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The Originals Vol. 43

August 11th, 2011 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Originals

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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)

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More Originals

Any Major Whistle Vol. 2

July 21st, 2009 6 comments

whistlingAnd here is part 2 of the whistling mixes. As before, I’ve tried to mix the obvious (and avoiding some of the more notorious candidates) with the unexpected.As if to haunt me, every commercial on TV seems to feature some kind of whistle today, as does every background track on TV series. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CR-R (hence two bonus tracks). Click here for Any Major Whistle Vol. 1

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1. Beach Boys – Whistle In (1967)
Yes, the Beach Boys feature twice. You can’t have a whistling collection and not begin it with a song called Whistle In, can you? Whistletastic moment: 0:01 Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum and whistle.

2. Peter, Bjorn And John – Young Folks (2006)
I have avoided the inclusion of many an obvious song. No Scorpions. No Don’t Worry Be Happy. No Roger Whitaker. But this one had to be included. It’s Swedish, it’s cheerful, it’s earwormy. Whistletastic moment: 0:08 Everybody purse your lips and whistle along! Our play the percussion bit on your thigh.

3. David Bowie – Golden Years (1976)
I cannot hear this song without thinking abut the bizarre dance sequence with Heath Ledger and Never-heard-from-again Actress in the quite wonderful medieval caper A Knight’s Tale. Whistletastic moment: 3:03 Chameleon-like, the former Ziggy trades his guitar for lips and air.

4. Lovin’ Spoonful – Daydream (1966)
The Lovin’ Spoonful really covered about every genre in popular music, and then mashed the, Here we have a bit of 1920s pop and a bit of blues. Gotta love the Spoonful. Whistletastic moment: 1:14 Chirpy whistle solo, which returns at 2:06 to see the song out.

5. Otis Redding – Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (1968)
The last song Otis Redding recorded before getting on that plane, apparently. Otis didn’t whistle on here; the job was done by a session man of whom Redding inquired after a poor first take whether he knew what he was doing. We know he did. Whistletastic moment: 2:19 Perhaps the best ever whistle solo in pop.

6. Simon & Garfunkel – Punky’s Dilemma (1968)
This is Simon & Garfunkel 201 — the sort of song you get into once the many great hits have become boring. Whistletastic moment: 1:50 A breezy whistle solo, not by Paul Simon (whom we hear talking in the background) takes us to the song’s end.

7. The Beatles – Two Of Us (1970)
Recorded during the turbulent Let It Be sessions, this is one of the rare (and I think last) post-mop tops era occasions when John and Paul dueted. How nice then that the song ends with a cheery whistle solo before I Dig A Pony kicks in. Whistletastic moment: 3:14 I suppose this is Lennon whistling, as was his wont on a few of his solo tracks.

8. Bobby Bloom – Montego Bay (1970)
Anyone remember Amazulu’s cover in the 1980s? That probably had no whistling (or showtune segment). Bobby Bloom’s original has a recurring whistle hook. Whistletastic moment: 0:01 The hook kicks off the song.

9. Earl Hagen – Theme of the Andy Griffith Show (1960)
As doubtlessly whistled across America once upon a time while washing-up, sweeping the driveway, doing the paper round or constructing a skyscaper. Whistletastic moment: 0:01 The whole thing consists of whistling

10. The Steve Miller Band – Jungle Love (1977)
Terrible underrated ’70s rock band who deserve to be remembered for more than The Joker and Abracadabra. Whistletastic moment: 2:46 Freestyle whistling!

11. The Fratellis – Whistle For The Choir (2006)
Cockney geezers with jangly guitars recall the early ’70s. Irresistible. Whistletastic moment: 2:26 Whistle interlude

12. Liliput – Die Matrosen (1980)
Neue Deutsche Welle with ska sensibility searching for the young soul rebel, in English. Whistletastic moment: 0:52 Song-defining communal whistle interlude, repeated 50 seconds later, and again at 2:32 and 3:33.

13. The Flaming Lips – Christmas At The Zoo (1995)
Let’s go slightly weird: what do you think Coyne and his gang are doing in a zoo at Christmas? Whistletastic moment: 2:27 Whistle solo comes in helpful when you have no lyrics but the music still goes on.

14. Grizzly Bear – Deep Blue Sea (2007)
This sounds so like a country song. It was recorded at home by Grizzly Bear Daniel Rossen.  Whistletastic moment: 2:41 Whistle bridge.

15. Guster – All The Way Up To Heaven (2003)
Another underrated group. They toured and performed with Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright. This song, vaguely reminiscent of Sgt Pepper’s and Pet Sounds, is very lovely indeed.  Whistletastic moment: 0:50 You almost thing they are going to break out into the Colonel Bogey March.

16. Cat Power – After It All (2005)
One of the songs that make me appreciate 2005’s The Greatest album. And, I noticed only now, the only woman in the mix. Whistletastic moment: 0:06 The piano and a couple of guitar chords set up the song for the recurring whistle hook.

17. Sammy Davis Jr. – Mr Bojangles (1972)
The song that Sammy took over. As we covered in The Originals series, the song was written by Jerry Jeff Walker. Whistletastic moment: 0:20 Sammy whistles (unlike the other performers of My Bojangles) and does so again later to see the song out.

18. Gene Pitney – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1963)
Gene Pitney Fun Fact 1: He wrote Hello Mary Lou for Ricky Nelson, Rubber Ball for Bobby Vee and He’s A Rebel for the Crystals. Gene Pitney Fun Fact 1: The Crystals’ version of He’s A Rebel kept Pitney’s version of Burt Bacharach Only Love Can Break A Heart from reaching the US#1. Gene Pitney Fun Fact 3: He was the first singer from the rock idiom of pop to sing at the Oscars, performing Town Without Pity in 1962. Whistletastic moment: 0:16 Tremelo whistle.

