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The Originals Vol. 42

June 29th, 2011 2 comments

In the 42nd instalment of The Originals we’ll revisit the originals of three huge hits, two US  #1s and one chart-topper in Britain, from the mid-’60s. Remember: if you are looking for particular songs that have been covered in this series, visit the index of The Originals.

Earl-Jean – I’m Into Something Good.mp3
Herman’s Hermits – I’m Into Something Good.mp3
Lady Lee – I’m Into Something Good.mp3

In the late 1950s Ethel “Earl-Jean” McCrea was a member of the R&B girl group The Cookies, which was absorbed into Ray Charles’ backing band, The Raelettes. Only Earl-Jean didn’t join the backing singer gig, instead becoming part of a new incarnation of The Cookies, which featured before in this series as the original act to record The Beatles’ Chains (see The Originals Vol. 25). We also met The Cookies as the first act to record On Broadway, though their version was not released (see The Originals Vol. 33).

As noted in the entry for On Broadway, The Cookies did much demo work for Carole King and Gerry Goffin at Aldon Music (which in the shorthand of music history tends to be conflated with the Brill Building down the road). They also did backing vocals on pop songs such as Little Eva’s The Loco-motion (it was through Earl-Jean’s recommendation that King and Goffin employed Little Eva as a babysitter), Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up Is Hard To Do and Mel Tormé’s Comin’ Home Baby. Along the way, they had a top ten hit with Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby.

Earl-Jean left The Cookies in 1964 to try for a solo career, and it was King and Goffin who wrote her first (and only) solo hit: I’m Into Something Good, released on Colpix Records. It did a creditable job, climbing to #38 in the Billboard charts. Alas, her follow-up single, Randy, didn’t do as well, and when in 1966 Colpix folded, her solo career was over.

In Britain, the record producer Mickey Most – fresh from discovering The Animals – had heard I’m Into Something Good, and decided it was a perfect vehicle for his new protéges, Herman’s Hermits. Fronted by Peter Noone, a Mancunian with an All-American smile, the other Hermits were allowed to play on some songs, while on others session musicians did the job. Nobody seems to agree about who played on I’m Into Something Good; it is possible that any, all or none of Nicky Hopkins (the Rolling Stones’ keyboard man from 1967-76), Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (later of Led Zeppelin) played on it. Band member Barry Whitwam insists the band did the duties; Noone and Most said they didn’t (though possibly in a fit of pique over contractual wrangles).  It does seem that the song was arranged by Hermits guitarist Dereck Leckenby, which would suggest that he would have had the bandmembers perform on it.

Whoever played on it, the single became a UK #1 hit in September 1964, and then went on to reach #13 in the US, ringing in a golden period for Herman’s Hermits, who remarkably became the best-selling act in the United States in 1965, ahead of even The Beatles.

Also in 1964, Billy Fury’s girlfriend Lady Lee, a character with a quite fascinating lifestory, recorded I’m Into Something Good. Later she and Fury split and in 1969 Lee married British DJ Kenny Everett.

Also recorded by: Lady Lee (1964), Don Devil and the Drifters  (1964), Sir Henry and His Butlers (1966) Donny Osmond (1971), The Machines (1982), Peter Noone (1988), The Stool Pigeons (1996), Dave Cloud (1999), The Langley Schools Music Project (2001), The Bird And The Bees (2010) a.o.

Nella Dodds – Come See About Me (1964).mp3
The Supremes – Come See About Me (1964).mp3

This is one of those records where the earlier recording was released later (another instance of that, which I was made aware of only recently, concerns Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town; an edit and new file are now up on The Originals Vol. 24). In keeping with the methodology of this series, we go primarily by release date. And here, it seems, Nella Dodds narrowly scooped The Supremes.

Come See About Me was written by Motown’s hugely successful songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, and The Supremes recorded it on 13 July 1964, backed by The Funk Brothers. Somehow the song had come into the hands of the people at Wand Records in New York, who had their singer Nella Dodds record it. While The Supremes were still riding high in the charts with Baby Love, their second chart-topper in a row, Wand put out Dodds’ version, a pleasant affair which nonetheless cannot compare to the exquisite vigor of the Supremes’ version.

