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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 9 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.

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The Originals Vol. 38

May 7th, 2010 9 comments

May 9 will mark the 21st anniversary of the death of the country singer Keith Whitley, who was just about to break huge when he suddenly died. So it’s appropriate to include in this instalment of The Originals his vastly superior original of the mammoth hit for the ghastly Ronan Keating. In the course of researching this series I come to learn new things. I had always thought that Big Maybelle did the original of Jerry Lee Lewis’ first hit. I thought wrong. The third song featured is The Mindbender’s cover of A Groovy Kind Of Love, the first original song in this series for which I could find no useful graphic illustration.

I’m using another file hosting service, in addition to Mediafire and the increasngly annoying DivShare. Let me know whether the 4shared files are working OK for you.

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Roy Hall – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On (1955).mp3
Big Maybelle – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On (1955).mp3
Jerry Lee Lewis – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On (1957).mp3
Elvis Presley – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On (1972).mp3

One day in 1956, Jerry Lee Lewis and his father Elmo were passing through Memphis. Aware of how Elvis Presley had emerged from Sam Philips’ Sun studio, Jerry Lee decided to drop in and audition, at the suggestion of his cousin Mickey Gilley (who later would become a big country star; another cousin, Jimmy Swaggart would become a notorious televangelist). The audition didn’t go very well: nobody wanted a piano player. According to sound engineer Cowboy Jack Clement, Lewis sounded like country guitar legend Chet Atkins on piano. Jerry Lee was dynamic, to be sure, but he was country and boogie woogie — not rock ‘n’ roll. A month later Lewis returned, with Clement’s encouragement. This time Sam Philips was in the studio. Lewis played a country hit, Ray Price’s Crazy Arms, in blues style. Philips was sold. Before too long, Lewis’ version of Crazy Arms became his debut single, on Sun.

In May 1957, Clement and Philips were seeking a follow-up single. The session to record the Clement composition I’ll Be Me did not go well. During a break, bassist JW Brown — Jerry’s cousin and future father-in-law (13-year-old Myra Gale’s dad) — suggested they play A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, a cover of a song that had gone over well live. It took just one take for a pivotal moment in rock ‘n’ roll to be created.

A Whole Lotta Shakin’ had been written by Dave “Curlee” Williams, half black and half Native American, and Roy Hall, a nightclub owner from Nashville who had been recording intermittentlyin the country genre for 11 years. Or maybe Roy Hall didn’t write it. Though he certainly was the first to record it for Decca in September 1954, when the rockabilly number released in 1955, it was credited to D Williams alone. Only later did Hall get himself a co-writing credit under his pseudonym, Sunny David.

Hall’s version went nowhere, but the song became a minor hit in 1955 when the R&B singer Big Maybelle (real name Mabel Louise Smith) recorded it, produced by a young Quincy Jones. Though Big Maybelle’s version was better known, Lewis had picked up the song from Hall, whom he had seen performing it with country star Webb Pierce in Nashville.

Perhaps more than any rock ‘n’ roll classic, A Whole Lotta Shakin’ embodies the spirit of the nascent genre: a song created by a multi-racial team which first was a rockabilly number, then an R&B song, and then became something different altogether when performed by a singer who had a love for country, blues, and gospel and infused the stew with his own unique anarchic sensibility and lecherous sexuality. Initially the song was banned, but after Lewis appeared on the Steve Allen Show, which had also provided Elvis with an early platform, the airplay ban was gradually lifted, and the song became a big hit. Suitably, it topped both R&B and country charts.

Also recorded by: The Commodores (1956), Ricky Nelson (1957), Johnny O’Keefe & the Dee Jays (1957), The Tunettes (1957), Carl Perkins (1958), Little Richard (1979), Cliff Richard & the Drifters (1959), Conway Twitty (1960), Bill Haley and his Comets (1960), Chubby Checker (1960),Vince Taylor (1961), Johnny Hallyday (1962), Royale Monarchs featuring Roger Stafford (1962), Sherree Scott and her Melody Rockers (1963), Johnny Rivers (1964), The Rivieras (1964), The Weedons (1964), Mickey Gilley (1964), Wanda Jackson (1964), Sonny Flaharty and the Young Americans (1964), The Rocking Ghosts (1964), The Tremolons (1965), The Hep Stars (1965), Gerry and The Pacemakers (1965), Jerry Jaye (1967), Lucas (1969), Doug Ashdown (1969), John Smith & the New Sound (1970), Wild Angels (1970), Elvis Presley (1971), Vinegar Joe (1972), Mae West (1972), Mott the Hoople (1974), Tony Sheridan (1974), Mountain (1974), Rock House (1974), Lee Hazlewood (1976), Big Star (1978), Shakin’ Stevens (as part of a medley, 1978), Renée (1979), The Flying Lizards (1984), Elton John (1985), Georgia Satellites (1988), Valerie Wellington (1989), Cliff Richard (as part of a medley, 1990), Siren & Kevin Coyne (1994), Johnny Devlin (1998), Sébi Lee (2000), Rock Nalle & The Yankees (2004) a.o.