19. Roxy Music – Jealous Guy (1981)
Roxy Music’s cash-in “tribute” released double-quick after John Lennon’s murder. Hunting Tory greaseball Bryan Ferry whistled better than Rolls Royce socialist Lennon. Whistletastic moment: 3:25  Ferry cross the whistle.

20. Leonard Cohen – One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (1967)
Don’t dig Cohen? Gentlemen, remember this: when Cohen sings about love and sex, it is intensely sensual. If you want to impress a poetry-loving girl, don’t forget to include Leonard Cohen on your mixtape. This song, for example. Whistletastic moment: 3:19   Laughing Len affords himself a bit of levity by seeing the song out with a (less than accomplished) whistle solo, backed by recorder and the sound of singing hangers-on being interrogated by the Spanish Inquisition..

21. Tom Waits – Green Grass (2004)
As I am playing this song, Any Minor Dude inquires: “What the hell is this?” I reply: “Son, it’s an acquired taste, like Gin, Brussels sprouts or the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard.” “Well, it’s crap anyway. Whistletastic moment: 2:29 Tom stops groaning to sweeten the song with a melancholy whistle solo.

22. Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977)
It all starts so prettily until the cynical guitars kick in to introduce Billy’s cynical ruminations on the alienation of the self, or something. When he’s done, he reprises the pretty part, just to show that he’s not all cynical, as he’ll soon demonstrate on the LP with a soppy love song imploring Elizabeth not to go changing her hair or trying some new fashion, only to dump her a few years later for a fashion model with lovely hair. Clearly he didn’t let her see the stranger in himself. Whistletastic moment: 0:26 The whistle joins the pretty intro until the cynical guitar comes in. It returns later, with the pretty outro.

23. Glen Campbell – Sunflower (1977)
Nothing cynical in Campbell’s sunshiney, optimistic song, a catchy number even if you hate it. Whistletastic moment: 2:15  Just in case we didn’t catch in just how a good mood Glen is, he sees the song out with a jolly whistle.

24. Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side of Life (1979)
You didn’t think I could avoid including this, did you? Whistletastic moment: 0:30  The first whistled response to Eric Idle’s appeal to buoyancy.

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And a couple of bonus whistling tracks which I could not accommodate in the mix without disturbing what I hope is a good flow:

Guy Mitchell – Singin’ The Blues.mp3
Perry Como – Magic Moments.mp3

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More mixes

The Originals Vol. 26

June 12th, 2009 21 comments

In this instalment, three songs featured are perhaps well known to some in their original form; one original (Galveston) is pretty obscure; and one song may not immediately ring bells until one hears it (German readers of a certain age will recognise it by another name). There are ten versions of Reason To Believe, one of the greatest songs ever written. I’ve posted Tim Hardin’s original separately and the nine cover versions in one file.

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Tim Hardin – Reason To Believe.mp3
Johnny Cash – Reason To Believe (1974)
(reupped)
NINE VERSIONS OF REASON TO BELIEVE
Bobby Darin – Reason To Believe (1966)
Scott McKenzie – Reason To Believe (1967)
Marianne Faithfull – Reason To Believe (1967)
The Dillards – Reason To Believe (1968)
Glen Campbell – Reason To Believe (1968)
Cher – Reason To Believe (1968)
Carpenters – Reason To Believe (1970)
Rod Stewart – Reason To Believe (1971)
Billy Bragg – Reason To Believe (live) (1989)
tim_hardin The mark of genius in a song resides in its adaptability. As the various covers featured here show, Reason To Believe (not to be confused with Bruce Springsteen’s song of the same title) is the sort of rare song into which artists can project their emotions, making it their own. The 1966 original by Tim Hardin, who wrote it, is suitably affecting, as befits a lyric of betrayal (the line “Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried; still I look to find a reason to believe” is heartbreaking). But in my view, the definitive interpretation of the song, one of my all-time favourites, is that by the Southern Californian country band The Dillards (1968), who inspired bands such as the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. It is perfect.

DARINReason To Believe was not a hit for Hardin. A gifted songwriter, he enjoyed his biggest hit with somebody else’s song, Bobby Darin’s twee Simple Song of Freedom, which Darin wrote in return for Hardin providing his big comeback hit If I Were A Carpenter. Darin, by then in his folk phase, also did a very credible version of Reason To Believe. Hardin’s story is tragic. As a marine in Vietnam in the early 1960s he discovered heroin and became addicted to the drug. Added to that, he suffered from terrible stagefright, which is not helpful when you are an entertainer. He died on 29 December 1980 from a heroin and morphine overdose. He was only 39.

The two best known versions arguably are those by Rod Stewart (1971) and the Carpenters (1970). Stewart is a fine interpreter of songs, and his take of Reason To Believe is entirely likable. Stewart’s take was released as a single a-side; in the event the flip side, Maggie Mae, became the big hit.

EDIT: The Johnny Cash version linked to above comes courtesy of Señor of the WTF? No, Seriously. WTF? blog.
Also recorded by: Bobby Darin (1966), Scott McKenzie (1967), Marianne Faithfull (1967), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1967), Rick Nelson (1967), David Hemmings (1967), Cher (1968), The Dillards (1968), The Youngbloods (1968), Glen Campbell (1968), Suzi Jane Hokom (1969), Brainbox (1969), The Wray Brothers Band (1969), Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (1970), Andy Williams (1970), The Carpenters (1970), Rod Stewart (1971), Skeeter Davis (1972), Johan Verminnen (as Iemand als jij, 1989), Wilson Phillips (1990), Jackie DeShannon (1993), Don Williams (1995), Paul Weller (1995), Stina Nordenstam (1998), Ron Sexsmith (1999), Rod Stewart (2003), Vonda Shepard (2001) a.o.

