Thursday, April 30, 2009

Clyde McPhatter

The group-leader-goes-solo syndrome. It worked for Diana Ross because she is Diana Ross; it worked for Smokey Robinson and that makes sense. But for so many it didn’t work, or it worked in a way that highlighted the extent to which it did not work – think David Ruffin post Temptations, think Ben E King post Drifters. They both had hits, hits which have passed into legend status, but there was something that did not quite jell.

Clyde McPhatter’s recordings with The Drifters were transcendent; I guess people expected great things from Clyde McPhatter solo artist. And the truth is that he had 21 solo records in the top 100, 8 of those in the top 40, 2 in the top 10. But he had to wade through three labels to do it (Atlantic, Mercury, MGM), his last top 40 hit was in 1962, and the whole thing came to a halt in 1964. And how many people have ever heard of Clyde McPhatter, and how many times did I hear his songs played on the radio (answer: zero). People know Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Ben E King, Fats Domino; they don’t know Clyde McPhatter. And considering how great a singer he was, well, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

I have two collections by McPhatter. The first has four tracks; Treasure Of Love, Without Love (There Is Nothing), and Lover’s Question, all three from some volume or other of Atlantic Rhythm And Blues 1947 – 1974, plus Lover Please, which I probably took from some rock and roll collection K-Tel type album.

The second collection is Deep Sea Ball, the Atlantic CD, which I picked up here at the Grande Bibliotheque, which has the first three songs mentioned, so I present it here, plus Lover Please, which is cheating I know. Bite me.

Clyde McPhatter:

I Can’t Stand Up Alone – A bit of the gospel touch here. McPhatter alternates between fast and slow, with the chorus coming in on the fast parts, as if to emphasise the message of the title. Knock ‘em dead…
Seven Days – His debut single on the top 100, from winter 1956. His girl has disappeared off the face of the earth, apparently, and all he can do is cry. Maybe he ought to call the police. Covered by The Crew Cuts.
Treasure Of Love – There’s a kind of bolero thing going on here, as Mr. McPhatter waxes eloquent about Love, with a capital L. From the summer of 1956.
Rock And Cry – You can’t stay sad when you get into a rockin’ groove. There may be some truth in that. This from the fall of 1957.
I’m Lonely Tonight – A more or less typical pining song, nothing to miss in this life apart from her embrace and kiss…
Without Love (There Is Nothing) – From the winter of 1957. This is a bold as it gets. I remember Tom Jones doing this, and Ray Charles had a crack at it. But no one can pull it off like Clyde McPhatter. He reaches notes on the chorus that didn’t exist before this record came out…
Deep Sea Ball – A rock and roll party at the bottom of the ocean. Honest…
Just To Hold My Hand – A twist in terms of pronouns, just to keep us off balance. From the summer of 1957.
My Island Of Dreams – Not to be confused with Island Of Dreams by The Springfields. The singer paints us his fantasy paradise.
No Matter What – Not the Badfinger song, but same idea.
Come What May
Lovey Dovey – I think The Clovers did this, and for sure Buddy Knox did it. McPhatter puts more bounce into it. From spring, 1959.
I’m Not Worthy Of You – There is humility in this, obviously, and it’s ok for a pop song, but I don’t like the sentiment, truly. It’s not basis for a relationship, in my humble opinion…
A Lover’s Question – This is the song that kicked off The Golden Age Of Rock ‘N Roll by Sha Na Na. And for a long time I didn’t know who did the original version, which is as good an indication as any of how McPhatter disappeared off the musical map. From the winter of 1959, a song about uncertainty, insecurity, a road with no maps, emotions running wild, cluelessness…
Thirty Days – Not the Chuck Berry song. After seven days he sang Seven Days, and now he’s up to thirty days and counting…
You Went Back On Your Word Little Girl – Things change, promises are broken, especially ones that are made without adequate consideration of the uncertainty of emotional commitment. But… Clyde is none too happy. I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me, he sings. Been there. From the fall of 1959.
No Love Like Her Love – Kind of Treasure Of Love redux.
Long Lonely Nights – Also a hit for Lee Andrews & The Hearts, and in 1965 Bobby Vinton did a remake. From the fall of 1957.
Since You’ve Been Gone – Not the Aretha Franklin song. From the summer of 1959. Seems that quite a few of his songs are about being left behind…
Lover Please – Change of label, change of style. Clyde rocks it up, begs his girl to stay. From the spring of 1962, and Kinky Friedman covered this.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Andy Wilson & The Cosmos

A Google search for '“Andy Wilson” Cosmos' turns up one useful hit, an article on Bobby Dean Blackburn, who is (was?) a Toronto R & B artist. The article refers to the year 1956, and states:

Others - like the Consuls, Andy Wilson and the Cosmos, the Blue Tones - leaned to a greater extent on the R&B side of rock and roll.

