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Answer Records Vol. 6

April 27th, 2010 3 comments

I made a generous new friend recently thanks to my post of different versions of By The Time I Get To Phoenix. He claimed that I had left off the best cover, by country singer Roy Drusky, and sent me that version. You’ll decide where it ranks in the hierarchy of Phoenix covers. Shortly after, I posted Volume 5 of the Answer Records, and my new friend Rick had a related song: Wanda Jackson’s answer to By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Besides that, we’ll have Muddy Waters’ mojo set straight, and Miss Chuckle Cherry’s response to Chuck Berry’s disturbing anthem to wanking.

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By the time he’ll get to Tulsa she’ll be banging

Act 1: Roy Drusky – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1968).mp3
You know the set-up: dude decides to leave town and counts down what he imagines his freshly abandoned woman will be up to when he reaches geographical milestones (the trip is chronologically impossible, but let’s not get waylaid by that). So by the time he crosses the city limits of Phoenix, she’ll be getting up; when he gets to Albuquerque, she’ll be taking her lunch break and try to phone him (the phone will keep ringing, because cellphones are yet to be invented), and when he gets to Oklahoma she’ll be sleeping. With astonishing conceit, our friends imagines his ex-girl crying “just to think I’d really leave her”. Does she?

Act 2: Wanda Jackson – By The Time You Get To Phoenix (1967).mp3
Our friend was quite right: by the time he got to Phoenix, she was rising. She found the note and wasn’t really that surprised because he’d been babbling on about leaving for quite some time (and, yes, she did notice). Wanda fails to fall to pieces and proceeds to go to her 9 to 5 job. Will she call our hero, as he thinks she would? Not exactly: “And at lunch I gave your best friend a call. He told me that he’d love me for so long now, he’s been waiting for you to leave, that’s all.” We are not given time to reflect on a man’s life so bereft of meaningful relationships that his best friend is just waiting, fingers tapping impatiently, for him to disappear so as to move in on his girl. Wanda will get laid tonight, at about the time our hero reaches Oklahoma, where in Wanda’s prediction he’ll realise what a mistake he made: “You’ll cry and you’ll whisper I’m sorry, but it’s too late ’cause I’d found a love that’s true.”

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Blame it on the mojo

Act 1: Muddy Waters – I Got My Mojo Working (1957).mp3
Muddy is a man of remarkable confidence as a laydees man, thanks to the titular mojo which seems to be working for him in general. Except, inexplicably, on the woman whom he is addressing with this song. “Got my mojo working, but it just won’t work on you,” he announces right at the song’s start. It seems to stump our friend: “I wanna love you so bad till I don’t know what to do.” He believes he might acquire some higher octane mojo in Louisiana, whence he shall decamp forthwith to obtain the necessary means to meet his single obsession: “I’m gonna have all you women right here at my command”, including her on whom his standard mojo cannot be fruitfully applied. I believe one Eldrick T Woods might empathise with poor Muddy.

Act 2: Ann Cole – I’ve Got Nothing Working (1958).mp3
Ann Cole, whom we previously encountered in the inaugural Answer Records (she didn’t want to stop the wedding), is having none of that New Orleans voodoo crap. Not that she hasn’t tried it; in fact, she sang about it in the very same terms as Waters on her 1957 record (and therefore is actually responding to herself, but let’s not have the facts spoil our fun). The black cat bones obviously didn’t work, and she was “crazy to think that they would”. So now to Plan B: “I’ve got nothing working now but my real old-fashioned love.” Yup, Muddy, you need no black magic aphrodisiac Rohypnol mojo shit, but nothing more than some human emotion and sincerity (or at least the requisite charm to compensate for these qualities should they be absent). So Ann is waiting to lay her big love on you, because “it’s just you that I’m thinking of”.

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Let’s keep it clean, kids

Act 1: Chuck Berry – My Ding-A-Ling (1972).mp3
One day I’ll feature this awful song in the Originals series, because it does have an interesting story going back to 1952. For our purposes here, we have creepy Chuck — he of candid cameras and watersports fetishes — punning about his no doubt impressive penis which nevertheless did not excite British morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse in any other way but self-righteous outrage. “My Ding-A-Ling, my Ding-A-Ling, I want you to play with my Ding-A-Ling” et cetera, and then the final admonition that those who won’t sing along to this idiotic song must be as big wankers as he is. I can’t see much cause for embarking on a frenzied wank at the sight of grizzled old Chuck singing about his dick, but I grant that I may be unique in that.

