1964 is a year of real change for Stacy and her family, the world at large, and definitely the music charts.
Stacy’s disgruntled again, this time on behalf of her older sister, Mary. Newly graduated from high school, Mary is being forced to wed her boyfriend, Don, after becoming pregnant. Though euphemisms are used in front of Stacy and arguments between Mary and her parents primarily take place after Stacy is supposedly asleep, she’s nine “but not stupid” and understands what’s going on—to a point.
What she can’t figure out is why no one is happier about the marriage and why the wedding is scaled down. Enamored of the ideas of love, marriage, and fancy white dresses and cakes, Stacy is annoyed that everyone is treating her sister as though she’s committed a crime rather than celebrating the event with lavish gifts and good wishes. She’s also puzzled by Mary’s lack of enthusiasm about getting to move into her own home (though a visit to the new house in “the Pines,” the least desirable part of Arboria Park, provides a partial explanation).
As Stacy feels things changing too quickly and confusingly, she’s not alone. The nation has weathered the Kennedy assassination and is embroiled in a war that isn’t a war; civil unrest and cultural clashes are regular happenings. The changes even affect something as simple as how Mary’s future husband wears his hair; while Stacy has admired him for looking like teen idol Ricky Nelson, he’s now growing out his hair into a Beatles do.
The pull of tradition is strong, but so is the rush toward change. Mary’s church wedding illustrates the price of rebellion (and its possible rewards), as Stacy’s brothers clown around and the priest is unable to hide his disapproval. A reception at the Halloran house divides along generational lines: Mary and Don’s friends in one room and the adults of both families in another. (The Halloran siblings improvise their own places to be.) Stacy’s attempt to be supportive of Don reveals him to be both bitter and resigned to his fate (while exhibiting some rather old-fashioned notions of gender roles for someone attempting to look like Paul McCartney).
Stacy’s brothers Tommy and Matt have prepared a musical surprise to send the couple off on their honeymoon, leaving Stacy with a good feeling (and a small bouquet of flowers), but when Don’s mother makes a rude remark, Stacy decides she’s had enough of adult sanctimony and stages a protest, complete with foul language picked up by spying on Mary’s new “white trash” neighbors.
We need only to look at the pop music charts to see how dynamic and fluid the world was becoming in 1964. The Beatles dominated, with lots of Top 10 hits, and they brought along a number of other British Invasion bands like the Animals, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Kinks, and the Dave Clark Five. The black music of Motown was also becoming a vital chart presence, with the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Mary Wells, among others, scoring hits. The Beach Boys, the Ventures, and Jan & Dean kept the sunny California beach/surf tunes going. Roy Orbison updated the ‘50s sound while girl and boy groups singing about death and accidents lingered on. But while American teens had this wealth of new sounds to listen to, the music of their parents’ generation was still hanging on by its fingernails, with Dean Martin crooning away and Louis Armstrong belting out a top show tune. If Mary and Don were listening to the radio in Don’s ’56 Pontiac as they sped away on their honeymoon, what they heard probably reflected the tumult of the last few months of their lives—and the months to come.
Top 10 Songs of 1964
I Want to Hold Your Hand The Beatles
She Loves You The Beatles
Hello, Dolly Louis Armstrong
I Get Around The Beach Boys
Everybody Loves Somebody Dean Martin
My Guy Mary Wells
We’ll Sing in the Sunshine Gale Garnett
Last Kiss J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers
Where Did Our Love Go The Supremes