Although Dodds recorded for a New York label, she was a pioneer of Philadelphia soul – Kenneth Gamble, future Philly soul supremo, and Jimmy Bishop, who would discover many Philly soul acts, appeared on Dodds’ Wand recordings. Gamble later co-wrote a hit which The Supemes would cover with The Temptations (and which will still feature in this series).

Motown were alarmed when they learned that Dodds’ record had been issued, and rush-released The Supremes’ recording. Dodds’ version stalled at #74, and she would never have a breakthrough hit. For The Supremes, Come See About Me became the third in a golden run of five #1 hits.

Also recorded by: Choker Campbell  (1964), Gene Barge (1965), The Newbeats (1965), Barbara Mason (1965), Jr. Walker  (1967), Mitch Ryder (1968), Bonnie Pointer (1979), Tracy Nelson (1980), Neil Sedaka (1984), Shakin’ Stevens (1987), Afghan Whigs (1992), The Originals (1998), Freda Payne (2001), James Taylor Quartet (2007) a.o.

The Raindrops – Hanky Panky (1963).mp3
The Summits – Hanky Panky (1963).mp3
Tommy James and the Shondells – Hanky Panky (1966).mp3

Among the inhabitants of cubicles with pianos at the Brill Building in New York were Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry, who together wrote so many of the songs we now associate with Phil Spector’s girl groups. While writing music was their bread and butter, they also wanted to record. Greenwich had already done so in the late ’50s, as Ellie Gaye, and while writing hits in the early ’60s, she also sang on demos for Brill compositions.

In 1963, Greenwich and Barry recorded a demo of a song called What A Guy. It was intended for a doo-wop group called The Sensations, but the band’s label, Jubilee, was so impressed with demo’s girl-band style (which was in fact Greenwich’s multi-tracked voice, with Barry providing bass voice) that they decided to release it, in the name of the songwriters’ band, The Raindrops. Trouble was that Greenwich and Barry had no song for the flip-side, so they thrashed out Hanky Panky in the space of 20 minutes. They were not particularly satisfied with the song, and when a group called The Summits released it soon after as the b-side of He’s An Angel (or it might have been released before What A Guy came out; it’s unclear), it didn’t do brisk business either.

And yet, the song had become popular among garage rock live bands, including one called The Spinners (not the soul band), from whom the teenage musician Tommy Jackson heard it. He recorded it with his band, The Shondells, in 1964 at a radio station in Michigan. It was a local hit, but Tommy decided to break up his band and complete his schooling. The following year he was contacted by a Pittsburgh DJ who had discovered the record and now wanted Tommy and his Shondells to perform it on air. He hurriedly put together a new line-up of Shondells, and changed his name to Tommy James. He then sold the 1964 master to Roulette Records, which released it without remixing, never mind re-recording it. The single went to #1 in July 1966. James later explained in a Billboard interview: “I don’t think anybody can record a song that bad and make it sound good. It had to sound amateurish like that.”

There is a great story of how the small New York-based Roulette label got to release Hanky Panky. It seems that a whole gang of labels, some of them majors, wanted to buy the record. Suddenly, one after another, they withdrew their offers, much to Tommy James’ surprised dismay. In the end Jerry Wexler of Atlantic told the singer, still a teenager, what was going on: Roulette’s Morris Levy (on whom The Soprano’s Hesch Rabkin is based) had called all rival labels telling them that Hanky Panky belonged to him. Intimidated, the rivals bought the bluff, and James had to go with Levy.

Also Recorded By: The Junior Mance Trio (1965), Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (1966), The Outsiders (1966), The Wallflower Complexion (1966), The Ventures (1966), Neil Diamond (1966), , Joan Jett and The Blackhearts (1981), Link Protrudi and the Jaymen (1987), Ellie Greenwich (1999), The Cramps (2004), The Freedoms (2004), Los Hitters (2005) a.o.

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In Memoriam – November/December 2010

January 5th, 2011 8 comments

The Grim Reaper took things easy in November – so much so that there was no pressing need for an update — but he could barely stop himself once he got into the swing of things in the fnal month of 2010 (and, alas, has not wasted time getting going in 2011).

