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The Originals – Elvis Presley Vol. 2

April 30th, 2015 7 comments

The first part of the Elvis Originals covered (as it were) the Rock & Roll years and early post-GI period. Here we have the originals of songs Elvis covered in the 1960s and ’70s.

Elvis Presley’s artistic decline in the1960s is symbolised by the coincidence of his most derided movie, Clambake, which opened at about the same time as The Beatles released their groundbreaking Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. A year later, in 1968, Elvis’ live TV special marked the comeback of Elvis the Entertainer. Elvis the Recording Artist, however, had not had a #1 hit in seven years when in January 1969 he entered the famous American Sound Studios in Memphis.

suspicious-mind

At first the old soul music veterans at the studio were dubious about working with the washed-up ex-king of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis soon had them convinced otherwise. Eight days into the session, on January 20, he recorded the Mac Davis-penned In The Ghetto; two days later Suspicious Minds, which by the end of 1969 would top the US charts.

Suspicious Minds was written by American Sound Studios in-house writer Mark James (whose real name was Francis Zambon), who also wrote hits such as It’s Only Love and Hooked On A Feeling for his friend, country singer BJ Thomas. And it was BJ Thomas was in line to record Suspicious Minds, which James had already released on record to no commercial success, before the song was given to Presley. Elvis insisted on recording the song even when his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, threatened that he wouldn’t over the question of publishing rights (always an issue with Parker).

Elvis would record four more songs written or co-written by James: Always On My Mind, Raised On A Rock, Moody Blue (which James released in 1975) and It’s Only Love. Chips Moman produced James’ 1968 version of Suspicious Minds, thereby creating a handy template which he returned to when producing Elvis’ version.

 

brenda-lee

Depending on where you live and how old you are, Always On My Mind may be Elvis’ song or Willie Nelson’s, or perhaps the Pet Shop Boys’ (who had a hit with it in late 1987 after earlier performing it on a TV special to mark the 10th anniversary of Elvis’ death). Originally it was Brenda Lee’s, released in May 1972. It was not a big hit for her, reaching only #45 in the country charts. Somehow Elvis heard it and found the lyrics expressed his emotions at a time when the marriage to Priscilla was collapsing. He recorded it later in 1972. Released as the b-side to the top 20 hit Separate Ways, Always On My Mind was a #16 hit in the country charts. In the UK, however it was a top 10 hit, and became better know in Europe than in the US.

 

jerry-reed

Another artist whose songs Elvis loved to cover was Jerry Reed, featured here with Guitar Man and US Male, originally released by Reed in 1966 and covered by Elvis two years later. Jerry Reed was a country singer who toiled for a dozen years before scoring a hit in 1967 with Tupelo Mississippi Flash — a song about Elvis. The same year Elvis chose to record Reed’s Guitar Man (the composer is listed as Jerry Hubbard, the singer’s real surname), and Reed played guitar on it. For Elvis, Guitar Man was a redemption of sorts after the degradation of Clambake. His performance of the song at the Elvis ’68 Comeback Special is one of the best moments of the show.

 

bossa-nova-baby

The writers most associated with Elvis are Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller. Their Bossa Nova Baby has been unjustly regarded by some as a novelty number from an Elvis movie (1963’s Fun In Acapulco). Even Elvis is said to have been embarrassed by it. If so, he had no cause: it may not be a bossa nova — it’s too fast for that — but it has an infectious tune and a genius keyboard riff which begs to be sampled widely. Perhaps it was the lyrics which had Elvis allegedly shamefaced, but the lines “she said, ‘Drink, drink, drink/Oh, fiddle-de-dink/I can dance with a drink in my hand’” are not much worse than some of the doggerel our man was forced to croon in his movie career as singing racing driver/pineapple heir/bus conductor. Or perhaps Elvis was embarrassed by the idea of including a notional bossa nova number in a movie set in Mexico.

Tippie & the Clovers, who were signed to Leiber and Stoller’s Tiger label, recorded it first in 1962 to cash in on the bossa nova craze. Apparently the composer’s preferred the Clovers’ version over Elvis’. These were the same Clovers, incidentally, who had scored a #23 hit with Love Potion No. 9 (also written by Leiber & Stoller and later covered to greater chart effect by the Searchers) on Atlantic in 1959.

 

crying-in-the-chapel

Elvis was greatly influenced by the sounds of Rhythm & Blues on the one hand and country music on the other — Arthur Crudup and Hank Snow. A third profound influence was gospel. Here, too, Elvis drew from across the colour line. Often he was one of the few white faces at black church services (as a youth in Tupelo, he lived in a house designated for white families but located at the edge of a black township), but he also loved the white gospel-country sounds created by the likes of the Louvin Brothers, whom he once regarded as his favourite act.

Indeed, gospel was the genre Elvis loved the most. In recording studios, he would warm up with gospel numbers. When he jammed with Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in the Sun studio (Johnny Cash left before any of the misnamed Million Dollar Quartet session was recorded), much of the material consisted of sacred music. At the height of his hip-gyrating greatness, he recorded an EP of spirituals titled Peace In The Valley. And let’s not forget that the only three Grammies Elvis ever received were for gospel recordings.

Elvis’ biggest gospel hit was Crying In The Chapel, which had been written in 1953 by Artie Glenn for his son Darrell, who performed it in the country genre. The same year, the R&B band Sonny Til & the Orioles — progenitors of the doo wop style of the late ’50s and the first of a succession of bird-themed bandnames — scored a #11 hit with the song (around the same time, a pop version by June Valli reached #4). It was the Orioles’ recording from which Elvis drew inspiration in his version, recorded shortly after he returned from the army in 1960. It was not released, at Tom Parker’s command, because Artie Glenn refused to share the rights to the song with the cut-throat publishing company of Elvis repertoire, Hill & Range. And with good reason, for the song continued to be a hit by several artists. Eventually Hill & Range secured the ownership. When Crying In The Chapel was eventually released in 1965, it was not only a US hit (his first top 10 single in two years), but also topped the UK charts.

 

wonder-of-you

Apparently written for Perry Como, The Wonder Of You was first recorded by Ray Peterson (he of Tell Laura I Love Her notoriety) in 1959, scoring a moderate hit with it. Peterson, who died in 2005, later liked to recount the story of how Elvis sought his permission to record the song. “He asked me if I would mind if he recorded The Wonder Of You. I said: ‘You don’t have to ask permission; you’re Elvis Presley.’ He said: ‘Yes, I do. You’re Ray Peterson.’” Not that Peterson owned the rights to the song, or was particularly famous for singing it.

Elvis recorded the song live on stage in Las Vegas on February 18, 1970. It was released as a single a couple of months later and was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic, topping the UK charts for six weeks. It was also his last UK #1 during his lifetime.

 

burning-love

Elvis did not particularly like Burning Love; if he didn’t record it under protest, he certainly was not going to spend much time on it. Where 16 years earlier he’d spend 30-odd takes on the spontaneous sounding Hound Dog, he recorded Burning Love in only six takes. The production values were pretty poor: Elvis’ voice sounds tinny, but not for lack of trying. But listen to the drumming! Strange then that this slack recording scored big in the US (#2 on Billboard; the final top 10 hit in his lifetime) and UK (#7).

A year previously, in 1971, the soul singer Arthur Alexander (whom we will meet again when we turn to originals of Beatles songs) recorded Burning Love, releasing it in January 1972, two months before Elvis recorded it. A fine recording in the southern soul tradition, it made no impact. The song’s writer, Dennis Linde, recorded it in 1973 — his version, included here, recalls the sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

 

shannon-runaway

With its Bo Diddley-inspired guitar riff and flamenco-meets-rock ‘n’ roll feel, 1961’s (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame served as a welcome, albeit temporary, break from Elvis’ succession of easy listening fare such as It’s Now Or Never, Surrender and Are You Lonesome Tonight (though within a few months, he’d top the charts with another standard ballad, Can’t Help Falling In Love). Like all these songs, His Latest Flame was not an original.

The song was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who wrote some 20 Elvis songs — including Viva Las Vegas, their demo of which is included here — as well as hits for acts such as The Drifters (Save The Last Dance For Me) and Dion (Teenager In Love). Although reportedly written specifically for Elvis, His Latest Flame was first offered to Bobby Vee, who turned it down. Instead Del Shannon recorded the song in May 1961, with a view to releasing it as a follow-up single for his big hit Runaway. In the event, he decided to run with the non-classic Hats Off To Larry instead. His Latest Flame was released on the Runaway With Del Shannon LP in June ’61. The same month Elvis recorded his version, which was released in the US in August. Due to the arcane method of compiling the US charts, the His Latest Flame peaked at #4 and its flip side, Little Sister (another Pomus/Shuman composition) at #5. It topped the charts in Britain.

Shuman tended to tout his co-composition by way of demos on which he sang himself. The demo for His Latest Name is much closer to Elvis’version than Shannon’s, a less smooth, more soulful interpretation which has something of a mariachi band feel, using brass to accentuate the Diddley-style riff (which the Smiths famously sampled 24 years later on Rusholme Ruffians).

 

rockahulababy

It’s Now Or Never and Surender were based on old Italian songs; Can’t Help Falling In Love on an old French melody. This is the song which ignorant callers to radio stations tend to request by the title “Wise Man Say”. The fictitious title is not entirely off the mark: the lyrics were co-written by a pair of alleged mafia associates, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, with George David Weiss. Peretti and Creatore were partners with mafioso Mo Levy in the Roulette record label (named after the game that “Colonel” Tom Parker was addicted to), which the FBI identified as a source of revenue for the Genovese crime family. The trio also wrote the lyrics for The Lion Sleeps Tonight, a song stolen from South African musician Solomon Linda.

The melody of Can’t Help Falling In Love borrows from the old French love song Plaisir d’amour, composed in 1785 by Johann Paul Aegidius Martini. It was first recorded in 1902 by Monsieur Fernand (real name Emilio de Gogorza), and subsequently by a zillion others, including in 1908 by the baritone Charles Gilibert (1866-1910). It may be a little more accurate to describe Can’t Help Falling In Love as an adaptation rather than as a cover. While the similarities are sufficiently evident to mark Plaisir d’amour as the basis for the song, it certainly has been innovated on.

The song was adapted in 1961 for Elvis’ Blue Hawaii movie (the title track was a cover of a Bing Crosby song, of all things). Reportedly, neither the film’s producers nor Elvis’ label, RCA, liked the song much. Elvis, however, insisted on recording it. Elvis often was his best A&R man, and so it was here. The song was initially released as the b-side of Rock-A-Hula Baby (you do know how that one goes, no?). In the event, Can’t Help became the big hit, reaching #2 in the US and #1 in the UK. It also became a signature song for Elvis who would invariably include it in his concerts. Indeed, it was the last song he performed live on stage in Indianapolis on 26 June 1977, Elvis’ final concert.

 

The last five tracks in the mix are demo versions recorded by the songs’ composers. And in the case of A Little Less Conversation, Elvis was the progenitor for the later version which became a hit in 2002 under the Elvis vs JXL moniker.

1. Del Shannon – His Latest Flame (1961)
2. Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters – Such A Night (1956)
3. The Coasters – Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)
4. Tippie & the Clovers – Bossa Nova Baby (1962)
5. Jerry Reed – Guitar Man (1967)
6. Mark James – Suspicious Minds (1968)
7. Arthur Alexander – Burning Love (1972)
8. Tony Joe White – I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby (1972)
9. Jerry Reed – U.S. Male (1966)
10. Wynn Stewart – Long Black Limousine (1958)
11. Brenda Lee – Always On My Mind (1972)
12. Ferlin Husky – There Goes My Everything (1966)
13. Ray Peterson – The Wonder Of You (1959)
14. Micky Newbury – An American Trilogy (1971)
15. Tony Joe White – Polk Salad Annie (1968)
16. Mark James – Moody Blue (1975)
17. Buffy Sainte-Marie – Until It’s Time For You To Go (1965)
18. Les Paul & Mary Ford – I Really Don’t Want To Know (1954)
19. Darrell Glenn – Crying In The Chapel (1953)
20. Bing Crosby – Blue Hawaii (1937)
21. Charles Gilibert – Plaisir d’amour (1908)
22. Elvis Presley – A Little Less Conversation (1968)
23. Laying Maetine Jr. – Way Down (1976)
24. Mort Shuman – His Latest Flame
25. Mort Shuman – Viva Las Vegas
26. Bill Giant – Devil In Disguise
27. Dennis Linde – Burning Love

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The Originals – Elvis Presley Vol. 1

January 8th, 2015 9 comments

On 8 January Elvis would have turned 80. Let that sink in. And when you bump into an 80-year-old man today…that could be Elvis now!

