Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Elvis Presley’

Copy Borrow Steal Vol. 5

March 8th, 2012 4 comments

I haven’t done a Copy Borrow Steal for ages. Inspired by Tim English’ fine book Sounds Like Teen Spirit (website and buy), it really is a very occasional series: this is the fifth article in two and a half years. In this instalment we’ll look at a Van Morrison hit that sounds a bit like a soul number from 1968/71; an early Elvis hit written almost a hundred years earlier; and a Led Zeppelin song that doesn’t draw inspiration from some blues singer, but from the Doobie Brothers.

*     *     *

William Bell – I Forgot To Be Your Lover (1971).mp3
Billy Idol – To Be A Lover (1986).mp3
Van Morrison – Have I Told You Lately  (1989 — YouTube)

When Van Morrison wrote Have I Told You Lately, the committed and exceptionally gruff Christian was addressing God. Four years later, Rod Stewart donned his lounge lizard suit and turned it into the soup of mush  that now serves as one of a trinity of über-love songs which grooms croon to their wives (the others are Joe Cocker’s version of You Are So Beautiful and Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight).

Have I Told You Lately is utterly gorgeous, and very much a Van Morrison song, and therefore best heard in the version by one of the greatest songwriters of any generation. So I feel almost sorry to point out that the very line that gives the song its title is almost identical to the opening line of William Bell’s I Forgot To Be Your Lover, in melody and lyrics.

Far be it for me to accuse Morrison of plagiarism, or even deliberately copying somebody else’s melody. Morrison could even plausibly claim never to have heard the William Bell and Booker T Jones composition, which was a hit for Bell in 1968 and then was re-recorded for the soul singer’s 1971 album Wow… (it’s the slightly longer 1971 version featured here, because it is the more uncanny-sounding one).

Perhaps Van Morrison, a soul fan who described himself as a soul singer, heard it and forgot about it. Maybe it resided in the deeper recesses of his subconscious iPod, a forgotten but not erased memory, jogged perhaps by Billy Idol’s 1986 cover of  I Forgot To Be Your Lover, then retitled To Be A Lover (though Idol probably covered the George Faith version of 1977). Whatever the case, the similarity of the opening of Bell’s song and that of Morrison’s is striking.

Van Morrison doesn’t like his songs posted on blogs, so you’ll have to forgive its absence here.

.

Frances Farmer – Aura Lea (1936)
Shelton Brothers – Aura Lee (1938)
Elvis Presley – Love Me Tender (1956)

Look at the label for Love Me Tender, Elvis’ first ballad to be released as a single, and you’ll find the writing credits as listing singer’s name and that of one Vera Matson — and neither had any hand in writing the title song of Elvis’ debut movie. The melody was in fact written in 1861 by an English-born chap called George R Poulton (1828-67) for the song Aura Lee, which would become a hit during the US civil war (a time in which the film Love Me Tender is set). It was popular with soldiers from both sides; so much so, it is said, that enemies by day would sing the song together across their positions at night.

Aura Lee made a comeback (as Aura Lea) in 1936 when it featured in the film Come And Get It, in which it is sung by the tragic Frances Farmer.

By the 1950s, Aura Lee was in the public domain, and with copyright out of the way, the Oscar-winning film composer and arranger Ken Darby (The King And I, Porgy & Bess, South Pacific — all as co-arranger – How The West Was Won) was commissioned to write new lyrics for what would be Love Me Tender. When the songwriting credits were assigned, Poulton’s name was missing. Elvis received his customary co-writing credit, and Darby ceded his rightful credit to his wife Vera Matson. The reason for that related to the distribution of royalties, but Darby had an even better explanation: “Because she didn’t write it either.”

.

The Doobie Brothers – Long Train Running (1973)
Robert Johnson – Terraplane Blues (1937)
Led Zeppelin – Trampled Underfoot (1975)
In Sounds Like Teen Spirit, Tim English fingers just a few songs by Led Zeppelin which one might say benefitted from an overzealous spirit of drawing inspiration from the work of others. Some blues musicians successfully sued Led Zep for plagiarising their work; many others have provided the basis for songs by the hoary old rockers but have not been credited; and sometimes they even needn’t be.

By the band’s own admission, the lyrics for Trampled Underfoot, a stomper from 1975’s Physical Grafitti album, drew inspiration from Robert Johnson’s 1937 hit Terraplane Blues, and drummer John Paul Jones has said that he borrowed the beat from Stevie Wonder’s Superstition.

English has spotted another influence: the verses of The Doobie Brothers’ 1973 hit Long Train Running, saying it “betrays obvious melodic, rhythmic and even lyrical similarities” to the Doobies’ track. He does not allege plagiarism (and that is always refreshing when discussing Led Zep songs), but speculates that the band probably heard Long Train Running during their 1973 tour of the US, which coincided with the Doobie songs’ residence in the charts.

Whether Tim has a point, you decide.

More Copy Borrow Steal

In Memoriam – February 2012

March 1st, 2012 3 comments

The month opened with a headline death, followed by another towards the middle of the month, and ended with a third headline departure: I wrote about Don Cornelius and Whitney Houston; Davy Jones of The Monkees is honoured here with two tracks: his I Want To Be Free from The Monkees’ debut album, and the Italian version of the Theme From The Monkees.

We rarely feature band managers, but Jon McIntire merits an exception. The Grateful Dead manager initiated the band’s cult by putting a notice into the sleeve of the band’s 1971 Skull and Roses album. It said: “Dead Freaks Unite! Who are you? Where are you? How are you? Send us your name and address and we’ll keep you informed.” The proto-Facebook Group scheme obviously worked. McIntire also managed country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage.

You may not know his name, but Billy Strange was responsible for some of the finest moments in pop music. A songwriter, guitarist and arranger, he played guitar on several Beach Boys songs, including on the Pet Sounds album, and arranged many of Nancy Sinatra’s songs, including her creepy duet with Frank Sr. He played the guitar on her Bang Bang, and the horns at the end of These Boots Are Made For Walking were his ideas (and I have a great post about that song lined up).

Mike Melvoin’s name might not be well-known either, at least outside jazz circles, but his piano work will have been heard by everybody who reads this blog: it features on the Jackson 5’s ABC, on the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations and on tracks on Pet Sounds (that album again!), on Natalie Cole’s duet with her father, Unforgettable, subtly in the background on Streisand’s Evergreen, on John Lennon’s cover of Stand By Me, on Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman, on Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life, and on We Are The World… On top of that, he sired musicians Wendy Melvoin (of Wendy & Lisa), the late Jonathan Melvoin (Smashing Pumpkins) and Susannah Melvoin.

And talking of departed family members, soul singer David Peaston was 1960s soul singer Fontella Bass’ brother.