A couple of artists fell victim to violent crime: New Orleans rapper Magnolia $horty died in an apparent drive-by shooting (as for the lyrics of her song…oh my), and jazz rock drummer Billy Maddox was shot dead in a burglary in Austin, Texas.

Also desperately sad was the suicide of Barclay James Harvest’s Woolly Wolstenholme. The prog-rocker apparently had gone through mental suffering for a long time. In 1976 he and his band released a most affecting song titled Suicide (which calls to mind Sailing); my choice of it to mark Wolstenholme’s death is not intended to be ironic.

Australian rock singer James Freud also took his own life, apparently giving up his battle against alcoholism. The anguish of those who commit suicide is unimaginable to those of us who have not been on that edge. It’s not the coward’s way out, as the cliché would have it, for it takes immense courage to go through with suicide. Nor is it selfish, because surely their pain overrides all other considerations.

The Grim Reaper launched an onslaught on the world of R&B in late December, claming on successive days Sweet Inspiration Myrna Smith, Dorothy Jones of the Cookies, Bernard Wilson of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, and Teena Marie.

On a personal level, I was sad to learn of the not unexpected death of Cape Town jazz maestro Tony Schilder, who provided me with many hours of top notch jazz entertainment. Tony was an immensely talented musician and a true gentleman. I marked his death over at Star Maker Machine. The guitar solo on the featured song, incidentally, is by Jonathan Butler.

Talking of jazz men, James Moody also passed away; fans of Aretha Franklin, George Benson and Amy Whitehouse will be familiar with the vocal takes on his mood.

Eddie Hazell, 76, American jazz musician guitarist, on November 2

Hotep Idris Galeta, 69, South African jazz pianist, on November 3

Jim Clench, 61, bass guitarist with April Wine and Bachman–Turner Overdrive, on November 4
April Wine – Tonight Is A Good Time To Fall In Love (1975)

James Freud, 51, Australian rock singer and former member of The Models, of suicide on November 4
James Freud – Modern Girl (1980)

Randy Miller, 39, drummer of Seattle rock band The Myriad, on November 5
The Myriad – A Clean Shot (2008)

Tony West, 72, founder bassist of The Searchers, on November 10

Lee Harper, 65, jazz trumpeter, on November 10

Mimi Perrin, 84, singer and pianist with French jazz vocal group Les Double Six, on November 16
Les Double Six – Let The Good Times Roll By (1964)

Little Smokey Smothers, 71, blues guitarist and singer, on November 20
Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ For My Darling (1960, as guitarist)

Peter Christopherson, 55, member of British avant garde group Throbbing Gristle, LP cover designer (Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Animals; Peter Gabriel’s Melt album) and music video director, on November 24
Throbbing Gristle – Hamburger Lady (1978)

Monty Sunshine, 82, English jazz clarinetist, on November 30
Monty Sunshine – Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Donald Lineberger, 71, banjo player with Bill Monroe and Glen Campbell (on his TV show), on December 5

Trev Thoms, 60, guitarist of British punk groups Inner City Unit and Atom Gods, on December 8

James Moody, 85, jazz saxophonist and flautist, on December 9
James Moody – Moody’s Mood For Love (1950)

Tony Schilder, 73, South African jazz pianist, bandleader and composer, on December 9
Tony Schilder – Madeleine (1985)

Remmy Ongala, 63, Tanzanian singer, on December 13
Remmy Ongala – Inchi Vetu (Our Country) (1991)

Enrique Morente, 67, Spanish flamenco singer, on December 13
Enrique Morente – Tangos de la Plaza

Woolly Wolstenholme, 63, singer and keyboardist of Barclay James Harvest, of suicide on December 13
Barclay James Harvest – Suicide? (1976)

Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), 69, experimental rock musician, On December 17
Captain Beefheart – Ink Mathematics (1982)

Glen Adams, 65, Jamaican reggae musician, producer and co-founder of The Heptones, on December 17.
Glen Adams – I Can’t Help It (1968)

Trudy Pitts, 78, American jazz & R&B keyboard player, on December 19
Trudy Pitts – Take Five (1967)
Magnolia $horty, 28, New Orleans rapper, shot dead on December 20
Magnolia $horty – That’s My Juvie

Myrna Smith, 69, member of the Sweet Inspirations, on December 24
The Sweet Inspirations – Slipped And Tripped (1973)

Dorothy Jones, 76, singer of ’60s girl band The Cookies (also backing singers on Little Eva’s The Locomotion), on December 25
The Cookies – Chains (1962)

Bernard Wilson, 64, singer with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, on December 26
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Everybody’s Talkin’ (1977)
Teena Marie, 54, soul/funk singer, on December 26
Teena Marie – I Need Your Lovin’ (1980)

Billy Maddox, 54, jazz-rock drummer drummer, shot dead on December 27.