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Diane & Annita – A Groovy Kind Of Love.mp3
The Mindbenders – A Groovy Kind Of Love.mp3

A Groovy Kind Of Love was written in 20 minutes in 1965 by Carole Bayer Sager, barely 21, and 17-year-old Toni Wine (who later sang with Ron Dante, Andy Kim and Ellie Greenwich on The Archies’ Sugar Sugar; the “I’m gonna make your life so sweet” line is hers) . The song, one of the first to riff on the new buzzword “groovy” , was apparently based on the Rondo from Sonatina in G Major by Muzio Clementi (link from Peter’s Power Pop). It was first recorded by the short-lived duo Diane & Annita — Diane Hall and Annita Ray. Annita had appeared alongside the likes of Fats Domino and Big Joe Turner in the rock ‘n’ roll movie Shake Rattle And Roll, in which she performed the song On A Saturday Night. The song was left off the soundtrack album. She did apparently release three records between 1957 and 1959 before joining Ray Anthony’s Bookends, where she first met Diane Hall. After leaving the Bookends, Annita recorded a solo LP and then hooked up with Diane to release a few singles — I have counted three, One By One; All Cried Out; and Groovy Kind Of Love — on Scepter Records (on its Wand subsidiary), which was a home for many early and mid-’60s girl-bands.

Much mystery surrounded the duo. There is very little information about them, and rumours even had it that the Diane & Annita act was in fact Sager recording under a false name. In any case, the single didn’t go anywhere, nor did its second incarnation, a version by Patti LaBelle & the Bluebells, produced by the great Bertie Berns.

The English group The Mindbenders, from Manchester, had enjoyed a US chart-topper with Game Of Love, but by mid-1965 they suddenly were without their frontman, Wayne Fontana, after he walked out in a middle of as concert. As luck would have it, the now Fontana-less band came to record A Groovy Kind Of Love, with future 10cc member Eric Stewart on lead vocals, and had a huge hit with it, reaching #2 both in the UK and US. It was the only real success the group would have before disbanding in 1968, by which time another future 10cc member, Graham Gouldman, had joined. Just to be sure: the next time the presenter on your local oldies radio station attributes A Groovy Kind Of Love to “Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders”, phone the station and educate the presenter.

Also recorded by: Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles (1965), Petula Clark (1966), Graham Bonney (1966), Sonny & Cher (1967), Gene Pitney (1968), Marian Love (1968), Les Gray (1977), Winston Francis (1986), Phil Collins (1988), Neil Diamond (1993), Michael Chapdelaine (1995) a.o.

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Keith Whitley – When You Say Nothing At All (1988).mp3
Alison Krauss & Union Station – When You Say Nothing At All (1995).mp3
The regrettable Ronan Keating scored a huge worldwide hit in 1999 with When You Say Nothing At All, his first single outside Irish boy band Boyzone, on the back of the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts rom-com Notting Hill (Julia Roberts is said to have cried when she first heard the song, no doubt overcome by Keating’s herculean soulfulness).

It’s not as mediocre a song as Keating and the terrible arrangement would make us believe. In the beginning, it was a quite excellent country #1 for the tragic Keith Whitley. Whitley was on the cusp of country superstardom when he died in on 9 May 1989 at the age of 33, one of the many musicians to fall the victim to the bottle. His influence endured in country music for a long time, as did that of his more successful close friend Ricky Skaggs, with whom he got a first break as members of the legendary Ralph Stanley’s bluergrass band. While Skaggs ruled in the country scene in the 1980s, Whitley had a few hits, but didn’t break through until he exercised greater control over his material on his third album, Don’t Close Your Eyes. Released in late 1988, it includes the marvellous It’s All Coming Back To Me Now and When You Say Nothing At All, yielding three country charts #1s before Whitley’s death (he had two more posthumously).

When You Say Nothing At All was written by Paul Overberg and Don Schlitz, both prolific songwriters and occasional recording artists (Schlitz recorded the first version of the Kenny Rodgers hit The Gambler, which he wrote). Whitley heard When You Say Nothing At All and wanted to record it, predicting correctly that he would score a hit with it. Whitley had previously recorded another Overberg/Schlitz composition, On The Other Hand, but that became a big hit for Randy Travis instead.

Alison Krauss, once a child prodigy, recorded When You Say Nothing At All for a Whitley tribute album. Her lovely version was so popular that it was released as a single, providing the bluegrass singer with her first hit, reaching #2 on the country charts.

Also recorded by: Henning Stærk (1997), Roman Keating (1999), Ronan Keating & Deborah Blando (2002), Ronan Keating & Paulina Rubio (2003), Engelbert Humperdinck (2005), Jay H (2007), Susan Wong (2007), Cliff Richard (2007)

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The Originals Vol. 37

April 20th, 2010 6 comments

Almost all of the previous 36 instalments of The Originals consisted of five songs each. The inaugural post had ten tracks, one (or was it two?) had six. Which makes for 186 tracks that have been, well, covered. Truth be told, researching five songs at a time has been so much a burden on my time that at times I’ve not been motivated to start a new post. Maybe by reducing the number to three I’ll update this series more enthusiastically in future. I still have many lesser-known originals to write about.