Don Cornelius, 75, host and producer of Soul Train, suicide on February 1
MFSB – TSOP (1974)

Mike Kelley, 57, artist and member of punk band Destroy All Monsters, suicide on February 1

David Peaston, 54, soul singer, on February 1
David Peaston – When I Remember (1991)

Phil Brown, 58, bassist for UK power pop band The Records, on February 2

Wando, 66, Brazilian composer and singer,on February 8
Wando – Moça (1976)

Luis Alberto Spinetta, 62, musician and one of the “Fathers of Argentine Rock”, on February 8

Jimmy Sabater Sr, 75, Puerto Rica-born Latin music singer and tambales player, on February 8
Jimmy Sabater – Bomba carambomba

Joe Moretti, 73, British session guitarist (It’s Not Unusual, Brand New Cadillac), on February 9
Johnny Kidd & The Pirates – Shakin’ All Over (1960, as lead guitarist)

Whitney Houston, 48, soul and pop singer, on February 11
Whitney Houston – Star-Spangled Banner
Georgia Mass Choir & Whitney Houston – I Go To The Rock (1996)

Russell Arms, 92, singer and actor, on February 13
Russell Arms – Cinco Robles (Five Oaks) (1957)

Jodie Christian, 80, bebop and free jazz pianist, on February 13

Dory Previn, 86, singer-songwriter and lyricist (Valley of the Dolls, Last Tango in Paris), on February 14
Dionne Warwick – Valley Of The Dolls (1968, as lyricist)
The Sandpipers – Come Saturday Morning (1970, as lyricist)

Betty Barnes (Vivian Jeanette Worden), rockabilly singer, on February 14

Clive Shakespeare, 62, guitarist of Australian pop group Sherbet and record producer, on February 15
Sherbet – Summer Love (1975)

Luke Brandon, 87, country singer, guitarist and producer (for Bobby Bare a.o.), on February 15

Jon McIntire, 70, manager of the Grateful Dead, on February 16
The Grateful Dead – Mama Tried (Live, 1976)

Michael Davis, 68, bassist and singer of MC5, Destroy All Monsters a.o., on February 17
MC5 – It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World (1970)

Enrique Sierra, 54, member of Spanish 1980s rock band Radio Futura, on February 17

Joe Thompson, 93, African-American old-time music and bluegrass fiddler, on February 20

Billy Strange, 81, songwriter (Limbo Rock), guitarist (for Beach Boys a.o.)and music arranger, on February 22
Nancy Sinatra – Bang Bang (1966, as guitarist and arranger)
Elvis Presley – A Little Less Conversation (1968, as co-writer)

Christopher Reimer, 26, guitarist of Canadian art rock band Women, on February 21

Mike Melvoin, 74, pianist and composer, session man for Szabo Gabor, Tom Waits a.o, on February 22
Mike Melvoin & Plastic Cow – One Man, One Volt
Barbra Streisand – Evergreen (1977, as pianist)

Koji Kita, 63, member of Japanese pop band Four Leaves, on February 22

Pery Ribeiro, 74, Brazilian bossa nova and jazz singer, on February 24

Louisiana Red, 79, blues musician, on February 25
Louisiana Red – Valerie (2005)

Red Holloway, 84, jazz saxophonist (with John Mayall, Brother Jack McDuff, Etta James), on February 25
Jack McDuff – A Real Goodun’ (1965, as saxophonist)

Dee Cernile, 46, guitarist with Canadian rock band Sven Gali, on February 25

Ray Lamere (Sugar Ray), 82,Big Band leader, singer and double bass player, on February 25

Hazy Osterwald, 90, Swiss big band leader, on February 26
Hazy Osterwald Sextett – The Call

Davy Jones, 66, actor and member of The Monkees, on February 29
The Monkees – I Wanna Be Free (1966)
The Monkees – Tema Dei Monkees (ca 1966)

DOWNLOAD
(Mirror 1)

* * *

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

In Memoriam – August 2011

September 5th, 2011 6 comments

The two most notable deaths in August happened on the same day: the 22nd. I’ve already paid tribute to Nick Ashford (HERE); on the same day that great songwriter passed away, Jerry Leiber died. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into detail about the Leiber & Stoller story other than to say that they had a crucial impact on the development of rock & roll. Leiber was the lyricist, and as such got Elvis Presley to sing the great line in Jailhouse Rock: “Number 47 said to number 3,’You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I
sure would be delighted with your company, come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me.'”

Billy Grammer died at 85. Fans of The Originals will appreciate the song in this mix: Grammer’s I Wanna Go Home later became a hit for Bobby Bare as Detroit City. Grammer played at the rally during which the racist Alabama governor and presidential hopeful George Wallace was shot. Grammer apparently wept after the incident, suggesting that his views on race relations were less than entirely endearing.

Akiko Futaba, one of Japan’s most popular singers, had a lucky break in utter tragedy on 6 August 1945. Just as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the train she was travelling in entered a tunnel. The singer, who had started recording in 1936, lived to the age of 96.

In May, we lost Bob Flanigan of the pioneering vocal group The Four Freshmen; this month the last surviving member of the original line-up, Ross Barbour, died at the age of 82. Through many changes in the line-up, Flanigan and Barbour remained Freshmen until the latter’s retirement in 1977.

I don’t often include recored executives in the In Memoriam series, but there are two this month who qualfy. Rich Fitzgerald, who has died at 64, had a massive influence on pop music. In the 1970s he worked for RSO, with whom he helped spearheaded the massively-selling Saturday Night Fever and Grease soundtracks (and, later, that of Fame). After RSO, he ended up via a handful of record companies as vice-chairman of Warner Bros. Along the way, he helped give artists such as The Pretenders, Prince, Madonna and Green Day achieve their breakthrough.

Frank DiLeo was a executive at Epic Records where he nurtured the careers of acts like Meat Loaf, Luther Vandross, Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, REO Speedwagon and Quiet Riot, as well as the US success of The Clash and Culture Club. He was twice Michael Jackson’s manager, in the late 1980s and at the time of Jackson’s death. And he played Tuddy Cicero in GoodFellas, impressing as Paulie’s brother who executes Joe Pesci’s obnoxious Tommy character. He also appeared in Wayne’s World.

Finally, it’s not at all usual to include non-musicians on account of their being the subject of a song. But in the case of William ‘Stetson’ Kennedy I must make an exception. The human rights activist’s infiltration of the Ku Klax Klan helped bring down the racist organisation and made it his mission to expose racists. Woody Guthrie wrote a song named after Kennedy.

Trudy Stamper, 94, Grand Ole Opry artist relations manager and first female presenter on US radio, on July 30
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Grand Ole Opry Song (1972)
Grand Ole Opry Intro (Prince Albert Theme) (1940)

DeLois Barrett Campbell, 85, singer with gospel group The Barrett Sisters, on August 2

Andrew McDermott, 45, singer of English metal group Threshold, on August 3

Conrad Schnitzler, 74, German musician (Tangerine Dream, Kluster), on August 4

Marshall Grant, 83, country bassist (in the Tennessee Two/Three with Johnny Cash) and manager (Cash, Statler Brothers), on August 6
Johnny Cash & the Tennessee Two – Cry Cry Cry (1955)
Leo Mattioli, 39, Argentine cumbia singer, on August 7
Leo Mattioli – Despues de ti (2006)

Joe Yamanaka, 64, Japanese rock singer, on August 7
Joe Yamanaka – Mama Do You Remember

Billy Grammer, 85, country singer-songwriter and guitarist, on August 10
Billy Grammer – I Wanna Go Home (1963)

Jani Lane (born John Kennedy Oswald), 47, frontman of US glam-metal band Warrant, on August 11
Warrant – Cherry Pie (1990)

Richard Turner, 27, British jazz trumpeter (Round House), on August 11
Rich Fitzgerald, 64, record executive, on August 15
Frankie Valli – Grease (1978)

Akiko Futaba, 96, Japanese singer, on August 16

Kampane, 33, New York rapper, murdered on August 16

Ross Barbour, 82, last original member of barbershop band The Four Freshmen,
The Four Freshmen – It Happened Once Before (1953), on August 20
Jerry Leiber, 78, legendary songwriter and producer, on August 22
Elvis Presley – I Want To Be Free (1957, as lyricist)
The Clovers – Love Potion Number 9 (1959, as lyricist and co-producer)
The Exciters – Tell Him (1962, as co-producer)
Donald Fagen – Ruby Baby (1982, as lyricist)

