Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pink Saturday - "The End of the World"

Pink Saturday - Beverly at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you!

So according to some, the world is going to end on May 21, this Saturday. I don't believe in that stuff, so the first thing the phrase "The End of the World" brought to my mind was a musical memory - and a pink memory.

It's summer, 1965.  I'm sitting on the living room floor of my friend Mary's house, listening to her sixteen-year-old sister Annette playing 45 rpm singles on her Hi-Fi.  I'm sleeping over, and Annette is helping us set our hair with pink, snap-on plastic curlers.  We'd slather our hair with Dippity-Do, roll it up and snap on the pink plastic clamps. We twined spit-curls against our cheeks, then held them fast with Scotch tape.

Image courtesy of "So Many Record, so Little Time" - thanks, Kevin!

The Hi-Fi plays Skeeter Davis singing "The End of the World." It was a crossover hit for Davis, a country singer. The record peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in March, 1963, but it was still one of Annette's favorite singles.

Skeeter Davis
Davis, born Mary Frances Penick, was a bubble-bouffant-haired Kentuckian who began singing in a sister act with her best friend in 1951. The act fell apart after an auto-accident that killed her partner, but she made a comeback in the early sixties. "The End of the World," which became her signature song, was written by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee.

It's one of the first pop songs I remember hearing. My family was not plugged into popular culture; my dad liked listening to Tchaikovsky symphonies, and my mom played classical piano - although on rare occasions she'd cheerfully break out singing '40s hits like "Three Little Fishes" by the Andrews Sisters.

Mary and me, 1965
Mary and Annette's family was not like ours. They were Scandinavian Catholics, with scores of cousins in the local towns along the Fox River. The family was huge - both in numbers and physically. Mary's father Bud worked in an air-conditioning unit factory and wore uniforms with his name embroidered on a breast-pocket patch. Mary's mom, who was known as "Babe," was a large, soft, sweet woman who wore loose cotton house dresses. Their rambling colonial five-bedroom also featured a room off the garage that housed elderly male relatives - Uncle Emil, who was followed by Grandpa. These codgers seem identical in my memory - I only recall Mary, her sisters, and I made a point to avoid letting our pre-pubescent flanks come within groping reach of their Lazy-Boys recliners.

L to R - Babe, my Mom, Bud, unknown neighbor
The kids' names were all-American, like those in a TV sit-com - Jim, Bill, Bob, Sue, Mary, Tom. Only Annette's name represented a romantic departure from the ordinary, a kind of religious exoticism.

Annette babysat my brothers and me at our house, but more frequently I spent sleep-overs with Mary. Annette taught us lessons in the feminine arts of hair and make-up.

Me in 1964- no feminine graces in evidence
Their house was where I first heard Top Forty hits -  45 rpm singles played on the Hi-Fi and also on Annette's transistor radio, tuned to WLS radio, Chicago's powerful AM station.

"The End of the World" was produced by Chet Atkins for RCA, and it's a great example of the so-called Nashville Sound - an attempt by the country music industry to reach out to popular audiences. It was slicker, smoother and more sophisticated than so-called "hillbilly music." Banjos were out, string sections and choruses were in.

Davis sings in a plaintive, reedy voice, double-tracked and backed up by lush strings and a soaring chorus. Her Kentucky accent is prominent as she sings, the words sounding more like  "I-yend" and "Kayn't" than "End" and "Can't."

1964 - a little bit better groomed
Still, at age 10, I thought it was the most heartbreaking song I'd ever heard. It wasn't just me it resonated so strongly with - it became a crossover hit, on the Pop, Country and Rhythm and Blues charts simultaneously.

Maybe it's because during the time she recorded it, Davis's own marriage to country singer Ralph Emery was ending. The lyrics describe a personal apocalypse, not a literal one:

Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don't they know it's the end of the world,
'Cause you don't love me any more?

Why do the birds go on singing?
Why do the stars glow above?
Don't they know it's the end of the world.
It ended when I lost your love.

I wake up in the morning and I wonder,
Why everything's the same as it was.
I can't understand. No, I can't understand,
How life goes on the way it does.

Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don't they know it's the end of the world.
It ended when you said goodbye.
According to contemporary fan-magazine accounts, the break-up of Davis's marriage really was a life-changing moment. Her depression and despair was eventually healed by her love of animals - she owned over 11 dogs -  and her Christian faith. Davis recovered from her heartbreak, and continued her career as a successful performer and songwriter. "The End of the World" was so connected to her image that she sang it virtually everytime she appeared.

On the album cover, and in contemporary TV appearances, Davis wears cotton, princess-styled dresses - in this video, she even wears short puffed sleeves like the dresses we girls wore in third and fourth grades. Her lacquered hairstyle is teased and shaped into a bouffant flip - the exact shape we were going for with our pink plastic rollers.

Mary and me, Easter Sunday 1966 - her hair flipped! Mine flopped!
 So if you're reading this on May 21, it's because the sun has gone on shining, and the sea still rushes to the shore. The world hasn't ended. Skeeter Davis' tender heart healed and went on beating until her death in 2004.


The Artful Diva said...

Oh brother, does that bring back memories. I'm a product of the 60s too - almost forgot about Dippity Doo!

Southwest Cottage Designs said...

1965 brings back fond memories of my childhood in East Texas. Those pink rollers remind me of the times my mother would roll my hair, and I would sit under the huge hair dryer. Thank you for your comment on my raindrop flowers. Have a happy Pink Saturday!

Anonymous said...

This post brings back memories of my sister and me. Happy Pink Sat.

Holly said...

I remember those curlers and singing the song, Build me up, Buttercup with my cousin. Fun memories.
Happy Pink Saturday!

Lynne (lynnesgiftsfromtheheart) said...

Funny post, it sure brings back some memories. I hadn't thought of dippity-do in years, or the curlers. Thank you for swinging in to say hello. hugs ~lynne~

Char said...

Oh yes, you brought back memories that I have long forgotten. Ouch, I am so happy I don't roll my hair anymore or put tape on my face!! HA
Happy Pink Saturday and thanks for the memories, and the smiles too, Char

Betty said...

Oh! I remember that song and now it is stuck in my head. I also remember those pink rollers. I remember wearing them to bed at night though I don't remember how in the world I slept with them on! Happy Pink Saturday!

Tobi Britton* said...

Wow- you have just brought back so many memories for me- the smell of blue dippity doo- or was it green?., that song- I always loved it but I never knew the name, and those pink plastic rollers!!! I hated those rollers cause they always left a long crease in your hair.
Anyway, thanks for all the info and that walk down memory lane!
PS the world isnt supposed to end till 6pm... that is an hour from now.

"Its the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine!"

Have a happy Pink Saturday!!
Sparkly Hugs,
Tobi and the Pixies!

Susan @ Blackberry Creek said...

Your post brought back a flood of memories. I remember so well setting my hair with dippity do and those pink rollers. I think between the ages of 13 and 30, I never slept a night without rollers in my hair. I probably hair brain damage because of it.

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Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I think you two look mighty fine in your Easter dresses. I love that hairstyle -- I have a picture of my mom wearing it. And my hair never behaves, it simply does whatever it wants to do.

Karie said...

Oh my gosh, a blast from the past. I remember it all so well. I had the record of that song and played it over and over again and cried like a baby every time. And the pink rollers, well every girl had a bunch of those. And I too had forgotten about Dippity Doo. Oh, yes we gooped that stuff on the curls. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. . . Happy Pink Saturday, Karie

suesueb said...

What a wonderful nostalgic story! I remember my sisters and I using Dippity Doo too. We had a large family (10 kids) and since I had older siblings they brought current music home for us. I think my brother had 4 records of "I Can't Get No, Satisfaction"! I really enjoyed your story and pictures. Thanks for visiting me!!

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend (at that time) was a musician and I would tag along on the band's gigs. I remember that song so well (and those pink curlers) How did we wear curlers to bed I will never know but we did it. You can equate Dippity Do with that awful wax stuff the hairdresser keeps trying to use on my hair now. LOL.....Great Pink Saturday post G. As usual I am running late to the party. I will think of you later this week and wish you a quick and speedy recovery. I expect a new post out of you by Friday! (big smiles) xoxo

Beverly said...

Happy belated Pink Saturday, Glennis. I am happy that we are both still here.

I just have to let you know how much I enjoyed this post. I think I must be a few years older than you. I'm 58.