That’s it. I found this single somewhere, probably at Pyramid Records, and picked it up, never having heard of the them, but it looked authentic enough. I now know that they were from Toronto. That’s something.

Andy Wilson & The Cosmos:

My Love My Love – Sounds like Little Richard with a gravely voice.

Maynard Ferguson

Ferguson was a Canadian jazz trumpeter who had a long and distinguished career, and he deserves more than one song, but that’s all I’ve got.

Maynard Ferguson:

The Wailing Baby – Latter day big band.

Nervous Norvus

This was Jimmy Drake, which doesn’t help much. He had two hits and they are both here, though he did put out more records, all of which seem to have been pretty dumb, like The Fang.

Nervous Norvus:

Transfusion – A song against speeding. Considered a novelty song but the subject matter is serious. A hit in the summer of 1956.
Ape Call – At least Transfusion had a message. This was just dumb. From later in the same summer, 1956.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Roy Orbison

There is that whole thing about having a good voice and being a good singer. And they are not the same thing. You could have a great voice and not have a clue what to do with it. Think Barbra Streisand [ducks the tomatoes], or Whitney Houston. And you could be a great singer and have no voice to speak of. Think the obvious – Bob Dylan.

Or you could be Roy Orbison, who had a operatic range, a great voice, and a delivery that made every single note he sang meaningful and believable.

The bulk of this is from The All Time Greatest Hits Of Roy Orbison, a double album that contains the bulk of his Monuement hits, that was from 1960 – 1964. I got his Sun recordings from The Legendary Roy Orbison, a box set, and I think Ride Away came from there and maybe some other MGM singles, and a few tracks came from More Of Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits, which was released in the 60s, and then there are a few actual singles, all of which were MGM releases. And You Got It comes straight from Mystery Girl.

Roy Orbison:

