpose of this essay, I’ll focus on the U.S., however Great Britain plays a large role in my memory too. I also read fanzines back then where readers from around the world, including countries where English wasn’t the standard language, reviewed books. But this only provided hints of what science fiction was being published in foreign countries.

The online discussion I mentioned above got started because we read a link to “An Uneven Showcase of 1960s SF,” a 2019 review from The Los Angeles Review of Books covering The Library of America’s two volume set American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s, which remembers these eight novels:

  • Poul Anderson, The High Crusade (1960)
  • Clifford D. Simak, Way Station (1963)
  • Roger Zelazny, … And Call Me Conrad (This Immortal) (1965)
  • Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon (1966)
  • R. A. Lafferty, Past Master (1968)
  • Joanna Russ, Picnic on Paradise (1968)
  • Samuel R. Delany, Nova (1968)
  • Jack Vance, Emphyrio (1969)

Our group was asking: Are these books really how literary history will remember 1960s science fiction? Personally, I don’t believe any of them will make it to the long term pop culture memory of 2050. However, Library of America does give us a clue with their other published science fiction books. That’s because their famous uniform volumes focus on authors and not works. So far they have published sets on these SF writers:

PKD also produced significant work in the 1950s and 1970s, but it seems his 1960s novels are the most remembered. Le Guin’s career covered decades but her most famous science fiction came out in the 1960s and 1970s. Vonnegut is also mostly remembered for his 1960s novels. Bradbury was mainly famous for his work in the 1950s, and Butler for work in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Library of America will not be the sole arbiter of who remembers science fiction from the 1960s, but I do believe they have made good guesses so far, at least for American Sci-Fi. But using Library of America and the SF authors they favor, are these then the science fiction novels future readers will remember 1960s science fiction by:

  • The Man in the High Castle (1962) by Philip K. Dick
  • A Wrinkle in Time (1962) Madeleine L’Engle
  • Cat’s Cradle (1963) by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Martian Time-Slip (1964) by Philip K. Dick
  • Rocannon’s World (1966) Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) by Philip K. Dick
  • Planet of Exile (1966) by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • City of Illusions (1967) by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick

Of course this leaves out works by the most famous science fiction writers working in the 1960s, the so called Big Three of SF:

  • A Fall of Moondust (1961) by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Fantastic Voyage (1966) by Isaac Asimov
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) by Robert A. Heinlein
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by Arthur C. Clarke

Actually, The Big Three of SF writers were more famous for their work in the 1950s. Probably the single most remembered work of science fiction from the 1960s is Dune by Frank Herbert, and that’s because of all the movie versions. But growing up in the 1960s the two most famous new writers were Delany and Zelazny. Will any of their most famous novels be remembered? They each got an entry in the LoA set, but what about their other 1960s novels?

  • The Dream Master (1966) by Roger Zelazny
  • Empire Star (1966) by Samuel R. Delany
  • Babel-17 (1966) by Samuel R. Delany
  • The Einstein Intersection (1967) by Samuel R. Delany
  • Lord of Light (1967) by Roger Zelazny
  • Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

There were many novels I loved or remember reading great reviews from back in the 1960s that were missed by the Library of America set. I’m not sure how famous they are today, or if they are still worthy of reading:

  • A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) by Walter M. Miller Jr.
  • Flesh (1960) by Philip Jose Farmer
  • Rogue Moon (1960) by Algis Budrys
  • Venus Plus X (1960) by Theodore Sturgeon
  • Catseye (1961) by Andre Norton
  • Dark Universe (1961) by Daniel F. Galouye
  • Time is the Simplest Thing (1961) by Clifford Simak
  • Little Fuzzy (1962) by H. Beam Piper
  • The Dragon Masters (1963) by Jack Vance
  • Lords of the Psychon (1963) by Daniel F. Galouye
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963) by Walter Tevis
  • Davy (1964) by Edgar Pangborn
  • Simulacron-3 (1964) by Daniel F. Galouye
  • The Wanderer (1964) by Fritz Leiber
  • All Flesh is Grass (1965) by Clifford Simak
  • Bill, the Galactic Hero (1965) by Harry Harrison
  • Destination: Void (1965) by Frank Herbert
  • The Genocides (1965) by Thomas M. Disch
  • The Age of the Pussyfoot (1966) by Frederik Pohl
  • Earthblood (1966) by Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown
  • Make Room, Make Room (1966) by Harry Harrison
  • Mindswap (1966) by Robert Sheckley
  • The Witches of Karres (1966) by James H. Schmitz
  • The World of the Ptavvs (1966) by Larry Niven
  • The Butterfly Kid (1967) by Chester Anderson
  • Camp Concentration (1967) by Thomas M. Disch
  • Chthon (1967) by Piers Anthony
  • Lords of the Starship (1967) by Mark S. Geston
  • Restoree (1967) by Anne McCaffrey
  • Soldier, Ask Not (1967) by Gordon R. Dickson
  • Those Who Watch (1967) by Robert Silverberg
  • Why Call Them Back From Heaven? (1967) by Clifford Simak
  • Dimension of Miracles (1968) by Robert Sheckley
  • Dragonflight (1968) by Anne McCaffrey
  • Hawksbill Station (1968) by Robert Silverberg
  • The Last Starship From Earth (1968) by John Boyd
  • The Masks of Time (1968) by Robert Silverberg
  • Of Men and Monsters (1968) by William Tenn
  • Past Master (1968) by R. A. Lafferty
  • Rite of Passage (1968) by Alexei Panshin
  • The Andromeda Strain (1969) by Michael Crichton
  • Bug Jack Barron (1969) by Norman Spinrad
  • Fourth Mansions (1969) by R. A. Lafferty
  • Macroscope (1969) by Piers Anthony
  • The Pollinators of Eden (1969) by John Boyd
  • The Ship Who Sang (1969) by Anne McCaffrey
  • A Specter is Haunting Texas (1969) by Fritz Leiber
  • Up the Line (1969) by Robert Silverberg

And what about British invasion SF writers who made such a big impact on the genre in the 1960s:

  • The Trouble with Lichen (1960) by John Wyndham
  • The Wind from Nowhere (1961) by J. G. Ballard
  • A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess
  • The Drowned World (1962) by J. G. Ballard
  • Hothouse (1962) by Brian Aldiss
  • Greybeard (1964) by Brian Aldiss
  • The Dark Light Years (1964) by Brian Aldiss
  • The Whole Man (1964) by John Brunner
  • The Squares of the City (1965) by John Brunner
  • Colossus (1966) D. F. Jones
  • The Crystal World (1966) by J. G. Ballard
  • Earthworks (1966) by Brian Aldiss
  • The Watch Below (1966) by James White
  • Chocky (1968) by John Wyndham
  • The Final Programme (1968) by Michael Moorcock
  • Pavane (1968) by Keith Roberts
  • Report on Probability A (1968) by Brian Aldiss
  • Stand on Zanzibar (1968) by John Brunner
  • Barefoot in the Head (1969) by Brian Aldiss
  • Behold the Man (1969) Michael Morecock
  • The Jagged Orbit (1969) by John Brunner

Or from the rest of the world

  • Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem
  • Planet of the Apes (1963) by Pierre Boulle
  • Hard to Be a God (1964) by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
  • The Second Invasion from Mars (1967) by Arkady and Boris Strgatsky
  • His Master’s Voice (1968) by Stanislaw Lem

If you were born after the 1960s, especially after the year 2000, how many of these novels have you read, or have even heard about? Years ago, I wrote an essay about what I thought might be the defining science fiction novels of the 1960s. At the time I guessed these dozen would be remembered:

  1. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (1961)
  2. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (1961)
  3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
  4. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)
  5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1963)
  6. Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
  7. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (1966)
  8. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (1966)
  9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1968)
  10. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner (1968)
  11. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1969)
  12. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

I stand by these twelve for now, but I believe in the long run, only a few, if any, will be remembered by the reading public in the 2060s. Dune has the best chance of being remembered, but will it really go the distance? It was #35 on PBS’s The Great American Read, the only 1960s SF novel on the list, so that’s one indicator.