Act2: Miss Chuckle Cherry – My Pussycat (1972).mp3
Surveying the answer song’s title and the artist’s name (which possibly is not even be her real name), one may have reasonable doubt as to the requisite serious manner in which Mr Berry’s hymn to onanism will be responded to. It will furthermore serve to surprise that this record is of negligible musical eminence. Moreover, Ms Cherry’s vocal qualities would not suggest that her candidacy for a residency at La Scala (the opera house, not the pizza joint down the road) will be seriously entertained. And the lyrics, astonishingly, are not entirely of an edifying nature. “Now it’s time for our classroom song, and I want all your girls to sing along. No fellas now, only girls.” And the subject matter the female contingent of the classroom is asked to intone about concerns…oh, you know what extravaganza of punnery we shall enjoy, with the uncomfortable tinge of paedophilia when the grandfather describes the texture of Miss Chuckle’s pussycat (which we presume to be feline, not genital), and a startling reference to a pain in the butt. Spoiler alert: it seems that Chuck was not allowed to play with Miss Chuckle’s kitty.

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Answer Records Vol. 5

April 7th, 2010 7 comments

Country music is a fertile field for answer records. So here we’ll look at three answer records from that genre. Kitty Well’s response to Hank Thompson was a massive hit, a breakthrough for country’s first female superstar that outsold the hit song it was responding to. And I defy anyone not to like, even secretly, these songs — few things annoy me so much than people claiming categorically that they hate “all country music”.

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Should he stay or should he go now?

Act 1: Jim Reeves – He’ll Have To Go (1960).mp3
Gentleman Jim is in a bar when he figures out that only a phone call can get his two-timin’ gal back to him. And with that mellifluous baritone the recipient of Jim’s call should not find it difficult to make a decision. To complicate matters, she presently is with another man, which Jim realises rather constrains her from telling him exactly how she feels. So he’ll do the talking, cunningly asking her to put her “sweet lips a little closer to the phone”, to create an atmosphere of intimacy, while he tells the barman “to turn the juke box way down low”. And so he puts an ultimatum to her, all she has to do is answer yes or no. If it is the former, than he — the he of the title — will have to be told to leave. If it’s no, Jim will put down the phone, whereafter he’d presumably order the barman to pump up the jam and fill a few glasses for a heartbroken fella learnin’ the blues.

Act 2: Jeanne Black – Hell Have To Stay (1960).mp3
Using the same melody, Jeanne gives her answer away in the title. But it’s not just a simple no. Jeanne explains to Jim exactly why “he’ll have to stay”. See, the night before, Jim and Jeanne had a date, but guess who didn’t show! Jeanne clearly is not one to take such a sleight lightly, nor is she short of potential suitors. Within a day of Jim standing her up — she demands no explanation — she has hooked up and ostensibly fallen in love with with the personal pronounced joker of the title, who right now must be feeling pretty smug. Jeanne does not hold back. Once she loved Jim, but he’s messed her around too much. She suspects cheating on his part: even now she suspects he’s “out again with someone else”, citing the softly playing juke box as evidence. But why would Jim phone her if he was already sorted out for the night? Jeanne won’t concern herself with questions of logic. It’s time to tell Jim they’re through: “I have found another love I know is true, and [to answer Jim’s question] he holds me much more tenderly than you. Loving you is not worth the price I have to pay. Someone else is in your place, he’ll have to stay.”

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A vow’s a vow’s a vow…

Act 1: Hank Locklin – Please Help Me, I’m Falling (1960).mp3
Oh shit, Hank is falling in love with somebody he can’t be with, and he cannot be with her because he belongs “to another whose arms have gone cold”.  He has made his vows “to have and to hold” (even if the arms are cold and legs presumably locked), and the mere act of  falling for somebody else would be sinful, apparently (that is some pretty dodgy theology there, I think). So he begs the object of his desire to “close the door to temptation; don’t let me walk in”. In other words, he wants her to go away. But he doesn’t really. “I mustn’t want you, but darling I do; please help me, I’m falling in love with you.” The confusion is evident, poor bastard.