Jimmy Driftwood – The Battle Of New Orleans.mp3
Johnny Horton – The Battle Of New Orleans.mp3
Les Humphries Singers – Mexico.mp3

jimmy_driftwood Oh, you probably do know the song. And if you don’t, you should. Originally a traditional folk song known as The 8th of January, it tells the story of a soldier fighting with Andrew Jackson’s army against the British in the 8 January 1815 battle of the title. It was first recorded in 1957 and released the following year by Jimmy Driftwood, a school teacher in Timbo, Arkansas. Born James Morris, he is said to have been one of the nicest guys in the folk music scene (not surprisingly, he was a collaborator with the great Alan Lomax). As a history teacher, Driftwood considered song to be a teaching device, and so in 1936 (or 1945, depending which sources you believe) he set the fiddle-based folk song to lyrics — there were no definitive words, only snippets of recurring phrases — to benefit his students. In the 1950s, Driftwood was signed by RCA, and eventually recorded The Battle Of New Orleans, with the label’s session man Chet Atkins on guitar. He later wrote another country classic, Tennessee Stud, which became a hit for Eddy Arnold and Johnny Cash (Tarantino fans will know it from the Jackie Brown soundtrack).

johnny_horton_new_orleansShortly after Driftwood recorded The Battle Of New Orleans, the doomed country star Johnny Horton did a cover which relied less on manic fiddling and dropped such radio-unfriendly words as “hell” and “damn”, and scored a big hit with it (he even changed the lyrics for the English market, turning the enemy “British” into random “rebels). Horton released several “historical records” (most famous among them, perhaps, Sink The Bismarck), though it would be unfair to reduce his influence on country music to that. A close friend of Johnny Cash’s, Horton died in a car crash in 1960, widowing his wife Billy Jean for the second time — she had been married to Hank Williams when the country legend died. Spookily, both Williams and Horton played their last concerts at the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas.

There is a crazy idea on the Internet that associates Horton with the revolting racist records of a fuckwitted spunkbucket going by the name of Rebel Johnny (such as the charming “I Hate Niggers”). I am at a loss to understand how such a confusion could arise and thereby smear the name of a great country star.

les_humphries_mexicoTwo other cover versions are notable. Also in 1959, skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan reached the UK #2 — but received no airplay on Aunty Beeb until he changed the word “ruddy” to “blooming”. The song was revived in 1972 by the Les Humphries Singers, a multi-ethnc and multi-national English-language ensemble of hippie demeanour that was very popular in West Germany with its Ed Hawkins Singer meets Hair shtick. Humphries, an Englishman, renamed the song Mexico (not a stretch; that country’s name appears in the original lyrics) and scored a massive hit with his outfit’s joyous rendition. Their performances, in English, captured the era’s exuberant spirit of social and sexual liberation. The trouble is, Humphries credited the song to himself, a brazen act of plagiarism. I have found no evidence that Humphries, who died in 2007 at 67, was ever sued for his blatant rip-off.
Also recorded by: Vaughn Monroe (1959), Eddy Arnold (1963), Harpers Bizarre (1968), Johnny Cash (1972), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1974), Buck Owens (1975), Bob Weir (1976), Bill Haley (1979)

Johnny O’Keefe – Wild One.mp3
Iggy Pop – Real Wild Child (Wild One).mp3

johnny_okeefe_wild_one Johnny O’Keefe was Australia’s first rock & roll star, notching up 30 hits in his country. Like Elvis, he was born in January 1935. He died just over a year after Elvis, of barbiturate poisoning. Often referred to by the title of his big hit, released in 1958, O’Keefe was the first Australian rock & roll star to tour the United States. But it was while Buddy Holly & the Crickets were touring Australia that the song came to traverse the Pacific. Crickets drummer Jerry Allison went on to record it under the name Ivan as Real Wild Child, enjoying a minor US hit with it.

It took almost three decades before O’Keefe’s song would reach the higher regions of the charts when Iggy Pop scored a UK Top 10 and US Top 30 hit with his David Bowie-produced track, as Real Wild Child (Wild One), in 1986. It isn’t clear which version inspired Mr Osterberg, but in 1982 Albert Lee recorded it under the same title.
Also recorded by: Jerry Lewis (1958; released in 1974), Jet Harris (1962), Billy Idol (1987), Christopher Otcasek (1989), Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1993), Lou Reed (1993), Status Quo (2003), Wakefield (2004), Everlife (2006)


Dave Edmunds – Queen Of Hearts.mp3
Juice Newton – Queen Of Hearts.mp3

dave_edmonds Here’s one of those songs that some might know better in its original version, and others as the hit cover. Queen Of Hearts was a UK #11 hit for Dave Edmunds — previously featured in this series for covering Smiley Lewis’ I Hear You Knocking — in 1979, and two years later a US #2 hit for the unlikely-named Juice Newton. She will return to this series soon when her other big hit of 1981, Angel Of The Morning. Newton earned a Grammy nomination for best country song for her version, and it was her remake that inspired the veteran French singer Sylvie Vartan, who once performed on a bill with the Beatles, to record her French take on the song (retitled Quand tu veux , or When You Want It). A couple of years earlier Newton had tried to have a hit with another British song, but her version of It’s A Heartache lost out in the US to that by Welsh rasper Bonnie Tyler. Later Newton enjoyed a #11 with Brenda Lee’s Break It To Me Gently.
Also recorded by: Rodney Crowell (1980), Sylvie Vartan (as Quand tu veux, 1981), The Shadows (1983), Lawrence Welk (1984), Ramshackle Daddies (2003), Melanie Laine (2005), Valentina (2007)

don_ho_galvestonDon Ho – Galveston.mp3
Glen Campbell – Galveston.mp3

Jimmy Webb sat on the beach of Galveston on the hurricane-plagued Gulf of Mexico when he wrote this song, which might appear to be about the Spanish-American war but was just as applicable to the Vietnam War, which in 1966 was starting to heat up (“While I watch the cannons flashing, I clean my gun and dream of Galveston” and “I’m so afraid of dying”). The composer subsequently said it was about the Vietnam War but at other times also denied it. Whatever Webb had in mind, its theme is universal about any soldier who’d rather be home than on the killing fields.