To mark Elvis’ birthday, here’s the first of two mixes of original versions of famous Elvis songs, this one covering Elvis’ output up to 1960. Four are actually not really originals: the last three are demos which were presented to Presley (and the Elvis recordings show just how great an interpreter of song he was). And Aura Lee was reworked as Love Me Tender; it was an old song first copyrighted in 1861. It was sung by Frances Farmer in the 1936 movie Come and Get It!, but wasn’t released on record.

Then there’s Hound Dog, featured twice: in Big Mama Thornton’s original recording of the song, and the version on which Elvis based his, by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, an Italo-American band he had seen during his discouraging concert engagement in Vegas in April/May 1956. Between Thornton and Presley the song had been brutalised in a series of covers which dismantled the original lyrics and added doggerel to it (such as the rabbit line) to become the nonsense we know today.

Freddie Bell & the Bellboys, on whose rendition of Hound Dog Elvis based his.

Freddie Bell & the Bellboys, on whose rendition of Hound Dog Elvis based his.

 

This collection of songs proves one thing: Elvis didn’t just, as the popular narrative has it, “steal” black music and made it big on its back. Elvis certainly was a big fan of the various strands of what we now call R&B, and no doubt was heavily influenced by it. But he also drew much from country music, as well as from gospel. Indeed, his first public performance was as a ten-year-old at a talent show in his hometown Tupelo, where he performed Old Shep, a hit from 1941 by Red Foley (he had first recorded it in 1935, about his German shepherd  Hoover, who had been poisoned by a neighbour). Elvis first stage performances were on the country circuit, especially on the Louisiana Hayride. And it was through country star Hank Snow that he met the ghastly “Colonel” Parker.

Elvis’ first hit was, of course, a cover of a blues tune, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup’s That’s All Right Mama. It’s the song that changed Rock & Roll forever. Young Elvis was in the Sun studios in Memphis, auditioning for the legendary Sam Phillips (in other accounts the story is set, more credibly, during the first recording session). Elvis, the story goes, was failing the audition, having crooned one ballad after another in Dean Martin mode. It was not the sound Phillips was looking for.

During a break (or at the end of the session), Elvis starting goofing around with his guitar, singing That’s All Right. Session musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black joined in. Sam Phillips later recalled: “The door to the control room was open, the mics were on, Scotty was in the process of packing up his guitar, I think Bill had already thrown his old bass down — he didn’t even have a cover for it — and the session was, to all intents and purposes, over. Then Elvis struck up on just his rhythm guitar, ‘That’s all right, mama..,’ and I mean he got my attention immediately. It could have been that it wouldn’t have sold ten copies, but that was what I was looking for!”

Elvis later also covered Crudup’s very similar My Baby Left Me. Crudup fought for the rest of his life to receive due royalties, making his living as a bootlegger and field labourer. In 1971 an agreement for $60,000 was agreed with Melrose Publishers, who proceeded to blankly refuse paying up. Crudup died penniless in 1974 at the age of 68.

Arthur Crudup, from whom Elvis covered two songs.

Arthur Crudup, from whom Elvis covered two songs.

 

Some say that Good Rockin’ Tonight was the proto Rock & Roll record. Of course, any claim of inaugurating Rock & Roll is impossible to validate because the genre was the result of a musical evolution (and it is still evolving). What can be said is that the song, and most certainly Wynonie Harris’ 1948 cover, was influential in that evolution. Good Rockin’ Tonight was Elvis’ second single. So it is faintly ironic that Presley’s version draws more from Brown’s 1947 jump blues original (deleting, however, the by then outdated litany of R&B figures) than from Harris’ R&B cover.

It was not the most popular of Elvis’ early tunes; his still mostly country audience was still unsure about the influence of what was then called “race music” on the future legend’s sound. In those embryonic days of Elvis’ stardom, his most popular song seemed to be the flip side of That’s Alright, Blue Moon Of Kentucky.

It is difficult to pinpoint at which point Elvis became a superstar, or with which hit. He was a local star as soon as his debut single hit the Memphis airwaves, and a regional star soon after. Arguably, his nascent stardom was built not so much on hit recordings than on his incendiary performances delivered on intensive tours. On these tours, he often shared a bill with his Sun label mates Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

It was on one such tour in November 1955, in Gladewater, Texas, that Cash gave Perkins the idea for Blues Suede Shoes (in return for Perkins inspiring the title for Cash’s future hit I Walk The Line), based on a catchphrase by one C.V. White, an African-American GI Cash had served with in West Germany. White, the story as told by one of Cash’s GI friends goes, was about to go out for the weekend when another soldier accidentally trod on White’s black army issue shoes, whereupon White exclaimed: “I don’t care what you do with my Fräulein or what you do with whatever, but don’t step on my blues suede shoes.” The joke, obviously, was that White was not actually wearing such shoes (which, in any case, where not in fashion), but regulation issue army shoes.

Soon after he heard that story, Perkins was at a dance when he saw a young man being visibly upset with his pretty date for stepping on his, you guessed it, blue suede shoes. Sufficiently inspired, he immediately wrote the lyrics on a paper potato sack, giving birth to one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s great classics.

Million Dollar Quartet: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Three of them play a role in the story of Blue Suede Shoes. Lewis later also covered it, and Cash played it on stage.

Million Dollar Quartet: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Three of them play a role in the story of Blue Suede Shoes. Lewis later also covered it, and Cash played it on stage.

 

It may have been the first true crossover record; it certainly was the first to chart simultaneously in the pop, country and R&B charts, in early 1956. As the song was rising in the charts, Perkins was laid low by a serious car crash on the way to performing his hit on the Ed Sullivan Show. While he was recuperating, he heard former Sun colleague Elvis announcing on the Milton Berle Show that his next single would be Blues Suede Shoes, which he proceeded to perform, as he would twice more before releasing the single. Although Perkins was unable to promote the song further, it went on to sell more than a million copies.

By arrangement, Elvis waited until Perkins’ version had peaked. Released so soon after Perkins’ hit, Elvis’ version reached no higher than #20 on the charts. Yet, public consciousness associates the song more closely with Elvis than with its author, possibly because he performed it several times on television, and riffed on the footwear in a few skits on these shows.

Perkins, whose career or health never really recovered from the car crash, was philosophical about Elvis scoring the more lasting hit, saying that Presley had the image and the looks, and he did not. He surely was less placid about not receiving writer’s royalties until a court found in his favour in 1977.

Arguably Elvis the Rock & Roller died in 1960 when, having returned from the army, he recorded crooners’ material such as It’s Now Or Never and Are You Lonesome Tonight. The latter was recorded at the behest of Tom Parker as it was a favourite of his wife, Mrs Marie Parker, in its 1940s version by country star Gene Austin. Written by Tin Pan Alley residents Lou Handman and Roy Turk in 1926, it was recorded by a swathe of artists in 1927. The first of these versions, by Ned Jakobs, was not released, so the honour of first released recording goes to one Charles Hart.

The song enjoyed a revival in the 1950s. It was the 1950 version by Blue Barron and his Orchestra which served as the basis for Elvis’ take on Are You Lonesome Tonight, with Al Jolson’s version of the same year inspiring the spoken part, which borrows from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (“All the world’s a stage” etc).

1. Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup – That’s All Right (1947)
2. Roy Brown – Good Rockin’ Tonight (1947)
3. Smiley Lewis – One Night Of Sin (1956)
4. Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog (1953)
5. Freddie Bell & the Bellboys – Hound Dog (1956)
6. Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes (1956)
7. Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup – My Baby Left Me (1950)
8. Little Junior & the Blue Flames – Mystery Train (1953)
9. Eddie Riff – Ain’t That Loving You Baby (1956)
10. Chuck Wills – I Feel So Bad (1954)
11. Shep Fields Rippling Rhythm – That’s When Your Heartaches Begin (1937)
12. Charles Hart – Are You Lonesome Tonight (1927)
13. Frances Farmer – Aura Lea (1936)
14. Flying Clouds Of Detroit – Peace In The Valley (1947)
15. Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys – Blue Moon Of Kentucky (1947)
16. Red Foley – Old Shep (1941)
17. Wiley Walker & Gene Sullivan – When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again (1941)
18. Hank Snow – Now And Then There’s A Fool Such As I (1952)
19. Willy & Ruth – Love Me (1954)
20. Bernard Hardison – Too Much (1956)
21. Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters – Such A Night (1954)
22. Glen Reeves – Heartbreak Hotel (1955)
23. Otis Blackwell – Teddy Bear (1956)
24. Otis Blackwell – All Shook Up (1956)

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The Christmas Originals

November 28th, 2013 14 comments

The Christmas Originals

We hear them in dozens of different versions, in the malls and on mixes offered by bloggers. The secular Christmas carols feature on the latest seasonal CD, perhaps recorded because of contractual obligations, perhaps because these things sell. And with the versions of these Christmas songs seemingly multiplying every season, it becomes almost immaterial who sang them first. Except for this blog. So here are 21 originals of famous Christmas songs.

The origins of the first two are pretty well-known, but the popular versions of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Nat ‘King’ Cole’s The Christmas Song are later recordings. Featured on this mix are Bing’s recording of the song in the 1942 film Holiday Inn; Cole’s is from the 1940s (not quite the first version, I think, but a live recording by the King Cole Trio nonetheless). Both songs, incidentally, were written in hot weather, as was, of course, Sammy Cahn and July Styne’s Let It Snow!, written in July 1945, and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.

Crosby and Reynolds practise singing what would become the biggest hit ever in the film Holiday Inn.

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds (channeling Martha Mears) practise singing what would become the biggest hit ever in the 1942 film Holiday Inn.

 

Bing actually performed White Christmas earlier than in the film, on his The Kraft Music Hall radio show on Christmas Day 1941. He recorded it in May 1942; this recording, included here as a bonus track, was issued in July that year to coincide with the release of Holiday Inn. In the film Crosby’s character teaches the song to Marjorie Reynolds’ character, whose voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. Mears also dubbed the singing for the likes of Rita Haworth, Claudette Colbert, Loretta Young, Hedy Lamarr, Veronica Lake and Lucille Ball.

Bing was a Christmas song specialist. He also recorded the first version of I’ll Be Home For Christmas (written from the perspective of a World War 2 soldier, hence the final line), and he was the first to release Silver Bells on record. Actually, the song — originally intended to be called “Tinkle Bells” — was first performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell during the filming of The Lemon Drop Kid in summer 1950. But the film wasn’t released until March 1951. In the interim Bing and Carol Richards recorded Silver Bells in October 1950. Owing to the success of that recording, Hope and Maxwell refilmed a more refined version of the song.

Some songs here are older than one might think, such as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, first recorded in 1934, or Winter Wonderland (also 1934); others are much younger than one might expect, such as Little Drummer Boy (1955), Holly Jolly Christmas (1964) and Do You Hear What I Hear (1962).

You might associate If Every Day Was Like Christmas with Elvis, who released it as a single in 1966. The year before, it was written and recorded by his close friend and bodyguard Red West, under the name Bobby West. He fell out with Elvis shortly before The King’s death in 1977, after West wrote a revealing book titled Elvis, What Happened?. Elvis fans still haven’t forgiven the man.

