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In Memoriam – January 2012

February 3rd, 2012 10 comments

Last month I announced the end of the In Memoriam column. The reaction, by comments and messages via email and Facebook, surprised me. I had been under the impression, acquired by the few comments they received and the very average hits recorded, that the feature was only mildly popular (which serves to stress the importance to comment on posts in features you enjoy).

The labour required for the In Memoriam feature remains prohibitive, but by cutting out what really took a lot of time – researching and collating the music and pictures – I can still provide a list, and at least some tunes, of the month’s music deaths.

The headline death of the month was that of Etta James on January 20, just three days after the death of the man who discovered her, R&B legend Johnny Otis. The father of Shuggie Otis, Johnny Otis was the son of Greek immigrants to the US (his real name was Ioannis Alexandros Veliotes) who decided to live and work in the black community. Along the way Otis produced Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog, and discovered artists such as Esther Philips, Jackie Wilson and Hank Ballard.

January 17 was a sad day indeed for soul fans – much of the month was (and the passing of Don Cornelius on Wednesday didn’t lighten things up much). On the same day Johnny Otis went, a day after Jimmy Castor’s departure, Leroy Taylor of New Birth and Walter Gaines of The Originals (you might remember their Baby I’m For Real on Motown) passed away.

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Robert Dickey, 72, Bobby of James & Bobby Purify, on December 29
James & Bobby Purify – I’m Your Puppet (1966)

Fred Milano, 72, singer with Dion and The Belmonts, on January 1
Dion and the Belmonts – A Teenager in Love (1959, as backing singer)

Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt, 63, guitarist with Iron Butterfly and Captain Beyond, on January 2

Ian Bargh, 76, Canadian jazz pianist, on January 2

Bob Weston, 64, briefly guitarist with Fleetwood Mac, found on January 3

Kerry McGregor, 37, British singer and X-Factor contestant, on January 4

Tom Ardolino, 56, drummer of rock band NRBQ, on January 6
NRBQ – Boys In The City (1972)

Nicole Bogner, 27, singer of Austrian metal band Visions of Atlantis, on January 6

Dave Alexander, 73, blues singer and pianist, suicide on January 8

Bridie Gallagher, 87, Irish singer, on January 9

Ruth Fernandez, 92, pioneering Puerto Rican singer, on January 9

Ernie Carson, 74, Dixieland jazz musician, on January 9

Cliff Portwood, 74, English-born Australian singer and former professional football player, on January 10

Edgar Kaiser Jr, 69, soft-rock singer, on January 11

Charlie Collins, 78, member of Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys, on January 12

Phil Kraus, 94, jazz percussionist and drummer, on January 13
Sarah Vaughan – Street Of Dreams (1949, as drummer)

Robbie France, 52, drummer (Skunk Anansie, Diamond Head, UFO, Ellis, Beggs, & Howard), on January 14
Skunk Anansie – Weak (1994, as writer and drummer)

Pee Wee Moultrie, 89, member of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys, on January 15

Terry Dolan, 68, singer and guitarist of 1960s folk-rock group Terry & the Pirates, on January 15

Jimmy Castor, 71, R&B and funk saxophonist, on January 16
Jimmy Castor Bunch – Troglodyte (Cave Man) (1972)
Jimmy Castor Bunch – Bertha Butt Boogie (1975)

Johnny Otis, 90, R&B singer, songwriter and producer, on January 17
Johnny Otis – Willy And Hand Jive (1958)
Etta James – The Wallflowerr (a.k.a. Roll With Me Henry) (1955, as producer and co-writer)

Leroy Taylor, 67, funk bassist of funk-soul group New Birth, on January 17
The New Birth – Brand New Lover (1970)

Walter Gaines, founder and baritone of soul group The Originals, on January 17
The Originals – Why When Love Is Gone (1969)

Al Urban, 77, rockabilly singer and songwriter, on January 18

Winston Riley, 65, Jamaican reggae musician and producer, on January 19

Etta James, 73, R&B and blues legend, on January 20
Etta James – Stop The Wedding (1962)
Etta James – Don’t Go To Strangers (1995)

Larry Butler, 69, country music producer, songwriter and musician, on January 20
B. J. Thomas – Hey Won’t You Play Another Done Somebody Wrong Song (1975, as co-writer)

John Levy, 99, jazz double-bassist and manager (Nancy Wilson, Cannonball Adderley,  Ramsey Lewis a.o.), on January 20
Don Byas & Big Bill Broonzy – You Go To My Head (1945, as bassist)

Dick Kniss, 74, bassist for Peter, Paul and Mary,  John Denver a.o., on January 25
John Denver – Sunshine On My Shoulder (1971, as co-writer)

Mark Reale, 56, founder and guitarist of heavy metal group Riot, on January 25

Clare Fischer, 83, jazz and pop composer, arranger and keyboardist, on January 26

Todd Buffa, 59, singer of jazz group Rare Silk, on January 27
Rare Silk – New York Afternoon (1983)

Leslie Carter, 25, pop singer and sister of Nick and Aaron Carter, on January 31

King Stitt, 71, Jamaican ska singer, on January 31

Mike Kelley, 57, artist and musician with cult rock band Destroy All Monsters, suicide on January 31

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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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