Nickolas Ashford, 70, soul singer, songwriter and producer as Ashford & Simpson, on August 22
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re All I Need To Get By (1968, as songwriter)
Ashford & Simpson – Street Corner (1982)

Glen Croker, 77, singer and lead guitarist of honky tonk band The Hackberry Ramblers (joined in 1959), on August 23

Cephas Mashakada, 51, Zimbabwean sungura musician, on August 23
Esther Gordy Edwards, 91, Motown executive who lent brother Berry Gordy the money to start Motown, and founder of the Hitsville USA museum, on August 24
Rod Stewart – The Motown Song (1990)

Frank DiLeo, 63, music executive, ex-manager of Michael Jackson and actor (GoodFellas, Wayne’s World), on August 24

Laurie McAllister, 53, bassist in The Runaways (post-1978) and founder of The Orchids, on August 25

Liz Meyer, 59, US-born and Netherlands-based blugrass singer, on August 26

William Stetson Kennedy, 94, author who helped bring down the KKK and subject of a Woody Guthrie song, on August 27
Billy Bragg & Wilco – Stetson Kennedy (2000)
Johnny Giosa, 42, drummer of hard rock band BulletBoys, on August 28
BulletBoys – For The Love Of Money (1988)

George Green, 59, songwriter (especially with John Cougar Mellencamp), on August 28
John Cougar – Hurts So Good (1982, as co-writer)

David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, 96, Delta blues guitarist and singer, on August 29
David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards – West Helena Blues (1988)

Alla Bayanova, 97, Russian singer, on August 30
Alla Bayanova – Wolga
Alla Bayanova – Romance Ya ehala domo

DOWNLOAD
(Mirror 1 Mirror 2)

* * *

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

In Memoriam – May 2011

June 6th, 2011 4 comments

This series has noted a couple of hundred musicians’ deaths. Not many have caused me so much sadness as that of Gil Scott-Heron. Never mind that the man was a drug addict, and that he once wrote a homophobic song. He was a poet, and he set his poetry to glorious music. He was the Bob Dylan of the ghetto. I hope that with his dying breath, Scott-Heron appreciated the fact that astronauts were just then making a final journey and the US president has introcuded health care reform he was demanding in Whitey On The Moon).

As a soul fan, I noted with particular sadness the passing of jazz-funk guitarist Cornell Dupree, who played that opening riff of Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect, and also backed favourite acts like Bill Withers and Marlena Shaw.

We tend to mourn deaths by suicide, though that of Gramy-winning songwriter, screenplsy writer and director Joseph Brooks, who wrote the much-loathed You Light Up My Life, leaves us at best with mixed feelings: he killed himself while under indictment for a series of “casting couch” rapes (the details of which are nauseating). Not a very nice guy at all, it seems.


David Mason, 85, English trumpeter who played the piccolo solo on The Beatles’ Penny Lane, on April 29
The Beatles – Penny Lane (1967)

Hume Patton, 65, guitarist of Scottish psychedelic rock group The Poets, on April 30

Ernest ‘Shololo’ Mothle, 69, South African jazz bassist and percussionist, and session musician for Robert Hyatt, Hugh Masekela, Mike Oldfield, Jonas Gwangwa a.o., on May 2
Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo (1975) (as percussionist)

Odell Brown, 70, jazz/soul organist, arranger and songwriter, on May 3
Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing (1982) (as co-writer)

Nigel Pickering, 81, rhythm guitarist and vocalist of Spanky and the Gang, on May 5
Spanky and Our Gang – Like To Get To Know You (1968)
John Walker, 67, founder of The Walker Brothers, on May 7
The Walker Brothers – Just For A Thrill (1966)

Big George Webley, 53, British composer and arranger of TV themes, including The Office (UK), and radio broadcaster, on May 7
Big George Webley (feat Fin) – Handbags and Gladrags (2001)

Johnny Albino, 93, Puerto Rican bolero singer, on May 7
Johnny Albino – 7 Notas de Amor

Cornell Dupree, 68, soul and jazz-funk guitarist, on May 8
Cornell Dupree – Teasin’ (1974)
Marlena Shaw – Time For Me To Go (1973) (as guitarist)

Dolores Fuller, 88, actress and songwriter for Elvis Presley a.o. (also cult director Ed Woods’ girlfriend, as portrayed in the movie), on May 9
Elvis Presley – Rock-A-Hula Baby (1961) (as composer)
John Carter, 65, producer, songwriter and A&R man, on May 10
Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense and Peppermints (1967) (as writer)

Norma Zimmer, 87, “Champagne Lady” on The Lawrence Welk Show, backing singer for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como a.o., on May 10

Zim Ngqawana, 51, South African jazz saxophonist, on May 10

Snooky Young, 92, jazz trumpeter with Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton a.o. and with The Band, on May 11
Count Basie Orchestra feat. Tony Bennett – Life Is A Song (1959)
The Band – Rag Mama Tag (1972)

Lloyd Knibb, 80, drummer of Jamaican ska band The Skatalites, on May 12
The Skatalites – Fidel Castro (1964)
Jack Richardson, 81, producer of Guess Who, Bob Seger, Rage Against The Machine a.o., on May 13
Bob Seger – Night Moves (1977) (as producer)

Bob Flanigan, 84, singer of The Four Freshmen, on May 15
The Four Freshmen – It’s A Blue World (1952)

M-Bone, 22, American rapper with Cali Swag District, killed in drive-by shooting on May 15
Cali Swag District – Where You Are (2010)

James ‘Curley’ Cook, 66, blues guitarist and founder member of Steve Miller Band, on May 16

Sean Dunphy, 73, Irish singer (the first to record in Nashville), on May 17
Kathy Kirby, 72, English ’60s pop singer, on May 19
Kathy Kirby – Dance On (1963)

Joseph Brooks, 73, songwriter (You Light Up My Life), suicide on May 22

Jeff Conaway, 60, actor (Kenickie in the movie Grease) and singer of 1960s ban The 3 1/2, on May 27

Gil Scott-Heron, 62, musician and poet, on May 27
Gil Scott-Heron – I Think I’ll Call It Morning (1971)
Gil Scott-Heron – Whitey On The Moon (1974)

DOWNLOAD

* * *

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

In Memoriam – July 2010

August 3rd, 2010 1 comment

The grim reaper evidently is a big football fan, stepping up his reaping only after the World Cup concluded (taking, however, the great South African saxophonist Robbie Jansen before its conclusion), but then with a vengeance. The most notable musician this month may be Harvey Fuqua, whose impact on music was mostly behind the scenes. Fittingly, Marvin Gaye on the last track of his last album paid tribute to his mentor. Just a short while after Big Star’s Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel died.

A couple of session musicians who played on rock classics passed on. I usually don’t include technical staff other than influential producers. But as a sound engineer Bill Porter shaped the Nashville sound. We all know songs that he has produced (many have featured on this blog), including classics by the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Skeeter Davis, Hank Locklin, and Jim Reeves. Also passing on is the relatively obscure funk and soul singer Melvin Bliss, whose 1973 b-side Synthetic Substitution became a staple hip hop sample (for a list, see here)

But the most tragic death came towards the end of the month when the jazz drummer Chris Dagley — who also was a session man (as featured on jazz singer’s Claire Martin’s latest album) — died in a motorbike accident on the way home from playing a gig at London’s famous Ronnie Scott’s. He leaves behind his wife and three kids.

Tracks listed for each entry are on the compilation linked to at the end of this post.

