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Paul & PaulaMany rock critics and historians speak of the early 1960's as a dark period. During the late 50's, Elvis joined the army, Little Richard joined the ministry, Chuck Berry got thrown in the slammer, Alan Freed fell to the payola scandal, and Buddy Holly died in a cornfield. Even worse, rock 'n' roll was artistically bankrupt, hijacked by oily music industry fat cats who forced bleached teen idols down the throats of an unsuspecting young America. Only the Beatles (yeah!) could save us.

Fabian notwithstanding, this is almost pure myth. Rock may have entered its awkward teenage years, but it was hardly bankrupt. During this allegedly fallow period, the Beach Boys, the Four Seasons, Motown Records, Phil Spector and dozens of glorious girl groups all rose to prominence, and the seeds of Stax Records sprouted in Memphis. Bankrupt, indeed.

That said, Paul & Paula were the sort of squeaky-clean act that gave early 60's rock such a bad name, and Holiday For Teens (Philips, 1963) is one goofy record! The duo made this queer piece of plastic in the wake of a successful string of singles like "Hey Paula" (#1, 1962) and "Young Lovers" (#6, 1963), which really aren't so bad - they're just hopelessly dated, unbelievably corny, and resolutely cynical. Paul and Paula, after all, were both in their twenties, but their music was designed to reflect the tastes of teenagers - specifically, chaste, upwardly mobile, white teenagers.

Like most Christmas albums, Holiday For Teens is weighted with standards like "White Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland." Paul & Paula rattle these off in their usual seamless harmony, generally accompanied by an aggressively cheerful "rock" band. The fun, however, starts with the original songs - four of them, a fairly high quotient for this sort of product (Paul contributes to the songwriting on a couple).

Punctuated by a neat little pseudo-rockabilly guitar figure, "Holiday For Teens" celebrates the joys of Christmas vacation. "Now we can put our books away, it's the happy, happy time of the year," effuses the duo. "We'll be taking sleigh rides instead of planning hay rides," they sing - as if American teenagers pursued either activity with any regularity! C'mon, kids back then were too busy dry-humping in the back of their parents' cars (or so I'm told).

"A New Year, A New Ring" is a sweet, romantic ballad that begins with the immortal line, "We're a couple of teens in sweaters and jeans." Okay, we get it! But, "The Happy Holiday" is positively wretched - a German oompah song, believe it or not, inspired perhaps by all those Elvis movies set in Germany while he was stationed overseas.

"Holiday Hootenanny," however, is the money shot in this calculated teen romp. The songwriters efficiently hop on two bandwagons at once - the surf craze and the folk revival - while maintaining the album's central themes. Kicking off with the "Pipeline" guitar riff, the band quickly zips into a kinetic, folk-rock rendition of "Jingle Bells" with all-new lyrics. "We've been surfing all summer long," the assembled multitude crows. But, Paula explains, "On the modern scene, hootenanny is the thing."

Holiday For Teens is very nearly a concept album - albeit a concept album about how much fun it was to be young, caucasian, and middle-class during Christmas of 1963. Immediately following its release, however, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the Beatles invaded America. The world looked suddenly different - even for privileged white kids - and Paul & Paula became anachronisms overnight. Still, it's fun to look back and wonder how we could ever have swallowed whole such amazing naiveté.

By the way, Paul & Paula were really Ray Hildebrand and Jill Jackson, both hailing from small towns in Texas. They initially released "Hey Paula" under their own names (as "Jill & Ray") on the little LeCam label. After "Hey Paula" and "Young Lovers," the pair charted three more pop singles, each performing worse than the previous. Their sixth and final appearance came with "Holiday Hootenanny," which achieved #19 on the Christmas chart in December 1963

Consumer Notes. Though the Philips masters for Holiday For Teens are owned by industry giant Universal, it has only been reissued on CD by tiny Mistletoe Records - and I'm not certain that they're even a legitimate label. Regardless, it's very hard to locate; if you can't find one on Amazon, try oldies specialist Continental Records - or search eBay for both either CD or vinyl copies. To my knowledge, only one track from Holiday For Teens has ever appeared on a CD compilation - "Holiday For Teens" on Rock 'n' Roll Christmas, Vol. 2 (1998) improbably paired with Squeeze, Bryan Adams, and grunge duo Local H.

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • Holiday For Teens
  • A New Year, A New Ring
  • Holiday Hootenanny

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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