Billy Taylor, 89, jazz pianist and composer, on December 28
Billy Taylor – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (1957)
Nina Simone – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (1967, as composer)

Gene Kelton, 55, rockabilly singer, on December 28

Agathe von Trapp, 97, member of the von Trapp family, on December 28

Nick Santo, 69, singer with doo-wop band The Capris, on December 30
The Capris – There’s A Moon Out Tonight (1957)

Bobby Farrell, 61, dancer with Boney M., on December 30
Boney M – Ma Baker (1977)

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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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The Originals Vol. 25 – Beatles edition 1

May 29th, 2009 12 comments

Among the many potent influences the Beatles had on pop music, their part in advancing the importance of albums was crucial. Before the Beatles, pop albums — be it rock & roll or easy listening — were promotional tools for hit singles, populated by fillers. Serious albums served jazz and musical soundtracks. Of course there were very good albums before the Beatles (Elvis had at least three before Uncle Sam grabbed him, and Sinatra introduced the concept album), but LPs such as Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt Pepper’s, or even A Hard Day’s Night before those, helped establish the album as the more serious form of artistic (and commercial) expression.

With that in mind, it is easy to forget that three of the Beatles’ first four albums were topped up with fillers, many of them cover versions (which is quite ironic since the Beatles went on to become the most covered band ever). Some of these are better known in their original versions; the Little Richard and Chuck Berry compositions and Motown classics, for example. Some are generic classics (A Taste Of Honey; Till There Was You), and some are fairly obscure, or would become so. In this sub-series of The Originals, we look at the latter two categories in the first of a three-part sub-series, which includes a few rarities. (EDIT: The Cookies’ link is now fixed, and thespian misidentification removed.)

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The Top Notes – Twist And Shout.mp3
The Isley Brothers – Twist And Shout.mp3
top-notes_twist_and_shout The Beatles – Twist And Shout.mp3
Mae West – Twist And Shout.mp3
Twist And Shout is probably the most famous cover by the Beatles, and is most commonly associated with them. And rightly so: their take is rock & roll perfection. It was based on the 1962 cover by the Isley Brothers, who introduced the rythm guitar riff (which borrows heavily from Richie Valens’ La Bamba) and the “ah-ah-ah” harmonies, to which the Beatles added the Little Richardesque “woo”.

The song was written by the legendary Bert Berns (sometimes credited to his pseudonym Bert Russell) with Phil Medley. Berns has featured in this series before as the author of songs such as I Hang On Sloopy and Here Comes The Night, and he will feature again if I can find Garnet Mimms’s Piece Of My Heart.

isley_twistBerns gave Twist And Shout to The Top Notes — a Philadelphia R&B group which might have been forgotten entirely otherwise — whose recording was produced by a very young Phil Spector. The result did not please Berns, who accused Spector of “fucking it up”. He was a bit harsh on young Phil; the Top Notes’ version is not bad, but Berns had hoped for something a more energetic. So he took the song to the reluctant Isley Brothers’, who had scored a hit two years earlier with the driving Shout, which had the kind of sound Berns imagined for his song. Their Twist And Shout, which Berns produced, became a US #17 hit, and so came to the attention of the Beatles, whose version upped the tempo to produce a joyously frenetic and, indeed, orgasmic version.

beatles_twist_and_shoutIt was the last song to be recorded after a marathon 12-hour session which saw ten tracks put down for the Please Please Me album, on 11 February 1963. Lennon had been ill with a cold — towards the end of the song, if you listen closely, you can hear Lennon cough — and his voice was already hoarse, soothed by milk and throat lozenges. The first take demolished Lennon’s voice; a second take was recorded but, according to producer George Martin, Lennon’s voice was by then gone (and George Harrison’s hands bleeding). That first take captured one of the great vocal performances in rock & roll — by a singer who, according to Martin, did not like his own voice, begging the producer to modify it on the recordings. Martin would later recall Lennon asking him repeatedly: “Do something with my voice. Put something on it. Smother it with tomato ketchup. Make it different.” In time, Lennon became adept at using his voice in different ways.

