After a couple of Original specials — Beatles and Reworked Hits — we return to the usual random selection of five lesser known originals: the Bacharach/David song I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, the seriously great Super Duper Love (which became a hit for Joss Stone), Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain, rock & roll classic See You Later Alligator, and the story of the Coke jingle that first was another song and then a megaghit which most of us might have preferred to have been taught.
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Tommy Hunt – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1962).mp3
Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964).mp3
Dionne Warwick – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1966).mp3
Isaac Hayes – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1970).mp3
One should think that a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, arranged and conducted by Bacharach and produced by the legendary Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller would become a big hit. Alas, R&B singer Tommy Hunt’s version, released on the Scepter label as a b-side to And I Never Knew and as the title track of Hunt’s 1962 album, went mostly unnoticed. Tommy Hunt a former member of The Flamingos (of I Only Have Eyes For You fame), never achieved the breakthrough, but he was very popular on Britain’s Northern Soul scene, and performed on the circuit as late as the 1990s. Scepter tried their luck with the song a second time in 1965 with a version by Big Maybelle, which used the same backing track as Hunt’s. It went nowhere.
In 1964, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself provided Dusty Springfield with her second top 10 hit , while in the US Dionne Warwick — the great performer of the Bacharach/David songbook — had a US hit with it in 1966, also on the Specter label.
Also recorded by: Big Maybelle (1964), Jill Jackson (1964), Sheila (as Oui, il faut croire, 1964), Joan Baxter (1964), Chris Farlowe (1966), Chuck Jackson (1966), Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1966, released in 2002), Brook Benton (1969), Isaac Hayes (1970), Gary Puckett (1970), Cissy Houston (1970), The Dells (1972), Marcia Hines (1976), Demis Roussos (1978), Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1978), The Photos (1980), Linda Ronstadt (1993),Linda Ronstadt (1994), Bloom (1997), Nicky Holland (1997), The Earthmen (1998), Sonia (2000), The White Stripes (2003), Steve Tyrell (2003), Trijntje Oosterhuis (2007), Tina Arena (2007), Jimmy Somerville (2009) a.o.
Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love (1975).mp3
Joss Stone – Super Duper Love (2003).mp3
Not much is known about Sugar Billy, who was known to his mom as William Garner. Apparently a producer of some sort before he released what seems to be his sole album, also called Super Duper Love, on Fast Track Records in 1975, he then promptly faded into obscurity. It’s a pity, because the LP is quite wonderful (though some of it must have seemed a little outdated even by 1975), and the cover is one of the sexiest I can think of. Super Duper Love was the album’s lead single, released in 1974. It didn’t dent the charts. I don’t even know whether Billy, who is also playing the great guitar on the track, is still alive, though it seems that he eventually retired from the music industry and worked as a builder.
Joss Stone launched her career as a 16-year-old in 2003 on the back of her version of Super Duper Love (and a regrettable cover of the White Stripes’ Fell In Love With A Girl) in 2003. It was an inspired choice: a catchy tune which only few people knew, and poppy enough that it did not require her to imitate soul singing. It has a pleasant ’70s soul vibe — as it should have, since several ’70s soul legends appear on it, such as Timmy Thomas (on keyboards) and Betty Wright (as co-producer and on backing vocals). I hope that Sugar Billy did okay on the royalties. If Super Duper Love had been representative of the Joss Stone sound, I’d have been quite content. Alas, the white teenage girl from suburban Brittania was hyped as some sort of mystic incarnation of a soul mother from the deepest south, which clearly she was not. The Grammys loved it, of course, though that is rarely a token of artistic credibility. The girl didn’t know better, but she paved the way for a flood of entirely redundant British white soulstresses.
Also recorded by: nobody else, it seems
Ian & Sylvia – Early Morning Rain (1965).mp3
Gordon Lightfoot – Early Morning Rain (1966).mp3
Paul Weller – Early Morning Rain (2004).mp3
Richard Hawley – Early Morning Rain (2009).mp3
Several artists had a bite of Early Morning Rain before the song’s writer, Gordon Lightfoot, released it (though he had already recorded it). First up were Lightfoot’s Canadian compatriots Ian & Sylvia, a folk duo discovered in 1962 by Bob Dylan’s future manager Albert Grossman, who’d also sign Lightfoot. The married twosome’s version, with a rather good bass break, appeared on their 1965 album named after Lightfoot’s song. It featured another song by the still mostly unknown Lightfoot, For Lovin’ Me, as well as the original version of Darcy Farrow.
Both Lightfoot songs recorded by Ian & Sylvia were soon covered by Peter, Paul & Mary, who released Early Morning Rain as a single in late 1965, by Judy Collins and by the Kingston Trio. In November 1965 it was also recorded on a demo by the Warlocks, who a month later would become the Grateful Dead, though their version would not be released till later (listen to the full Warlocks session here). Peter, Paul & Mary’s single release tanked, but a 1966 version by George Hamilton IV reached the top 10 of the country charts (he also had success with another Lightfoot song, Steel Rail Blues).
By then, Lightfoot had finally released the song, closing the A-side of his debut album, Lightfoot!, which came out in January 1966 but had mostly been recorded in December 1964. The songwriter, incidentally, had spent a year in Britain presenting the BBC’s Country & Western Show (among his viewers very likely was country fan Keith Richards).
