Chapter Sixteen: 1964

After the success of their first two albums, the group’s popularity reached international status with the release of their third album, Timelines, in the spring of 1963.

Sending them on a European tour, Colin booked the boys into ballrooms and clubs in London, Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Making significant inroads with the continental crowd, the boys returned home five weeks later to find that the album’s title song was number one in the country. It was the first time that a song written by David and Vince had made it into the Top 10. Garson and Colin had been true to their word. Once they’d determined that the boys’ songs were up to contemporary musical standards, they’d begun including them on the group’s records. Five out of the eleven songs that appeared on Timelines were written by David Corcoran and Vince DiPaolo.

Colin had hit the jackpot with the boys, and Garson’s formula for success was making Bungalow Terrace one of the most sought-after and successful rock-and-roll groups in the country. Everything was perfect until 1964, when on February 9, a group from Liverpool called the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. All of a sudden, there was a British Invasion, and everything in the music industry changed overnight. Folk music began to wane, the popularity of girl groups faded, and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound began playing second fiddle to the self-contained beat bands hailing from across the pond.

Determined that Bungalow Terrace was not going to go the way of the dinosaur, Colin decided to recreate the group in the image of the current British trend. Since the British bands played their own instruments, Colin decided that the boys would start playing instruments whenever they performed live or on television. They would still utilize Lester Stiles’ choreography on their established hits, but Colin would interchange them with a static, more traditional band set-up on the group’s new material. This would be a relatively easy adjustment since the boys had become quite proficient on the guitar, and David had recruited Shelia to teach him how to play the piano to help with songwriting. Excited that he wanted to turn them into performing musicians, the boys were open to Colin’s changes until he suggested that they needed a lead singer. From his perspective, the most successful bands had a charismatic front man, and Colin decided it was time for Bungalow Terrace to have one. Reluctant to take up the idea, the boys protested until Colin, impatient with their defiance, demanded that they stop interfering and do exactly as he said.

Musically, the most obvious choice was Vince. He was a songwriter and, without argument, the best singer in the group. However, musicality wasn’t what Colin was looking for. He was looking for star quality, and that translated into Steve. Of the four boys, Steve had always been the most dynamic. From the beginning, he’d had that indefinable “it” factor that couldn’t be explained or manufactured. He had an inherent, organic sexuality that appealed to women and an easygoing masculinity that was nonthreatening to members of his own sex. He was blindingly handsome, with hypnotic, almost translucent, blue eyes and a shock of blond hair that turned platinum in the sun. He was powerfully built, with an agile, athletic body and a broad, dimpled smile that revealed his mischievous side and wicked sense of humor. He was magnetic and highly watchable, and from the very beginning he pulled focus from the other three boys. As far as Colin was concerned, he was the perfect choice to serve as the group’s lead singer. He understood that Steve’s voice didn’t have the depth or flexibility of those of the other members of the group, but its raspy quality and his unlimited energy would make him a stand-out in a sea of lookalike British bands and random copycats. Colin knew that the other three boys would compensate for Steve’s shortcomings by serving as a foundation of sound behind their newly selected leader.

As rehearsals started, Colin selected a slew of new material that would serve as the bulk of the boys’ fourth album. He also chose three of David and Vince’s previously rejected songs to be reworked in the style of the group’s new sound. Colin released Garson as the boys’ producer and decided to produce the album himself. Gone were the days of collaboration and experimentation. Colin was a taskmaster, and he had a very specific idea about how he wanted the album to sound. He rehearsed the boys relentlessly until he got the desired result. He used his house musicians to record the album but practiced the boys on their instruments for their live shows. He wanted their playing to be seamless, and he wouldn’t stand for any hesitation or mistakes. It was decided that Vince would play lead guitar, Kevin would play electric bass, and David would play keyboards. Steve, on the other hand, would stand up front holding a tambourine or some other small, percussive instrument and spontaneously move about the stage. Drums, horns, and any other instruments that the boys might need would be supplied by Colin’s house band and be inconspicuously hidden on a dimly lit platform behind the group.

Singing and playing came relatively easy for Vince and Kevin since they had been playing the guitar for four years, but David had only started learning the piano two years earlier. He’d thought it would be a more comprehensive way of writing music, and with Shelia’s help, he became relatively competent, but he’d never imagined that he’d have to play the instrument in front of a live audience. Given his inexperience, he suffered the majority of Colin’s wrath. Colin was merciless in his criticism of the boy, and David, despite his laid-back demeanor, began showing signs of tension and stress. He practiced his part until he thought his fingers would bleed, and by the end of the rehearsal process, he began getting some tentative but reasonably positive remarks from Colin.

Singing the lead on the bulk of the songs was an equally daunting task for Steve. Instead of nurturing his fears and reassuring him, Colin only exacerbated his insecurity by micro-managing everything he did. He told him how to interpret the songs by giving him specific inflections and line readings. He told him to move freely about the stage and then censured his gut instincts and natural tendencies. He chronically criticized the shortcomings in his vocal ability and then, as if playing one man against the other, would ask Vince to sing the song and instruct Steve to copy him.

Through it all, however, the boys remained a solid unit. Remembering their days at St. Cecilia’s, they agreed that if they could outlast Sister Xavier, then surviving Colin Anderson was a walk in the park.

When it was all said and done, the boys had a completely new sound. Garson arranged the boys’ harmonies without their collaboration or input, unlike on the first three albums. Since they were now serving as a lead and three background singers, the vocal arrangements were imaginative but less complex. The songs still retained certain elements of rhythm and blues, but Colin went for a more mainstream, commercial approach. He picked material that was energetic and engaging, with catchy, accessible lyrics and a high-energy beat. To accommodate their loyal fans, he included two ballads with the big, trumpeted signature sound that Garson and the boys had created, but the majority of the album had a pop sensibility that featured Steve as the new star of the group. His vocals were playful and raw, with an underlying sexual angst, and the boys’ backgrounds were lush and tuneful but clearly designed as a side dish and not the main course. Happy with the results, Colin decided it was time to introduce the “new and improved” Bungalow Terrace to the American public.

Their official unveiling was in late December, right before Christmas, on the Pete Hamilton Show. Since their initial appearance four years earlier, they had been frequent and welcomed guests on the popular talk show, and Colin thought it was the perfect venue to premiere the group’s new sound. He’d picked one of Vince and David’s songs as the album’s first single.

The group stood behind the multicolored curtain, waiting for their introduction. Never having played instruments on live television before, the boys were nervous, and Steve, trying to remember everything that Colin had drilled into his head, was hoping not to make a complete fool of himself. As the moment arrived, Pete introduced the boys, the curtain opened, and amid decorated trees and tinsel, the group performed “Little Girl, Lost,” the song that Vince and David wrote about Shelia almost two years earlier, to thunderous applause.

The entire performance was a bit of a blur, but based on the audience’s reaction, Colin knew that he had a hit on his hands. The boys’ playing was impeccable, and Steve’s performance was electrifying as he strutted around the stage like a seasoned pro. Despite their resistance, the boys had to admit that Colin’s heavy-handed tactics had worked. Bungalow Terrace had officially joined the new generation. Within days of their appearance on the Pete Hamilton Show, “Little Girl, Lost” climbed to the number-four spot on both the Cashbox and Billboard charts.