The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Summer in the '60s: When being totally square was still cool [Video]

July 12, 2011 | 11:45 am

I don't know if it's because I finally got around to reading Andrew Loog Oldham's memoir, "Stoned," or because so many of my friends on Facebook -- hey, my real friends -- have been putting up these wonderful video clips of bands from the British Invasion, but I thought it was time to celebrate summer by reveling in the sound and style of the '60s. (I'll be posting videos that capture the pop spirit of the time, so if you have any suggestions, feel free to share.) There's no better place to start than this clip of Peter & Gordon crooning their biggest hit, "World Without Love," which topped the U.S. charts in the summer of 1964.

There's all sorts of mythology surrounding the song, which was written by Paul McCartney and apparently rejected, first by John Lennon, who thought it too squishy for the Beatles, and then by Billy J. Kramer, a pop star of the time, even though nearly all of his hits were songs given to him by Lennon and McCartney. That's how it ended up in the hands of Gordon Waller and Peter Asher -- Asher being the brother of Jane Asher, who was McCartney's main squeeze at the time.

If you check out the close-up of Asher at about the 35-second mark, you'll see that it's all too clear who was the inspiration (red hair, nerdy glasses, bad teeth) for Mike Myers' "Austin Powers." But for my money, the most '60-ish parts of the clip are the bizarre art sculptures that turn up in the background (and often the foreground) of the shots, looking like they were hastily borrowed from some gallery down the street from the studio.

The duo has zero charisma -- their one big theatrical move is to stand up and walk around in a circle in the middle of the song. But it's a lovely song, which in its simplicity serves as a reminder of how much McCartney remained under the influence of Buddy Holly throughout the early days of his career. In fact, maybe that's who Asher got his glasses from!

 -- Patrick Goldstein