At about the same time as the Beatles’ version of Twist And Shout came out, another one was released by Brian Poole & the Tremeloes — the band Decca signed instead of the Beatles. For pure novelty value, Mae West’s remake is…interesting. Imagine a masochist cat enjoying an orgasm while being tortured.
Also recorded by: Booker T. & The M.G.’s (1962), The Searchers (1963), Ricky Gianco (1963), Brian Poole And The Tremeloes (1963), The Miracles (1963), Buddy Morrow and his Orchestra (1964), The Shangri-Las (1964), The Iguanas (1964), The Chipmunks (1964), Jack Nitzsche and his Orchestra (1964), Bob Hammer Band (1964), Del Shannon (1964), The Kingsmen (1964), Ike and Tina Turner (1965), Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs (1965), The Mamas and the Papas (a slowed down version, 1967), Tom Jones (1969), Chuck Berry (1969), The Who (1982), Rodney Dangerfield (for Back To School, 1986), Salt ‘n’ Pepa (1988), Los fabulosos Cadillacs (as Twist y gritos, 1988), Alejandra Guzmán (as Twist y gritos, 1989), Chaka Demus & Pliers (1993), Samantha Miller (1994), Mr. Al (1997), The Punkles (1998), Matmatah (2000), The Orchestra (2001), Liquido (2002), Dee Dee Ramone ( 2004), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (bootleg, 2005), The Drawbacks (2009)

The Cookies – Chains.mp3
The Everly Brothers – Chains.mp3
The Beatles – Chains.mp3

cookies_chainsAnother US #17 hit found its way on the Please Please Me album, recorded during the same session that produced Twist And Shout and the next song. The Cookies at the time were Little Eva’s back-up singers (and, later, Ray Charles’) who occasionally released singles themselves. Apart from the Top 20 success of Chains, they had a top 10 hit with Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby). The Cookies recently featured on this blog (here) and one of the Cookies will reappear later in this series as the original singer of a Herman’s Hermits song.

Chains was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Soon after the Cookies had their hit, the Beatles (and other Merseyside bands) included it in their concert repertoire. On Please Please Me, it is one of two songs that feature George Harrison on vocals (the other is the Lennon-McCartney composition Do You Want To Know A Secret), with John taking over the lead guitar and Harrison on rhythm guitar.

The Everly Brothers’ version is possibly the best of the lot, but went unreleased until 1984.
Also recorded by: Sylvie Vartan (1963), Jack Nitzsche and his Orchestra (1964), Carole King (1980), Kaleo O Kalani (1995), Beatlejazz (2005)

Billy Dee Williams – A Taste Of Honey.mp3
The Beatles – A Taste Of Honey.mp3

billy_dee_williamsA Taste Of Honey was the title of a 1958 British kitchen-sink play by Shelagh Delaney (whose picture appeared on the single sleeve of The Smith’s Girlfriend In A Coma). The play was adapted in 1960 for Broadway, with the addition of incidental music. The song that became known as A Taste Of Honey provided a recurring theme. Among the cast of the Broadway production was Billy Dee Williams . Williams recorded the tune set to lyrics in 1960, failing to generate pop music’s crowning moment. Two years later, crooner Lenny Welch recorded the song (some source mistakenly claim that this was the first vocal version). It was Welch’s version which Paul McCartney was familiar with when the Beatles included it in their live repertoire, and then on their debut album, on which McCartney duetted with himself.

