Home > The Originals > The Originals Vol. 29

The Originals Vol. 29

By the end of this instalment of the lesser-known originals, we’ll have covered (as it were) the 150th song since the series started last October. And there are still so many songs to go… So here are Not Fade Away, The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss), La Vie En Rose, China Girl and the extraordinary story of Just Walkin’ In The Rain.

* * *

Buddy Holly and The Crickets – Not Fade Away.mp3
Rolling Stones – Not Fade Away.mp3

cricketsUnlike many artists in the early days of rock ’n’ roll, Buddy Holly and his Crickets were no overnight success. After being dropped by Decca records (not always the greatest judges of talent either side of the Atlantic) in late 1956, Holly and his newly formed Crickets struggled to find a distributor to market the songs they recorded at Norman Petty’s studios in Clovis, New Mexico. Eventually, That’ll Be The Day gave the group its first hit; before that, Holly kept writing future hits which would be billed either as Crickets or Buddy Holly records — purely a marketing ploy, for Holly saw himself as part of as collective. One of these songs recorded before fame came knocking in August 1957 was Not Fade Away (put down in May that year), which cheerfully plagiarised Bo Diddley’s seminal stop-start beat from his eponymous hit. Charlie Watts and Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham later bizarrely claimed that the Stones innovated on the Crickets’ original by introducing the Bo Diddley beat. Bill Wyman is more honest, saying that the Stones merely amplified it.

The song’s writers are credited as Charles Hardin (Holly’s Christian names) and Norman Petty, a result of the arbitrary designations which were supposed to let all Crickets members get a piece of royalty action. In reality, drummer Jerry Ivan Allison (on the left in the cover pic) had contributed significantly to the lyrics, while producer Petty had written nothing, but in any case took a writing credit for every Holly/Crickets song (and added his name to the writing credits of songs written by others for his charges, such as Sonny West and Bill Tilghman’s Oh Boy). In return, Allison would receive credit for songs to which he had contributed nothing, including Peggy Sue, to which he furnished little else but the name of his future wife.

Much as Elvis Presley inspired the American and British youth to seek musical fame, arguably the more profound influence on the future of rock ’n’ roll was that of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Chuck Berry and (certainly in the case of the Beatles) Carl Perkins. Unusually for the time, these acts wrote most of their own songs, inspiring the likes of Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards to do likewise. Holly, Perkins and Berry were also quite exceptional in that they played their own guitars, laying down solos which would be imitated by virtually every band that a few years later would “invade” America (think about Holly’s Peggy Sue solo). Indeed, Holly’s arrival in Britain coincided with the decline of skiffle, the musical form that involved guitars plus whatever you could find in the kitchen (especially washboards). Stuck with guitars and a dying genre, the likes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney sought a new muse. The guitar-wielding Buddy Holly provided just that. That’ll Be The Day was the song the Beatles (whose punning name was motivated by the Crickets) performed on their very first demo.

stones_not_fade_awayAnd it was the Crickets’ Not Fade Away, originally released as the b-side of Oh Boy, with which the Rolling Stones had their first cross-Atlantic hit. It is an amusing sidenote that the Crickets’ Not Fade Away unwittingly exercised a skiffle mentality: instead of drums, Jerry Allison beat out his rhythm on cardboard boxes, an idea borrowed from Buddy Knox’s hit Party Doll. It is said that on the Stones version, Phil Spector contributes to the recording by shaking a cognac bottle (“donated” by Gene Pitney) with a coin inside, doing the part Jagger does on stage with the maracas.

The Rolling Stones version, recorded in January 1964 and released in February, was the UK follow-up single to I Wanna Be Your Man — the song the Beatles donated to the Stones to help the London group break through — and their first US single (backed by I Wanna Be Your Man). Peaking at #3, it was their first UK Top10 hit. In the US it reached #48, a creditable placing for a foreign debut single and a basis from which the Stones could launch their career there.