*    *    *

Ilene Woods, 81, American singer and actress, on Juy 1
Ilene Woods – Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (from Cinderella, 1950)

Harvey Fuqua, 80, singer with The Moonglows and record producer, on July 6
Harvey & The Moonglows – Ten Commandments Of Love (1959)
Marvin Gaye – My Love Is Waiting (1982)

Bill Porter, 79, hugely influential rock & roll and country sound engineer, on July 7
Bobby Bare – 500 Miles Away From Home (1963)
Skeeter Davis – I Can’t Stay Mad At You (1963)
Elvis Presley – (You’re The) Devil In Disguise (1963)

Robbie Jansen, 60, South African jazz saxophonist and singer, on July 7
Robbie Jansen – Praise My Soul (1998)
Tony Schilder Trio – Give Her Back To Me (1995)

More Robbie Jansen here

Sugar Minott, 54, reggae singer, on July 10
Sugar Minott – Good Thing Going (1981)

Walter Hawkins, 61, gospel singer, on July 11
Walter Hawkins – For My Good (1998)

Tuli Kupferberg, 86, poet, cartoonist and musician with folk-group The Fugs, on July 12
The Fugs – The Garden Is Open (1968)

Paulo Moura, 77, Brazilian saxophonist and clarinetist, on July 12
Paulo Moura & Os Batutas – Lamentos (1996)

Olga Guillot, 87, Cuban “Queen of Bolero”, on July 13
Olga Guillot – Sabor a mi

Gene Ludwig, 72, jazz organist, on July 14
Gene Ludwig – Blue Flame (1966)

Hank Cochran, 74, country music singer-songwriter and duo partner of Eddie Cochran, on July 15
Cochran Brothers – Slowdown (1956)
Wanda Jackson – I Fall To Pieces (1988)

Yandé Codou Sène, 78, Senegalese singer, on July 15
Yandé Codou Sène & Youssou N’Dour – Sama Guent Guii (1995)

Carlos Torres Vila, 63, Argentinian folk singer, on July 16
Carlos Torres Vila – Que Pasa Entre Los Dos (1976)

Fred Carter Jr., 76, guitarist (e.g. on The Boxer and bass on Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay), songwriter and producer, on July 17
Marty Robbins – El Paso (1959)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer (1970)

Andy Hummel, 59, founder member of Big Star, on July 19
Big Star – My Life Is Right (1972)

Phillip Walker, 73, blues musician, on July 22
Phillip Walker – Hello My Darling

Harry Beckett, 75, British trumpeter, on July 22
Harry Beckett – Ultimate Tribute (2009)

Al Goodman, 63, singer with The Moments and Ray, Goodman & Brown, on July 26
The Moments – Love On A Two-Way Street (1970)
Ray Goodman Brown – Special Lady (1979)

Melvin Bliss, 75, soul singer, on July 26
Melvin Bliss – Synthetic Substitution (1973)

Bice, 37, Japanese singer-songwriter and producer, on July 26
Bice – An Apple A Day (2001)

Ben Keith, 73, country/folk/rock musician and producer, on July 27
Neil Young – Are You Ready For The Country? (1972)

Chris Dagley, 38, English jazz drummer, on July 28
Claire Martin – Everybody Today Is Turning On (2009)

DOWNLOAD IN MEMORIAM – JULY 2010

* * *

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

.

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.

* * *

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.

.

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.

.

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)

* * *

More Originals

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?

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

.

More answer records

The Originals Vol. 33

October 16th, 2009 8 comments

In Volume 33 of The Originals, we’ll look at the first recordings of Glen Campbell’s Gentle On My Mind, The Drifters’ On Broadway, Millie’s My Boy Lollipop, George Harrison’s Got My Mind Set On You and Lutricia McNeal’s Ain’t that Just The Way. The two versions of On Broadway that preceded The Drifters’ version are of particular interest because they were recorded as originally written; the song was reworked for the version that became a hit. As always, thanks to Walter and RH who helped me out with songs.

* * *

John Hartford – Gentle On My Mind (1967).mp3
Glen Campbell – Gentle On My Mind (1967).mp3
Leonard Nimoy – Gentle On My Mind (1968).mp3
Boots Randolph – Gentle On My Mind (1968).mp3
Elvis Presley – Gentle On My Mind (1969).mp3

HARTFORDEven without a chorus, Gentle On My Mind made a great impact when it first appeared in the late 1960s. John Hartford, who wrote the song, picked up two Grammys for best folk performance and best country song, but that was eclipsed by Glen Campbell, for whom it became a signature tune (literally; it was the theme of his 1969-72 TV show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, on which Hartford frequently appeared). Campbell, who discovered the song when he heard Hartford’s record on the radio, also won two Grammy for his version, for best country recording and solo performance). His version was a hit twice, in 1967 and again in 1968. The song also bothered the charts in versions by Patti Page (1968) and Aretha Franklin (1969), and featured on Elvis Presley’s excellent comeback album, From Elvis In Memphis (1969). In Britain, its only chart appearance was a #2 hit for, of all people, Dean Martin in1969.

Gentle On My Mind was not a typical John Hartford number. The singer is better known for his bluegrass roots which found expression in his accomplished use of the banjo and fiddle (shortly before his death at 63 in 2001, Hartford won another Grammy for his contributions to the bluegrass soundtrack for the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Hartford — the son of a New York doctor who grew up in St Louis and later acquired a steamboat pilot licence — said that he wrote Gentle On My Mind after watching the film Dr Zhivago. “While I was writing it, if I had any idea that was going to be a hit, it probably would have come out differently and it wouldn’t have been a hit. That just came real fast, a blaze, a blur.” See Hartford’s scribbled lyrics on the website dedicated to the singer.

The song is said to have spawned some 300 cover versions. Elvis’ remake is from the great Memphis sessions which also yielded Suspicious Minds (another cover, dealt with HERE); saxophonist Boots Randolph delivers a very likable easy listening instrumental; and Leonard Nimoy’s version…well, it needs to be heard.

Also recorded by: Tammy Wynette (1967), Trini Lopez (1968), The Lettermen (1968), Burl Ives (1968), Eddy Arnold (1968), Nancy Wilson (1968), Jim Ed Brown (1968), David Houston (1968), Johnny Darrell (1968), Wally Whyton (1968), Patti Page (1968), Billy Eckstine (1968), Dean Martin (1968), Frank Sinatra (1968), Bobbie Gentry & Glen Campbell (1968), Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (1968), Wolfgang Sauer (as Die schönen Zeiten der Erinnerung , 1968), Andy Williams (1969), Lenny Dee (1969), Nat Stuckey (1969), Aretha Franklin (1969), Elvis Presley (1969), Lawrence Welk (1969), Wayne Versage (1969), Claude François (as Si douce à mon souvenir, 1970), The New Seekers (1970), Albert West (1975), Bucky Dee James & The Nashville Explosion (1977), Howard Carpendale (1980), Mark Eitzel (2002), Johnny Cash with Glen Campbell (released in 2003), Lucinda Williams (2006) a.o.

.

The Cookies – On Broadway (1962).mp3
The Cystals – On Broadway (1962).mp3
The Drifters – On Broadway (1963).mp3
(reuploaded)
George Benson – On Broadway (single version) (1978).mp3

CRYSTALSBarry Mann and Cynthia Weil were among the giants of the Brill Building songwriting collective, although they were based at Aldon Music on 1650 Broadway, not in the actual Brill Building at 1619 Broadway (Aldon Music was co-founded by Al Nevins, one of the Three Suns who recorded the original of Twilight Time). According to Cynthia Weil, her future husband Mann had wanted to write a “Gershwinesque” pop song, and she, being a Broadway fan, was delighted to put appropriate lyrics to the melody. They first had the song recorded by The Cookies (who featured in The Originals HERE), who ordinarily recorded songs, mostly demos, by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Their demo was not released, but that by fellow girl-group the Crystals recorded soon after was, opening side 2 of their 1962 Twist Uptown album.