glen_campbell_galvestonWebb had previously written By The Time I Get To Phoenix (first recorded by Johnny Rivers), which Glen Campbell would have a hit with. He later wrote Wichita Lineman especially for Campbell. Galveston would complete the trinity of Webb hit songs for Campbell, who in 1974 recorded a whole album of Webb numbers. The original of Galveston was recorded by the relatively obscure Don Ho, a Hawaiian lounge singer and TV star who was known for appearing with red shades and died in 2007 aged 76. Campbell later said that, while in Hawaii, Ho turned him to Galveston. Campbell sped it up a bit to create his moving version. Apparently, after “giving” the song to Campbell, Ho would not sing it any more.
Also recorded by: Lawrence Welk (1969), Jim Nabors (1968), The Ventures (1969), Roger Williams (1969), Jimmy Webb (1971), The Lemonheads (1997), Of Montreal (2000), Joel Harrison with David Binney (2004)

More Originals

The Originals Vol. 24

May 8th, 2009 13 comments

We have a bit of a bumper edition here, with ten quite distinct and all lovely versions of Let It Be Me, four of City Of New Orleans, plus It Must Be Love, My Baby Just Cares For Me and Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town. Special thanks to our old friend RH and our new friend Walter for their contributions. I would be interested to know which version of Let It Be Me is the most liked.

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Labi Siffre – It Must Be Love.mp3
Madness – It Must Be Love.mp3

siffre_it_must_be_lovePerhaps I’m stretching the concept of this series a little here; some may well say that they know the Labi Siffre original better than the remake. Still, it is the 1981 Madness cover that was the bigger hit and gets the wider airplay. In my view, their version is better than Siffre’s, though I fully expect to receive dissenting comment calling into question the intactness of my mental faculties (or, indeed, refer to my complete madness). Madness reached the UK #4 with the song; in 1971, Siffre (one of the first openly gay singers in pop) reached #14 with it. Rather endearingly, Siffre made a cameo appearance in the video for the Madness single (he is a violin player).

Siffre periodically retired from the music industry. He most propitiously returned in 1987 when he released his anti-apartheid song Something Inside (So Strong), which has been frequently covered, and then proceeded to co-write most of Jonathan Butler’s fine 1990 album Heal Our Land, which in part was a love letter to South Africa at a time when it had become clear that apartheid was dead.

Also recorded by: Marian Montgomery (1972), Lyn Paul (1975), Jasper Steverlinck (2004), Jeroen van der Boom (2006), Paolo Nutini (2007)

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Mel Tillis – Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love To Town) (1967).mp3
Waylon Jennings – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town (1967).mp3
Kenny Rogers & First Edition – Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town.mp3

Mel Tillis – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town (1976).mp3

tillisA Korean war veteran comes home from doing his “patriotic chore” without his legs and his beloved wife treats him like dirt and goes cheating on him. Much as it may sound like a country music cliché, songwriter Mel Tillis, who released the song in January 1967, said he based the lyrics on a couple in his neighbourhood, with the man having been wounded in Germany in Word War 2, not in Korea. Tillis spared us the bitter end of the story: The ex-GI killed his straying wife and then himself. Though the protagonist of the song imagines putting Ruby into the ground, he has no concrete plans to kill her.

EDIT: Tillis was the first to release the song, but Waylon Jennings actually recorded it three months before Tillis did, in September 1966. Jennings’ version, however, did not get released until August 1967.

The song had been recorded a couple of times before Kenny Rogers decided it would serve to move his group, the First Edition, closer to the country scene. He and the group recorded the song in one take. It became a hit in 1969 (at the height of the Vietnam War), reaching #6 in the US and #2 in the UK. For Rogers it became a signature tune which he would record twice more, in 1977 and 1990. Apparently Rogers likes to send the song up in concerts; it seems to have become a bit of a gag, with the not very humorous Right Said Fred honouring it with a cover version. Personally, I fail to see the capricious angle.

And thanks to commenter Phillip:
Walter Brennan – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.mp3 (direct DL via AprilWinchell.com)

Also recorded by: Johnny Darrell (1967), The Statler Brothers (1967), Red Sovine (1969), Dale Hawkins (1969), Peter Law & The New Pacific (1969), Leonard Nimoy (1970),  Carl Perkins (1974), Gary Holton & Casino Steel (1980), Sort Sol (1985), The Gorehounds (as Ruby, 1989), Right Said Fred (1996), Cake (2005), The Killers (2007) a.o.

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Steve Goodman – City Of New Orleans.mp3
Arlo Guthrie – City Of New Orleans.mp3
Johnny Cash – City Of New Orleans.mp3

Willie Nelson – City Of New Orleans.mp3

steve_goodmanThroughout this series there have been songs that in their original form were far superior to the versions that made them famous. Great though Guthrie’s version (and Willie Nelson’s) is, City Of New Orleans is one such song. Goodman wrote it after travelling on the eponymous train which was about to be decommissioned, recording faithfully what he saw. The song helped to reprieve the line. Having been discovered by Kris Kristofferson, who introduced him to Paul Anka, Goodman recorded the song in 1971. One night in a Chicago bar he approached Arlo Guthrie with a view to introducing the song to Woody’s son. Arlo was not really interested in hearing another songwriter trying to peddle a song, but on condition that Goodman buy him a beer, he mustered some patience. Later he would recall it as “one of the longest, most enjoyable beers I ever had”. The meeting would provide him with his biggest hit, released in 1972. Johnny Cash, no stranger to the subject matter of trains, released his take in 1973.

arlo_guthrieGuthrie changed some of the lyrics: Goodman’s “passing towns” became “passing trains”, the “magic carpet made of steam” was now made of steel, “the rhythm of the rails is all they dream” was now felt. Goodman didn’t seem to mind; he and Guthrie remained good friends until the former’s premature death at 36 in 1984 from leukaemia, the disease he had been diagnosed with in 1969. He won a posthumous Grammy for the song on strength of Willie Nelson’s 1984 version. Read the quite dramatic story of The City of New Orleans train here, and more about Steve Goodman here.