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Cowboy Copas – Tennessee Waltz (1948).mp3
Pee Wee King – Tennessee Waltz (1948).mp3
Patti Page – Tennessee Waltz (1950).mp3
Les Paul & Mary Ford – Tennessee Waltz (1951).mp3
Sam Cooke – Tennessee Waltz (1964).mp3

On a Friday night in 1946, country singer and accordionist Pee Wee King (who was born by the decidedly un-country name Julius Kuczynski in Milwaukee) was driving with Redd Stewart, fiddler and singer with King’s Golden West Cowboys, to Nashville when the radio played bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s Kentucky Waltz. Wondering why nobody ever dedicated a waltz to Tennessee — home to country music capital Nashville, after all — they decided to relieve the boredom of the long drive by writing one, setting lyrics, written on a matchbox, to an instrumental they had been playing in concerts, the No Name Waltz.

One might think that Pee Wee King’s version, with Stewart on vocals, would be the first to be recorded. However, he was scooped by Cowboy Copas, who would perish on the plane that killed Patsy Cline (one of the many who later covered Tennessee Waltz). Lloyd Copas had been a singer with Pee Wee King’s band in the early 1940s, succeeding Eddy Arnold. It may be that Pee Wee first gave the song to his old frontman, who made a recording of it in April 1947 for (ironically) King Records in Cincinnatti, and another in June that year. It is most likely the latter recording that was released in March 1948 and became a #3 country hit. Pee Wee King recorded his version in December 1947. Also released in early 1948, it also peaked at #3, but at half a million copies sold more than Copas’ take.

By 1950, Tennessee Waltz had become something of a country classic, and even jazz singer Anita O’Day had covered it, when it became a mammoth crossover hit for Patti Page, whose version remains the best known. It topped the pop, country and R&B charts simultaneously, a unique feat. As so often, the big hit was first a b-side, in this case to the less than immortal Boogie Woogie Santa Claus. For a b-side, much effort went into the production, which used a rudimentary form of vocal overdubbing to go with the backing track by the Jack Rael Orchestra. An acetate was recorded of Page singing the song, and this would be played into one microphone while Page sang into a second microphone. Page’s version of her dad’s favourite song went on to sell 6 million copies.

Tennessee Waltz was awarded BMI’s 3,000,000 Airplay Award in 2004. Only five other songs have achieved that honour.

Also recorded by: Roy Acuff (1949), Jo Stafford (1950), Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (1950), John ‘Schoolboy’ Porter (1950), Stick McGhee (1950), Anita O’Day (1951), Spike Jones (1951), The Fontane Sisters (1951), Eddy Arnold (1956), Floyd Cramer (as part of a medley, 1957), The Louvin Brothers (1958), Bill Vaughn (1958), Faron Young (1959), Connie Francis (1959), Chet Atkins (1959), Bobby Comstock & The Counts (1959), Jerry Fuller (1959), Four Jacks (1960), Red Hewitt & the Buccaneers (1960), Tennessee Ernie Ford (1960), Grady Martin and The Slewfoot Five (1960), Kitty Wells (1960), Gus Backus (1960), Don Robertson (1961), Webb Pierce (1962), Homer & Jethro (1962), Pat Boone (1962), The Violents (1962), Alma Cogan (1964), Anna King (1964), Sam Cooke (1964), Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas (1965), Chet Atkins (1966), Slim Whitman (1966), Manfred Mann (1966), Ernest Tubb (1966), Ray Brown & the Whispers (1966), Otis Redding (1966), Richard “Groove” Holmes and the Super Soul Big Band (1967), Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown (1967), Johnny Jones (1968), American Soul Train (1968), Dottie West (1968), Sue Thompson (1969), Leon Haywood (1969), Ferlin Husky (1969), Don Gibson (1969), Napoleon Jr (1969), Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass (1970), Lou Donaldson (1970), Bobbi Martin (1971), David Bromberg (1972), American Spring (1972), Boots Randolph (1974), Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass (1976), Pete Tex (1976), Gitte (1977), Anne Murray (1978), Tielman Brothers (1979), Lacy J. Dalton (1980), Emmylou Harris (1981), Billie Jo Spears (1981), James Brown (1983), Willie Nelson & Hank Williams (1984), Audrey Landers (1986), George Adams (1989), Holly Cole Trio (1993), Tom Jones with the Chieftans (1995), Richard Hindman Trio (1995), Sally Timms (1997), Linda Martin (1998), James Last (1998), Sarah Harmer & Jason Euringer (1999), Sam Moore (2002), André Rieu (2002), Joel Harrison feat. Norah Jones (2002), Eva Cassidy (released in 2002), Joel Harrison (2003), Leonard Cohen (2004), Herb Alpert (2005), Hem (2006), Pete Molinari (2009), Isabelle Boulay (2009) a.o.