Act 2: Skeeter Davis – (I Can’t Help) I’m Falling Too (1960).mp3
And if the object of your desire is Skeeter Davis (who on her album also responded to Jim Reeves in Jeanne Black’s stead, and who previously in this series featured responding to Ray Petersen, all on the same album), then falling in love can be easy. Skeeter reciprocates Hank’s love, and tells him so. Two poor souls in love but circumstances and morals prevent that love’s consummation. But Skeeter can be of no assistance in Hank’s predicament: “You say that you’re falling, but what can I do? You want me to help you, but I’m falling too.” So might an affair be on the cards? Not likely: “We could never be happy living in sin. Our love’s a temptation, but we just can’t win.” Sigh, no chance then. As you wish, Skeeter. As you wish.

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Answering the MCPs.

Act 1: Hank Thompson – Wild Side Of Life (1952).mp3
Hank has been left by his best girl, and he has to tell her how he feels. But he can’t do so by telephone, because she has told him not to phone her (in any case, she might go all Jeanne Black on him should he phone her), and not by letter, which Hank thinks she wouldn’t read. Confronting her face-to-face could lead to a restraining order, if one isn’t in effect already. And with Facebook still almost six decades in the future, Hank shall communicate through the ancient medium of song. And he won’t exercise much tact: “I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels, I might have known you’d never make a wife. You gave up the only one that ever loved you, and went back to the wild side of life.” Where Hank comes from, a honky tonk angel evidently is a very bad thing, a lady of promiscuous virtue even: “The glamour of the gay night life had lured you to the places where the wine and liquor flow, Where you’re waiting to be anybody’s baby, and give up the only love you’ll ever know.” It may be necessary to point out that Hank’s understanding of the “gay nightlife” may not coincide with ours.

Act 2: Kitty Wells – It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels (1952).mp3

Let’s remember that it’s 1952; women’s liberation is not really on the agenda yet, much less so in the conservative, Lawd-fearin’ world of country music. So when Kitty is challenging Thompson’s notions of the jezebel, which she has heard on the juke box (obviously not turned down low), she is challenging the whole patriarchal system. So, for starters, don’t blame God for the reality of “honky tonk angels”. It wasn’t Him who created them, but bad, two-timing, untrustworthy men. “Too many times married men think they’re still single. That has caused many a good girl to go wrong. It’s a shame that all the blame is on us women. It’s not true that only you men feel the same. From the start, most every heart that’s ever broken was because there always was a man to blame.” Kitty Wells’ song did not produce a comoplete change in attitudes .A decade and a half later, the women’s rights movement had gathered steam, but in country world, big-haired right-wingers like Tammy Wynette still counselled wives to stand be their man.

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Answer Records Vol. 4

February 23rd, 2010 12 comments

Three new answer songs, though one is more a case on expanding on the story of the original. The first answer song here is one of the funniest in the genre. The Carol in the title of Neil Sedaka’s song was his high-school girlfriend Carole King, though we should not be deceived to believe that this was some kind of soul-baring singer-songwriter moment. After Oh Carol became a hit, the budding songwriter, still all of 18 years old, responded with a pretty funny response. Alas, it was not a hit. The third featured song here is the excellent Harper Valley P.T.A., a country song that has crossed over into soul music. Look out on Friday for a version by the great Vivian Reed.

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Love is reciprocated after all

Act 1: Neil Sedaka – Oh, Carol (1959).mp3
Poor Neil, he loves Carol, but Carol acts like she doesn’t love him. “You hurt me and you made me cry,” he whine. But he vows to keep on taking her shit because “if you leave me I will surely die” (there is no time for understatement when you’re in love). Evidently Neil has not heard of George Constanza’s theory of The Hand, because he keeps on begging: “I will always want you for my sweetheart, no matter what you do.”