Also recorded by: John Denver (1971), Chet Atkins (1973), The Seldom Scene (1973), Joe Dassin (as Salut les amoureux, 1973), Sammi Smith (1973), Hank Snow (1973), Johnny Cash & June Carter (1973), Henson Cargill (1973), Ted Egan (1973), Hopeton Lewis (1973), Jerry Reed (1974), Johnny Cash (1975), Judy Collins (1975), Rudi Carrell (as Wann wird’s mal wieder richtig Sommer, 1975), Yoram Gaon (as Shalom Lach Eretz Nehederet, 1977), Louise Féron & Jérôme Soligny (as Salut les amoureux, 1993), Randy Scruggs (1998), Maarten Cox (as ‘t Is weer voorbij, die mooie zomer, 2005), Beth Kinderman (2006), Discharger (2006), Lizzie West & the White Buffalo (2006), Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (2007) a.o.

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Ted Weems & his Orchestra – My Baby Just Cares For Me.mp3
Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares For Me.mp3

weemsWritten by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn for the 1928 musical Whoopee (not to be confused with the rubbish actress going by a similar name), My Baby Just Cares For Me was recorded by a host of artists in the following few years. Ted Weems’ was not the first, but certainly among the earliest recordings. His take shows just how great an interpreter of songs Nina Simone was. She recorded it in 1958. It was not her most famous number, much less her signature tune, really becoming well-known when it featured in a British TV commercial for Chanel No. 5.

The bandleader Ted Weems was a star by the time he released his version of My Baby Just Cares For Me in July 1930, having had previous hits with Somebody Stole My Gal (1924), Piccolo Pete, and The Man from the South (1928), and later with Heartaches, which he recorded in 1933. At around that time he became even more famous thanks to a regular spot on Jack Benny’s hugely popular radio show. His band broke up with World War 2, and was reformed briefly in the early ’50s. Weems toured until 1953 when he became a DJ in Memphis and then a hotel manager. Weems died in 1963 at the age of 62. Take a look at this great video of Weems and a chorus line of flappers.

Also recorded by: Ethel Shutta (1930), Ted Fiorito & his Orchestra (1930), Mel Tormé (1947), Nat ‘King’ Cole (1949), The Hi-Lo’s (1954), Tony Bennett (1955), Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads (1955), Tommy Dorsey (1958), Tab Hunter (1958), Mary Wells (1965), Frank Sinatra (1966), Cornell Campbell (1973), Alex Chilton (1994), George Michael (1999), Julie Budd (2000), Natalie Cole (2002), Cyndi Lauper (2003), Laura Fedele (2005), Jaqui Naylor (2006), Amanda Lear (2006) a.o.

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Gilbert Bécaud – Je t’appartiens (1955).mp3
Jill Corey
– Let It Be Me (1957)
Everly Brothers - Let It Be Me (1960)
Betty Everett & Jerry Butler – Let It Be Me (1964)
Skeeter Davis & Bobby Bare - Let It Be Me (1965)
Peaches & Herb - Let It Be Me (ca 1967)
Glen Campbell & Bobbie Gentry – Let It Be Me (1968)
Bob Dylan - Let It Be Me (1970)
Roberta Flack – Let It Be Me (1970)
Rosie Thomas - Let It Be Me (2005)
All nine cover versions in one file here

becaud-jappertiensLet It Be Me is one of those pop standards that cannot be ascribed to any one particular artist. Most commonly, it might be considered an Everly Brothers song. To me, it is Betty Everett & Jerry Butler’s song; perhaps the most gorgeous version. Some may have heard it for the first time in its vulnerable interpretation by the wonderful Rosie Thomas, duetting with Ed Hardcourt. Not many will think of it as a French song, co-written and first released by the brilliant Gilbert Bécaud as Je t’appartiens (I belong to you) in 1955.

It was not the biggest hit for Bécaud (born François Silly), but it has been prodigiously covered. It took two years to cross the Atlantic, when Jill Corey – the youngest singer ever to headline at the Copacabana — recorded the first English-translation version. It was not a big hit, barely scratching the Top 60. It did become a hit with the Everly Brothers’ in 1960, their first recording made outside Nashville — it was made in New York — and their first to incorporate strings in the arrangement. Let It Be Me became a hit again in 1964 for Butler & Everett, in 1969 for Glenn Campbell & Bobby Gentry, and in 1982 for Willie Nelson. Bob Dylan recorded it twice; featured here is the first of these, which appeared on his 1970’s Self Portrait album. The same year Roberta Flack gave the song a whole new treatment on her second album. I am also partial to the version by the delightfully named Skeeter Davis with outlaw country pioneer Bobby Bare, which includes aspoken bit by Skeeter, as was her wont.

Also recorded by: The Blue Diamonds (1960), Chet Atkins (1961), The Lettermen (1962), Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1962), Andy Williams & Claudine Longet (1964), Sonny & Cher (1965), Brenda Lee (1965), Molly Bee (1965), The Shadows (1965), Barbara Lewis (1966), The Escorts (1966), Nancy Sinatra (1966), Arthur Prysock (1966), Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown (1967), The Sweet Inspirations (1967), Sam & Dave (1967), Claudine Longet (1968), Earl Grant (1968), Petula Clark (1969), The Delfonics (1969), Jim Ed Brown (1969), Tom Jones (1969), Connie Smith & Nat Stuckey (1969), Roberta Flack (1970), Elvis Presley (1970), Bob Dylan (1970), Nancy Wilson (1971), New Trolls (1973), The Pointer Sisters (1974), Demis Roussos (1974), Nina Simone (1974), Mary McCaslin (1974), Melanie (1978), Kenny Rogers & Dottie West (1979),Jay & the Americans (1980), Bob Dylan (again, 1981), Willie Nelson (1982), David Hasselhoff (1984), Collin Raye (1992), Marc Jordan (1999), Nnenna Freelon feat Kirk Whalum (2000), Justin (2000), Lauro Nyro (2001), Anne Murray & Vince Gill (2002), Mike Andersen (2003), The Willy DeVille Acoustic Trio ( 2003), Paul Weller (2004),Pajo (2006), Frankie Valli (2007), Charlie Daniels Band with Brenda Lee (2007), Roch Voisine (2008), Jason Donovan (2008) a.o.