When A Child Is Born was a huge Christmas hit for Johnny Mathis in 1976, but it was originally a secular pop song. The melody, titled “Soleado” was composed in 1972 by Ciro Dammicco for the Daniel Sentacruz Ensemble (included as a bonus track). With lyrics added, German Schlager singer Michael Holm had a massive hit with it in 1974 under the title “Tränen lügen nicht” (Tears don’t lie). At the same, Holm recorded an English version of it, with its Christmas-themed lyrics by Fred Jay — two years before Mathis did.

One inclusion here is not a full track, but features briefly in a trailer for a TV movie of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl. Mistletoe And Wine was a Cliff Richard UK #1 in 1988. It was originally performed in 1976 in the musical Scraps, based on the Andersen tale. In 1986 the play was filmed for TV, now under Andersen’s title, starring Roger Daltrey and Twiggy, who sings it in character as a Victorian prostitute. For Cliff Richard’s version, the lyrics were altered to reflect the singer’s brand of Christianity.

By far the oldest of all recordings here is that of Jingle Bells, which forms part of a skit recorded in 1898. By then it was already a classic, by way of sheet music, having been first published in 1857. Originally it was intended as a song for Thanksgiving.

 

1. Bing Crosby & Martha Mears – White Christmas (from the film Holiday Inn, 1942)
2. King Cole Trio – The Christmas Song (1946)
3. Vaughn Monroe – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1946)
4. Gene Autry – Here Comes Santa Claus (1947)
5. Boston Pops Orchestra – Sleigh Ride (1948)
6. Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock (1957)
7. Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby (1953)
8. Bing Crosby – I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1943)
9. The Trapp Family Singers – Carol Of The Drum (Little Drummer Boy, 1955)
10. Michael Holm – When A Child Is Born (1974)
11. Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (1963)
12. Bobby West – If Every Day Was Like Christmas (1965)
13. Harry Simeone Chorale – Do You Hear What I Hear (1962)
14. Bing Crosby & Carol Richards – Silver Bells (1950)
15. Richard Himber and his Orchestra – Winter Wonderland (1934)
16. Harry Reser and his Orchestra – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1934)
17. Gene Autry – Frosty The Snowman (1950)
18. Jimmy Boyd – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1952)
20. Edison Male Quartette – Sleigh Ride Party/Jingle Bells (1898)
21. Twiggy – Mistletoe And Wine (excerpt from The Little Matchgirl trailer, 1986)
Bonus: Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers – White Christmas (1942)
Daniel Sentacruz Ensemble – Soleado (1974)

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More Christmas mixes
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Any Major 1950s Christmas
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Pop Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Carols (in pop)
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3
Any Major Rhythm & Blues Christmas
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 1
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 2
Christmas In Black & White Vol. 3
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 1
Any Major Smooth Christmas Vol. 2
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Any Major Country Christmas Vol. 2
Any Major Acoustic Christmas
Song Swarm: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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The Originals – Bacharach Edition

February 21st, 2013 9 comments

Often Burt Bacharach had a lucky hand in producing the best known version of his compositions at the first attempt — and after 1963, he usually was the de facto producer and arranger of his songs’ first (and sometimes subsequent) recordings, even when others would get the credit.

So songs like Only Love Can Break A Heart, What’s New, Pussycat, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and This Guy’s In Love are best known in their original versions by Gene Pitney, Tom Jones, B.J. Thomas and Herb Alpert respectively. And, of course, there are all the Dionne Warwick hits, such as Walk On By, Do You Know The Way To San José or Promises Promises which have been covered often but never eclipsed. The one Warwick/Bacharach hit that provides the rule-proving exception is I Say a Little Prayer, a US #10 hit for Aretha Franklin in 1968, two years after it reached #4 for Warwick.

So here are Bacharach songs which may be better known — and, in some cases, definitely are — in later versions. In many of these cases, geography is the key. For example, in the US, The Story Of My Life from 1957 will be associated with Marty Robbins, but in Britain it was a #1 hit for Michael Holliday. The same may apply to Anyone Who Had A Heart, which in Britain is Cilla Black’s song rather than Dionne’s (and, depending on generation, to some it is Luther Vandross’ song). The Story Of My Life was, incidentally, the first collaboration between Bacharach and Hal David to become a hit, years before they started to work together regularly and, for a time, exclusively. It went #1 Country, #15 Pop and reached #2 in Australia.

A few songs were bigger hits than their better-known covers. For example, The Shirelles had a US #8 hit with Baby It’s You in 1962, but The Beatles’ version enjoys greater familiarity by force of album sales.

Other songs were not hits until later. Keely Smith’s One Less Bell To Answer sank without a trace until The 5th Dimension had a hit with it three years later. I’ll Never Fall In Love Again might have been familiar to those who knew the soundtrack for the 1968 musical Promises, Promises (for which Jerry Orbach — yes, Lennie Briscoe from Law & Order — won a Tony Award. British fans will know it better as Bobbie Gentry’s hit, or in Dionne’s version, and younger generations might think of it as Elvis Costello’s song from the Austin Powers 2  movie.

I would guess that Bacharach probably was happy enough with most hit covers of his songs (though I wonder what he made of The Stranglers and Naked Eyes covers of his tunes); one which he apparently really dislikes is Love’s 1966 rock classic version of Manfred Mann’s My Little Red Book, which was written for the film What’s New, Pussycat.

Two more recent songs postscript this collection, both from movie soundtracks. Rod Stewart’s version of That’s What Friends Are For appeared on the soundtrack of the Michael Keaton vehicle Nightshift (1982) before it was revived by Dionne Warwick and her pals. Siedah Garrett’s Everchanging Times featured in the 1987 Diane Keaton flick Baby Boom before Aretha Franklin & Michael McDonald covered it to good effect in 1992.

Not all the songs here are Bacharach/David compositions. Tower Of Strength and Any Day Now were written with Bob Hilliard; Baby It’s You with Mack David (Hal’s brother) and Luther Dixon, and the two 1980s songs with Carol Bayer-Sager.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-made covers. PW in comments (and, yes, passwords are necessary).

TRACKLISTING (cover versions in brackets):
1. Marty Robbins – The Story Of My Life (1958 — Michael Holliday 1958; Gary Miller, 1958)
2. Gene McDaniels – Tower Of Strength (1961 — Frankie Vaughan, 1961)
3. Jerry Butler – Make It Easy On Yourself (1962  — Walker Brothers, 1965)
4. Chuck Jackson – Any Day Now (1962 — Elvis Presley, 1969, Ronnie Milsap, 1978)
5. The Shirelles – Baby, It’s You (1962 — The Beatles, 1963; Smith, 1969)
6. Tommy Hunt – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1962 – Dusty Springfield 1964; Dionne Warwick, 1966)
7. The Fairmount Singers – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962 — Gene Pitney, 1962)
8. Gene McDaniels – Another Tear Falls (1962 — Walker Brothers, 1966)
9. Dionne Warwick – Wishin’ And Hopin’ (1963; Dusty Springfield, 1964; Merseybeats, 1964)
10. Lou Johnson – Reach Out For Me (1963 — Dionne Warwick, 1964)
11. Jerry Butler – Message To Martha (1963 — Adam Faith, 1964; Dionne Warwick, 1966)
12. Dionne Warwick – Anyone Who Had A Heart (1963 — Cilla Black, 1964)
13. Richard Chamberlain – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1964 — Carpenters, 1970)
14. Brook Benton – A House Is Not A Home (1964 — Dionne Warwick, 1964; Luther Vandross, 1981)
15. Lou Johnson – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (1964 — Sandie Shaw, 1964; Naked Eyes, 1982)
16. Burt Bacharach – Trains And Boats And Planes (1965 — Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, 1965)
17. Dionne Warwick – You’ll Never Get To Heaven (1964 — The Stylistics, 1976)
18. Manfred Mann – My Little Red Book (1965 — Love, 1966)
19. Dusty Springfield – The Look Of Love (1967 — Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66, 1968)
20. Keely Smith – One Less Bell To Answer (1967 — The 5th Dimension, 1970)
21. Jill O’Hara & Jerry Orbach – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (1968 — Bobbie Gentry, 1969; Dionne Warwick, 1970)
22. Rod Stewart – That’s What Friends Are For (1982 — Dionne Warwick & Friends, 1986)
23. Siedah Garrett – Everchanging Times (1987 — Aretha Franklin & Michael McDonald, 1992)

HERE

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More Bacharach:
Burt Bacharach Mix
Covered With Soul – Bacharach/David edition

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The Originals Vol. 44

October 20th, 2011 2 comments

In this instalment of The Originals, we look at the provenance of one of the biggest hit of 1978, the triumphal comeback of a Bacharach/David song that flopped at its first attempt, and the original version of a Marilyn Monroe signature tune. Remember, you can look up the originals covered so far in The Originals Index.

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The Righteous Brothers – Substitute (1975)
Gloria Gaynor – Substitute (1978)
Clout – Substitute (1978)

In 1978, the five-piece South African girl-band Clout scored a surprise hit with a cover of an unsuccessful single from the unremarkable 1975 Righteous Brothers LP The Sons of Mrs. Righteous. It’s fair to say that the Righteous Brothers’ version of the unrequited love anthem lacks the euphoric verve of the Clout version.

It is said that the members of Clout didn’t play on Substitute (though I recall drummer Ingie Herbst telling a German interviewer in 1978 that she prefers to hit the drums with the thick end of the stick), but the South African rock band Circus, who were paid the princely sum of 34 Rand  – worth about £30 in 1978 money – for their efforts.

Clout’s version  was released in South Africa in November 1977. Within a few months it was topping the charts in countries such as Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the Netherlands, and spent three weeks at #2 in Britain (held off by You’re The One That I Want, despite shifting half a million copies).

In December that year, Gloria Gaynor released her version of the song on her Love Tracks album. In fact, Gaynor’s record company, Polydor, initially released Substitute as a lead single in November 1978. Presumably because of the success of the Clout single, Polydor flipped the single a month later, with the original b-side becoming the a-side. The song’s name was I Will Survive.

Clout, by then without keyboard player Glenda Hyam, went on to have another European hit in early 1979 with Save Me (featured HERE), a cover of Clodagh Rogers song.

Also recorded by: Peaches (1978), Sylvie Vartan (as Solitude, 1978), Izabella Scorupco (1990) 

Keely Smith – One Less Bell To Answer (1967)
The 5th Dimension – One Less Bell To Answer (1970)
Barbra Streisand – One Less Bell To Answer/A House Is Not A Home (1971)
Kristin Chinoweth & Matthew Morrison – One Less Bell To Answer/A House Is Not A Home (2009)
Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote One Less Bell To Answer for Keely Smith. Smith had a few years earlier divorced her long-time singing partner Louis Prima, so a song about marital separation seemed to be suitable. Alas, Smith’s version – with its recognisable Bacharach arrangement – went nowhere.

As so often with Bacharach/David compositions, the song was eventually rediscovered by others and made into a hit. In January 1970, The 5th Dimension recorded it for their Portrait album. The single reached #2 in the US, its popularity no doubt helped by the group singing it on the TV series It Takes A Thief, starring Robert Wagner.

The lead vocals were performed by Marilyn McCoo, who in 1969 married bandmate Billy Davis Jr. They have been together ever since.

One Less Bell To Answer has been covered many times since. The most spectacular version is that of Barbra Steisand, who dueted with herself on a medley of One Less Bell To Answer and A House Is Not A Home, another Bacharach/David song, which appeared on her 1971 album Barbra Joan Streisand. Streisand’s phrasing in that recording in places echoes that of Keely Smith’s original.

Almost four decades later, Streisand’s version served as a template for an outstanding showstopping duet on the TV series Glee, performed by the wonderful Kristin Chinoweth with Matthew Morrison, who plays the teacher Will Shuester.