Do we remember the pop culture of the past because of the artists or their works? We remember books by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen from the 1800s, but did their stories stick to us first, or was it something about Dickens and Austen that make us read their work? I believe “Eleanor Rigby” survives because we can’t forget The Beatles. That Baby Boomers love of The Beatles was passed on to their children and grand children.

Even with one hit wonders like Little Women (#8 on the PBS list), I believe Louisa May Alcott is why we remember her book. Somehow her powerful personality anchored her in time. Ditto for literature of the 1920s. Don’t we really remember the novels of the 1920s because of our fascination with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lawrence, and Joyce? Or do their biographical reputations grow as more readers consume their books?

My guess is the current public’s sense of 1960s science fiction comes down to Philip K. Dick and all the biographical attention he’s getting, and because so many of his stories have been filmed. Back in the 1960s, Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke were the Big Three of SF, mainly because of their successes in the 1950s. Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress are still remembered today, getting special editions and new readers, but my hunch is Heinlein’s appeal is fading, and as a teenager in the 1960s he was my J. K. Rowling. In other words, my cherish memories will not be how literary historians remembers science fiction the 1960s.

I just don’t see modern bookworms hanging onto to most 1960s SF writers today. In terms of literary cults, I’d say Ray Bradbury might be next after PKD, and possibly Ursula K. Le Guin. Dune is the major SF novel from the 1960s, but there seems to be little interest in Frank Herbert. Look how Tolkien has become legendary as a figure of literary interest. I consider that a clue to future literary remembrances. If the public doesn’t also take an interest in an author, I think it’s less likely their books will be remembered.

At the last World Con a Hugo award was given to a speech that’s erasing John W. Campbell’s reputation. Will Heinlein and Asimov be next? As much as my memories tell me that Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke were great, I’m not sure the collective pop culture memory feels the same way. This makes me sad, but I’ve got to come to terms with it.

When I take the time to think about what I actually remember, and compare those memories to external data, I realized I did read hundreds of SF during the 1960s, but the vast majority of them were first published in the 1950s. I joined the Science Fiction Book Club in March of 1967 and often got its two main selections. At best that could have been 60 new titles, but sometimes the main selections were 1950s reprints, so I figure the number was smaller, and I didn’t read every book. Thinking about things, I read many 1960s SF novels after the 1960s, in fact I’m still reading for the first time SF books from the 1960s. But even with all them, I could not assemble a list of hundreds of great SF books from the 1960s.

My memory was mostly wrong. I was able to find just under a hundred titles for this essay. I’d bet that between 1,000-2,000 SF novels were published during the 1960s, which sounds like an impossible lot, but it takes only two years nowadays to publish that many SF titles.

Memory has always been a distillation process. Each night we forget most of what happened the previous day. I don’t think the Library of America picked the most memorable eight SF novels to remember the 1960s. But then every science fiction fan who lived through the sixties will recall a different eight titles. And it would be unfair for me to want my eight favorites to be the ones remembered. However, I’d really love to know what eight SF novels from the 1960s will be remembered and read in the 2060s. Who will be the Jules Verne and H. G. Wells of the 20th century?

Update: 5/25/21

Because of a comment below by my old friend Jim Connell I realized asking a 15-year-old SF fan today about 1960s is like asking me back in 1965 what I thought about science fiction from the 1910s. At the time I had not even read A Princess of Mars or Tarzan of the Apes, or even The Skylark of Space. Over the next fifty-five years I would eventually read several novels, both literary and science fiction from the 1910s, but I can’t say I’m intimate with the pop culture of that decade. I’ve read 9 of the 70 books listed here for the 1910s, and know of several more from movies and reading about them.

Thus my memory of science fiction from the 1910s gives me roughly an idea of what younger people might know about science fiction from the 1960s.

JWH