Act 2: Carole King – Oh, Neil (1960).mp3
Ah, relief. Carol, who (in the song) hails from Tennessee, is hot for Neil too, and has been for a long time; ever since she saw him at square dance, in fact. And when she saw him, something skipped a beat. It may be a misheard lyric, but her “bowel skipped a beat” and her “heart felt so heavy like I had too much to eat”. In the obligatory spoken bit, Carol promises to go as far as giving up “a month’s supply of chewing tobacco” if this is going to make her be known as “Mrs Neil Sedakee”, her murderous Sedaka music-hating gran’pappy notwithstanding. And at the end, gran’pappy makes his climactic cameo.

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On a point of pop evolution

Act 1: Barry Mann – Who Put The Bomp (1961).mp3
Sedaka and King had a Brill Building colleague in Barry Mann, who with King’s future husband Gerry Goffin pondered pop’s perennial point of pedantic philosophy: “Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?” It seems urgent that the brains arrive at an answer soon, because Barry would like to thank that man, for these words let Barry dip da dip da dip his rama lama ding dong in his girl’s boogity boogity shoo.

Act 2: The Fabulous Marcels – I Put The Bomp (1961).mp3
Ah, look no further, Barry, it was The Fabulous Marcels (in particular the bass singer) who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp, and they would appreciate your shaking their hands in gratitude — preferably after you’ve washed them having done the dip da dip da dip with your rama lama ding dong. Personally, I think The Fabulous Marcels, for all their doo wop chops and the dang-a-dang-ding-donging of the Marcel’s (of whom these guys may be an extension, cousins or impostors) Blue Moon, are presenting a false picture of pop music’s evolution. Genesis, which provides us with an incontestably complete account of all creation, teaches us that God completed the rama lama ding dong, having cut a ram from the dong, as dusk fell on the sixth day, saw it was indeed good, and said: “Let there be Saturday Night Fever disco light”. Or that’s what I learned in Sunday school.

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The gossip you sow…

Act 1: Jeannie C Riley – Harper Valley P.T.A. (1968).mp3
Don’t y’all be talking trash behine mah back! Well, that’s what the Parent-Teacher Association did to the widow Johnson, accusing her in a letter delivered via her daughter of social and sartorial misconduct so severe as to render her unfit for parenthood. Perhaps the P.T.A. worthies believed that Mrs Johnson was too preoccupied with drunken promiscuity to notice their flaws. They certainly underestimated the victim of their own hypocrisy. At the next P.T.A. meeting — the same night, as it happens — Mrs Johnson turns up in her mini-skirt, and dishes the dirt about adultery and alcoholism and lack of discretion within the respectable nomenclature of local school politics. You can feel Bobby Taylor squirm as Mrs Johnson reveals how many times he has asked her for a date, and his wife quickly dousing the fires of her indignation at her husband’s betrayal as the meeting learns about her liberal use of ice. Mrs Johnson threw all the stones cast by the hypocrites back at them.

Act 2: Effie Smith – Harper Valley P.T.A. Gossip (1968).mp3
And don’t think that the ass-kicking which Mrs Johnson administered to the pharisees of the P.T.A. will remain privileged information. Effie Smith (a veteran of the Big Band scene now turning seriously funky) gets on the phone to her friend Mabel (of course!) as soon as she hears, doubtless lamenting that the invention of Facebook is still four decades away. From Effie we learn about the cause of Mrs Johnson’s widowhood as she refers to the gossip-buster as: “Clyde Johnson who drank himself to death’s wife”. And so it continues as Effie dishes the scandals with absolute glee. Such as the P.T.A.’s secretary, signatory of the note that started all this, who had to leave town twice under clouds of scandal. Effie evidently has no high opinion of the P.T.A.’s dignitaries. Teacher Shirley Thompson, she of the gin-breath, apparently she has “bird legs…looking like matchsticks walking on a loaf of bread”. So, does anyone have any juicy beef on Effie Smith?

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Answer Records Vol. 3

January 12th, 2010 7 comments

In the third instalment of answer Records, we acquire new perspectives on the story of that beastly Runaround Sue, find out whether the addressee of Elvis’ question is, in fact, lonely tonight, and learn why Oran ‘Juice’ Jones’ girlfriend was cheating on him with that alley-cat-coat-wearing, punch-bucket-shoe-wearing crumbcake.