Also recorded by: The Dells (1971), Gladys Knight & The Pips (1971), Vikki Carr (1971), Burt Bacharach (with Close To You, 1971), Living Brass (1971), Dionne Warwick (1972), Shirley Bassey (1972), Rita Reys (1973), Irina Milan (1974), Karen Logan (1987), Stanley Jordan (1987), Pearly Gates (1989), Mari Nakamoto (1993), The Starlite Orchestra (1995), McCoy Tyner Trio (1997), Marie McAuliffe’s ArKsextet  (1998), Lucie Silvas (2002), Vanessa Williams (2005), Michael Ball (2007), Trijntje Oosterhuis (2007), Steve Tyrell (2008), Patty Ascher (2010) a.o.

Helen Kane – I Wanna Be Loved by You (1928)
Marilyn Monroe – I Wanna Be Loved by You (1959)

Three decades before Marilyn Monroe had men getting hot under the collar by going boop-boop-de-boop, Helen Kane became a star by doing that ad lib and variations thereof. Kane might have inspired the cartoon character Betty Boop, who was born in 1930. Her lawsuit, which claimed just that, was dismissed. But compare pictures of Kane with those of Betty Boop, and consider Kane’s trademark scatting, and it seems that Kane might have had a case.

Kane said that the scat ad libs came to her by accident: “I just put it in at one of the rehearsals, a sort of interlude. It’s hard to explain – I haven’t explained it to myself yet. It’s like vo-de-o-do, Crosby with boo-boo-boo, and Durante with cha-cha-cha.”

Born in 1904 to German and Irish parents in the Bronx, Kane got her break in theatre in 1927. A year later, she appeared in the Oscar Hammerstein production Good Boy, which included I Wanna Be Loved By You, written by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby, with lyrics by Bert Kalmar. The song, and others with titles such as I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat, helped make Kane a singing sensation.

Her popularity was brief but immense, giving rise to the production of such novelty items as Helen Kane dolls. But by the early 1930s, the flapper culture had become passé, and Kane’s career entered a two-decade hiatus. She re-appeared with the advent of television, and made her final public appearance on Ed Sullivan’s show in March 1965. She died of breast cancer a year and a half later, at the age of 62.

The record of I Wanna Be Loved By You was released in September 1928. It was revived in 1959 by Marilyn Monroe in the Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot, which was set in 1929 and in which Monroe’s character is named, surely not coincidentally, Sugar Kane.

Also recorded by: Grace Johnston (1928), Annette Hanshaw (1928), Dan Ritchie and His Orchestra (1929), Ben Selvin (1929), Eydie Gormé (1958), Adolph Deutsch (1959), Marty Wilde (1960), Kay Barry (1961), Skeeter Davis (1965), Matadorerne (1967), Claudja Barry  (1978), Bibi Andersen (1981), Sinéad O’Connor (1992), Alana (2008), Pepe Lienhard Big Band (2009) , Pizzicato One feat. Wouter Hamel (2011) a.o.

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The Originals Vol. 43

August 11th, 2011 3 comments

In this instalment we look at the lesser known originals for five hits from the 1970s. Regular readers with exceptionally good memories might have a déjà vu movement: two of the songs I’ve done before. But I was not satisfied with one, and recently was sent by a kind soul a crucial sound file for the other.

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Johnny Bristol – Love Me For A Reason (1974).mp3
The Osmonds – Love Me For A Reason (1974).mp3

Johnny Bristol is probably best-remembered for his excellent mid-’70s soul hit Hang On In There Baby. We have encountered him previously in this series, in The Originals Vol. 37, as one of Johnny & Jackie who co-wrote and recorded the first version of Diana Ross and The Supremes’ Someday We’ll Be Together.

A producer of many Motown records and after 1973 for CBS (where he produced such acts as Randy Crawford, Boz Scaggs and Marlena Shaw), he resumed his recording career in 1974. Among the tracks on his rather good Hang On In There, Baby album was Love Me For A Reason, a song Bristol co-wrote with David Jones and Wade Bowen.

Bristol recorded on MGM records where the prolific producer and arranger Mike Curb ran he show. Curb was, it is fair to say, a man of uncompromising conservative opinion. He later became a Republican politician, but while at MGM, he fired a reported 18 acts from the label for using or supposedly promoting drugs. Among them were Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground.

One act in no danger of Curb’s axe was The Osmonds, the squeaky clean and impossibly toothy Mormon brothers who had produced a string of hits for MGM. Their version of Johnny Bristol’s hit became a US #10 pop hit in 1974 – their last. In Britain it topped the charts (and they’d have another top 5 hit there in 1975), inspiring a hugely successful cover version 20 years later by Boyzone, the Ronan Keating-led band that traded in unwelcome remakes of old hits.

Also recorded by: The Hiltonaires (1974), Boyzone (1994), Studio 99 (1999), As We Speak (1994), State Of The Heart (1996), Bruno Bertone (2000), Fabulous 5 (2003)

Gene Cotton – Let Your Flow (1975)
Bellamy Brothers – Let Your Flow (1976)

It might have been a hit for Neil Diamond. Written by one of the lamé-jacketed star’s roadies, Larry E Williams, it was offered first to Diamond. He declined to record it (as did Johnny Rivers), which perhaps was just as well. Instead the song came to country/folk singer-songwriter Gene Cotton, who recorded it for his 1975 album For All The Young Writers.

While Cotton’s version went nowhere, Neil Diamond’s drummer suggested it to his friends David and Howard Bellamy, the country duo The Bellamy Brothers. Their recording became one of the biggest hits of the decade and gave the brothers’ their international breakthrough hit. In West Germany Let Your Love Flow topped the charts in summer 1976 for six weeks until it was knocked off by its German version by Jürgen Drews, formerly of the Les Humphries Singers, which went by the peculiar title Ein Bett im Kornfeld (A bed in the wheat field).

Also recorded by: Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn (1976), Jürgen Drews (as Ein Bett im Kornfeld, 1976), Roy Etzel (1976), Les Humphries Singers And Orchestra (1976), Lynn Anderson (1977), Del Reeves & Billie Jo Spears (1977), Karel Gott (as Běž za svou láskou, 1978),Joan Baez (1979), John Holt (1982), Ray Charles (1983), Audrey Landers (1986), Solomon Burke (1993), Tom Jones (1998), John Davidson (1999), Dana Winner (2001), Jan Keizer (2001), Tamra Rosanes (2002), Dream Dance, Inc. (2005), Collin Raye (2005), Fenders (2006) a.o.

Art Reynolds Singers – Jesus Is Just Alright (1966)
The Byrds – Jesus Is Just All Right (1969)
The Doobie Brothers – Jesus Is Just All Right (1972)

In the 1970s there was a fashion of rock groups singing songs about Jesus. Perhaps it was a fashion inspired by the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Or maybe some really were just into Jesus. So the Doobie Brothers, a band named after a synonym for a joint, had a hit with Jesus Is Just All Right in 1972.

The original of the song was recorded by the Art Reynolds Singers in 1966. It was written by the band’s leader, Arthur Reid Reynolds, apparently as a riposte to John Lennon’s “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus” comment. Present at that recording session was Gene Parsons, the drummer of The Byrds, who introduced the song to his bandmates who in turn recorded it for their 1969 LP Ballad Of Easy Rider.

The Byrds’ version provided the template for the Doobie Brothers 1972 cover. The Doobies added a middle section to the original, with new, even more emphatically Christ-supporting lyric, sung by guitarist Pat Simmons: “Jesus, He’s my friend; Jesus, He’s my friend; He took me by the hand, far from this land; Jesus, He’s my friend.” Oddly enough, none of the Doobies were known to be Christians, but the Christians loved it, throwing Bibles on to the stage at Doobie Brothers gigs and making the One Way (up) handsigns.

Also recorded by: The Underground Sunshine (1970), 1776 (1970), Sister Kate Taylor (1971), Ronnie Dyson (1972), Exile (1973), DC Talk (1992), Shelagh McDonald (2005), Robert Randolph & The Family Band feat Eric Clapton (2006), Eric McFadden (2010)

Jim Weatherly – Midnight Plain To Houston (1972)
Cissy Houston  – Midnight Train To Georgia (1973)
Gladys Knight & the Pips – Midnight Train To Georgia (1973)
Neil Diamond – Midnight Train To Georgia (2010)

In 1972 former All-American quarterback Jim Weatherly released a country song that told of a girl whose fading dream of stardom in Los Angeles led not to a life of waitressing or pornography, but ended on a plane back to her home in Texas. In fact, Weatherley initially wanted his protagonist’s dreams shattered in Nashville, for his genre was country music.

The choice of Houston as the failed star’s home was inspired, according to Weatherley, by the actress Farrah Fawcett, who at the time was more famous for dating Lee Majors than her thespian accomplishments. “One day I called Lee and Farrah answered the phone,” Weatherly later told songfacts.com. “We were just talking and she said she was packing. She was gonna take the midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks. So, it just stayed with me. After I got off the phone, I sat down and wrote the song probably in about 30 to 45 minutes.”

Some months later, the Janus label sought permission to record the song with Cissy Houston, but asked whether they could adapt the lyrics to make the destination Georgia (seeing as Ms Houston going to Houston might seem a bit awkward). Weatherly accepted that, as well as a change in the mode of transport.

Whitney’s mom’s lovely performance became a minor hit in 1973. Gladys Knight heard it and decided to record it with her Pips. Houston’s endearing version might have been the template, but Knights’ cover demonstrates the genius of the sometimes unjustly ridiculed Pips. What would Gladys Knight’s interpretation be without the interplay with and interjections by her backing singers: “A superstar, well he didn’t get far”, “I know you will”, “Gotta go, gonna board the midnight train…” and, of course, the choo-choo “Hoo hoo”s?

It was fortuitous that Georgia was also Knight’s homestate. The song also sparked a collaboration with Weatherley with whose songs Knight populated the Imagination album on which Midnight Train appears.

Also recorded by: Ferrante & Teicher (1974), Connie Eaton (1974), Lynn Anderson (1982), Indigo Girls (1995), Sandra Bernhard (1998), Renee Geyer (2003), Jasmine Trias (2004), Paris Bennett (2006), Human Nature (2006), Joan Osborne (2007), Emma Wood (2009), Neil Diamond (2010), Sandrine (2010) a.o.

Larry Weiss – Rhinestone Cowboy (1974)
Glen Campbell – Rhinestone Cowboy (1975)

Larry Weiss was, and still is, a prolific songwriter (we read about him recently as one of the singers of the theme of Who’s The Boss). In the 1960s, he co-wrote hits such as Bend Me Shape Me, Hi Ho Silver Lining and Spooky Tooth’s Evil Woman. Sporadically he also recorded his own songs. One of these was Rhinestone Cowboy, inspired by a phrase he had overheard in a conversation. The song appeared on Weiss’ Black And Blue Suite album, and it was released as a single (at least in West Germany).

The story goes that Glen Campbell heard the song on the car radio as he was on his way to a meeting with his record company, and thought about suggesting to record it. But before he had the opportunity to do so, the record company presented their own bright idea: how about this Rhinestone Cowboy song by Larry Weiss.

In the original version, Weiss sounds much like his old Brill Building chum Neil Diamond. Campbell made the song his own, with that soaring voice which expresses such a forfeit of hope. Released in May 1975, it went on to top the pop and country charts simultaneously, the first time that had been done since 1961.

In 1984, Weiss finally got a project he had been working on realised – a movie starring Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone. Its title: Rhinestone.

Also recorded by: Slim Whitman (1976), Bert Kaempfert (1976), Charley Pride (1977), Tony Christie (1978), White Town (1997), David Hasselhoff (2004), Jan Keizer (2004) a.o.