DRIFTERSIn February 1963, Brill bosses Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber were in need of a song for the Drifters. At their request, Mann & Weil offered their On Broadway. Leiber & Stoller didn’t quite like their arrangement, and revised it overnight with the original composers. Next day the Drifters recorded the song, with Leiber & Stoller protégé Phil Spector on guitar and Rudy Lewis (successor of Ben E. King as the group’s lead singer) making one of his final appearances as a Drifter before his sudden death of a heart attack in 1964. Released in March ’63, the Drifters’ version became a hit, reaching #9 in the Billboard charts.

George Benson’s jazzed-up 1978 live recording did even better, reaching #7 in the US. Recorded in L.A., the crowd clearly agrees with the statement that Benson “can play this here guitar”.

Also recorded by: The Challengers (1963), Bobby Darin (1963), Nancy Wilson (1964), Dave Clark Five (1964), Frank Alamo (1964), Freddie Scott (1964), Lou Rawls (1966), King Curtis (1966), Nancy Sinatra (1966), Willis Jackson (1966), Blossom Dearie (1966), Mongo Santamaría (1970), Livingston Taylor (1971), Tony Christie (1972), Eric Carmen (1975), Disco Tex & The Sex-O-Lettes feat. Sir Monti Rock III (1977), George Benson (1978), Bogart (1979), Gary Numan (1981), Jeff Beck & Paul Rodgers (1983), Neil Young (1989), Jeff Beck & Paul Rodgers (1994), George Benson & Clifford and the Rhythm Rats (1995), Stacy Sullivan (1997), Johnny Mathis (2000), Barbie Anaka with David Loy (2003), Frankie Valli & Jersey Boys (2007), James Taylor (2008), Daniele Magro (2009) a.o.

.

Barbie Gaye – My Boy Lollypop (1956).mp3
Millie Small – My Boy Lollipop (1964).mp3

How often does a cover version change the course of music history? Elvis’ remakes of country, blues and rockabilly numbers. The standards sung by Sinatra and Crosby. And Millie’s My Boy Lollipop, widely regarded as the first crossover ska hit which helped give reggae a mainstream audience. In its original version, My Boy Lollypop (note the original spelling) was a song recorded in 1956 by the white R&B singer Barbie Gaye, at 15 two years younger than Millie Small was when she had a hit with the cover in 1964.

barbie_gayeAs so often in pop history, the story of the song’s authorship is cloaked in controversy. By most accounts, it was written by Bobby Spencer of the doo wop band the Cadillacs, with the group’s manager, Johnny Roberts, getting co-writer credit. Barbie Gaye’s single became a very minor hit, championed by the legendary rock ’n roll DJ Alan Freed (the late songwriter Ellie Greenwich styled herself Ellie Gaye in tribute to Barbie on her first single, 1958’s Silly Isn’t It). It was Spencer’s misfortune to come into contact with the notorious record executive and music publisher Morris Levy, who implausibly claimed that he had in fact written My Boy Lollypop, using the moniker R Spencer as a pseudonym. The Cadillacs’ Spencer was later reinstated on the credits which nonetheless still list Levy as a co-writer. Levy’s name is attached to other classics which he had no hand in writing, such as Lee Dorsey’s Ya Ya, Frankie Lymon’s Why Do Fools Fall In Love, and later the Rivieras’ California Sun.

Millie_My_Boy_LollipopMy Boy Lollipop was resurrected in 1964 by Chris Blackwell, boss of the nascent Island Records in England label which had recorded no big hit yet. He chose young Millicent Small, who as the duo Roy and Millie had enjoyed a hit with We’ll Meet in Jamaica, to record it. Her version changed that: the song became a worldwide hit, reaching #2 in both US and UK. Island, of course, went on to become the label of Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Robert Palmer and U2. Millie’s German version of the song featured HERE.

Also recorded by: Joan Baxter (1964), Heidi Bachert (German version, 1964), Plum Run (as part of a medley with Lollipop, 1969), Maggie Mae (1974), James Last (1975), Lea Laven (1976), Flesh (1979), Bad Manners (as My Girl Lollipop [My Boy Lollipop], 1982), Lulu (1986), Isabelle A & The Dinky Toys (1996), Die Mädels (2003), Élodie Frégé (2003), Steven Seagal (as Lollipop, 2005), The King Blues (2008), Amy Winehouse (2009) a.o.

.

James Ray – Got My Mind Set On You (1962).mp3
George Harrison – Got My Mind Set On You (1987).mp3

Produced by Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra, it was a cover version that gave George Harrison his first big hit since his nostalgic All Those Years Ago six years earlier. With Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty, Harrison and Lynne went on to form the Traveling Wilburys. It is no accident that Harrison’s US#1 and UK#2 hit sounds a lot like a Wilburys song.

james_rayGot My Mind Set On you was originally recorded at roughly the same time as the Beatles began their ascent. Indeed, Harrison discovered the song at that time when he bought James Ray’s LP during a holiday to visit his sister in the US in September 1963. It was written by Rudy Cark, who also wrote The Shoop Shoop Song (featured HERE), Good Lovin’ (which will still feature in this series) and Barbara Mason’s Everybody’s Got to Make A Fool Out Of Somebody. He also co-wrote the Main Ingredient’s Everybody Plays The Fool. R&B Singer Ray James was remembered mostly for only one song, and it wasn’t the song Harrison resurrected 25 years later, but If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody, which reached #22 in the Billboard charts. It might have become a Beatles cover (they did perform it), but in Britain Freddie & the Dreamers had a hit with it.

The diminutive Ray began recording in 1959, as Little Jimmy Ray, releasing one single which flopped. He soon became destitute until he was rediscovered in 1962, while busking in the streets and living on a rooftop in Washington, by Gerry Granahan of Caprice Records. Soon after, If You’ve Got To Make A Fool became a hit, and Ray’s star seemed to be rising. Alas, he struggled to have more hits. James Ray died in 1964, reportedly of a drug overdose. Featured here is the longer album version of I’ve Got My Mind Set On You, on which Ray was backed by the Hutch Davie Orchestra, which Harrison would have heard on the LP he bought (and which is a lot better than his cover). The single version apparently was brutally truncated.

Also recorded by: ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic (parody as This Song’s Just Six Words Long, 1988), Shakin’ Stevens (2007)

.

Barbi Benton – Ain’t That Just The Way (1976).mp3
Lutricia McNeal – Ain’t That Just The Way (1997).mp3

benton_playboy_72Twenty years before the unusually named Lutricia McNeal had a European hit with Ain’t That Just The Way, it was recorded by the girlfriend of Playboy honcho Hugh Hefner. Hefner and Benton became a couple, for seven years, after the then 18-year-old pretended to be his girlfriend in episodes of the Playboy After Dark TV series in 1968. Born Barbara Klein (the more Playboy-friendly name was suggested by Hefner, of course) in New York and growing up in California, Benton was primarily an actress, appearing in a few unsuccessful movies as well as in the TV show Hee Haw. Between 1978 and ’81, she had three cameos playing three different characters on the Love Boat. In the meantime, she recorded six albums (including a live set) between 1974 and 1988, scoring a country chart top 5 hit in 1975 with Brass Buckles. She also appeared several times in Playboy, making it to the cover in July 1969, March 1970, May 1972 and October 1985 — but never as a Playmate.

barbi_bentonBenton first released Ain’t That Just The Way, which she co-wrote with film composer Stu Philips, as a single in 1976, possibly for the TV series McCloud, which Philips scored. It Appears in an episode of which the song played (the “Park Avenue Pirates” one, fact fans). Benton re-recorded a slowed-down version of the song, produced by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, for her 1978 album of the same title (the cover of which is pictured here). The version featured here is the 1976 single. Benton today is married to a millionaire real estate developer and apparently works as an interior designer in L.A.