Also recorded by: Peter, Paul & Mary (1965), Judy Collins (1965), Kingstion Trio (1965), Chad & Jeremy (1966), Bobby Bare (1966), Carolyn Hester (1966), The Settlers (1966) ,Joe Dassin (as Dans la brume du matin, 1966), Julie Felix (1967), The What’s New (1967), Bob Dylan (1970), Pendulum (1971), Elvis Presley (1972), Jerry Lee Lewis (1973), Eddy Mitchell (as Chaque matin il se lève, 1974), Moose (1992), Bill Staines (1995), Tony Rice (1996),Grateful Dead (1965, released in 2001),Eva Cassidy (released in 2002), Raul Malo (2004), Richard Hawley (2009) a.o.
Bobby Charles – Later Alligator (1955).mp3
Bill Haley and his Comets – See You Later Alligator (1956).mp3
We previously looked at Haley’s Rock Around The Clock (first recorded by Sonny Dae & his Knights; see The Originals Vol. 11). See You Later Alligator, the final of Haley’s trilogy of million-sellers, was a cover of Bobby Charles’ Cajun blues number. Born Robert Charles Guidry in Louisiana, Charles (who died in January) recorded the song as Later Alligator in 1955 at the age of 17. It was released in November 1955 without making much of a commercial impact. His hero, Fats Domino, also recorded a couple of his songs, first Before I Grow Too Old and in 1960 the hit Walking To New Orleans. Charles also wrote (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do for Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and played Down South in New Orleans at The Band’s farewell concert (it appears on the 4-disc set of The Last Watltz but, alas, not in the film). That Band song wasn’t his, but he co-wrote Small Town Talk with Rick Danko.
Haley recorded See You Later Alligator on December 12, 1955, apparently allowing his drummer Ralph Jones to play on it, instead of the customary random session musician. Released in January 1956, Haley’s version sold more than a million copies, but reached only #6 in the Billboard charts.
Contrary to popular perception, the catchphrase “See you later, alligator” with the response “in a while, crocodile” was not coined by the song, neither in Bobby Charles’ nor Bill Haley’s version. It was an old turn of phrase, used by the jazz set already in the 1930s, along the same lines as “What’s the story, morning glory?”, ”What’s your song, King Kong?” and “What’s the plan, Charlie Chan?”. It was, however, due to Haley’s hit that the phrase spread more widely throughout he US and internationally.
Also recorded by: Roy Hall (1956), Freddie and the Dreamers (1964), Millie Small (1965), Mud (as part of a medley, 1974), Rock House (1974), Orion (1980), Ricky King (1984), Dr. Feelgood (1986), Zachary Richard (1990)
Susan Shirley – True Love And Apple Pie (1971).mp3
Coca Cola commercial – I’d Like To But The World A Coke (1971).mp3
The Hillside Singers – I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (1971).mp3
The New Seekers – I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (1971).mp3
The contribution of advertising to the origination of pop hits is scarce. There was We’ve Only Just Begun (discussed here) and, well, I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing, whose original function was to peddle Coca Cola. And somehow, a little-known Australian squeezed in her version as the song’s original release.
In January 1971, Coca Cola were looking for ways to popularise its new slogan, “It’s the Real Thing”, which had replaced the classic “Things Go Better With Coke”. The company’s advertising agency, McCann-Erickson, brought together its creative director, Bill Backer, with songwriters Billy Davis (who had written for Motown) and Roger Cook, a member of Blue Mink. Cook already had a melody, a ditty called True Love And Apple Pie which he had written with his regular collaborator, Roger Greenway. The Cook/Greenway partnership was prolific over the years, including hits such as Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart, Melting Pot and Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress. The three wrote the words for the jingle overnight in a London hotel room, with the New Seekers in mind as its performers. As it turned out, the New Seekers thought the song was trite and not just a little silly (and that’s the New Seekers pronouncing on sentimentality).
True Love And Apple Pie and was released in March 1971, produced by Greenway and with Davis credited as a co-writer. It seems that the Coke jingle had already been flighted a month earlier on US radio, albeit to negative response. There seem to have been legal wrangling as a result of a version of the jingle Coca Cola had commissioned being in circulation. Shirley’s song certainly received little promotion.
Meanwhile, the McCann-Erickson agency devised a new way to promote the jingle, deciding it needed visuals. The resulting TV commercial (video), filmed by the great Haskell Wexler, became an instant classic. The song, I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke, became so popular that radio DJs persuaded Davis to record it with adapted lyrics. Recorded by session singers without the branding, it was released under the name Hillside Singers, and started to climb the US charts when the New Seekers eventually consented to record it, minus the “it’s the real thing” tag. It became a massive hit, topping the UK charts in January 1972 and reaching #7 in the US.
Unbelievable though it may sound, those creators of entirely original music, Oasis, were sued for plagiarising from I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing, lyrics and music, for their song Shakermaker. The original opening line went: “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.” How did the monobrowed twits expect to get away with that?
Also recorded by: Ray Conniff (1971), The Edwin Hawkins Singers (1972), The Congregation (1972),Jim Nabors (1972), Chet Atkins (1972), St. Tropez Singers (as Endnu er jorden grøn, 1972), Klaus Wunderlich (1972), Peter Dennler (1982), Jevetta Steele (1990), No Way Sis (1996), Lea Salonga (1997), Demi Holborn (2002), Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League (2003), Eve Graham (2005) a.o.