Also recorded by: Bobby Fuller (1962), Dick and Dee Dee (1964), The Rolling Stones (1964), Dave Berry (1964), The Supremes, 1964), The Scorpions (Dutch band, 1964), The Beachers (1965), Corporate Image (1966), The Pupils (1966), The Why Four (1966), The End (1966), The Barracudas (1967), The Walflower Complextion (1967), Joe Pass (1967), Group Axis (1969), Grateful Dead (1971), Rush (1973), Everly Brothers (March 1973), Fumble (1974), Bo Diddley (1976), Sutherland Brothers & Quiver 91976), Steve Hillage (1977), Black Oak Arkansas (1977), Tanya Tucker (1978), Stephen Stills (1978), Eddy Mitchell (as Comment ça fait?, 1979), Joe Ely (1980), Mick Fleetwood (1981), Eric Hine (1981), The Knack (1982), Andy J. Forest & Snapshots (1982), Amiga Blues Band (1983), Happy Flowers (1987), The Purple Helmets (1988), The Razorbacks (1989), The Infidels (1989), Trout Fishing in America (1990), Peter Belli & De Nye Rivaler (1992), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1992), Foreigner (1993), Roy Rogers (1994), Dave Plaehn & Jeff Hino (1996), Mike and the Mellotones (1996), Hank Marvin (1996), Johnny Hallyday (as Je vais te secouer, 1996), John Entwistle (1997), Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez (1997), Sean Kennedy and the King Kats (1998), JGB (1998), Zydeco Flames (1998), James Taylor (1998), Darrel Higham (1999), Mike Berry (1999), The Jailbirds (1999), The End (1999), Status Quo (1999), Ned Sublette (1999), Jorma Kaukonen Band & Guests (1999), Michigan Mark DePree (2000), Lemmy & Friends (2000), Scott Ellison (2000), X (2001), The Pirates (2001), Cory Morrow (2001), Two Tons of Steel (2002), Jon Butcher Axis (2002), The Rocking Chairs (2002), Noel Redding (2004), The Head Cat (2006), David Kitt (2006), The Bees (2006), Sheryl Crow (2007) a.o.

.

The Prisonaires – Just Walkin’ In The Rain.mp3
Johnnie Ray – Just Walkin’ In The Rain.mp3
The Prisonaires – Please Baby.mp3

prisonaires_sunNot many pop classics were written in jail. Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley were incarcerated in 1952 at the Tennessee State Penitentiary when a chance conversation about the wet weather — Bragg, the story goes, remarked to Riley as they were hanging out in the jail’s courtyard: “Here we are just walking in the rain, and wondering what the girls are doing” — inspired the song’s composition (unnervingly, the comment was made by a man who was serving a sentence for six counts of rape). Bragg wrote the song but was illiterate; burglar Riley’s contribution was committing it to paper.

The Prisonaires: rape, murder, manslaughter, larceny, sweet harmonies

The Prisonaires: rape, murder, manslaughter, larceny, sweet harmonies

Bragg was part of a gospel quintet at Tennessee State. His bandmates comprised two murderers, a fraudster and one convicted for manslaughter. Undesirable characters as they were, the Prisonaires had talent. They were discovered by a local radio producer, Joe Calloway, who recorded the group for a radio broadcast. A tape of the radio performance came to Sam Phillips, founder of the Sun Studio which a year later would introduce Elvis Presley to the public. Although not a big fan of the proto-doo wop style, he negotiated with the authorities to have the Prisonaires delivered, under heavy guard, to his Memphis studio to cut a record, Baby Please (posted above as a bonus), backed with Just Walkin’ In The Rain. The single was a big local hit, selling 50,000 copies. Thereafter they were allowed to tour, performing on occasion even for the state’s governor. The good times didn’t last long; by 1954 rock ’n’ roll was on the up, and Ink Spot type groups — especially if they were jailbirds — were falling by the wayside. In 1955 the Prisonaires disbanded. By 1959, Bragg’s was paroled, but was in and out of jail for the next ten years. He passed away in 2004 at 78, long after his former bandmates had died.

Johnnie_rayIn 1956, the most rueful of all ’50s singers, Johnnie Ray, recorded Just Walkin’ In The Rain, which despite the Prisonaires regional success was an obscure track. The original certainly was despondent, but the so-called Prince of Wails invested it with a different sense of mournfulness. In a word, his first-person protagonist is pathetic. Rat’s version, produced and whistled by Ray Conniff (he of serial easy listening crimes) and arranged by Mitch Miller (still alive at 98), was a massive hit, reaching #2 in the US and #1 in the UK.