The song was covered in 1977 by Dutch singer Patricia Paay, retitled Poor Jeremy. Two decades later, American R&B singer McNeal had a big hit throughout Europe with her version, restored to its original title, reaching #5 in Britain and the top 10 in every European chart, as well as topping the Billboard Dance charts. In a bit of a twist, McNeal posed in the German edition of Hefner’s Playboy magazine in 2004.

Also recorded by: Patricia Paay (as Poor Jeremy, 1977)

.

More Originals

The Originals Vol. 32

September 18th, 2009 12 comments

This time we look at the Carpenters hit that began life as an ad for a bank and was first released by a man with a one-off moniker; the Righteous Brothers classic which Phil Spector saw fit to issue only as a b-side; Gram Parsons’ famous song that was first recorded by a country singer before the co-writer had the chance; The Platters hit that was first an instrumental; and the Manhattan Transfer hit that was first recorded by a husband and wife team. Many thanks to Dennis, Walter and RH for their help.

* * *

Freddie Allen – We’ve Only Just Begun (1970).mp3
Carpenters – We’ve Only Just Begun (1970).mp3
Curtis Mayfield – We’ve Only Just Begun (1971).mp3

freddie_allenWe’ve Only Just Begun first made its appearance in 1970 in a TV commercial for a bank (video), whence it was picked up by Richard Carpenter to create the popular wedding staple. But before Richard and Karen got around to it, it was recorded a few months earlier by Freddie Allen, an actor who under his stage name Smokey Roberds was a member of ’60s California pop group The Parade, and later formed the duo Ian & Murray with fellow actor and Parade member Murray MacLeod.

As Roberds tells it, one day he heard the Crocker National Bank commercial on his car radio (presumably the ad transcended media platforms), and recognised in the tune the signature of his composer friend Roger Nichols, who had written the ad’s song with lyricist Paul Williams. He phoned Nichols, ascertained that he had indeed co-written it, and asked him to create a full-length version. Nichols and Williams did so, and Roberds intended to produce it for a band he had just signed to White Whale Records. The deal fell through, so Roberds decided to record the song himself, but couldn’t do so under his stage name for contractual reasons. Since he was born Fred Allen Roberds, his Christian names provided his new, temporary moniker (see interview here, though you’ll go blind reading it).

carpentersPaul Williams’ memory is slightly different: in his version, Nichols and he had added verses to subsequent updates of the advert, and completed a full version in case anyone wanted to record it. When Richard Carpenter heard the song in the commercial, he contacted Williams to ask if there was a full version, and Williams said there was — and he would have lied if there wasn’t. Perhaps that happened before Allen recorded it. (Full interview here)

The remarkable Williams, incidentally, sang the song in the ad and would later write Rainy Days And Mondays and I Won’t Last A Day Without You for the Carpenters (both with Nichols), as well as Barbra Streisand’s Evergreen, Kermit the Frog’s The Rainbow Connection and the Love Boat theme, among others.

Freddie Allen’s single, a likable country-pop affair, did well in California, but not nationally, which he attributed to promotion and distribution problems. Released a few months later, the Carpenters had their third hit with We’ve Only Just Begun, reaching #2 in the US.

Also recorded by: Perry Como (1970), Mark Lindsay (1970), Dionne Warwick (1970), Paul Williams (1971), Bill Medley (1971), Johnny Mathis (1971). Mark Lindsay (1971), Jerry Vale (1971), The Moments (1971), Andy Williams (1971), Claudine Longet (1971), The Wip (1971), Grant Green (1971), Barbra Streisand (recorded in 1971, released in 1991), Johnny Hartman (1972), Henry Mancini (1972), Reuben Wilson (1973), The Pacific Strings (1973), Jack Jones (1973), Ray Conniff (1986), Ferrante & Teicher (1992), Grant Lee Buffalo (1994), Richard Clayderman (1995), Stan Whitmire (2000), Bradley Joseph (2005), Peter Grant (2006)

.

Bobby Bare – Streets Of Baltimore (1966).mp3
Tompall & The Glaser Brothers – Streets of Baltimore (1966).mp3
Gram Parsons – Streets Of Baltimore.mp3
Nanci Griffiths & John Prine – Streets Of Baltimore (1998).mp3
Evan Dando – Streets Of Baltimore (1998).mp3

tompall_glaserTompall Glaser was one of the original country Outlaws, along with the likes of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. With his brothers, he supported Johnny Cash on tour in the early 1960s before as Tompall & The Glaser Brothers they signed for MGM Records in 1966. The same year Tompall wrote Streets Of Baltimore, the sad story of a man who selflessly gives up everything, including his farm back in Tennessee, so as to fulfill his woman’s dream of living in Baltimore — with no happy ending, at not least for him.

Tompall’s cousin Dennis, who worked for him, told me in an e-mail that the original song had many more verses. “Harlan told me once that Tompall stopped by his office and gave him a copy of what he’s written, which was much longer than the final version. And said: ‘Here, fix it’. It sounds like something Tom would say.”

bobby_bareBut the Glasers didn’t recorded the song first; Bobby Bare got there first. Recorded in April 1966 (produced by Chet Atkins) his version was released as a single in June 1966; the Glasers’ was recorded in September. Bare went on to have hit with it, reaching #7 on the Country charts. The song became more famous in the wonderful version by Gram Parsons, which appeared on his 1973 GP album. Likewise, the 1998 duet by the magnificent Nanci Griffiths and the awesome John Prine is essential.

Dennis Glaser also said that the song has been mentioned in an American Literature textbook “as an example of songs that reflect actual life”.

Also recorded by: Capitol Showband (1967), Charley Pride (1969), Statler Brothers (1974), The Bats (1994), Tony Walsh (1999), Skik (as Grachten van Amsterdam, 2004), The Little Willies (2006)

.

The Three Suns – Twilight Time (1944).mp3
Les Brown & his Orchestra – Twilight Time
(1945).mp3
Johnny Maddox and the Rhythmasters – Twilight Time (1953).mp3
The Platters – Twilight Time (1958).mp3

three_sunsThe Three Suns – brothers Al (guitar) and Morty Nevins (accordion) and cousin Artie Dunn (organ) – were an instrumental trio founded in the late 1930s in Philadelphia. Although not particularly well-known, they had a long career that lasted into the ’60s (albeit in latter years with competing entities going by the group’s name, including one with Don Kirshner who later invented the Monkees). Unusual orchestration notwithstanding – their Twilight Time sounds like carousel music — the Three Suns were sought-after performers who spawned imitation groups, including the Twilight Three. (More on The Three Suns here)

Not much seems to be known about the genesis of Twilight Time other than it becoming something of a signature tune for the group. They eventually recorded it in 1944. It had become so popular that songwriter Buck Ram put his evocative lyrics – “Heavenly shades of night are falling, it’s twilight time” – to the melody. The first cover version of the song was recorded in November 1944 by bandleader Les Brown, and released in early 1945. But it is unclear whether it featured vocals. Several sources, including not always reliable Wikipedia, say that Brown’s version features Doris Day, and therefore is the first vocal version of the song. I’ve not been able to find the song or even proof that Doris Day sang it. Featured here is the instrumental version Brown, released as the b-side to Sentimental Journey, the first recording of that standard which Doris did sing.