Sue? She’s just a nice girl

Act 1: Dion – Runaround Sue.mp3
Young Mr DiMucci feels compelled to warn us about the adulterous and commitment-shy ways of one Sue, prefacing his counsel with the ominous words “hey, hey, hum-ba-diddy-diddy hey hey”, lest we are in any doubt as to how gravely earnest he is about his exhortations to “keep away from a-Runaround Sue”. Dion tells us that he really loved Sue, “her lips and the smile on her face, the touch of her hair and this girl’s warm embrace”. But when he wanted to take this relationship forward, she put him down and instead went out to fuck every man in town. Well, not every man, of course. Sue had scruples. She fucked only the single guys. Dion hails from the Bronx, so that is an awful lot of guys to fuck. So what Dion is really saying, without putting to fine a point on it, is that Sue is a bit of a slut.

Act 2: Danny Jordan – Runaround Sue’s Getting Married.mp3
But, behold, it seems that Dion was not entirely honest with us about Sue’s heroic levels of promiscuity. “I heard a story about a-Runaround Sue,” Danny Jordan notes, assuring us that “if you knew her, you’d know it isn’t true”. She’s not that kind of girl, Danny protests. And his agenda in defending Sue’s virtue soon becomes clear: she’s now Danny’s girl. Not just that, but quite contrary to being commitment shy, Sue is getting married — and the lucky guy, believe it or not, turns out to be Danny. At this point we half-expect Dion to pop up and note with the bitter sarcasm borne of his own experience with Sue that Danny should not feel too sure in his polished wedding shoes. Good thing he doesn’t, because things between the two lovestruck cats could get ugly. Even in his absence, Danny demands: “Hey Dion, why do you put her down?” and then taunts: “You were just mad because you couldn’t have her”. The argument would doubtless end in violence.

Act 3: Linda Laurie – Stay-At-Home Sue.mp3
It’s only fair that we give Sue (confusingly called Linda Laurie) the final word so as to set matters straight. She tells us, in a rather sad voice, that it was Dion who put her down, offering as a reason the untrue propaganda of Sue’s alleged promiscuity. There is still a connection between Dion and Sue, as shown in the shared “hey, hey, hum-ba-diddy-diddy hey hey”. But Linda-as-Sue assures us that far from banging every guy in town, she is “just a little stay-at-home Sue”, sitting at home crying as Dion was straying. “Keep away from that boy”, she warns other girls, adding that “he is mine”. So it’s not over? Does poor Danny Jordan know?

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All the world’s a stage….

Act 1: Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight (Laughing version).mp3
Well, we know the song. Couple has split, Elvis feels lonesome tonight and contemplates by way of Shakespeare-references whether she, in her empty-chaired parlour, is feeling as gutted about the break-up as he does. Here’s the live laughing version again, because it certainly beats the straight version.

Act 2: Dodie Stevens – Yes, I’m Lonesome Tonight.mp3
Yay, she is feeling down! As far as answer records go, this one takes the concept very literally. “Yes, I’m lonesome tonight. And I miss you tonight. I’m so sorry we drifted apart. And my memories strains to those wonderful days when you kissed me and called me sweetheart” etc. Dodie — all of 14 years at the time, just like Elvis liked them (even if the single’s flip side is called Too Young) — even gives us a monologue about the world being a stage. We discover what exactly did go wrong. Seems like a manipulative friend of undetermined age came between them. Now Dodie wants Elvis to take her back, as he surely will. A clean, happy, illegal-in-most-states ending.

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She without Jheri curl gigolo jerk is like cornflakes without the milk

Act 1: Oran ‘Juice’ Jones – The Rain.mp3
Picture the pathetic scene as the delightfully named Oran ‘Juice’ Jones stands in the rain surveying his girlfriend holding hands with him. Back home, Oran confronts the girl, setting the scene for one of the great break-ups in pop: “Hey hey, baby, how ya doin’. Come on in here. Got some hot chocolate on the stove waiting for you. Listen, first things first, let me hang up the coat. Yeah, how was your day today? Did you miss me? You did? Yeah? I missed you too. I missed you so much, I followed you today. That’s right, now close your mouth ’cause you cold busted. Now just sit down here, sit down here, I’m so upset with you I don’t know what to do. You know my first impulse was to run up on you and do a Rambo. I was about to jam you and flat blast both of you. But I didn’t wanna mess up this thirty-seven hundred dollar lynx coat. So instead I chilled.”