Also recorded by: Judy Kileen (1956), Four Jacks (1957), Jim Reeves (1962), Shakin’ Stevens (1983), Eric Clapton (2001)

.

Marianne Michel – La Vie en Rose.mp3
Edith Piaf – La Vie En Rose.mp3

Grace Jones – La Vie En Rose (full version).mp3
marianne_michelThis is one of those orginals which was recorded first by somebody other than the writer (and even then, the authorship is disputed). Piaf’s lyrics were put to music by Louis “Louiguy” Guglielmi (who also wrote the song known in English as Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White). For legal reasons, Piaf’s name could not be credited. At the time, that didn’t seem to matter much, since the composers failed to see much hit potential in the song — even if, in 1945 France, after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the notion of seeing life through rose-tinted glasses must have seemed particularly attractive. So the song, then titled Les Choses en Rose, was farmed out to Piaf’s friend, the singer Marianne Michel. It was Michel who proposed the title by which the song became world famous, albeit in Piaf’s 1946 recording.

The song became a chanson and easy listening staple until Grace Jones discofied it with her rather excellent vocals, a bossa nova beat and glittering production values in 1977 (as she did with other standards, such as Autumn Leaves and Send In The Clowns). It was a massive hit in Europe, though not in Britain until eight years after its original release.

Also recorded by: Werner Schmah & Walter Dobschinski und die Tanzkapelle des Berliner Rundfunks (as Schau’ mich bitte nicht so an, 1948), Louis Armstrong (1950), Gene Ammons (1950), Tony Martin (1950), Michel Legrand and his Orchestra (1954), The Mantovani Orchestra (1958), Dean Martin (1962), Jacques Faber (1964), Dalida (1964), Tony Mottola (1965), Bobby Solo (1965), Peter Alexander (as Schau’ mich bitte nicht so an, 1966), Josephine Baker (1968), Nana Mouskouri (as Schau’ mich bitte nicht so an, 1973), Alain Goraguer (1976), Dalida (1976), Grace Jones (1977), Bette Midler (1977), Richard Clayderman (1979), Grand Orchestre Mario Robbiani (1981), Taco (1982), James Last And His Orchestra (1982), Franck Pourcel (1983), Diane Dufresne (1985), Michèle Torr (1987), Melissa Manchester (1989), D’Erlanger (1998), Trio Esperança (1992), Donna Summer (1993), Patricia Kaas (1993), Nicole de Monde (1994), Wendy Van Wanten (as Duizend regenbogen, 1995), Madeleine Peyroux (1996), Toots Thielemans & Diana Krall (1998), Jo Lemaire (1999), Manlio Sgalambro (2001), Romy Haag (2001), Bernard Peiffer (2001), Tony Bennett & k.d. lang (2002), Miguel Wiels (2002), Petula Clark (2002), Liane Foly (2003), Zazie (2003), Cyndi Lauper (2003), In-grid (2004), Dee Dee Bridgewater (2005), Montmartre (2006), Princess Erika (2006), Alfons Haider (2007), Belinda Carlisle (2007), Victoria Abril (November 2007), Suarez (2008) and lots more

.

Merry Clayton – It’s In His Kiss.mp3
Betty Everett – The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss).mp3
merry_claytonSoul purists will have been quite scandalised by Cher’s version of the Shoop Shoop Song, declaring with considerable indignation that it does not measure up to Betty Everett’s original. While the assessment on respective quality is correct, we erred in ascribing originality to Everett. The first version was recorded by Merry Clayton and released in 1963, a few months before Everett’s version came out in December 1963 to give the singer her first Top 10 hit.