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Johnny & Jackey – Someday We’ll Be Together (1961).mp3
Diana Ross and the Supremes – Someday We’ll Be Together (1969).mp3
Frederick Knight – Someday We’ll Be Together (1973).mp3

The Supremes’ sentimental farewell song with Diana Ross proved less than prescient (if we disregard the awkward performance of it on 1983’s Motown 25th anniversary show), and La Ross probably never thought that she “made a big mistake” by leaving.

The song was originally recorded in 1961 by the R&B duo Johnny & Jackie, in a Drifters-style arrangement. The Johnny half of the Detroit duo was Johnny Bristol, and Jackey was his singing and songwriting partner — and ex-air force compadre — Jackey Beavers. They co-wrote Someday We’ll Be Together with the great Harvey Fuqua, on whose Tri-Phi label the single appeared. It was not a big hit, and after several years of trying, Bristol and Beavers went their separate ways, with Jackey signing for Chess Records.

Bristol went on to become a noted producer on Motown, working with Fuqua on songs such as Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and David Ruffin’s My Whole World Ended. Bristol had the distinction of producing the final singles by both the Supremes and the Miracles before their headliners departed. That means, of course, that Bristol produced the song which he had co-written and first recorded for Diana Ross and the Supremes. The other Supremes didn’t actually appear on it (which makes the decision to play Some Day We’ll Be Together at Florence Ballard’s funeral seem quite odd). Bristol had intended the song for Jr Walker and the All Stars, for whom he had already written the hit What Does It Take (To Make You Love Me). He had laid down the arrangement and backing vocals, by Maxine and Julia Waters, when Gordy decided that this would be the song with which to launch Diana’s solo career. On reflection, probably because of the title, he instead issued it as a farewell song for Diana Ross and the Supremes.

The male voice on the song is Bristol’s. Not satisfied with Ross’ performance, he harmonised with her, ad libbing encouragements. The sound engineer accidentally captured these, and the since it sounded good, it was decided to keep them in. Diana Ross & the Backing Singers’ single topped the US charts (perhaps fittingly, the last chart-topper of the ’60s) , which meant that Berry Gordy, who was intent on having the Ross-led Supremes go out with a #1, could release Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hands) as Diana’s solo debut.

Johnny Bristol, who died in 2004, continued producing after leaving Motown (he lent Boz Scaggs that blue-eyed soul inflection), and had some success as a singer, most notably with the 1974 hit Hang On In There Baby. He also wrote and recorded the first version of the Osmonds’ hit Love Me For A Reason, which will feature later in this series.

Frederick Knight’s 1973 version slows down the song and gives it a proper southern soul treatment. It was not a hit, but it may be the best version of the song (by the man who went on to write Anita Bell’s disco classic Ring My Bell).

Also recorded by: Boogaloo Joe Jones (1970), Brenda & the Tabulations (1970), Shirley Scott (1970), The Marvelettes (1970), Bobby Darin (1971), Bill Anderson & Jan Howard (1972), Dionne Warwicke (1972), Frederick Knight (1973), The Pointer Sisters (1982), Lorrie Morgan (1983), Jimmy Somerville (1995), LaToya Jackson (1995), Vonda Shepard (1999)


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Bolland – You’re In The Army Now (1983).mp3
Status Quo – In The Army Now (1986).mp3

The year 1986 was lucrative for the brothers Bolland, Rob and Ferdi. First their song Rock Me Amadeus, performed by the Austrian cult singer Falco, topped the UK charts (having been a huge hit in Europe the previous year), and then Status Quo hit the top 10 with their cover of the brothers’ 1981 song In The Army Now.

Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (in the same region that gave the world the entirely unneccesary Dave Matthews), the Bolland brothers had emigrated to the Netherlands, and started their recording career in 1972 as a folk-rock duo along the lines of Simon & Garfunkel. When that genre became passé, they hooked into the electronic sounds of the late 1970s. In The Army Now was a big hit in South Africa, where conscription applied to only white men, many of whom were sent to fight in the war with Angola, apartheid’s Vietnam. The single did only moderately well elsewhere, and the Bolland brothers became record producers, counting among their clients Falco, Amii Stewart, Samantha Fox, Suzi Quatro and Dana International.

Meanwhile, Status Quo’s Francis Rossi had heard In The Army Now on the radio while driving in Germany, and proposed it to his band, which by now had lost bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coughlan. The song took the Quo to #2 in Britain.

Also recorded by: Laibach (1994), Les Enfoirés (as Ici les Enfoirés, 2009)

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The Originals Vol. 36

February 19th, 2010 7 comments

After a couple of Original specials — Beatles and Reworked Hits — we return to the usual random selection of five lesser known originals: the Bacharach/David song I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, the seriously great Super Duper Love (which became a hit for Joss Stone), Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain, rock & roll classic See You Later Alligator, and the story of the Coke jingle that first was another song and then a megaghit which most of us might have preferred to have been taught.