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The Originals Vol. 42

June 29th, 2011 2 comments

In the 42nd instalment of The Originals we’ll revisit the originals of three huge hits, two US  #1s and one chart-topper in Britain, from the mid-’60s. Remember: if you are looking for particular songs that have been covered in this series, visit the index of The Originals.

Earl-Jean – I’m Into Something Good.mp3
Herman’s Hermits – I’m Into Something Good.mp3
Lady Lee – I’m Into Something Good.mp3

In the late 1950s Ethel “Earl-Jean” McCrea was a member of the R&B girl group The Cookies, which was absorbed into Ray Charles’ backing band, The Raelettes. Only Earl-Jean didn’t join the backing singer gig, instead becoming part of a new incarnation of The Cookies, which featured before in this series as the original act to record The Beatles’ Chains (see The Originals Vol. 25). We also met The Cookies as the first act to record On Broadway, though their version was not released (see The Originals Vol. 33).

As noted in the entry for On Broadway, The Cookies did much demo work for Carole King and Gerry Goffin at Aldon Music (which in the shorthand of music history tends to be conflated with the Brill Building down the road). They also did backing vocals on pop songs such as Little Eva’s The Loco-motion (it was through Earl-Jean’s recommendation that King and Goffin employed Little Eva as a babysitter), Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up Is Hard To Do and Mel Tormé’s Comin’ Home Baby. Along the way, they had a top ten hit with Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby.

Earl-Jean left The Cookies in 1964 to try for a solo career, and it was King and Goffin who wrote her first (and only) solo hit: I’m Into Something Good, released on Colpix Records. It did a creditable job, climbing to #38 in the Billboard charts. Alas, her follow-up single, Randy, didn’t do as well, and when in 1966 Colpix folded, her solo career was over.

In Britain, the record producer Mickey Most – fresh from discovering The Animals – had heard I’m Into Something Good, and decided it was a perfect vehicle for his new protéges, Herman’s Hermits. Fronted by Peter Noone, a Mancunian with an All-American smile, the other Hermits were allowed to play on some songs, while on others session musicians did the job. Nobody seems to agree about who played on I’m Into Something Good; it is possible that any, all or none of Nicky Hopkins (the Rolling Stones’ keyboard man from 1967-76), Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (later of Led Zeppelin) played on it. Band member Barry Whitwam insists the band did the duties; Noone and Most said they didn’t (though possibly in a fit of pique over contractual wrangles).  It does seem that the song was arranged by Hermits guitarist Dereck Leckenby, which would suggest that he would have had the bandmembers perform on it.

Whoever played on it, the single became a UK #1 hit in September 1964, and then went on to reach #13 in the US, ringing in a golden period for Herman’s Hermits, who remarkably became the best-selling act in the United States in 1965, ahead of even The Beatles.

Also in 1964, Billy Fury’s girlfriend Lady Lee, a character with a quite fascinating lifestory, recorded I’m Into Something Good. Later she and Fury split and in 1969 Lee married British DJ Kenny Everett.

Also recorded by: Lady Lee (1964), Don Devil and the Drifters  (1964), Sir Henry and His Butlers (1966) Donny Osmond (1971), The Machines (1982), Peter Noone (1988), The Stool Pigeons (1996), Dave Cloud (1999), The Langley Schools Music Project (2001), The Bird And The Bees (2010) a.o.

Nella Dodds – Come See About Me (1964).mp3
The Supremes – Come See About Me (1964).mp3

This is one of those records where the earlier recording was released later (another instance of that, which I was made aware of only recently, concerns Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town; an edit and new file are now up on The Originals Vol. 24). In keeping with the methodology of this series, we go primarily by release date. And here, it seems, Nella Dodds narrowly scooped The Supremes.

Come See About Me was written by Motown’s hugely successful songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, and The Supremes recorded it on 13 July 1964, backed by The Funk Brothers. Somehow the song had come into the hands of the people at Wand Records in New York, who had their singer Nella Dodds record it. While The Supremes were still riding high in the charts with Baby Love, their second chart-topper in a row, Wand put out Dodds’ version, a pleasant affair which nonetheless cannot compare to the exquisite vigor of the Supremes’ version.

Although Dodds recorded for a New York label, she was a pioneer of Philadelphia soul – Kenneth Gamble, future Philly soul supremo, and Jimmy Bishop, who would discover many Philly soul acts, appeared on Dodds’ Wand recordings. Gamble later co-wrote a hit which The Supemes would cover with The Temptations (and which will still feature in this series).

Motown were alarmed when they learned that Dodds’ record had been issued, and rush-released The Supremes’ recording. Dodds’ version stalled at #74, and she would never have a breakthrough hit. For The Supremes, Come See About Me became the third in a golden run of five #1 hits.

Also recorded by: Choker Campbell  (1964), Gene Barge (1965), The Newbeats (1965), Barbara Mason (1965), Jr. Walker  (1967), Mitch Ryder (1968), Bonnie Pointer (1979), Tracy Nelson (1980), Neil Sedaka (1984), Shakin’ Stevens (1987), Afghan Whigs (1992), The Originals (1998), Freda Payne (2001), James Taylor Quartet (2007) a.o.

The Raindrops – Hanky Panky (1963).mp3
The Summits – Hanky Panky (1963).mp3
Tommy James and the Shondells – Hanky Panky (1966).mp3

Among the inhabitants of cubicles with pianos at the Brill Building in New York were Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry, who together wrote so many of the songs we now associate with Phil Spector’s girl groups. While writing music was their bread and butter, they also wanted to record. Greenwich had already done so in the late ’50s, as Ellie Gaye, and while writing hits in the early ’60s, she also sang on demos for Brill compositions.

In 1963, Greenwich and Barry recorded a demo of a song called What A Guy. It was intended for a doo-wop group called The Sensations, but the band’s label, Jubilee, was so impressed with demo’s girl-band style (which was in fact Greenwich’s multi-tracked voice, with Barry providing bass voice) that they decided to release it, in the name of the songwriters’ band, The Raindrops. Trouble was that Greenwich and Barry had no song for the flip-side, so they thrashed out Hanky Panky in the space of 20 minutes. They were not particularly satisfied with the song, and when a group called The Summits released it soon after as the b-side of He’s An Angel (or it might have been released before What A Guy came out; it’s unclear), it didn’t do brisk business either.

And yet, the song had become popular among garage rock live bands, including one called The Spinners (not the soul band), from whom the teenage musician Tommy Jackson heard it. He recorded it with his band, The Shondells, in 1964 at a radio station in Michigan. It was a local hit, but Tommy decided to break up his band and complete his schooling. The following year he was contacted by a Pittsburgh DJ who had discovered the record and now wanted Tommy and his Shondells to perform it on air. He hurriedly put together a new line-up of Shondells, and changed his name to Tommy James. He then sold the 1964 master to Roulette Records, which released it without remixing, never mind re-recording it. The single went to #1 in July 1966. James later explained in a Billboard interview: “I don’t think anybody can record a song that bad and make it sound good. It had to sound amateurish like that.”

There is a great story of how the small New York-based Roulette label got to release Hanky Panky. It seems that a whole gang of labels, some of them majors, wanted to buy the record. Suddenly, one after another, they withdrew their offers, much to Tommy James’ surprised dismay. In the end Jerry Wexler of Atlantic told the singer, still a teenager, what was going on: Roulette’s Morris Levy (on whom The Soprano’s Hesch Rabkin is based) had called all rival labels telling them that Hanky Panky belonged to him. Intimidated, the rivals bought the bluff, and James had to go with Levy.

Also Recorded By: The Junior Mance Trio (1965), Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (1966), The Outsiders (1966), The Wallflower Complexion (1966), The Ventures (1966), Neil Diamond (1966), , Joan Jett and The Blackhearts (1981), Link Protrudi and the Jaymen (1987), Ellie Greenwich (1999), The Cramps (2004), The Freedoms (2004), Los Hitters (2005) a.o.

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The Originals Vol. 41

April 14th, 2011 6 comments

Following on from the post about rock & roll in A History of Country Vol. 8, here are three originals of rock & roll classics. Incidentally, I might have used in the past images from www.originalsproject.us, which I would have sourced elsewhere. Indeed, the image that accompanies the original for Blueberry Hill, which I found on another site, is from that brilliant site.

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Swing And Sway With Sammy Kaye – Blueberry Hill (1940).mp3
Glenn Miller and his Orchestra – Blueberry Hill (1940).mp3
Gene Autry – Blueberry Hill (1941).mp3
Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill (1956).mp3
Vladimir Putin – Blueberry Hill (2010).mp3

Blueberry Hill is Fats Domino’s song, but before the rock & roll pioneer got his ivory-tinkling hands on it, it had been a cowboy song, a jazz track (by Gene Krupa, no less) and, in its first recording, a big band number – and those just in the year it was written: 1940.

If Blueberry Hill’s melody sounds a vaguely Italian, it’s because its writer, Vincent Rose, was a Sicilian who came to the US at the age of 17. He already was 60 when he wrote song (which also went by the Italian title, Loma de Cerezas), and died in 1944. The lyrics were written by Al Lewis and Larry Stock (the latter also wrote the lyrics for that great Dean Martin song, You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You).

It’s not entirely clear who was the first to record the song, but the first to release it, on 31 May 1940, was the Sammy Kaye Orchestra with Tommy Ryan on vocals. It appeared under the unwieldy name Swing And Sway With Sammy Kaye, the band’s tagline. Four days later Krupa’s version was issued. But by then the version that would provide the song’s biggest hit, by Glenn Miller with Ray Eberle on vocals, was already in the can, having been recorded on 13 May. We might remember Eberle as the hapless singer whom Miller fired for arriving late to an engagement, as recounted in the entry for At Last in The Originals Vol. 40.

Sammy Kaye, something of an all-round entertainer, contributed a song to this blog before: Remember Pearl Harbor, which featured in Carson Robison’s’s version on A History Of Country Vol. 4. One may suppose that Sammy had reason to be rather annoyed at the Japanese: he was broadcasting on NBC radio when his programme was interrupted by the news of the bombing of the Hawaiian naval base on 7 December 1941.

In 1941, Blueberry Hill was sung by Gene Autry in the movie The Singing Hill (there are claims that Autry was the first to actually record the song). The song was never really forgotten – Louis Armstrong recorded it in 1949 but would have a hit with it only the next decade. But it became a million-seller only in 1956 with Fats Domino’s iconic, souped-up version.

As so often with cover versions that become classics, the idea to record it was an afterthought. When during a session in Los Angeles Domino ran out of songs, he suggested Blueberry Hill. Producer Dave Bartholomew needed to be convinced of the song; in the end his production sold 5 million copies worldwide and provided the template for many covers, including one by Elvis Presley. Domino might have had the great idea to record the song, but he was useless at remembering the correct lyrics. In the end, the engineer spliced together the correctly delivered lyrics from different takes.

In December 2010, Russian tsar Vladimir Putin, fresh from riding horses while exhibiting his toned, gratuitously bared torso and heroically shooting at unarmed whales, performed Blueberry Hill at a charity function in St Petersburg, with a spoken interlude and piano solo. The audience, which included a possibly smiling Goldie Hawn and a self-consciously jiving Kevin Costner, rewarded Mad Vlad’s karaoke with a standing ovation. It is unclear whether they did so in an act of fear or sycophancy. Apparently Putin learnt the song as part of the English studies he required to complete to qualify for an appointment in the KGB, the feared Soviet secret police. On evidence of his diction, we may no longer be surprised at the collapse of the Soviet empire. Putin, to his credit, acknowledged that he can’t sing, so music’s loss was Russian democracy’s dubious gain. For those who somehow can resist the lure of Putin on MP3, here’s the video, with much unrhythmic dancing to accompany the torturous singing (and, before anybody indignantly asks, I can sing the song better than Putin, though his English is probably superior to my Russian).