That’s right, he chilled. Clearly a man of means, Oran emptied her bank account, cancelled her credit cards, took back every piece of jewellery he had ever bought him, and packed up all the stuff he had not bought her so that she can move out. But not before he gives her a devastatingly cruel and condescending lecture, because, as he notes: “You don’t mess with the Juice!” Just as he does not mess with humility.

”I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce! But now I can’t give you nothing but advice. ’Cause you’re still young, yeah, you’re young. And you’re gonna find somebody like me one of these days… Until then, you know what you gotta do? You gotta get on outta here with that alley-cat-coat-wearing, punch-bucket-shoe-wearing crumbcake I saw you with. ’Cause you dismissed! That’s right, silly rabbit, tricks are made for kids, don’t you know that. You without me is like cornflakes without the milk! This is my world. You’re just a squirrel trying to get a nut! Now get on outta here. Scat!” And the final admonition: “Don’t touch that coat!”

Act 2: Miss Thang – Thunder And Lightning.mp3
Having had to listen to The Juice’s tirade, Miss Thang (and doesn’t that moniker just inspire confidence?) sets the record straight as a man, ostensibly Oran, complains, ad nauseam, about thunder and lightning being a quiet storm. In the background, Miss Thang, a material girl, lays it on him: “It’s about time you saw me and him walkin’ in the rain. As a matter of fact, that seemed to be the first thing you noticed about me in months.” Oooh!

But she’s only getting warmed up: “Don’t be frontin’ like you gonna pull no Rambo on me because no attitudeless, Jheri curl gigolo jerk is gonna put his hands on me.” Ouch! But what of his largesse towards you, Miss Thang? Why, “as for those electroplated slum gold chains you gave me last Valentine’s Day: What, did they have a sale at Chains-R-Us? You walkin’ around like you so fly in that $37 rabbit coat [note the knock-down from the $3,700 lynx coat he gave her]. Honey, that coat had to be destroyed last week after it bit the neighbour’s child.” Touché. Still, the loss of Oran’s financial subsidies will hurt, won’t it, Miss Thang? Evidently not: “My man got me a new Gold American Express card, and I’ll never leave home without it. But as you know, I’ve been leavin’ home without you, baby.” Pow! “Oh, honey, you packed my bags! There was never any room in that closet anyway. Not with all your budget Ballys and fake Fila.” Boom tish! And Oran needn’t call her a cab. “Because you know that alley cat crumb cake you’ve been dissin’? Well, he’s pickin’ me up in his brand new BMW — unlike that ugly gold El Dorado love mobile you call transportation.” And now she must go, and Oran can drink that hot chocolate he made himself before it gets cold.

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Answer Records Vol. 2

October 19th, 2009 11 comments

In the second instalment of answer records, we hear from Laura whose Tommy died, the son of the late Shaft, and the commie-hating response to Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction.

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Oh no, Tommy’s dying! Will Laura be sad?

Act 1: Ray Peterson – Tell Laura I Love Her.mp3
ray_petersonJames Dean has a lot to answer for. The American youth of the late 1950s and early 1960s was decimated by unnecessary motor accidents, at least in song. Among the most maudlin of the many teen death records was Tell Laura I Love Her, which was so popular that it was recorded by several artists. Ray Peterson’s 1959 hit version is probably the best known.

The set-up here is that Tommy takes part in a stock-car race so that he can buy Laura a wedding ring with the supposed winnings of $1,000. He knows it’s dangerous business and phones Laura. But she’s not in, so he gives Laura’s mother the message of the chorus. You know what happens next. Well, you do know the conclusion, but no one knows what happened that day or how his car overturned in flames. “But as they pulled him from the twisted wreck, with his dying breath, they heard him” sing the chorus of this fucking awful song.