The song really has two lives: the vocal version and the instrumental one most famous in its incarnation by Herb Alpert (recently posted here).
Also recorded by: Bobby Scott (1960), Martin Denny (1962), Victor Feldman Quartet (1962), Acker Bilk (1963), Quincy Jones (1963), Barbra Streisand (1963), Paul Desmind (1963), The Hollyridge Strings (1964), Tony Bennett (1964), Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1965), Bobby Darin (1965), Trini Lopez (1965), John Davidson (1966), Johnny Mathis (1966), Johnny Rivers (1966), Esther Phillips (1966), Tom Jones (1966), Chet Atkins (1967), Chris Montez (1967), I Giganti (as In paese è festa, 1967), The Hassles (1967), Shango (1969), Robert William Scott (1970), The Supremes & the Four Tops (1970), Ray Conniff (1971), Joshua Breakstone Quartet (1991), Vincent Gallo (1998), Lizz Wright (2005)

Barbara Cook & Robert Preston – Till There Was You.mp3
The Beatles – Till There Was You (Decca audition).mp3
The Beatles – Till There Was You.mp3

music_manWhether or not one would regard this as a lesser-known original depends on one’s interest in showtunes. The Broadway afficionado will know Till There Was You as the song that ends Act 2 in the 1957 musical The Music Man, as the librarian (Barbara Cook) addresses the professor (Robert Preston). The soundtrack of the stage musical — it was made into a movie in 1962 — was one of the biggest US sellers of the 1950s, as many musicals were in the days before pop LPs (which, as noted, the Beatles helped usher in).

Paul McCartney was not a big follower of Broadway as a young man; he was introduced to the song via Peggy Lee’s 1961 version, courtesy of a cousin. He later claimed to have been unaware until much later that the song originated from a musical. It was a firm fixture in the Beatles’ concert playlist, even during their second stint in Hamburg. They also played it at the unsuccessful Decca audition (the audition tapes, incidentally, show that poor Dick Rowe did not suffer a terrible lapse in judgment. The Beatles were pretty poor).

till there was you Having recorded it for their sophomore album, With The Beatles, the group played Till There Was You at the Royal Variety Performance, apparently giving the Queen Mother much pleasure. The old bat probably frowned soon after at Lennon’s exhortation for jewellery rattling (he had planned to say “rattle your fucking jewellery”, but wisely though disappointingly chickened out), and possibly did not dance on top of her seat to the next song, Twist And Shout.
Also recorded by: Anita Bryant (1959), Chet Atkins (1960), Joni James (1960), Peggy Lee (1961), Valjean (1962), Nana Mouskouri (1962), Thomas Allen & Valerie Masterson (1995), Innovations (1998), Patti Austin (1999), Maye Cavallaro & Mimi Fox (2003), Rod Stewart (2003), The Smithereens (2007), Cassandra Wilson (2008)

Buck Owens – Act Naturally.mp3
The Beatles – Act Naturally.mp3

buck_owensAppearing on Help!, Act Naturally was the Beatles’ final cover version, if one ignores Let It Be’s Maggie May. The other remake on Help!, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, had been recorded a month earlier. So we mark 17 June 1965 as the day the Beatles became an exclusively original band.

Act Naturally was a nod to Ringo’s fine performance in A Hard Day’s Night (and, indeed, in Help!), though the lyrics have less to do with impending stardom than with the feeling of rejection. It probably also cemented the public notion of Ringo as the cute, guileless and slightly retarded Beatle. It’s an image that would contribute to an entirely unjust diminution of Ringo’s reputation as a drummer.

Act Naturally was first recorded in 1963 by country singer Buck Owens, an influential figure in popular music as a progenitor, alongside Merle Haggard, of Bakersfield country, the Southern California sub-genre that gave rise to Gram Parsons (and the influence he brought to the Byrds) and later the likes of Dwight Yoakam, who recorded with Owens, and Brad Paisley. In 1989, almost exactly 24 years after the Beatles version was put down, Ringo and Owens — who had quite similar voices — recorded Act Naturally together.
Also recorded by: Loretta Lynn (1963), Brian Hyland (1964), Kitty Wells (1964), Betty Willis (1965), Hank Locklin (1965), Jody Miller (1966), The Hollyridge Strings (1967), Charley Pride (1967), The Cowsills (1969), The Youngbloods (1971), George Jones (1987), Daniel O’Donnell (1988), Buck Owens & Ringo Starr (1989), Moe Bandy (1997), Phil and the Frantics (1999), Johnny Russell (who wrote the song, 2000), Bobby Osborne (2000), Tamra Rosanes (2002)

More Originals

Music for Bloggers Vol. 10

May 15th, 2009 11 comments

It has been a long time since I’ve celebrated the work of my fellow bloggers. So long, in fact, that some which I might have featured along the way have given up (or hopefully just suspended) their endeavours. So, whatever happened to The Urban Woo? Will Catholick Tastes ever blog again? Got The Fever, the mercury is running much too low!