Also recorded by: Connie Boswell (1940), Russ Morgan And His Orchestra (1940), Kay Kyser and his Orchrstra (1941), Louis Armstrong (1949), Mose Allison (1957), Elvis Presley (1957), Ricky Nelson (1958), Pat Boone (1958), Duane Eddy (1959), Carl Mann (1959), Conway Twitty (1959), Andy Williams (1959), John Barry Orchestra (1960), Bill Black’s Combo (1960), Buster Brown (1960), Brenda Lee (1960), Bill Haley & His Comets (1960), Louis Armstrong All-Stars (1960), Chubby Checker (1961), Skeeter Davis (1961), Billy Vaughn Orchestra (1961), The Ramsey Lewis Trio (1962), The Lettermen (1962), Johnny Hallyday (1962), Bobby Vinton (1963), Hank Crawford and the Marty Paich Orchestra (1963), Cliff Richard and The Shadows (1963), Little Richard (1964), Soul Sisters (1964), Willie Mitchell (1966), San Remo Golden Strings (1966), The Loved Ones (1966), Everly Brothers (1967), Walker Brothers (1967), Caterina Valente (1968), Frank Valdor Sextett (1970), Loretta Lynn (1972), Jerry Lee Lewis (1973), Bert Kaempfert (1973), Ellen McIlwaine (1975), Billy ‘Crash’ Craddock (1977), Eddy Mitchell (as La colline de Blueberry Hill, 1977), Adriano Celentano (1977), The Beach Boys (1976), Jimmy Carl Black (1981), Mud (1982), Jah Wobble (1982), Link Wray (1982), Ricky King (1984), Yellowman (1987), Teresa Brewer & Friends (1991), Carol Sloane & Clark Terry (1997), Bruce Cockburn (1999), Tommy Kenter (2003), Jimmy Clanton (2006), Elton John (2007) a.o.

Hank Ballard & the Midnighters – The Twist (1959).mp3
Chubby Checker – The Twist (1960).mp3
The Drifters – What’cha Gonna Do? (1955).mp3

Dick Clark, the legendary TV presenter who played such a big role in the evolution of rock & roll, believes that The Twist was the genre’s most important song because it was the first rock & roll record that a whole generation could freely admit to liking, from teenagers in tight jeans to jewellery rattling socialites and celebrities ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Truman Capote (even Jackie Kennedy was said to have twisted in the White House). Indeed, so popular was The Twist – the song and the dance – that Chubby Checker topped the US charts twice with it, for a week in September  1960 and then for two weeks in January 1962, following an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Clark is a protagonist in the story of the song which was written by Hank Ballard, the frontman of the R&B group The Midnighters. Ballard – who was born John Henry Kendricks in Detroit but grew up in Alalabama – and his band had enjoyed a string of hits with raunchy singles with titles such as Get It and Sexy Ways; they were so bawdy that they were banned from the airwaves. The Twist, recorded on 11 November 1959, was only a b-side to a Henry Glover ballad titled Teardrops On Your Letter, much to Hank’s annoyance. The single reached #4 on the R&B charts, and #87 in the pop charts. The flip side, now so much more famous, also attracted some attention, reaching #16 on the R&B charts (US charts have comprised radio play as well as sales).

When in early 1960 Ballard’s single Finger Poppin’ Time was a top 10 hit, the record label, King, gave The Twist a commercial push, resulting in a pop hit that peaked at #26. Dick Clark became interested in featuring The Twist on American Bandstand show, which ran five days a week , apparently after the song received an enthusiastic response from the audience at a Baltimore TV show hosted by one Buddy Dean. In the event, it was performed on The Dick Clark Show on 6 August 1960 (though the first TV performance was on New York’s Clay Cole Show). But it wasn’t Hank Ballard and the Midnighters who performed on the programme.

It is not quite clear whether this was due to Ballard’s unavailability (which would be a vicious, er, twist of fate) or to Ballard’s raunchy reputation. Whatever the case, The Twist was recorded by Chubby Checker in July 1960 and performed by him on Clark’s show

Checker had recorded for Clark before. In fact, the man born Ernest Evans received his stage name from Clark’s wife. He was already nicknamed Chubby, but she gave him the surname by coining a pun on the name Fats Domino, whom Chubby had just impersonated (you get it: Chubby/Fats and Domino/Checkers). Clark chose Checker to sing The Twist because he sounded a bit like Ballard, and the cover sounded much like the original. . Ballard later said that when he first heard Checker’s version on the radio, he thought it was his own record playing (lending credence to the idea that Clark deliberately bypassed the writer and first performer of the song). The Twist and several Twist-themed follow-ups served to typecast Checker as a novelty song merchant.

The word “twist” was an old African-American term for dancing, though the silly moves of the early-’60s dance craze were Checker’s (who had seen young people improvising it to Ballard’s song). The word was used to denote dancing on Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters’ 1953 song Let the Boogie Woogie Roll (“and when she did the twist she bopped me to my soul”). McPhatter, considered by many the first real soul singer, was a huge influence on Ballard – so much so that Ballard borrowed liberally from The Drifters’ 1955 song What’cha Gonna Do? for his song Is Your Love For Real. And it was the song which Ballard proceeded to rework as The Twist.

Ballard, who died in 2003, reportedly was not resentful at being denied success with The Twist. One hopes that he received bountiful royalties from the song.

Also recorded by: Paul Rich (1961), Duane Eddy (1962), Keely Smith (1962), Patti Page (1962), The Miracles (1963), James Brown (1974), Klaus Nomi (1981), The Fat Boys With Chubby Checker (1988), The Radiators (1992), Dan Baird and The Sofa Kings (2001)

Sonny West – Rave On (1957).mp3
Buddy Holly – Rave On (1958).mp3
M. Ward feat Zooey Deschanel – Rave On (2009).mp3


Sonny West – All My Love (Oh Boy) (1957).mp3
Buddy Holly and the Crickets – Oh Boy (1957).mp3

Buddy Holly wrote several stone-cold rock & roll classics, but two of his bigger hits were not by his hand. Both, Oh Boy and Rave On were written by rockabilly singer Sonny West with Bill Tilghman. The eagle-eyed reader will have spotted on the record label illustration a third name on the credit: Norman Petty. The rather eccentric Petty was the manager and producer of both West and Holly. He had very little to do with writing either song (though he did impose his unfortunate piano solo on Holly’s version of Rave On), but attached his name to the credits nonetheless.

Before landing up with Petty (whose dealings with Holly were not at all happy), the teenage Sonny West had tried to sign with Sun Records in Memphis, but was rejected. Staying with his sister near Holly’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas, West looked around for other opportunities to make it as a musician, and eventually found one with Petty in his remote studios in Clovis. He recorded one song with Petty before he bumped into Bill Tilghman, who proposed collaborating on songs for which he already had some basic lyrics.

When West presented Oh Boy to Petty, the manager declined to have the writer record it for release (a demo was recorded in February 1957, but remained unreleased until 2002, when it appeared on West’s Sweet Rockin’ Rock-Ola Ruby album). Instead, Petty gave the song instead to Buddy Holly and the Crickets, who with some lyrical tweaks cut it between 29 June and 1 July 1957. West reported being a little bitter about it, because he had written the song for himself, not for Holly.

His happiness was not improved by the recording of the other song he wrote with Tilghman. Petty had organised a contract with Atlantic, which would release many great records, but Rave On wasn’t one of them. Petty initially refused to produce what he described as a “hillbilly song”, but eventually it was cut in November 1957 with a backing band from Dallas called The Big Boys, also clients of Petty’s. West didn’t like the result, and the single went nowhere.  However, he approved of the way Holly recorded it, in New York in January 1958.

Sonny West, an inductee into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame, continues to perform and record today. (Read more about West’s memories, and his friendship with the young Waylon Jennings, in his interview with journalist Graham Lees).

Also recorded by: Terry Farlan (1969), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1970), John Smith & The New Sound (1970), Steeleye Span (1971), Fumble (1972), Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (1973), Showaddywaddy (1975), Mike Berry (1976), Denny Laine (1977), The Real Kids (1977), Delta-Cross Band (1979), Half Japanese (1980), Rick Nelson (1981), Wanda Jackson (1982), John Mellencamp (1988), Red River (1989), Connie Francis (1996), Hank Marvin (1996), Blumentopf (1999), Stompin’ Bird (1999), Marshall Crenshaw (2000), Status Quo (2000), Orange Black (2002), Sue Moreno (2002), P.J. Proby (2003), The Crickets with Phil & Jason Everly (2004), M. Ward & Zooey Deschanel (2009) a.o.

More Originals

The Originals Vol. 40

February 10th, 2011 4 comments

In the overdue return of The Originals, we’ll visit three songs that became iconic in their interpretations from the 1960s, but had been standards since the early 1930s and, in one instance, 1940s. Blue Moon and At Last debuted in movies, while Dream A Little Dream Of Me, the oldest of the three songs, would end up lending its title to a 1989 flick (and an episode of Grey’s Anatomy). Speaking of At Last, I hear that Etta James is in very poor health. Don’t forget the index of The Originals to revisit older instalments in this series. By the way, the Blue Moon discussion here will be followed later this month by a 38-song swarm of the tune.

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Shirley Ross – The Bad In Every Man (1934).mp3
Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra – Blue Moon (1934).mp3
Connie Boswell – Blue Moon (1935).mp3
The Emanons – Blue Moon (1958).mp3
The Marcels – Blue Moon (1961).mp3

It took the great songwriters Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers four attempts to arrive at the version of the song most people will know from the versions by The Marcels, Elvis Presley, Mel Tormé (my favourite, from 1961) or from the film Grease.

Rodgers and Hart originally wrote the song, with different lyrics, for a 1933 MGM film titled Hollywood Party, to be sung by Jean Harlow. The song, going by the working title Prayer (Oh Lord, Make Me A Movie Star), was never recorded, nor did Harlow appear in the film.

The following year, the songwriters dug up the song when MGM needed a number for the film Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and William Powell. It was that movie, incidentally, which the bank robber John Dillinger watched before stepping out of the Chicago cinema to meet his death at the enthusiastic hands of law enforcement. With new lyrics, the song now was called It’s Just That Kind Of Play – and was cut from the movie. However, later in the production, a song was needed for a nightclub scene. Rogers decided that the melody was still good, and Hart wrote a third set of lyrics, under the title The Bad In Every Man. This one made it into the film, sung by Shirley Ross (pictured right), who would go on to work and sing with Bob Hope on film a few times before retiring in 1945.

By now, MGM had appreciated the commercial potential for the melody, but wanted more romantic lyrics. Enter Lorenz Hart again, reluctantly providing a fourth set of words — those we are now familiar with. But even then, an introductory verse was excised, which proved a good decision. Blue Moon was first recorded on 16 November 1934 by Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra (named after the hotel where they once had a standing engagement), with the band’s saxophonist Kenny Sargent on vocals. Four days later, Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra recorded it, and from there on in, a host of performers and orchestras committed the song to record. The biggest hit of these was the version by Connie Boswell with the Victor Young Orchestra, recorded on 15 January 1935 as the theme for the radio show Hollywood Hotel (Boswell changed her first name to Connee only in the 1940s).

After a flurry of versions (including by Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt and Al Bowlly), Blue Moon was intermittently recorded and also appeared in several movies, including as part of a Harpo interlude in the Marx Brothers’ 1939 film At The Circus. In the 1940s and ’50s it was mainly a jazz number, as an instrumental or in vocal versions, by the likes of Mel Tormé (who first recorded it in 1949), Ella Fitzgerald and Jo Stafford. Arguably it was Elvis Presley’s sombre 1956 version thast appeared on his debut LP that returned Blue Moon to the world of popular music (the single of it was released between Hound Dog and Blue Suede Shoes). Sam Cooke released his version in 1958, as a b-side. It became a huge hit in the version by the multiracial doo wop band The Marcels, whose recording is probably the best known of the song.

