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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
been surfing all summer long,"
the assembled multitude crows. But, Paula explains, "On the modern
scene, hootenanny is the thing."
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
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 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.
- Holiday For Teens
A New Year, A New Ring
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