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More Originals

The Originals Vol. 20

April 3rd, 2009 6 comments

I failed to realise that the 19th instalment of The Originals last week marked the 100th song to be, erm, covered in the series (remember, the first part included ten songs, part 2 featured six). Since it can be argued that the story of Bitter Sweet Symphony wasn’t really a tale of an original and its cover, we enter the second century of the series with a South African song with a most remarkable history (and pardon the length of the entry; it’s worth reading anyhow, I hope), as well as the originals of the Kingsmen‘s Louie Louie, Glen Campbell‘s By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Deep Purple‘s Hush and the bizarre Tiny Tim‘s Tip Toe Through The Tulips.

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Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds – Mbube.mp3
The Weavers – Wimoweh.mp3
Miriam Makeba – The Lion Song (Mbube).mp3
The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight.mp3
Pete Seeger – Wimoweh (live).mp3
Soweto Gospel Choir – Mbube.mp3

mbubeOne of the most foul stories of songwriting theft must be the story of Mbube (the song known more widely as The Lion Sleeps Tonight or Wimoweh), with even the venerable Pete Seeger involved in the deceit; though he comes out of it a lot better than others.

The man who wrote and first recorded it, Solomon Linda, died virtually penniless, having been duped into selling the rights to the song for a pittance to the Italian-born South African record label owner Eric Gallo. Gallo pocketed the royalties of the prodigious South African sales, in return allowing Linda to work in his packing plant. Apart from performing on stage in South Africa, where he was a musical legend in the townships, Linda worked there until his death at 53 in 1962 — nine years after Seeger and the Weavers had a US #6 hit with it, and a year after The Tokens scored a huge hit with the song in a reworked version. No laws were broken in this deplorable story of plagiarism, but the rules of ethics and common decency certainly were.

solomon_linda1

Solomon Linda

Mbube was introduced to American music by Pete Seeger, who adapted a fairly faithful version of the song. Still, Seeger didn’t even transcribe the word “uyiMbube” properly, even though he had received a record of the song (from the great music historian Alan Lomax), which had a label stating the title on it. And surely it should have been possible to research a song which sold a 100,000 copies in South Africa, especially if Alan Lomax is your friend, in such a way as not to render “uyiMbube” as “wimoweh”.

Seeger later pleaded ignorance about the intricacies of music publishing, and, to his credit, deeply regretted not insisting firmly enough that Linda be given the songwriting credit. He had sent his initial arrangers’s fee of $1,000 to Linda and insisted that the song’s publishers, TRO, should keep sending royalties to the South African. Apparently they periodically did so, though Linda’s widow had little idea where the money — hardly riches (about $275 per quarter in the early ’90s) — came from. Some family members say the payments started only in the 1980s. Whatever the case, neither Linda nor Seeger were credited for the song now known as Wimoweh. The credit went to Paul Campbell, a pseudonym used by TRO owner Harry Richmond to copyright the many public-domain folk songs which TRO published.

tokensThe Tokens’ version took even greater liberties. But this time nobody could claim ignorance because Miriam Makeba, who grew up with the song, released it in the US in 1960, a year before The Tokens’ version was created, as Mbube, or The Lion (mbube means lion). It is fair to say that George David Weiss, who rearranged the song for The Tokens, at their request, should not be denied his songwriter credit (that would be the same Weiss who co-wrote Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love with mafia associates and RCA producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore ). Weiss dismantled and restructured the song, turning a very African song into an American novelty pop song. As so often, the future classic was first relegated to the b-side; a disc jockey, not impressed with the a-side, flipped over the single and so created a massive hit.

Peretti and Creatore claimed co-writing credit and the rights to the song, deciding that Mbube was an old African folk song and therefore in the public domain. They might well have thought so in good faith, but a minimum of research would have established the facts, even before the age of Google. Or perhaps not: they pulled the same stunt with Miriam Makeba’s Click Song (the clicking is a distinctive sound in the Xhosa language), which the Tokens released as Bwanina. They got away with that, because Makeba’s number was based on an old folk song. Not so with The Lion Sleeps Tonight, to which Gallo, the record label owner from South Africa, had asserted his US rights in 1952 and then sold it to TRO. A whole lot of wheeling and dealing took place, with the upshot that the credit now included TRO’s fictitious Paul Campbell. Again, Linda was left out in the cold.

It was only at the beginning of the present decade that Linda’s family took legal action, and that only after Richmond, Weiss and the mafia pals started to wrangle about the ownership to the song. Solomon Linda’s family eventually won a settlement which entitles them to future royalties and a lump sum for royalties going back to 1987, largely due to an extensive Rolling Stone exposé by South African one-book wonder novelist Rian Malan. By some estimates, Mbube/Wimoweh/The Lion Sleeps Tonight has accrued royalties in the region of $15 million. Linda’s family initially sued Disney for $1.5 million for the song’s use in The Lion King – happily they are now due royalties from other versions. Malan and the family’s lawyers are still trying to find versions of the song against which to claim royalties.

Here’s the kicker: Solomon Linda was quite delighted at the international success of his song; he didn’t realise that he should have received something for it — even if that something was just an acknowledgment that he wrote the song.

Read the full story of Mbube.
Also recorded by: Karl Denver (1962), Henri Salvador (as Le lion est mort ce soir, 1962), Roger Whittaker (1967), The New Christy Minstrels (1965), Eric Donaldson (1971), Robert John (1972), Dave Newman (1972), Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus (as Rise Jah Jah Children, 1974), Brian Eno (1975), Flying Pickets (1980), Roboterwerke (1981), Tight Fit (1981), The Nylons (1982), Hotline (1984), Sandra Bernhard (1988), They Might Be Giants with Laura Cantrell (as The Guitar [The Lion Sleeps Tonight], 1990), R.E.M. (as The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, 1993), Nanci Griffith (1993), Lebo M (1994), Steve Forbert (1994), *NSYNC (1997), Helmut Lotti (2000), Laurie Berkner (2000) a.o.