As so often with popular covers that became huge hits, The Marcels recorded Blue Moon in 1961 as an afterthought. Producer Stu Phillips needed another song, one of the band members knew Blue Moon and taught it to the others, and in a matter of two takes the track had been laid down. The bom-bapa-bom intro came from a song the Marcels had in their live repertoire, which in turn was borrowed and sped up from The Collegians’ song Zoom Zoom Zoom.  The Marcels were not the first to produce a doo wop version of Blue Moon, however: in 1956 The Emanons released a doo wop take on Josie Records.

The success of Blue Moon and follow-up single Heartaches (also a cover of a 1930s hit; they did a lot of that) led to extra touring for The Marcels. But in the South the band’s racial composition produced problems; those were the days when the dignified Nat ‘King’ Cole was prone to assault racists. Ultimately, the two white members of the quintet left the group.

When Rod Stewart recorded Blue Moon for his interminable series of American Songbook albums, he added something of as twist: a first verse in Rodgers and Hart’s original composition of Blue Moon which everybody else has ignored.

The Blue Moon Song Swarm planned for later this month will feature several of the versions mentioned above and listed below.

Also recorded by: Frankie Trumbauer & his Orchestra (1934), Benny Goodman with Helen Ward (1935), Ray Noble with Al Bowlly (1935), Django Reinhardt (1935), Belle Baker (1935), Greta Keller (1935), Coleman Hawkins (1935), Tommy Dorsey & his Orchestra  (1939), Gene Krupa (1939), Charlie and his Orchestra (1943), The Cozy Cole All Stars (1944), Vaughn Monroe (1945), Georgie Auld & his Orchestra (1946), Mel Tormé (1949), Billy Eckstine (1949), Billie Holiday (1952), Eri Chiemi (1952), Jo Stafford (1952), Dizzy Gillespie (1954), Oscar Peterson Trio (1954), Blossom Dearie (1955), Louis Armstrong (1955), Art Tatum (1955), Ella Fitzgerald (1956), Julie London (1958), Sam Cooke (1958), Russell Garcia & Roy Eldridge (1958), Mel Tormé (1960), Bert Kaempfert Orchester (1960), Billy Taylor (1960), Conway Twitty (1960), Frank Sinatra (1961), Art Blakey Jazz Messengers (1962), The Ventures (1961), Cliff Richard & The Shadows (1961), Bobby Vinton (1963), Dean Martin (1964), Liza Minnelli (1964), Amalia Rodrigues (1965), Thyfonerne (as Desert Walk, 1965), The Supremes (1967), Bob Dylan (1970), Lee Perry’s Upsetters (1971), Sha Na Na (1971), Tony Bennett & Ella Fitzgerald (1973), Showaddywaddy (1974), Mud (1974), Spooky & Sue  (1975), Gene Summers (1975), Robert de Niro & Mary Kay (1977), Cornell Campbell (1979), César Camargo Mariano (1983), Elkie Brooks (1984), New Edition (1986), Cowboy Junkies (1988), Herb Ellis & Red Mitchell (1989), Mark Isham with by Tanita Tikaram (1990), Isabelle Aubret (1991), Daniel Ash (1991), Message (1993), Chris Isaak (1994), Bengt Hallberg (1994),Tommy Emmanuel (1995), Mina (1995), The Mavericks (1995), Estrada Brothers (1996), Less Than Jake (1996), Da Vinci’s Notebook (1997), The Huntingtons (1997), MxPx (1997), Vidal Brothers (as part of medley, 1997), Course of Empire (1998), Samantha Mumba (2002), John Alford (2002), Tommy Emmanuel CGP (2005), Rod Stewart featuring Eric Clapton (2004), My Morning Jacket (2006), Orange and Lemons (2006), Ann Hampton Callaway (2006), Helmut Lotti (2007), Joe Robinson (2007) a.o.

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Glenn Miller Orchestra – At Last (1942).mp3
Ray Anthony with Tom Mercer – At Last (1952).mp3
Nat ‘King’ Cole – At Last (1957).mp3
Etta James – At Last (1960).mp3
Stevie Wonder – At Last (1969).mp3

When Beyoncé Knowles was invited to sing At Last — Barack and Michelle’s special song — at one of the many Obama inauguration events in January 2009, Etta James was not best pleased. The veteran soul singer stated her dislike for the younger singer, who had portrayed Etta in the film about the Chess label, Cadillac Records. “That woman; singing my song, she gonna get her ass whupped,” James declared (she later relegated her outburst to the status of a “joke”).

It is her song, of course, certainly in the form covered so competently by Beyoncé. But many people recorded it before her, and it was a hit at least twice. The first incarnation came in the 1941 movie Orchestra Wives, in which it was performed by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, who also recorded the first version to be released on record on 20 May 1942. Doing vocal duties were Ray Eberle and Pat Friday. A month later, Miller fired Eberle for being late for a gig; the hapless singer had been stuck in traffic. Written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren (they also wrote Chattanooga Choo Choo, and Warren wrote hits such as That’s Amoré and I Only Have Eyes For You), At Last — with I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamazoo on the flip side (and, it seems, nominal A-side) — was a #9 hit for Miller.

At Last became a hit again ten years later, for Ray Anthony with Tom Mercer on vocals. This version is typical 1950s easy listening fare, done much better in 1957 by Nat ‘King’ Cole (who tended to do music much better than most people).

In 1960 Etta James recorded the song, with Phil and Leonard Chess producing with a view to accomplishing crossover success (the same year she contributed backing vocals on labelmate Chuck Berry’s Back In The USA). Her version, released on Chess subsidiary Argo, was a #2 R&B hit in 1961, but crossover success was limited, reaching only #47 in the pop charts. Over the years it did manage to cross over, being especially popular at weddings. As a result, it has been covered prodigiously, by soul singers (such as the wonderful Laura Lee and, in a gloriously upbeat version, Stevie Wonder), folk legends (Joni Mitchell) and difficult listening merchants (Céline Dion, Michael F. Bolton and Kenny G) alike.

Also recorded by: Connie Haines (1942), Geraldo and his Orchestra (1942), Miles Davis (1953), Chet Baker (1953), The Four Freshmen (1960), Baby Face Willette (1961), Lloyd Price (1961), Urbie Green (1961), Ben E. King (1962), Shirley Scott (1962), Brenda Lee (1963), Judy Garland (1964), Mary Wells (1964), Doris Day (1965), Baby Washington (1968), Stevie Wonder (1969), Laura Lee (1972), Randy Crawford (1977), The Fatback Band (1978), Ella Fitzgerald (1983), Lou Rawls & Dianne Reeves (1989), Phoebe Snow (1991), Diane Schuur & B.B. King (1994), Michelle Willson (1994), Stevie Nicks (1999), Günther Neefs (1999), Joni Mitchell (2000), Eva Cassidy (2000), Monica Mancini (2000), David McLeod (2000), Mary Coughlan (2002), Celine Dion (2002), Mary Coughlan (2002), Julia DeMato (2003), Cyndi Lauper (2003), Christina Aguilera (2003), Lavelle White (2003), Julia DeMato (2003), Michael Bolton (2004), The Frank Collett Trio (2005), Kenny G. feat Arturo Sandoval (2005), Michael Feinstein & George Shearing (2005), Raul Malo (2006), Aretha Franklin (2007), Ida Sand (2007), Beyoncé (2008), Kevin Michael (2009), Jaimee Paul (2009), Lynda Carter (2009), Daphne Loves Derby (2009), Stephanie Lapointe (2009), Stacey Solomon (2010), Liza Minnelli (2010), Brandy (2010), Paloma Faith (2010), a.o

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Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1931).mp3
Doris Day – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1957).mp3
Mama Cass – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1968).mp3
The Beautiful South – Les Yeux Ouverts (1995).mp3

Dream A Little Dream Of Me is one of those songs where one cannot pinpoint a definitive performance or hit version. To some, it’s Mama Cass’ song. Others will remember it as Frankie Laine’s or Ella Fitzgerald’s song. Sign me up to the former group.

Written by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt — there are claims that one Milton Adolphus wrote it —with lyrics by Gus Kahn (whose My Baby Just Cares For Me we encountered in The Originals Vol. 24), it was first recorded on 16 February 1931 by Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra, with Ozzie on vocals and Jack Teagarden on trombone, beating Wayne King’s orchestra by two days.  Ozzie, who had a radio and then TV show with his wife Harriet Hilliard and two sons — the late rock & roll singer Ricky Nelson and the TV producer David, who died in January — got his break in 1930 when as an unknown he won a popularity poll by the New York Daily News. Realising that kiosk vendors claimed for unsold newspapers with only the torn-off front page, Ozzie and pals picked up the discarded newspapers and filled in the poll forms in their favour. The ruse worked, and throughout the 1930s, Ozzie and his orchestra enjoyed a fine run of success — even if their version of Dream A Little Dream Of Me was not a hit.

The song seems to have maintained a presence in many concert repertoires. Kate Smith is said to have used the song, which she recorded in 1931, as a signature tune.  But it made a big comeback with the versions by Laine and Fitzgerald only in 1950. It made the rounds in the jazz and easy listening circles, but it required the death of one of its co-writers to cross over into pop.

Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas grew up knowing Fabian André as a family friend. When he died in 1967, after falling down an elevator shaft, she (or possibly Cass Elliott) proposed that the band record the song Michelle remembered from her childhood. A decision was made that Cass should sing it solo, and when the song was released as a single, it was credited in the US to Mama Cass with the Mamas and the Papas (elsewhere just to Mama Cass). A re-recorded version also appeared on Cass’ debut album, not coincidentally titled Dream A Little Dream.  Do check out Doris Day’s version; aside from Cass’ gorgeous interpretation it is my favourite.

Also recorded by: Wayne King and his Orchestra (1931), Kate Smith (1931), Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio (ca 1948), Ella Fitzgerald (1950), Frankie Laine (1950), Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald With Sy Oliver and His Orchestra (1950), Jack Owens (1950), Joe Newman Octet (1955), Doris Day (1957), Bing Crosby (1957), Dean Martin (1959), Tony Martin (1960), Joni James (1962), Enoch Light (1967), Tony Mottola with The Groovies (1968), Anita Harris (1968), Sylvie Vartan (as Nostalgy and Les Yeux Ouverts, 1969), Henry Mancini (1969), Mills Brothers (1969), Mickey Thomas & Mel Tormé (1989), Enzo Enzo (as Les yeux ouverts, 1990), Laura Fygi (1991), Micky Dolenz (1991), Maria Muldaur and Friends (1992), Gerry Mulligan Quartet (1994), The Beautiful South (two versions in 1995), Terry Hall & Salad (1995), Chicago (1995), Sharon, Lois & Bram (1995), Flying Pickets (1996), Candye Kane (1998), Denny Doherty (1999), Ephemera (2000), Gene Nery (2000), Tony Bennett & k.d. lang (2002), Molly Ryan (2002), Rozz Williams (2003), My Morning Jacket (2004), Anne Murray (2004), Béraud and the Birds (2004), Bucky Pizzarelli & Frank Vignola (2005), Dala (2005), Arielle Dombasle (2006), Diana Krall (2007), Blind Guardian (2007), Claw Boys Claw (2008), Jimmy Demers (2008), Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester (2008), Helen Schneider (2008), Mark Weber (2008), Matthieu Boré (2009), Nicole Atkins (2009), Erasure (2009), Michael Bublé (2010), OC Times (2010), Glee (sung by Arti, 2010) a.o.

More Originals

The Originals Vol. 39

August 6th, 2010 7 comments

Here are five more lesser-known originals, covered in four entries: Wild Thing, Sunny, Angel Of The Morning, Under The Influence Of Love and It May Be Winter Outside. Incidentally, look at the tabs on top to find an alphabetical index of Originals that have featured so far, with links to the relevant posts.