Oh, and if your blog doesn’t feature here, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. And at this point, I should express my gratitude to all the blogs that link to me, and especially to those that do so in their posts (with special props to Rock God Cred and its sibling blog Retro Music Snob). Click on the heading to visit the blogs reviewed.

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The Vinyl District

vinyl_district

This may look like reciprocation after The Vinyl District (TVD) chose your humble servant to kick off a new series in which that blog visits other blogs, asking them to tell about themselves and offer up a few tunes. Of course I sounded like an idiot, referring to this blog in the third person. TVD, on the other hand, astutely evades exhibitions of idiocy in its bid to promote the delights of trusty vinyl, which is sustaining something of a comeback. In doing so, the blog revisits old records and flags new vinyl releases. Periodically, TVD runs competitions, usually calling on readers to exercise their wit to win a t-shirt, a concert ticket or a deluxe vinyl edition of Jenny Lewis’ fine Acid Tongue album (I can never muster the required with, I’m afraid). And I love the website design: the vinyl LP coming out of the album cover. Brilkliant. It seems logical that the song dedication for TVD should be my vinyl rip of a hard-to-find song, a very beautiful 1982 track in the James Taylor vein by the Australian singer Richard Clapton.
Richard Clapton – Walk On The Water.mp3

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Another Nickel In The Machine

another_nickel

This blog is an absolute gem. Taking as its subject London in the 20th century, it is a cultural multimedia journey through eras, from the London which still had the murders of Jack the Ripper fresh in its collective mind to the pre-WW2 years to the Swinging Sixties to the brief punk period. Some posts include music, others photos or videos. The essays are beautifully written and invariably fascinating, even (or especially) for non-Londoners. Along the way we meet eccentrics, gangsters and musicians, read about “the Duchess of Argyll and the Headless Man polaroids” and visit Harry Nilsson’s cursed flat in which first Cass Elliott and then Keith Moon died, or take a look inside “the hippy squat at 144 Piccadilly”, which was guarded by a trio of fey looking Hell’s Angels.
The Smiths – Half A Person.mp3

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Oreo Cookie Blues

oreo_cookie_blues

I like a blog with great pictures and great music. One such blog is Dane’s All Eyes And Ears, which showcases her marvellous photography (which has influenced the way I look for subject matter in my own photographic endeavours) and fine music to illustrate the illustration. Oreo Cookie Blues is another fusion of sound and images, mostly photos taken by the blogger, from Toronto, himself. Some of the photos are utterly exquisite, and so is the music — for all you Ring Of Fire cover needs, Oreo Cookie Blues’ got ’em. I must run the all-too obvious song dedication, of course. Any Minor Dude, now 14, recently told me that, when he was small, he thought I was the Cookie Monster because I sounded exactly like him when singing C Is For Cookie. But to compensate for the novelty value of a Sesame Street classic, I also offer an early girl-group soul classic (with a weird spoken bit) from 1956 by a group which we will soon encounter again in the Originals series.
Cookie Monster – C is for Cookie.mp3
The Cookies – In Paradise.mp3

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The Cheese Does Not Wear Me

cheese_does_not_wear_me

I remember my university days with some affection; so much so that when I visit the campus, as I do when I am showing overseas visitors around, I get agonisingly nostalgic. Perhaps I just feel reminded of my rapidly receding youth. So I read Liz’s blog of life on campus in Winnipeg, Canada, with a certain empathy. It helps that Liz (who frequently comments on this blog, for which I love her) is engaging and witty as she shares the minutae of college life. She is at her best when she directs her bile at her more brainless peers. Liz recently completed her Bachelor of Arts degree (hurrah!) and will leave the site of her brainless peers. Happily for us, she is not going to enter the world of gainful employment (other than a summer job), but will continue her studies, post-grad style, at the University of Minnesota, home state of at least three bloggers previously featured in this series. As we know from the film Fargo, Minnesota has its share of dim people, so Liz doubtless will find fertile grounds from which to reap instances of brainlessness on which to comment. In Purple Rain, the objectionable side of Minnesotans was represented by the gloriously preening Morris Day. This is one of the songs Day and his group (which once included future producers Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam) performed in the film. It’s outrageous!
Morris Day & the Time – The Bird.mp3