The teen death genre gave rise to the most bizarre parody, Jimmy Cross’ I Want My Baby Back, which can be found HERE.

Act 2: Skeeter Davis – Tell Tommy I Miss Him.mp3
skeeter_davis_answersIn Act 2, the delightfully named Skeeter Davis plays the part of Laura (as did Marilyn Michaels, Laura Lee, and someone called Pitersen Ray). She cuts straight to the chase in catching up with Ray’s mawkishness: “Tommy my sweetheart has gone now. He’s up in the heaven somewhere, so little star high above, if you see Tommy tell him all my love.” As we valiantly choke back the puke, Skeeter/Laura recounts the story of Tommy’s death, turning it into as much of a cautionary tale as a lovelorn lament: “Why did he do such a reckless thing?” Hear that, kids? DON’T RACE STOCK-CARS!!! Still, she implores the little star high above (eurgh!) to “tell Tommy I love him, tell Tommy I miss him, tell him though I may cry, my love for him will never die”.

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It’s war. Left, right, left, right!

Act 1: Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction.mp3
mcguireThis song will turn up again on this blog. In this context, we concern ourselves with McGuire’s righteous anger about the “exploding” “eastern world” and civil rights and, well, everything. It’s 1965, and Barry’s “blood’s so mad, feels like coagulating” because people who are too young to vote are old enough to kill, and the war-mongers don’t want to believe that we’re “on the eve of destruction”. Four decades later, so little has changed that Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded to a US president for saying peaceful things while increasing troop deployments to Afghanistan (bit of political comment always goes down well here).

Act 2: The Spokesmen – The Dawn Of Correction.mp3
spokesmenMcGuire implicitly invited those who didn’t share his view that we’re on the eve of destruction to justify their view. The modestly named Spokesmen, who included David White of Danny & the Juniors, take the time to offer a fairly reasonable if unrefined response with their furiously punning title. Rush Limbaugh’s antecedents they are not, nor are they redneck racists (they do welcome racial integration and even dig the Peace Corps). But they do hate the Reds who presumably must be contained by the simultaneous means of napalm bombing civilians and nuclear deterrence. “So over and over again, you keep sayin’ it’s the end. But I say you’re wrong, we’re just on the dawn of correction.”

Of course, the flag-waving Spokesmen match the naiveté of the hippie movement with a vigorous dose of their own, and muster an army of strawmen in a bid to catch out McGuire. Take their endorsement of protests — “Be thankful our country allows demonstrations” (set aside an evening to debate that) — which is followed by a bizarre interpretation of McGuire’s position: “I don’t understand the cause of your aggravation. You mean to tell me, boy, it’s not a better situation?” Where to start, Spokesmen, where to start?

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He’s a bad mutha… shut your mouth. And his son?

Act 1: Isaac Hayes – Theme of Shaft.mp3
I need not waste your time introducing Ike’s most celebrated tune. Suffice it to say that it spawned an answer record in 1972 from Hayes’ old mates from Stax, The Bar-Kays.

Act 2: The Bar-Kays – Son Of Shaft.mp3
son_of_shaftMusically similar to Hayes’ classic, but a damn sight funkier. Hell, let’s face it, the son eats the sex machine to all the chicks for his funky breakfast. The son of John Shaft had a tough time of it, “thrown in the street; problems of a man at the age of three”. Now Shaft Sr is dead, and Junior will be just as bad a mutha as Daddy. “I love by the clock and live by the gun. If you met my father, soon you’ll meet his son.” Can ya dig it?

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Answer records Vol. 1

October 13th, 2009 6 comments

A while ago, a Facebook friend of this blog proposed that I might do a series of answer records, the novelty songs that riffed on the theme of a contemporary hit. Excellent idea, so this series is dedicated to Mike C., kicking off with answer records to Etta James’ Stop The Wedding, Johnny Cash’s I Walk The Line, and The McCoys’ Hang On Sloopy.