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Billy Joe Royal – Hush.mp3
Deep Purple – Hush.mp3

bj-royalIn Volume 19 we looked at Joe South’s original of Rose Garden. South enjoyed chart success himself with Games People Play, and wrote a couple of hits for Billy Joe Royal, including Royal’s signature hit Down In The Boondocks (1965, originally intended for Gene Pitney) and Hush (1967). Royal — it is his real name — had a country background, though one influenced by the soul stylings of Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. He performed with the country singer likes of Jerry Reed and George Stevens, but aimed for a pop audience. For a while he succeeded, but when his pop star waned, he successfully crossed back into traditional country. His final pop charts entry, a 1978 version of Under The Boardwalk which peaked at #82, was followed in 1985 by his first country charts entry (Burned Like A Rocket, #10).

Hush was not a big hit for Royal, peaking at #52. But it became the first hit for hairy hard rock legends Deep Purple, in 1968 — even though initially nitially the group was not really interested in the song. Since then, Hush has been recorded in various styles, most of them taking as their template Deep Purple’s version rather than Royal’s gospel-tinged original which evokes the source of South’s inspiration for the song: a spiritual which included the line “Hush, I thought I heard Jesus calling my name.”

Also recorded by: Johnny Hallyday (as Mal, 1967), I Colours (1968), Merrilee Rush & Turnabouts (1968), The Love Affair (1968), Jimmy Frey (1969), Funky Junction (1973), Deep Purple (1985), Milli Vanilli (1988), Killdozer (1989), Gotthard (1992), Kula Shaker (1997)

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richard-berryRichard Berry & The Pharoahs – Louie Louie.mp3
The Kingsmen – Louie Louie.mp3

There are people who like to designate the Kingsmen’s 1963 version of Louie Louie as the first ever punk song. One can see why: it’s production is shambolic, the drummer is rumoured to be swearing in the background, the singer’s diction is non-existence, the modified lyrics were investigated by the FBI for lewdness (the feds found nothing incriminating, not even the line which may or may not have been changed from “it won’t be long me see me love to “stick my finger up the hole of love”), and by the time the song became a hit – after a Boston DJ played in a “worst songs ever” type segment — the band had broken up and toured in two incarnations.

louie-louie

Originally it was a regional hit in 1957 for an R&B singer named Richard Berry, who took inspiration from his namesake Chuck and West Indian music. In essence, it’s a calypso number of a sailor telling the eponymous barman about the girl he loves. It was originally released as a b-side, but quickly gained popularity on the West Coast. It sold 40,000 copies, but after a series of flops Berry momentarily retired from the recording business, selling the rights to Louie Louie for $750. In the meantime, bands continued to include the song in their repertoire. It was a 1961 version by Rockin’ Robin Roberts & the Fabulous Wailers which provided the Kingsmen with the prototype for their cover.

It is said that Louie Louie has been covered at least 1,500 times. It has also woven itself into the fabric of American culture, having been referenced in several movies, as diverse as Animal House and Mr Holland’s Opus. In the terribly underrated 1990 roadtrip film Coupe de Ville, three brothers (including a young Patrick Dempsey) have an impassioned debate about whether Louie Louie is a sea shanty or a song about sex.

Also recorded by: Rockin’ Robin Roberts (1961), Paul Revere & The Raiders (1963), Beach Boys (1963), The Kinks (1964), Joske Harry’s & The King Creoles (1964), Otis Redding (1964), The Invictas (1965), Jan & Dean (1965), The Ventures (1965), The Sandpipers (1966), Swamp Rats (1966), The Ad-Libs (1966), The Sonics (1966), The Troggs (1966), Friar Tuck (1967), The Tams (1968), Toots and the Maytals (1972), Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids (1973), Skid Row (1976), The Flamin’ Groovies (1977), The Clash (live bootleg, 1977), The Kids (1980), Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1981), Barry White (1981), Stanley Clarke & George Duke (1981), Maureen Tucker (1981), Black Flag (1981), Motörhead (1984), Lyres (1987), The Fat Boys (1988), The Purple Helmets (1988), Young MC (1990), Massimo Riva (as Lui Luigi, 1992), Pow Wow (1992), The Outcasts (1993), Iggy Pop (1993), Robert Plant (1993), The Queers (1994), The Stingray (1996), The Alarm Clocks (2000), Mazeffect (2003), Angel Corpus Christi (2005) a.o.

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Nick Lucas – Tip Toe Through The Tulips With Me.mp3
Tiny Tim – Tip Toe Through The Tulips.mp3

nick_lucasWhatever mind-altering substance it was that possessed the record buying public to turn Tiny Tim’s bizarre rendition of Tip-Toe Through The Tulips into an international hit, I want some. Usually a baritone, Tiny Tim sang the old standard in a bizarre falsetto which he had “discovered” by accident when singing along to a song on the radio as a young man in the early ’50s. Somehow he built up a loyal cult following with that falsetto shtick, ultimately leading to his novelty hit (possibly aided by his cryranoesque physiognomy) following its performance on the comedy variety show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

tiny_timBut Tiny Tim, known to his mother as Herbert Khaury, was more than a bit of a court jester. In his real life, which ended in 1996 at the age of 64, he was a serious student of American music history. He didn’t do Tip-Toe as a parody but as a tribute to the song’s original performer, Nick Lucas. Indeed, Lucas sang it at Khoury’s 1969 wedding to one Miss Vicky on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show (Video of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicky crooning on the show).

Nick Lucas, known in his prime as “The Crooning Troubadour” and later as “the grandfather of the jazz guitar”, topped the charts with the song — written in 1926 by Joe Burke and Al Dubin — for ten weeks in 1929 on the back of its inclusion in the early colour film Gold Diggers Of Broadway (video).