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Groover’s Paradise

groovers_paradise

I’m not certain I am convinced of the merits of collaborative blogs. Of course, the benefit of pooling expertise and talent is a potential consistency of quality, but somehow I miss the one-on-one relationship between blogger and reader. This is not intended to deprecate such blogs, of course. There are many whose fused work I admire. One of them is Groover’s Paradise, among whose contributors are the always wonderful Gentlebear and the very impressive Setting The Woods On Fire, one of my favourite site for classic country fixes. Groover’s Paradise styles itself as a place “where we celebrate our favorite 20th Century rock, country, and soul music”. Which is as good a description as I might come up with.
Peaches & Herb – Shake Your Groove Thing (Original 12″ Mix).mp3

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Geezer Music Club

geezer_music_club

The title stakes out this blog’s intended audiences: if you are looking for Kelly Clarkson’s latest single, you probably won’t find it here. And, just in case you need to be reassured that Kelly does not live here, it says: “A special place for SEASONED music lovers.” What one will find is thoughtfully selected music with well researched and written articles of just the right length (in other words, the Big Geez does not waffle as prodigiously as your present interlocutor). I’m not sure at what point one becomes a “seasoned” music lover; I suspect it has to do less with age but with the extent to which one has been immersed in music. Read this way, following this blog can – should – be inter-generational.
John Prine – Hello In There.mp3

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Beatles Anecdotes

beatles_anecdotes

Can one ever know enough about the Beatles? Beatles Anecdotes offers a fresh nugget of information every day. That is quite an incredible effort: finding something to post, writing it up, logging in, posting…every day. That is dedication. And the information is very entertaining indeed. I didn’t know that Lovely Rita, the meter maid, was a real person called, of all things, Meta, whom McCartney met in St John’s Wood (and 20 years later didn’t recognise even after hearing her name). And I didn’t know that John Lennon gave the band Hot Chocolate their name, or that Ringo was briefly a Beach Boy. And here’s the kicker, all three nuggets of extravagant trivia appeared on consecutive days. This is a blog to visit for a daily fix of trivia, and to dip into the archives on a slow day. In tribute, José Feliciano’s fantastic live acoustic version of A Day In The Life from his 1969 Alive Alive-o! Live At London Palladium album (another vinyl rip of mine).
José Feliciano – A Day In The Life.mp3

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Number One In Heaven

number_one_in_heaven

And finally not a blog, but those who dabble on Facebook will find at least one group very useful indeed: Number One In Heaven sends out monthly messages notifying subscribers of the latest deaths in the world of pop. I did not know that soul songstress Viola Wills and former Delfonic Randy Cain had died until I received my update earlier this week. The group promotes Jeremy Simmonds book Number One in Heaven: The Heroes Who Died for Rock ‘n’ Roll (retitled in the US The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns and Ham Sandwiches). I haven’t read it yet (seeing as I live in a backwater where the music section in even the best bookshops offers a range of a dozen books, half of them about U2 and Nirvana, and Amazon don’t deliver to South Africa), but it looks like a fantastic work. The reviews certainly seem to suggest so.

And while you are on Facebook, become this blog’s friend (it’s OK, you won’t go to Guantanamo Bay for being friends with something called Amd Whah any longer). Apart from being alerted to new posts – and sometimes posts I’m working on – you’ll also learn such fascinating things about me as which West Wing character I am, my five favourite brands of ketchup and how well (or not) I perform in quizzes about Pauly Shore’s cinematic artistry. The sort of stuff that will enrich your reading experiences of Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. The song dedication is a bit obvious, though the song belongs in every collection that reserves a special place for spectacularly bad songs, such as this glorious cash-in on the death of Elvis, released within a couple of weeks of 16 August 1977.
Danny Mirror – I Remember Elvis Presley.mp3 (reuploaded)

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Previously featured in Music for Bloggers

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