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Tommy Hunt – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1962).mp3
Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964).mp3
Dionne Warwick – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1966).mp3
Isaac Hayes – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1970).mp3

One should think that a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, arranged and conducted by Bacharach and produced by the legendary Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller would become a big hit. Alas, R&B singer Tommy Hunt’s version, released on the Scepter label as a b-side to And I Never Knew and as the title track of Hunt’s 1962 album, went mostly unnoticed. Tommy Hunt a former member of The Flamingos (of I Only Have Eyes For You fame), never achieved the breakthrough, but he was very popular on Britain’s Northern Soul scene, and performed on the circuit as late as the 1990s. Scepter tried their luck with the song a second time in 1965 with a version by Big Maybelle, which used the same backing track as Hunt’s. It went nowhere.

In 1964, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself provided Dusty Springfield with her second top 10 hit , while in the US Dionne Warwick — the great performer of the Bacharach/David songbook — had a US hit with it in 1966, also on the Specter label.

Also recorded by: Big Maybelle (1964), Jill Jackson (1964), Sheila (as Oui, il faut croire, 1964), Joan Baxter (1964), Chris Farlowe (1966), Chuck Jackson (1966), Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1966, released in 2002), Brook Benton (1969), Isaac Hayes (1970), Gary Puckett (1970), Cissy Houston (1970), The Dells (1972), Marcia Hines (1976), Demis Roussos (1978), Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1978), The Photos (1980), Linda Ronstadt (1993),Linda Ronstadt (1994), Bloom (1997), Nicky Holland (1997), The Earthmen (1998), Sonia (2000), The White Stripes (2003), Steve Tyrell (2003), Trijntje Oosterhuis (2007), Tina Arena (2007), Jimmy Somerville (2009) a.o.

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Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love (1975).mp3
Joss Stone – Super Duper Love (2003).mp3

Not much is known about Sugar Billy, who was known to his mom as William Garner. Apparently a producer of some sort before he released what seems to be his sole album, also called Super Duper Love, on Fast Track Records in 1975, he then promptly faded into obscurity. It’s a pity, because the LP is quite wonderful (though some of it must have seemed a little outdated even by 1975), and the cover is one of the sexiest I can think of. Super Duper Love was the album’s lead single, released in 1974. It didn’t dent the charts. I don’t even know whether Billy, who is also playing the great guitar on the track, is still alive, though it seems that he eventually retired from the music industry and worked as a builder.

Joss Stone launched her career as a 16-year-old in 2003 on the back of her version of Super Duper Love (and a regrettable cover of the White Stripes’ Fell In Love With A Girl) in 2003. It was an inspired choice: a catchy tune which only few people knew, and poppy enough that it did not require her to imitate soul singing. It has a pleasant ’70s soul vibe — as it should have, since several ’70s soul legends appear on it, such as Timmy Thomas (on keyboards) and Betty Wright (as co-producer and on backing vocals). I hope that Sugar Billy did okay on the royalties. If Super Duper Love had been representative of the Joss Stone sound, I’d have been quite content. Alas, the white teenage girl from suburban Brittania was hyped as some sort of mystic incarnation of a soul mother from the deepest south, which clearly she was not. The Grammys loved it, of course, though that is rarely a token of artistic credibility. The girl didn’t know better, but she paved the way for a flood of entirely redundant British white soulstresses.

Also recorded by: nobody else, it seems

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Ian & Sylvia – Early Morning Rain (1965).mp3
Gordon Lightfoot – Early Morning Rain (1966).mp3
Paul Weller – Early Morning Rain (2004).mp3
Richard Hawley – Early Morning Rain (2009).mp3

Several artists had a bite of Early Morning Rain before the song’s writer, Gordon Lightfoot, released it (though he had already recorded it). First up were Lightfoot’s Canadian compatriots Ian & Sylvia, a folk duo discovered in 1962 by Bob Dylan’s future manager Albert Grossman, who’d also sign Lightfoot. The married twosome’s version, with a rather good bass break, appeared on their 1965 album named after Lightfoot’s song. It featured another song by the still mostly unknown Lightfoot, For Lovin’ Me, as well as the original version of Darcy Farrow.

Both Lightfoot songs recorded by Ian & Sylvia were soon covered by Peter, Paul & Mary, who released Early Morning Rain as a single in late 1965, by Judy Collins and by the Kingston Trio. In November 1965 it was also recorded on a demo by the Warlocks, who a month later would become the Grateful Dead, though their version would not be released till later (listen to the full Warlocks session here). Peter, Paul & Mary’s single release tanked, but a 1966 version by George Hamilton IV reached the top 10 of the country charts (he also had success with another Lightfoot song, Steel Rail Blues).

By then, Lightfoot had finally released the song, closing the A-side of his debut album, Lightfoot!, which came out in January 1966 but had mostly been recorded in December 1964. The songwriter, incidentally, had spent a year in Britain presenting the BBC’s Country & Western Show (among his viewers very likely was country fan Keith Richards).