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Church bells are ringing. Oh, look, a bride and a groom…

Act 1: Etta James – Stop The Wedding (1962).mp3
The opening notes from Here Comes The Bride set the scene. Immediately the rich baritone of the preacher invites the congregants to state their objection to the presently to be blessed union. And of course we know what happens next. Etta pipes up: “Wait! Wait! Stop the wedding!” See, Etta is the groom’s ex-girlfriend, and it is her conviction that he is entering into matrimony only to spite Etta. If the bride knew of his less than true motivation, Etta figures, she’d pull out of this deal herself. “So stop this madness before it starts…and don’t break two hearts.” As Etta urges “DON’T DO IT!” in soulful ways which Aretha Franklin would envy, we are becoming quite convinced that he should follow Etta’s advice. But, what’s that? Oh, here comes the bride:

Act 2: Ann Cole – Don’t Stop The Wedding (1962).mp3
ann_coleSame intro, and the pastor (well, he sounds different now. Maybe it’s an ecclesial double act) notes Etta’s appeal, and yields the floor to the bride. We are not surprised to learn — alerted perhaps by the songtitle — that Ann fails to concur with Etta’s spin. The wedding should in fact not be stopped, Ann proposes. And then she gets personal: “You just can’t face the fact…that he is happy here without you.” Anyway, she posits, Etta doesn’t really love him. Indeed, it turns out that Etta dumped the groom and now, with the benefit of hindsight and his impending nuptials, she’s sorry. Ann says that she gives him the kind of love he never had, so “don’t stop the wedding and break two hearts” (and where Etta meant hers and Ann’s, Ann doesn’t give much of a damn about the state of Etta’s heart). And the groom? We don’t hear from the poor bastard, though we can imagine him calculating all sorts of possible options, ranging from polygamy to running for the hills.

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Unsteady on the lines…

Act 1: Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line.mp3
You know the deal: “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine; I keep my eyes wide open all the time; I keep the ends out for the tie that binds, because you’re mine, I walk the line”. Johnny is a straight-up guy who finds it “very, very easy to be true”. So he walks the line (though we know that Johnny did so unsteadily). So, Johnny, let’s meet your brother.

Act 2: Tommy Cash – I Didn’t Walk The Line (1965).mp3
tommy_cashOh dear, Tommy’s nothing like his straight-arrow older brother. He sings an entirely different tune, literally. He didn’t treat his wife very well, she found love with somebody else, the marriage is ending and she’s off, leaving Tom with self-recriminations. But what to tell the children, of whom she will evidently have custody? Tommy, in a mood for self-flagellating, knows how: tell them their that their Daddy didn’t walk the line. Yes, “you were mine, but I didn’t walk the line”.

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The next pairing of songs has featured previously, in The Originals series. But different context calls for different treatment.

Act 1: The McCoys – Hang On Sloopy.mp3
MCCOYSThe Sloopy of the title was the jazz singer Dorothy Sloop, but for our purposes, she is any random girl called Sloopy, of whom there must be millions. Sloopy is from meagre circumstances, whereas our interlocutor evidently is a young man of more abundant means. But class divisions don’t bother him: he is in love with wrong-side-of-the-tracks Sloopy, which means he doesn’t even care about her father’s occupation, which is very right-on of him. Her red dress may be old, but it turns him on. And the relief he requires is of the oral variety (“Sloopy let your hair down, girl, let it hang down on me.”). Her ministrations prompt the McCoy to prefigure your standard porn movie script: “Well, it feels so good, (come on, come on). You know it feels so good, (come on, come on). Well, shake it, shake it, shake it, Sloopy (come on, come on). Well, shake it, shake it, shake it, yeah (come on, come on).” And then: “Aaaaaah!”

Act 2: The Debs – Sloopy’s Gonna Hang On.mp3
Sloopy acknowledges that she lives in a bad part of town and that people are always putting her down, which wins her our sympathy. But she buys into the sincerity of his declaration of love and so “your girl Sloopy’s gonna hang on”. Sloopy us perfectly happy enough to let her hair hang down on him, and here we go hoping that she will insist on reciprocal oral favours. Perhaps she does, as we may guess as she exclaims “Sloopy’s coming” (if that’s what she means; or maybe our minds are just too corrupted), and “it feels so good now” (which probably means exactly what it says).

For the original of Hang On Sloopy, titled My Girl Sloopy by the Vibrations, go HERE.