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The Wild Ones – Wild Thing (1965).mp3
The Troggs – Wild Thing (1966).mp3
Senator Bobby – Wild Thing (1968)
Jimi Hendrix – Wild Thing.mp3
Marsha Hunt – Wild Thing (1971).mp3

One of rock’s most iconic songs was written by actor Jon Voight’s younger brother,  James Wesley, who took the name Chip Taylor. He had a prolific songwriting career before turning to recording records himself in 1971 as a country artist. The first version of Wild Thing, by the New York band The Wild Ones, was released in 1965. Headed by one Jordan Christopher, they are said to have been the houseband of what has been called New York’s first disco, The Office. Taylor wrote Wild Thing for them as a favour for A&R man Gerry Granagan.

It’s not very good, certainly not in comparison to The Troggs version, which replaced the Wild Ones’ whistle interlude with an ocarina solo (the ocarina is an ancient ceramic wind instrument). Taylor has recalled that he wrote the song in a few minutes (“the pauses and the hesitations are a result of not knowing what I was going to do next”) and had a low opinion of it. Likewise, The Troggs recorded it in 20 minutes, during the same session that produced their follow-up hit With A Girl Like You. They worked from Taylor’s demo, rather than the Wild Ones’ version.  Due to a licensing issue, The Troggs’ version of Wild Thing was released on two labels, Fontana and Atco. It is the only time a record has topped the US charts under the simultaneous banner of two labels.

Wild Thing was covered frequently after that. Jimi Hendrix famously set his guitar on fire at Monterey after playing his version of it. In 1968 the comedy troupe The Hardly Worthit Players released a version of Wild Thing being performed by “Bobby Kennedy”, with a producer giving him instructions. Robert F Kennedy was voiced by the comedian Bill Minkin (it’s a myth that it was Jon Voight). That novelty record  was one of the last releases by the Cameo-Parkway label, a noteworthy footnote in light of the next song. Marsha Hunt’s version featured on the Covered In Soul Vol 2 mix.

Also recorded by: The Capitols (1966), The Standells (1966), The Kingsmen (1966), Manfred Mann (1966), Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band (1967), The Memphis Three (1968), Fancy (1974), The Goodies (1976), The Runaways (1977), The Creatures (1981), The Meteors (1983), X (1984), Cold Chisel (1984), La Muerte (1984), Sister Carol (1986), Amanda Lear (1987), Unrest (1987), Sam Kinison with Jessica Hahn (1988), Cheap Trick (1992), Divinyls (1993), Stoned Age (1994), Hank Williams, Jr (1995), The Muppets (1995), Acid Drinkers (1995), Chip Taylor (1996), Popa Chubby (1996), Danny and the Nightmares (1999), Sky Sunlight Saxon (2008), Trash Cans (2010)

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Evie Sands – Angel Of The Morning (1967).mp3
Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts  – Angel Of The Morning (1968).mp3
P.P. Arnold – Angel Of The Morning (1968).mp3
Skeeter Davis  – Angel Of The Morning (1969).mp3
Nina Simone – Angel Of The Morning (1971).mp3
Juice Newton – Angel of the Morning (1981).mp3

The one-night stand anthem was also written by Chip Taylor (perhaps the angel of the morning was last night’s wild thing). Indeed, he told Mojo magazine in its September 2008 edition that Angel is Wild Thing slowed down: “I heard some guy playing Wild Thing real slow on a guitar. It sounded nice. So I did the same, lifting one of my fingers off a chord to create a suspension.” He also credited the Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday for inspiration.

The song was first recorded in 1967 by New York singer-songwriter Evie Sands (pictured), for whom Taylor wrote several songs (he also wrote I Can’t Let Go for her; it became a hit for The Hollies). It was on its way to becoming a hit, with good radio airplay and 10,000 copies selling fast. Then the label, Cameo-Parkway (of the Bobby Kennedy novelty record above) went bankrupt, and Sands’ record sank. A few months later, Memphis producer Chips Moman picked up Angel Of The Morning (which in the interim had also been recorded by English singer Billie Davies) and had the unknown Merrilee Rush record it, backed by the same session crew that played with Elvis during his famous Memphis sessions that produced hits such as Suspicious Minds (itself a cover, as detailed in The Orignals Vol. 21). The Seattle-born singer had a massive hit with it, even receiving a Grammy nomination. It soon was covered prodigiously, with P.P. Arnold scoring a UK hit with it in 1968.

Angel Of The Morning was revived in 1981 by Juice Newton, who previously featured in The Originals Vol. 26 with her cover of Queen Of Hearts.  Her version sold a million copies in the US and reached #4 in the US charts. Like Rush, Newton was Grammy-nominated for her performance.

Also recorded by: Billie Davis (1967), Joya Landis (1968), Percy Faith (1968), Ray Conniff (1968), Liliane Saint Pierre (as Au revoir et à demain, 1968), I Profeti (as Gli occhi verdi dell’amore, 1968), Dusty Springfield (1969), Skeeter Davis (1969), Bettye Swann (1969), Connie Eaton (1970), Olivia Newton-John (1973), Merrilee Rush (re-recording, 1977), Guys n’ Dolls (1977), Mary Mason (as part of a medley, 1977), Thelma Jones (1978), Rita Remington (1978), Melba Montgomery (1978), Pat Kelly (1978), Elisabeth Andreassen (as En enda morgon, 1981), The Tremeloes (1987), Barnyard Slut (1993), Chip Taylor (1994), The Pretenders (1994), Ace Cannon (1994), Position (1997), Juice Newton (re-recording, 1998), Bonnie Tyler (1998), Thunderbugs (1999), Shaggy (as Angel, 2000), Maggie Reilly (2002), Blackman & The Butterfly (2003), The Shocker (2003), Chip Davis & Carrie Rodriguez (2006), Girlyman (2007), Jill Johnson (2007), Vagiant (2007), Gypsy Butterfly (2008), Barb Jungr (2008), Michelle (2008), Randy Crawford with Joe Sample (2008), Iván (as Angel de la mañana, 2009)

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Felice Taylor – It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It’s Spring) (1967).mp3
Felice Taylor – I’m Under The Influence Of Love (1967).mp3
Love Unlimited – It May Be Winter Outside, But In My Heart It’s Spring (1973).mp3
Love Unlimited – Under The Influence Of Love (1973).mp3

Before becoming an icon of baby-making music, Barry White was something of an impresario. He discovered and produced the girl band Love Unlimited (which included White’s future wife Glodean James), whose success in 1972 set him off on his successful solo career. Just a decade or so earlier, White had been in jail for stealing the tyres of a Cadillac (he credited hearing Elvis Presley singing It’s Now Or Never for turning his life around). After leaving jail, he started to work in record production, mostly as an arranger. Among his early arrangement credits was Bob & Earl’s 1963 song Harlem Shuffle. By 1967, White worked for the Mustang label, owned by Rob Keane, the man who first signed Sam Cooke, Richie Valens and Frank Zappa. In that job, White wrote for Bobby Fuller (of I Fought The Law fame), Viola Wills and  a young soul singer named Felice Taylor.

Felice Taylor, born in 1948 in Richmond, California, had previously released a single as part of a trio with her sisters, The Sweets, and a solo single under the name Florian Taylor. White’s It May Be Winter Outside provided Taylor with her only US hit, reaching #42 in the pop charts. It is a rather lovely version that sounds a lot like a Supremes song (with a break stolen from the Four Tops’ Reach Out I’ll Be There). White also wrote and arranged Taylor’s I’m Under The Influence Of Love. The arrangement and Taylor’s vocals are inferior, and the single failed to make an impact. Taylor’s biggest success was with another White song, I Feel Love Comin’ On, a bubblegum pop number that reached #11 in the UK charts in late 1967.

By the early 1970s Taylor had ceased to record. In 1973 Love Unlimited recorded totally reworked, luscious versions of It May Be Winter Outside and (title shortened) Under The Influence Of Love for the sophomore album. Both were released as singles, with Winter reaching #11 in the UK charts.

Also recorded by: (Under The Influence) Lori Hampton (1968), Kylie Minogue (2000)

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Mieko Hirota – Sunny (1965).mp3
Chris Montez – Sunny (1966).mp3
Bobby Hebb – Sunny (1966).mp3
Dusty Springfield – Sunny (1967).mp3
Johnny Rivers –  Sunny (1967).mp3
Stevie Wonder – Sunny (1968).mp3
Boney M. – Sunny (1976).mp3

Bobby Hebb died on Tuesday, August 3 at the age of 72. The man had a quite remarkable early life. Born to blind parents, both musicians, Nashville-born Robert Von Hebb progressed from being a child musician to becoming  one of the earlier musicians to play at the Grand Ole Opry, as part of Ray Acuff’s band. In the early 1960s Hebb even had a minor hit with a country standard recorded by Acuff, among others, Night Train To Memphis. Subsequently, afer the success of Sunny, he headlined the 1966 Beatles tour.

The genesis for Sunny was in a dual tragedy: the assassination of John F Kennedy and soon after  the fatal stabbing in a mugging of Hebb’s older brother Harold, with whom he had performed in childhood. The song was a conscious statement of meeting the trauma of these events with a defiantly positive disposition. In 2007, he told the Assiociated Press about writing Sunny: “I was intoxicated. I came home and started playing the guitar. I looked up and saw what looked like a purple sky. I started writing because I’d never seen that before.”

Still, it would be almost three years before Hebb would release the song himself. It was first recorded by the Japanese singer Mieko “Miko” Hirota who made her debut in her home country in 1962 with a cover of Connie Francis’ Vacation. Within three years, the by now 18-year-old singer became the first Japanese artist to appear at the Newport Jazz Festival (the line-up of which included Frank Sinatra), having just recently discovered her talent for the genre thanks to a chance meeting with American jazz promoter  George Wein. The same year, in October 1965, she was the first of many to release Sunny, scoring a hit with it in Japan with her rather lovely jazzy version. By the time Hebb got around to releasing it, apparently having recorded it as an after-thought at the end of a session, there already were a few versions, including Chris Montez’s featured here. Hebb’s rightly became the definitive and most successful version, though Boney M scored a huge hit with it in Europe ten years later.

Also recorded by: John Schroeder Orchestra (1966), Cher (1966), Chris Montez (1966), Del Shannon (1966), Dave Pike (1966), Georgie Fame (1966), The Young-Holt Trio (1966), Roger Williams (1966), Richard Anthiny (1966), James Darren (1967), Horacio Malvicino (1967), Billy Preston (1967), Herbie Mann & Tamiko Jones (1967), Johnny Mathis (1967), Andy Williams (1967), Sam Baker (1967), John Davidson (1967), The Amazing Dancing Band (1967), Jackie Trent (1967), Booker T. & The M.G.’s (1967), Gordon Beck (1967), Joe Torres (1967), Nancy Wilson (1967), Dusty Springfield (1967), The Ventures (1967), Shirley Bassey (1968), Eddy Arnold (1968), Leonard Nimoy (1968), Frankie Valli (1968), José Feliciano (1968), Bill Cosby (1968), Mary Wells (1968), Frank Sinatra & Duke Ellington (1968), Paul Mauriat (1968), Gary Lewis & the Playboys (1968), Stevie Wonder (1968), Ray Conniff (1968), George Nenson (1968),  The Head Shop (1969), Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (1969), The Electric Flag (1969), Classics IV (1969), Ray Nance (1969), The Lettermen (1969), Ella Fitzgerald (1970), Del Shannon (1971), Pat Martino (1972), Bobby Hebb (as Sunny ’76, 1975), Hampton Hawes (1976), Boney M. (1976), Stanley Jordan (1987), Cosmoalpha (1994), Günther Neefs (1997), Ottottrio (1998), Kazuo Yashiro Trio (2000), Clementine (2000), Twinset (2003), Christophe Willem (2006), Michael Sagmeister (2006), Dwight Adams (2007), Cris Barber (2008), Giuliano Palma & the Bluebeaters (2009) a.o.

More Originals

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