Also recorded by: Peter, Paul & Mary (1965), Judy Collins (1965), Kingstion Trio (1965), Chad & Jeremy (1966), Bobby Bare (1966), Carolyn Hester (1966), The Settlers (1966) ,Joe Dassin (as Dans la brume du matin, 1966), Julie Felix (1967), The What’s New (1967), Bob Dylan (1970), Pendulum (1971), Elvis Presley (1972), Jerry Lee Lewis (1973), Eddy Mitchell (as Chaque matin il se lève, 1974), Moose (1992), Bill Staines (1995), Tony Rice (1996),Grateful Dead (1965, released in 2001),Eva Cassidy (released in 2002), Raul Malo (2004), Richard Hawley (2009) a.o.

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Bobby Charles – Later Alligator (1955).mp3
Bill Haley and his Comets – See You Later Alligator (1956).mp3

We previously looked at Haley’s Rock Around The Clock (first recorded by Sonny Dae & his Knights; see The Originals Vol. 11). See You Later Alligator, the final of Haley’s trilogy of million-sellers, was a cover of Bobby Charles’ Cajun blues number. Born Robert Charles Guidry in Louisiana, Charles (who died in January) recorded the song as Later Alligator in 1955 at the age of 17. It was released in November 1955 without making much of a commercial impact. His hero, Fats Domino, also recorded a couple of his songs, first Before I Grow Too Old and in 1960 the hit Walking To New Orleans. Charles also wrote (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do for Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and played Down South in New Orleans at The Band’s farewell concert (it appears on the 4-disc set of The Last Watltz but, alas, not in the film). That Band song wasn’t his, but he co-wrote Small Town Talk with Rick Danko.

Haley recorded See You Later Alligator on December 12, 1955, apparently allowing his drummer Ralph Jones to play on it, instead of the customary random session musician. Released in January 1956, Haley’s version sold more than a million copies, but reached only #6 in the Billboard charts.

Contrary to popular perception, the catchphrase “See you later, alligator” with the response “in a while, crocodile” was not coined by the song, neither in Bobby Charles’ nor Bill Haley’s version. It was an old turn of phrase, used by the jazz set already in the 1930s, along the same lines as “What’s the story, morning glory?”, ”What’s your song, King Kong?” and “What’s the plan, Charlie Chan?”. It was, however, due to Haley’s hit that the phrase spread more widely throughout he US and internationally.

Also recorded by: Roy Hall (1956), Freddie and the Dreamers (1964), Millie Small (1965), Mud (as part of a medley, 1974), Rock House (1974), Orion (1980), Ricky King (1984), Dr. Feelgood (1986), Zachary Richard (1990)

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Susan Shirley – True Love And Apple Pie (1971).mp3
Coca Cola commercial – I’d Like To But The World A Coke (1971).mp3
The Hillside Singers – I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (1971).mp3
The New Seekers – I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (1971).mp3

The contribution of advertising to the origination of pop hits is scarce. There was We’ve Only Just Begun (discussed here) and, well, I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing, whose original function was to peddle Coca Cola. And somehow, a little-known Australian squeezed in her version as the song’s original release.

In January 1971, Coca Cola were looking for ways to popularise its new slogan, “It’s the Real Thing”, which had replaced the classic “Things Go Better With Coke”. The company’s advertising agency, McCann-Erickson, brought together its creative director, Bill Backer, with songwriters Billy Davis (who had written for Motown) and Roger Cook, a member of Blue Mink. Cook already had a melody, a ditty called True Love And Apple Pie which he had written with his regular collaborator, Roger Greenway. The Cook/Greenway partnership was prolific over the years, including hits such as Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart, Melting Pot and Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress. The three wrote the words for the jingle overnight in a London hotel room, with the New Seekers in mind as its performers. As it turned out, the New Seekers thought the song was trite and not just a little silly (and that’s the New Seekers pronouncing on sentimentality).

True Love And Apple Pie and was released in March 1971, produced by Greenway and with Davis credited as a co-writer. It seems that the Coke jingle had already been flighted a month earlier on US radio, albeit to negative response. There seem to have been legal wrangling as a result of a version of the jingle Coca Cola had commissioned being in circulation. Shirley’s song certainly received little promotion.

Meanwhile, the McCann-Erickson agency devised a new way to promote the jingle, deciding it needed visuals. The resulting TV commercial (video), filmed by the great Haskell Wexler, became an instant classic. The song, I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke, became so popular that radio DJs persuaded Davis to record it with adapted lyrics. Recorded by session singers without the branding, it was released under the name Hillside Singers, and started to climb the US charts when the New Seekers eventually consented to record it, minus the “it’s the real thing” tag. It became a massive hit, topping the UK charts in January 1972 and reaching #7 in the US.

Unbelievable though it may sound, those creators of entirely original music, Oasis, were sued for plagiarising from I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing, lyrics and music, for their song Shakermaker. The original opening line went: “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.” How did the monobrowed twits expect to get away with that?