Written by Rudy Clark (whom we shall encounter again in this series) and produced by Jack Nietzsche, It’s in His Kiss was a flop for Clayton, then all of 15 years old. Indeed, Clayton never had a big hit of her own; the highest-charting one, at #48, came in 1987 with the song Yes from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Yet she was involved in many famous recordings, first as one of Ray Charles’ Raelettes, then as Mick Jagger’s duet partner on Gimme Shelter, and as a backing vocalists on such songs as Lynyrd Skynrd’s Sweet Home Alabama and Tori Amos’ Cornflake Girl. She was also the original Acid Queen in The Who’s London production of their rock-opera Tommy.

betty_everettShortly after Clayton released It’s In His Kiss, Betty Everett recorded it very reluctantly, finding the song childish. Although credited to Everett alone, she as backed by a band called The Opals, effectively creating one of the supreme girl-group songs of the age. A month after Everett’s version was released on Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records, Warner Bros in LA issued a version of the song by Ramona King. To differentiate Everett’s version from King’s, Vee-Jay changed the title to The Shoop Shoop Song, after the catchy backing vocals.

In 1991, Cher’s version from the 1990 movie Mermaids introduced The Shoop Shoop Song to a new generation. While Everett’s version was a Top 10 hit in the US, but barely reached the Top 40 in the UK, now Cher’s version sold sluggishly in the US, but topped the UK charts, and was one of the biggest hits of 1991 throughout Europe as well as in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Also recorded by (under different titles): Aretha Franklin (1964), The Hollies (1964), Sandie Shaw (1964), The Searchers (1964), Linda Lewis (1975), Kate Taylor (1978), Nancy Boyd (1986), The Nylons (1996), Vonda Shepard (1998), The Neatbeats (1999), Bob Rivers (as It’s in His Piss, 2002), Lulu (2005)

.

Iggy Pop – China Girl.mp3
David Bowie – China Girl.mp3
iggy_pop_idiotIggy and Bowie wrote China Girl together for the former’s 1977 album The Idiot, at a time when both stars dwelled in Berlin to wean themselves off heroin (Berlin seems an odd choice of refuge from smack, but nobody ever accused those two of being eminently sensible). Indeed, there is a good case that the song is about heroin, a drug sometimes referred to as China White, or about an opiate known as China Girl. The locale of composition also explains the swastika reference.

In 1983 Bowie revived the song, which in Iggy’s version made few waves, in his besuited Let’s Dance period, polishing it under Nile Rodger’s production, and frolicking to it in the Australian waves in the video. His co-star in the video is a New Zealand actress of Vietnamese extraction named Geeling Ng. Although they dated afterwards, according to Geeling, the popular rumours that they actually had sex in the video are, as one would expect, false. The video created further controversy surrounding — goodness, hold on to your drawers! — Bowie’s bared buttocks; later versions excised his arse.

Also recorded: Nick Cave (1978), Piggy Stardust (1998), James (1998), Trance to the Sun (1999), Moogue (2001), Pete Yorn (2002), Rhonda Harris (2003), Winter (2004), Anna Ternheim (2005), Silver (2005), Voltaire (2006)

More Originals

Be Sociable, Share!
  1. Shub
    July 24th, 2009 at 08:22 | #1

    That story about The Prisonaires is incredible!
    The James cover of China Girl is one of my favorite covers. It’s got a lot of swagger to it, and Tim Booth is a wonderful vocalist.

  2. Richard
    July 24th, 2009 at 11:05 | #2

    Great article, as always.

    Just on a point of trivia though, the 50p coin didn’t start until 1969, when it was a two-year fore-runner of decimalisation which happened in 1971. It started as a ten-shilling coin, replacing the note of the same denomination. So he may have played maracas on Not Fade Away with a coin in a bottle but it wouldn’t have been a 50p. Hey, I told you it was trivial.

  3. July 24th, 2009 at 11:25 | #3

    As a stickler for detail, I appreciate your point of trivia, Richard. And edit forthwith!

  4. July 24th, 2009 at 19:12 | #4

    yay, mehr treasures.
    While I adore La Piaf, Marlene Dietrich’s version (missing from your list?) is superior in my ears. Smokey, laid back, cool. And I love Louis Armstrong’s English version, especially when he sings “en rose” :)
    Cindy Lauper’s makes me want to strangle her if only she didn’t sound as if someone had beaten me to it.
    I have about 10 versions, will use your list and dig up more…

  1. No trackbacks yet.