A recording I have of an old radio programme of the Armed Forces Radio Service, called Personal Album, features five Les Brown songs. Four of them are sung by Doris Day, but when announcing Twilight Time, the presenter says that Doris will “sit that one out”. So I doubt she ever recorded it with Brown, though she might have sung it on stage.

If Doris Day did not lend her vocals to Twilight Time, then the first recording to feature Buck Rams’ lyrics would probably be that released, also in 1945, by Jimmy Dorsey featuring Teddy Walters on the microphones, which appeared in the MGM movie Thrill Of A Romance. Alas, I have no recording of that version.

plattersTwilight Time had been recorded intermittently — including a rather nice ragtime version by Johnny Maddox and the Rhythmasters — by the time Ram signed the vocal group The Platters, for whom he co-wrote some of their biggest hits, such as Only You and The Great Pretender. By 1958 it had been almost two years since The Platters had enjoyed a Top 10 hit. Ram dug out Twilight Time and his protegés had their third US #1. The song also reached #3 in Britain, their highest chart placing there until Smoke Gets In Your Eyes topped the UK charts later that year.

Also recorded by: Roy Eldridge & His Orchestra (1944), Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra featuring Teddy Walters (1945), Johnny Maddox And The Rhythmasters (1953), Otto Brandenburg (1960), Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas (1965), Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs (1965), Gene Pitney (1970), P.J. Proby (1973), José Feliciano (1975), Carl Mann (1976), Dave (as 5 Uhr früh, 1980), Willie Nelson (1988), John Fahey (1992), John Davidson (1999), The Alley Cats (2000), Anne Murray (2004) a.o.

.

Art and Dottie Todd – Chanson D’Amour (Song Of Love) (1958).mp3
Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D’Amour (1976).mp3

art_dottie_toddFew songs have irritated and fascinated me in such equal measures as Manhattan Transfer’s 1977 hit Chanson D’Amour, a UK #1. Their cover was ingratiatingly camp and absolutely ubiquitous, a middle-aged finger raised at punk. It is also a most insidious earworm. Almost two decades earlier, the Wayne Shanklin composition had been a US #6 hit for the husband and wife duo Art and Dottie Todd. The couple’s version competed in the charts with an alternative take by the Fontane Sisters. Ar and Dottie scored the bigger hit. It was also their only US hit. Chanson D’Amour didn’t chart in Britain, but the Todds had their solitary hit there with a different song, Broken Wings. So they ended up one-hit wonders on both sides of the Atlantic, but with different songs.

The Todds, who already had enjoyed a long career and even presented a radio show after getting married in 1941 (they met when accidentally booked into the same hotel room), proceeded to entertain in the lounges of Las Vegas for many years before their semi-retirement in 1980 to Hawaii, where they opened a supper club. Dottie died in 2000 at 87; Art followed her in 2007 at the age of 93. Somehow it seems right that this couple, who lived and worked together for six decades, should be remembered for a Song of Love.

Chanson D’Amour was resurrected in 1966 by easy listening merchants The Lettermen, who had a minor US hit with it. And a decade later, Manhattan Transfer recorded their cover, adding a French 1920s cabaret feel to the Todd’s template, which they followed quite faithfully.

Also recorded by: Also recorded by: The Fontane Sisters (1958), The Lettermen (1966), Gheorghe Zamfir (1974), Ray Conniff (1979), BZN (1981), André Rieu (2003), In-grid (2004) a.o.

.

Todd Duncan – Unchained Melody (excerpt) (1955).mp3
Unchained Melody Mix (39MB):
Les Baxter – Unchained Melody (1955)
Al Hibbler – Unchained Melody (1955)
Roy Hamilton – Unchained Melody (1955)
Gene Vincent & his Blue Caps – Unchained Melody (1957)
Merri Gail – Unchained Melody (1960)
Vito and the Salutations – Unchained Melody (1963)
The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)
Boots Randolph – Unchained Melody (1967)
Elvis Presley – Unchained Melody (1977)
Kenny Rogers – Unchained Melody (1977)
Willie Nelson – Unchained Melody (1978)
U2 – Unchained Melody (1989)
Clarence Gatemouth Brown – Unchained Melody (1995)

todd_duncanIt takes something special to record a song that had been recorded many times and been a hit for various artists, and in the process appropriate it in the public consciousness. The Righteous Brothers did so with Unchained Melody, a song that made its public debut as a theme in the otherwise forgotten 1955 movie Unchained (hence the song’s cryptic title), sung on the soundtrack by the African-American singer Todd Duncan (pictured), the original Porgy in the 1935 production of Porgy & Bess, who died at 95 in 1998 (the last surviving original cast member, Anne Brown, who played Bess, died a few months ago at the age of 96). Duncan was also a professor of voice at Harvard. I’m afraid the poor quality clip I’m posting here is the best I could find (thanks to my friend Walter).

The song was written by Alex North and Hy Zaret (whose mother knew him as William Starrat). The story goes that the young Hy, in an episode of unrequited love, had written the lyrics as a poem, which North set to music in 1936. The yet nameless song was offered to Bing Crosby, who turned it down. Thereafter it sat on the shelves until almost two decades later North was scoring Unchained, a prison drama, which in a small role featured the jazz legend Dexter Gordon, at the time jailed for heroin possession at the prison which served as the movie’s set. Unchained Melody received an Oscar nomination (Love Is A Many Splendored Thing won) — the first of 14 unsuccessful nominations for North, who eventually was given a lifetime achievement award.

ray hamiltonDuncan’s version went nowhere, but the song was a US top 10 hit for three artists in 1955: Les Baxter, in an instrumental version, and vocal interpretations by Al Hibbler and Roy Hamilton, with Hibbler’s becoming the best known version for the next decade. In June the same year,  singer Jimmy Young took the song to the top of the British charts, the first of four times the song was a UK #1 (the other chart-toppers were the Righteous Brothers, Robson & Jerome, and Gareth Gates).

Ten years later, the Righteous Brothers’ recorded it, produced by Bill Medley (though some dispute that) with Bobby Hatfield’s magnificent vocals, and released on Spector’s Philles label. With so many versions preceding the Righteous Brothers’ take, one can only speculate which one, if any, provided the primary inspiration. I would not be surprised to learn that Hatfield drew at least something from Gene Vincent’s vocals in the 1957 version, which oddly omits the chorus.

As so often, the classic started out as a b-side, in this case to the Gerry Goffin & Carole King song Hung On You, which Spector produced. To Spector’s chagrin, DJs flipped the record and Unchained Melody (which had no producer credit on the label) became the big hit, reaching #4 in the US.

righteous_brothersIn 1990 Unchained Melody enjoyed a massive revival thanks to the most famous scene in the film Ghost, featuring Patrick Swayze (R.I.P.) and Demi Moore playing with clay. The song went to #1 in Britain, and would have done likewise in the US had there not been two Righteous Brothers’ versions in the charts at the same time. The owners of the 1965 recording underestimated the demand for the song and failed to re-issue it in large quantity. Medley and Hatfield took the gap by recording a new version, which sold very well. Since the US charts are based on sales and airplay, the 1965 version charted in the Top 10 on strength of the latter, while the reformed Righteous Brothers reached the Top 20.