Also recorded by: Ray Conniff (1971), The Edwin Hawkins Singers (1972), The Congregation (1972),Jim Nabors (1972), Chet Atkins (1972), St. Tropez Singers (as Endnu er jorden grøn, 1972), Klaus Wunderlich (1972), Peter Dennler (1982), Jevetta Steele (1990), No Way Sis (1996), Lea Salonga (1997), Demi Holborn (2002), Bobby Bare Jr’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League (2003), Eve Graham (2005) a.o.

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The Originals Vol. 35 – Beatles edition 2

January 22nd, 2010 8 comments

Last April — ten editions of The Originals ago — we looked at the first of three batches of originals covered by the Beatles. Here we revisit two tracks each from the debut Please Please Me (Anna, Boys) and 1964’s Beatles For Sale (Words Of Love, Mr Moonlight), as well as With The Beatles‘ Devil In His Heart.

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Arthur Alexander – Anna (Go To Him) (1962).mp3
The Beatles – Anna (Go To Him) (1963).mp3

Few artists will have had their original songs covered by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley. Arthur Alexander did. We already observed that Elvis covered Burning Love (though Alexander didn’t write that one), Dylan covered Sally Sue Brown (in 1988), the Stones covered his You Better Move On (in 1964), and the Beatles his song Anna on their debut album. The Fabs also used to perform three other Alexander songs in concert. Not bad for a soul singer who died in relative obscurity in 1993, aged only 53. Some people even suggest that Alexander influenced John Lennon’s vocal style. McCartney in a 1987 interview said that in those early days, the group wanted to be like Arthur Alexander.

Alexander’s far superior version of Anna was not a big hit, even as it featured the great country pianist Floyd Cramer, whose keyboard riffs Harrison replicates on guitar. It did make the R&B Top 10, but stalled at #68 in the Billboard charts. Released in September 1962, the Beatles — clearly already fans — soon included it in their concert repertoire, and eventually recorded it in three takes on February 11, 1963, just over five weeks before their debut album was released. That day, the band recorded 10 of the album’s 14 songs, culminating with Twist And Shout (featured in the first Beatles edition of The Originals), on which Lennon’s vocals are famously shot from a long day’s session and a cold. On Anna, Lennon’s voice is noticeably enduring the effects of his malaise. Strangely, once it had been committed to record, Anna was dropped from the concert setlists. Note by the way that neither Alexander nor the Beatles actually urge Anna to go to him.

A promo single of the Beatles’ version of Anna (backed with Ask Me Why) issued by the US label Vee Jay is said to be the rarest Beatles record, with only four copies known to exist. Vee Jay changed their mind about releasing Anna, going instead for Twist And Shout, since that was going to be performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Also recorded by: Vern Rogers (1964), The Tams (1964), George Martin (1966), Humble Pie (1974), Kursaal Flyers (1977), Jack Denton (1989), Roger McGuinn (1994), L.A. Workshop with New Yorker (1995), Alan Merrill (2003)

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The Donays – Devil In His Heart (1962).mp3
The Beatles – Devil In Her Heart (1963).mp3

Devil In His Heart appeared on the With The Beatles album, but had been part of the group’s concert repertoire in 1962/63. The Beatles recorded it on July 18, 1963, two days after recording it for the BBC show Pop Go The Beatles. The group came upon the song when they had heard it in Brian Epstein’s NEMS record store in Liverpool. George Harrison, who sings lead vocals on the cover, later recalled: “Brian [Epstein] had had a policy at NEMS [record store] of buying at least one copy of every record that was released. Consequently he had records that weren’t hits in Britain, weren’t even hits in America. Before we were going to a gig, we’d meet in the record store, after it had shut, and we’d search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there…Devil In Her Heart and Barrett Strong’s Money were records that we’d picked up and played in the shop and thought were interesting.”

Unlike other the other R&B acts covered on that album, the Donays — Yvonne, Janice, Michelle, Gwen — were not and never would be well known. Devil In His Heart was the Detroit girl-group’s only single, and it made no notable impact at all, though the flip-side, Bad Boy, received some local airplay. Devil In His Heart was first released by Detroit’s Correc-tone Records, which also had an unknown Wilson Picket on its books. The New York label Brent picked up the national license for the single, and through Brent’s arrangement with the British Oriole label the record ended up in Epstein’s Liverpool store.

But it was not the lack of commercial success that forced the group’s demise, but their mothers. “The mothers wanted the girls to go to college,” Yvonne would recall. “Michelle’s mother was leery about the music world, so they dropped out.” Yvonne carried on recording for Correc-tone for three more singles, as Yvonne Vernee, but without great commercial success. She later became a member of the Motown group The Elgins to tour Britain in 1971 after the band had a belated hit there with their 1967 sing Heaven Must Have Sent You.

Also recorded by: nobody else, it seems.