Also recorded by: Jean Goldkette (1929), Johnny Marvin (1929), Roy Fox (1929) a.o.

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Johnny Rivers – By The Time I Get To Phoenix.mp3
Glen Campbell – By The Time I Get To Phoenix.mp3
Isaac Hayes – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (full ).mp3

jriversJohnny Rivers is mostly remembered as the ’60s exponent of rather good rock & roll covers, especially on his Live At The Whiskey A Go Go LP. He was also the owner of the record label which released the music of The 5th Dimension. In that capacity, Rivers gave the budding songwriter Jimmy Webb his first big break, having The 5th Dimension record Webb’s song Up, Up And Away and thereby giving Webb (and the group and the label) a first big hit in 1967. By The Time I Get To Phoenix is another Webb composition, and this one Rivers recorded himself first for his Changes album in 1966 (when Webb was only 19!).

Rivers’ version made no impact, nor did a cover by Pat Boone. The guitarist on Boone’s version, however, picked up on the song and released it in 1967. Glen Campbell scored a massive hit with the song, even winning two Grammies for it. In quick succession, Campbell completed a trilogy of geographically-themed songs by Webb, with the gorgeous Wichita Lineman (written especially for Campbell) and the similarly wonderful Galveston.

isaac_hayes_hbsAnother seasoned session musician took Phoenix into a completely different direction (if you will pardon the unintended pun). Isaac Hayes had heard the song, and decided to perform it as the Bar-Keys’ guest performer at Memphis’ Tiki Club, a soul venue. He started with a spontaneous spoken prologue, explaining in some detail why this man is on his unlikely journey. At first the patrons weren’t sure what Hayes was doing rapping over a repetitive chord loop. After a while, according to Hayes, they started to listen. At the end of the song, he said, there was not a dry eye in the house (“I’m gonna moan now…”). As it appeared on Ike’s 1968 Hot Buttered Soul album, the thing went on for 18 glorious minutes.

Also recorded by: Pat Boone (1967), Floyd Cramer (1967), Vikki Carr (1968), Roger Miller (1968), Andy Williams (1968), Eddy Arnold (1968), Conway Twitty (1968), Marty Robbins (1968), The Lettermen (1968), David Houston (1968), Tony Mottola (1968), Al Wilson (1968), The Main Attraction (1968), King Curtis (1968), Jack Jones (1968), Julius Wechter & Baja Marimba Band (1968), Ace Cannon (1968), Harry Belafonte (1968), Jack Greene (1968), Jim Nabors (1968), John Davidson (1968), Four Tops (1968),  Ray Conniff (1968), Frankie Valli (1968), Larry Carlton (1968), Johnny Mathis (1968), Frank Sinatra (1968), Dean Martin (1968), The Intruders (1968), Bobby Goldsboro (1968), Ray Price (1968), Engelbert Humperdinck (1968), Claude François (as Le temps que j’arrive à Marseille, 1969), A.J. Marshall (1969), Mantovani (1969), José Feliciano (1969), Nat Stuckey (1969), The Mad Lads (1969), William Bell (1969), Young-Holt Unlimited (1969), Erma Franklin (1969), Dorothy Ashby (1969), Nancy Wilson (1969), Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy (1970), Winston Francis (1970), Mongo Santamaría (1970), The Ventures (1970), Wanda Jackson (1970), Fabulous Souls (1971), The Wip (1971), New York City (1973), The Escorts (1973), Susannah McCorkle (1986), Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1986), Eric Miller & His Orchestra (1991), Reba McIntyre (1995), Jimmy Webb (1996), Detroit Underground (1997), Heather Myles (2002), Thelma Houston (2007), Maureen McGovern (2008) a.o.

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More Originals

American Road Trip Vol. 2

March 18th, 2009 5 comments

In the first part of this series, we started our US tour in Albuquerque, moved east to Amarillo, and further east to Oklahoma City. Continuing our musical journey we now leave Oklahoma City and move north-west across the Arkansas river to Tulsa.

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Tulsa, Oklahoma

On our way to an appointment in Wichita we pick up a hitchhiker on his way to Tulsa. He tells us that he left his home in Tulsa a while ago to pursue a career in the movies (he even thought Arizona was glamourous, which tells you something about our destination). Well, our boy didn’t cut it in Hollywood (or Phoenix), so he is coming home, to go “livin’ on Tulsa time”. We too live on Tulsa time — for five minutes, and move on.
Eric Clapton – Tulsa Time (live, 1980).mp3

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Wichita, Kansas

Moving north along the Arkansas we go on to Wichita to ask one of the locals about the offside rule in football (or “soccer”, as the locals call it) which his colleagues can never get right. Well, our new friend don’t know nuthin’ about that. Turns out, it was all a misunderstanding hinging on a missing letter. Instead our friend tells us about his adventures as a telephone technician who conducts his romantic liaison from the top of a telephone pole, and how the weather determines when he may take time off.  To be honest, half the time we cannot make out what our pal is on about. Best be on our way.
Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968).mp3

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Kansas City, Missouri

American geography is a bastard. Apart from idiosyncrasies in the pronunciation of certain names (Arkinsaw?), you have Kansas City located not in the state of Kansas (not Kinsaw?), but just across the state border in Missouri. Stop confusing us, Americans! Kansas City  has a mayor with a great name: Mark Funkhauser. Anyway, on the corner of 12th Street and Vine we see a strange dude and his girl drinking a bottle of Kansas Wine, the taste and effect of which we prefer to imagine than to experience. But the girl is not his wife, oh no. She’s one of the “crazy little women” the man came to the city for. Hmmm, maybe time to move on before Any Major Dudette gets suspicious.
Wilbert Harrison – Kansas City (1959).mp3

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We’ll go down south on the Missouri to reach our next destination. If you are going ahead, I’ll meet you there.

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Previously on American Road Trip

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