Unchained Melody represents another footnote in music history: it was the last (or second last, sources vary) song ever sung on stage by Elvis Presley. And fans of the Scorsese film GoodFellas may recognise the doo wop recording of the song by Vito and the Salutations.

Also recorded by: June Valli (1955), Jimmy Young (1955), Cab Calloway (1955), Chet Atkins (1955), The Crew Cuts (1955), Harry Belafonte (1957), Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps (1957), Ricky Nelson (1958), Andy Williams (1959), Earl Bostic (1959), Sam Cooke (1960), The Blackwells (1960), Ray Conniff (1960), The Browns (1960), Charlie Rich (1960), Merri Gail (1960), Marty Robbins (1961), Cliff Richard (1961), Floyd Cramer (1962), Duane Eddy (1962), Conway Twitty (1962), Steve Alaimo (1962), Les Chaussettes Noires (as Les enchaînés, 1962), The Lettermen (1962), Frank Ifield (1963), Vito & the Salutations (1963), Johnny De Little (1963), Matt Monro (1964), Anne Murray (1964), Bobby Vinton (1964), Brenda Holloway (1964), Sonny & Cher (1965), Dionne Warwick (1965), The Wailers (1966), Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles (1966), The Supremes (1966), The Englishmen (1967), The Caretakers (1967), Robert Gennari (1967), Igor Mann e I Gormanni (as Senza catene, 1968), Roy Orbison (1968), The Sweet Inspirations (1968), David Garrick (1968), Jimmy Scott (1969), The Platters (1969), Waylon Jennings (1970), The New Overlanders (1970), Dean Reed (1971), Blue Haze (1972), Al Green (1973), Donny Osmond (1973), James Last (1974), Bamses Venner (as En forunderlig melodi, 1975), Greyhound (1975), The Stylistics (1976), Kenny Rogers (1977), Paris Connection (1978), Willie Nelson (1978), Clem Curtis (1979), George Benson (1979), Heart (1980), Will Tura (as Oh My Love, 1980), Magazine 60 (1981), Gerry & The Pacemakers (1981), Joni Mitchell (1982), Bill Hurley (1982), Manhattan Transfer (1984), Leo Sayer (1985), U2 (1989), Maurice Jarre (1990), Ronnie McDowell (1991), Richard Clayderman (1992), Dread Zeppelin (1993), Captain & Tennille (1995), Michael Chapdelaine (1995), Al Green (1995), Clarence Gatemouth Brown (1995), Robson & Jerome (1995), Melanie (1996), Günther Neefs (1997), LeAnn Rimes (1997), Joe Lyn Turner (1997), David Osborne (1998), Neil Diamond (1998), Mythos ‘n DJ Cosmo (1999), Gareth Gates (2002), Justin Guarini (2003), Marshall & Alexander (2003), Bruno Cuomo (2003), Cyndi Lauper (2003), Jan Keizer (2004), Il Divo (2005), Joseph Williams (2006), Barry Manilow (2006), Damien Leith (2006), David Phelps (2008), Johnny Hallyday & Joss Stone (2008), Carrie Underwood (2008) a.o.

.

More Originals

Twattery in Pop: Rush Limbaugh

July 3rd, 2009 6 comments

What, you may demand imploringly, connects sweaty, saliva-dispersing self-parodist Rush Limbaugh with the world of pop (of course there is no question as to what connects the putrescent pusbucket to twattery)? Has Rush recorded an album of his favourite Motown songs, adding his own twist to the lyrics; perhaps adapting Smokey Robinson & the Miracle’s hit named after Mickey Stephenson autobiographically to read Cheney’s Monkey? Has Limbaugh praised the humanitarian work of Bono, or the operatic stylings of Michael Fucking Bolton, or the art of Yoko Ono (well, obviously not, though he seems psychotic enough to own the complete canon of MFB’s artistry)? Was Rush perhaps ghastly to some of my favourite artists, such as the Weepies or the Carpenters?

Rush Limbaugh’s mind, yesterday.

Rush Limbaugh’s mind, yesterday.

No, on Wednesday Rush Limbaugh contrived to wind his fusilli mind into a palomar knot by virtually blaming Barack Obama for the death of Michael Jackson. Spunk-silo’s take on MJ’s death: “Jackson’s success, if you stop and think of it [amusingly Limbaugh listeners are being asked to THINK!] and this is going to really irritate some people, which I will enjoy doing — Jackson’s success paralleled the rebound of the United States under Ronaldus Magnus [that would be Ronald Reagan whose decomposed salad Sweat-wit is tossing]. Michael Jackson’s biggest successes, and as it turns out his final successes, real successes took place in the eighties. That was Billie Jean, Thriller and all this. I mean he was as weird as he could be [says Rush fucking Limbaugh!] but he was profoundly, because of his weirdness, an individual. He wasn’t a group member [except when he was, of course. Rush evidently couldn’t feel it]. He reached a level of success that may never be equalled. He flourished under Reagan [but his best record, the wildly successful Off The Wall, was a hit under Carter, pop fans]; he languished under Clinton-Bush; and died under Obama. Let’s hope the parallel does not continue.” (Full story here)

I actually don’t think that Limbaugh is as stupid as to believe the ignorant, noxious shit he is disgorging upon the public. His “hilarious” shtick is to try and wind up liberals with such associations. If it wasn’t a sideshow, there’d be no reason why he has not been committed to a caring institution for lobotomised patients. In fairness, he signals his pitiful intent when he says: “this is going to really irritate some people, which I will enjoy doing”. It isn’t really what Limbaugh is saying that is irritating “Them Liberals”; it’s the idea that there are some very dull-witted people who take him and his likes seriously.

I must concede though that the clammy wankmonster — who in older times would have made an accomplished ass-raping bishop of Bath and Wells — might be on to something. Think about all the great celebrity icons who have died. Almost all of them kicked the bucket on the watch of a Democratic president. Jimmy Carter’s reign was particularly grim: Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin… Bill Clinton has Frank Sinatra, Princess in the Wind and, er, Kurt Cobain to answer for. JFK died during the JFK presidency, as did Marilyn Monroe and Patsy Cline, while Jim Reeves crashed under LBJ. Lately only Johnny Cash, being Johnny Cash, bucked the trend. And there Madonna was happy that Obama was elected.

But Limbaugh’s theory of Democratic culpability in celebrity mortality does fall flat. Consider the victims of the Nixon presidency: Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, Parsons and Elliott. Of those, only Cass died a natural death (and even that is disputed by ham sandwich conspiracists). Makes you think, no?

In the case of Michael Jackson, however, I am disinclined to indict Obama. More likely, on the morning of Thursday, 25 June, MJ found his transistor radio had been mistuned. As he surfed the dial he stumbled upon the depraved sound of Rush Limbaugh vomiting his bigotry all over the airwaves, and decided that he could no longer live in a world where that anal itch on humanity — and his idiot listeners — are allowed to exist. And here’s the kicker: my theory makes a zillion times more sense than any of Limbaugh’s deranged splutterings.

*   *   *

And to celebrate dead celebs:

Frank Sinatra – High Hopes With John Kennedy (1960).mp3
Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday, Mr President (1962).mp3
Patsy Cline – I Fall To Pieces (1961).mp3
Michael Jackson – Ain’t No Sunshine (1972).mp3
Cass Elliott – I’m Coming To The Best Part Of My Life (1973).mp3
Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (Alternate Take 5) (1956).mp3
Jimi Hendrix – Star Sprangled Banner (1969).mp3
Gram Parsons – Big Mouth Blues (1973).mp3

.
More Twattery in Pop