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Buddy Holly – Words Of Love (1957).mp3
The Diamonds – Words Of Love (1957).mp3
The Beatles – Words Of Love (1964).mp3

The influence of Buddy Holly on The Beatles (and virtually every act of the British Invasion) is evident. It was a Holly song, That’ll Be The Day, which The Quarrymen performed on that famous acetate, and the name “Beatles” was inspired as a riff on the insect name of Buddy’s band, the Crickets. Yet, the Beatles recorded only one Holly song, the rather minor Words Of Love, which in Holly’s version was released as a single in Britain, but failed to dent the charts there.

Holly recorded Words Of Love on his own, putting each individual part (including his harmonies) to tape and then overdubbing them, apparently the first time that production method was used by a major artist. It was not a hit for Holly in the US either. Instead it was recorded by The Diamonds, also in 1957, who enjoyed a #13 hit with it. The Diamonds, a Canadian group, were mostly used to score hits from cover versions of songs originally performed by black acts. Their version of Words Of Love was, well, different.

The Beatles’ lovely version, far superior to Buddy’s (never mind The Diamonds’) appeared on Beatles For Sale, having been recorded on October 18, with John and George harmonising on the vocals (sources differ on that; others say it’s Paul, not George), sounding not unlike the Everly Brothers. Paul, the big Holly fan, later recorded his own cover version of the song.

Also recorded by: Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs (1964), Mike Berry (1999), Jeremy Jay (2009), Jessica Lea Mayfield (2009)

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The Shirelles – Boys (1960).mp3
The Beatles – Boys (1963).mp3

Boys was one of two Shirelles songs on Please, Please Me. Co-written by Luther Dixon, who produced the Shirelles on the Specter label, Boys was released in 1960 as the b-side of the group’s big hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Dixon had enjoyed some success as a songwriter, notably The Crests’ 1958 hit Sixteen Candles. The other co-writer, a white boy named Wes Farrell, would go on to greater things yet. He co-wrote Hang On Sloopy with the legendary Bert Berns, was the force behind Tony Orlando’s Dawn (named after Farrell’s daughter) and the Partridge Family, and founded Bell Records, which would later, after he sold it, become Arista.

It was recorded in one take during the mammoth February 11, 1963 session, just after Anna and before Chains (which featured in the first part of originals of Beatles covers). The other Shirelles song on the album was the better known Burt Bacharach composition Baby It’s You. While Lennon sang the latter, Boys introduced Ringo’s vocal stylings to the public. In the Beatles’ hands, the R&B number becomes a rocking scorcher in which the backing vocals eclipse Ringo’s voice, which delivered suitably tweaked lyrics.

Boys had been popular on Liverpool’s live circuit. The Beatles performed it in the Cavern Club, where it was the token number to be sung by drummer Pete Best. After Best was sacked, it became Ringo’s song. But it already was before then: as the drummer with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes he would often sing it in concerts, sometimes even duetting the song with the young Cilla Black, who would later become a star herself.

Also recorded by: The Flamin’ Groovies (1979), Mata Hari (1988), Jools Holland & Ringo Starr (2003)

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Dr Feelgood and the Interns – Mr Moonlight (1962).mp3
The Beatles – Mr Moonlight (1964).mp3

Many Beatles fans point to Mr Moonlight as the group’s worst recording (presumably ignoring the arcane stuff like Revolution #9 or Within You, Without You). It is indeed doubtful that Mr Moonlight has ever featured on a great number Top 10 lists of Beatles songs. But it isn’t really that bad (this guy makes his case persuasively).

Mr Moonlight appeared on Beatles For Sale, the hotchpotch album released in late 1964 that among some strong original material featured a number of random covers. It may seem that Mr Moonlight was one of those peculiar obscurities the Fabs often dug out — note how many b-sides and non-hits they covered — but the song was in fact quite popular at the time. Other bands obviously did the same as the Beatles did. It had been covered by The Hollies in January 1964, and in 1963 by the Merseybeats. Mr Moonlight had also been a Beatles concert staple for a while (going as far back as 1962; it appears on the Live At The Star Club, Hamburg album) , so there are some who suggest that the Hollies and Merseybeats “borrowed” the song from the Beatles.

The song was written by one Roy Lee Johnson, and first recorded in 1962 by the blues pianist Piano Red (Willie Perryman) as a b-side to his single Dr Feelgood, the title of which had become his stage name, and would later be adopted by the British rock band of that name (though they probably picked up the moniker from a cover version by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates). Piano Red, an albino performer who had made his first recording in 1936, was the first blues musician to break into the Billboard pop charts, and as a radio DJ in Atlanta in the 1950s featured a young James Brown on his show. Piano Red’s excursion as Dr Feelgood, a moniker he employed as a DJ, was brief and did little to benefit his career. His career later recovered, with Piano Red appearing on the jazz circuit. He even performed at the inauguration of the German chancellor Helmut Schmidt before dying if cancer in 1985 at the age of 73.

Also recorded by: The Merseybeats (1963), The Hollies (1964)

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