1955 (and then some)

In 1955 Charlie Parker died in the suite of a Rothschild, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, at a hotel in New York City. He was watching TV. The Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show was reportedly on.

Although the brothers, Jimmy and Tommy, had their biggest period in the first half of the 1930s, TV needed content in its nascent period, so musical variety was big then. Parker was a fan of Jimmy’s saxophone skills.

Parker was 34 when he died.

Elvis appeared on the Stage Show.

In 1955 James Dean, driving a Porsche 955 Spyder, had a collision with another car east of Paso Robles, California. It was fatal for Dean. The driver of the other car, a Ford Tudor, had minor injuries.

Dean was 24.

Rebel Without a Cause was released after Dean’s death. Another film with cultural resonance like Rebel, Blackboard Jungle, was released in 1955. It was based on a novel of the same name released in 1954 written by Evan Hunter, who was born Salvatore Lombino, but changed his name to Evan Hunter in 1952. The first work that the author sold was in 1951, a short story titled “Welcome, Martians!”

Blackboard Jungle featured “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets. Chuck Berry released “Maybellene” in 1955 and “Johnny B. Goode” in 1958. The latter was recorded on 12-inch gold-plated copper disks that were launched into space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space craft in 1977.

“Welcome, Martians!”

In 1955 Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California. In 1953 a film starring John Wayne, Trouble Along the Way, was released.

The airport in Anaheim is named after John Wayne. James Dean has an uncredited role in Trouble Along the Way, as a football fan. Dean was a high school athlete: baseball, basketball, track. Not football.

One of the original rides at Disneyland was Autopia. Gasoline powered cars on a track. When testing was performed before the park was opened, the vehicles were more than moderately wrecked due to collisions. Bumpers were added. They could have considered the Ford Tudor design.

Richard Wayne Penniman, no relation to the Duke, had one of his biggest songs released in 1955, “Tutti Frutti.”

In May 2020, marking Penniman’s death, Paul McCartney wrote, “From ‘Tutti Frutti’ to ‘Long Tall Sally’ to ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ to ‘Lucille’, Little Richard came screaming into my life when I was a teenager. I owe a lot of what I do to Little Richard and his style; and he knew it. He would say, ‘I taught Paul everything he knows.’ I had to admit he was right.”

In 1971 The Beach Boys released Surf’s Up! which includes “Disney Girls (1957).” Brian Wilson didn’t write it. Bruce Johnston did. Johnston became a member of The Beach Boys in mid-1965. He replaced Glen Campbell. Campbell had been a touring member of the band, replacing Brian Wilson, who had had a panic attack at the end of 1964 and announced he was giving up the road.

Glen Campbell was to have his own musical variety TV show from 1969-72, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. The Beatles appeared on the show. One of the writers for the Goodtime Hour was Rob Reiner. He was to write and direct This Is Spinal Tap (1984), which had been influenced by All You Need Is Cash by the Rutles (1978).

In 1965 The Beach Boys released Beach Boys’ Party! (seems that the band had a predilection for exclamation), the album that contains “Barbara Ann.” There are 11 other cuts on that album, three of which are Beatles songs (“I Should Have Known Better,” “Tell Me Why,” “You’ve Got to Hid Your Love Away.”)

So what’s the point of this salmagundi?

Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson both just turned 80. Although there is often the potted biography approach to note what happened the year someone was born (1942: World War II; Casablanca premiers; Bing Crosby releases “White Christmas” (covered by Ringo in 1999; covered by The Beach Boys in 1964)), I think that age 13 is when one really becomes oneself, and consequently what happened in 1955 is more pertinent to what the two men became. What’s more, while there is frequently the retelling of the Beatles hearing Pet Sounds, which led them to Sgt. Pepper, it is more likely, if we look at all of those random threads that made up the tissues of their lives, McCartney and Wilson had many mutual influences which had effects far in excess of one album or two. While Hawthorne, California, and Walton, Liverpool are physically thousands of miles apart, both grew up in a culture that created outlooks that are both vastly different yet remarkably similar.

And the influences that both have had on countless others who turned 13 listening to them cannot be overestimated.

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