Ooby Dooby – From the summer of 1956 and the only one of his Sun recordings to make the top 100. The rockabilly elements are toned down somewhat, for a Sun release. CCR covered this on Cosmo’s Factory, and they didn’t change much about it.
Rock House – A song about a discotheque before such a thing existed. Not the Ray Charles song.
Devil Doll – A song about a troubled relationship. Always good to demonize your significant other.
Tryin’ To Get To You – Elvis had a crack at this, also on Sun, and Ricky Nelson did it a year or two later. Kate & Anna McGarrigle did it also.
Claudette – There was a Claudette who worked as a phone operator at Duffy’s Taxi in Winnipeg, back a million years ago when I was a taxi driver. The Everly Brothers did this, and did it better. Orbison wrote it.
Sweet And Innocent – I can’t tell whether this is the Donny Osmond song; I don’t think so…
Only The Lonely – Orbison gets signed by Monument, and in the summer of 1960 his career takes off. This track hit number 2 in the summer of 1960. I can’t do better here than to quote Dave Marsh, in The Heart Of Rock & Soul: “’Only The Lonely’ has…a lyric that renders everyday heartbreak so universal that it acquires a tinge of the cosmic.”
Leah – Orbison’s obsession with the girl Leah is underlined by percussion, congas first, then steel drums. This is all sea-borne, as Roy searches for the perfect pearl. Then he wakes up. A hit in the fall of 1962. Leah is my sister's kid, and I have been acquainted with the odd Leah besides her.
In Dreams – Sleep as escape. This was a hit in the winter of 1963.
Uptown – Not The Crystals song, and Whitburn lists it as “Up Town.” A hit in the winter of 1960, before Only The Lonely. Wealth as salvation.
It’s Over – The end of a romance, described with such dramatic abandon that the entirety of the human condition may be here. From the spring of 1964.
Crying – This basically sums up Orbison’s entire repertoire. From the fall of 1961. Jay & The Americans put this on the charts a few years later, and Don McLean did again a few decades later.
Dream Baby – A bit uptempo. From the winter of 1962. All I Have To Do Is Dream, sang The Everly Brothers, and Roy Orbison picks up the theme. In In Dreams he was sleep dreaming; here he is awake dreaming. But the idea is the same.
Blue Angel – From the fall of 1960. I don’t really know whether this has anything to do with the Marlene Dietrich movie.
Working For The Man – Sounds like someone resigned to his life as a working man, until you realize that his ambition is to become “the man.” Picks up where Uptown leaves off. Echoes of Chain Gang. From the fall of ’62, the B side of Leah.
Candy Man – Not the Woody Guthrie song, nor the Sammy Davis Jr. song. From the fall of ’61, the flip side of Crying. One need not wonder what kind of candy he is offering.
Running Scared – The threat here is the other guy. What if he comes back? There’s a bolero rhythm here that climaxes in her choice. I won’t spoil it. This song was number 1 in the summer of 1961.
Falling – Falling in love is what he means. But the emphasis on the “falling” aspect of it is not accidental. From the summer of 1963.
Love Hurts – Yes it does doesn’t it. Sometimes it hurts like hell. And Roy Orbison gets the message across better than anyone…
Shahadaroba – Is that a name? There is a phony mid-eastern sound to this.
I’m Hurtin’ – It’s my destiny, sings Roy. Dave Marsh describes him as rock’s greatest stoic. This may be the best example.
Mean Woman Blues – From the fall of 1963. Originally done by Elvis.
Pretty Paper – A sad Christmas song. Being lonesome at Christmas time can be poignant, or it can be maudlin, but Roy pulls it off. From Christmas 1963.
The Crowd – Roy is part of the crowd, but he’s lonesome, because the most important member is missing. From the summer of 1962.
Blue Bayou – I know the one by Linda Rondstadt, I only heard Orbison’s original later. A song of longing and nostalgia. From the fall of 1963, the B side of Mean Woman Blues.
Oh, Pretty Woman – From the smash smash smash intro, to that immortal guitar refrain, to Orbison’s growling and “mercy-ing”, it was a dead giveaway that the girl would come back in the end. This was number 1 in the fall of 1964. It wasn’t the last hit Orbison had, but it was the last one that anyone remembers, before his comeback in the 80s, anyway.
Indian Wedding – He sings as a participant. I think he’s the groom. But then he’s the narrator. It’s confusing. I don’t know what happened to the couple, but whatever it was wasn’t good.
Borne On The Wind – A song of memories, better than Memories. A UK hit in the winter of ’64.
What’d I Say – Seems like everyone had to have a crack at this. Orbison is a bit out of his jurisdiction here.
(Say) You’re My Girl – This is another Roy Orbison record where he has to compete for the girl. In this he seems to have won, but there’s always that undercurrent of insecurity; it's in the parentheses. A hit in the summer of 1965, but I don’t remember it. It was his last hit on Monument.
Ride Away – Highway as an escape, think Carefree Highway by Lightfoot. Sort of. His debut hit on MGM, from the fall of 1965.
Lana – I’ve never known anyone named Lana. This rather generic Orbison record was a hit in the UK in the summer of ’66.
Twinkle Toes – From the spring of 1966, a song about a dancer. Of course she dances to hide a broken heart. Musically this sounds vaguely like an attempt to bring Oribison into the psychedelic era, fuzz guitars and all. It doesn’t really work.
Cry Softly Lonely One – An attempted update of Only The Lonely. His singing is as beautiful as ever, but it didn’t really catch on. From the summer of 1967, this was Orbison’s last top 100 hit, until You Got It, released posthumously in 1989.
Crawling Back – The style is reminiscent of Elvis’ late 50s ballads. Yet another song that finds Orbison grovelling. This was from late 1965.
Breakin’ Up Is Breaking My Heart – Things were fine, you were mine, just yesterday, sings Roy, Now we’re apart. You wouldn’t think it could happen that way, but it can. From the winter of 1966.
Goodnight – There is some discrepancy as to whether this is Good Night or Goodnight. I miss the way you say goodnight, sings Roy. Yes. I believe it. From the winter of 1965.
You Got It – In the wake of the success of The Traveling Wilburies, Jeff Lynne took Roy Orbison into the studio, that was in 1988, and he recorded Mystery Girl, from which this song was taken. By the time the album was released Orbison was dead, and so this song became a kind of testament. His vocal abilities are toned down somewhat, which is a shame, but this bringing of Orbison into a new era proves that the concept works.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lester Young

A jazz interlude.

Did I say that I don’t know much about jazz? I don’t. So there’s a part of me that feels like a fraud when I write about Lester Young or Miles Davis, even for having it in my collection…

Thing is, though, that listening to jazz, apart from the cost of the CD or LP, (ok ok, or MP3s) costs nothing. I go to the library and I can borrow what I want: Coltrane, Peterson, Byrd, Satchmo, Benny Goodman, Wynton Marsalis, I play while I work, and if it sounds good it sounds good. And I don’t have to understand what made Miles Davis great, what Ornette Coleman was trying to, what makes Roland Kirk weird. Just let it roll man, let it roll…

This is the Compact Jazz release Lester Young And The Piano Giants. By the time the rock and roll era rolled around, Young was past his prime, and his best music was behind him (or so I’m told; I know nothing about jazz, honestly). So I guess each tune has some pianist of renown, but that’s not unusual in the jazz world, where stars play on on another’s albums as a matter of course.

Lester Young:

Just You Just Me – Not to be confused with Just You And Me by Chicago.
Too Marvelous For Words – What better title for an instrumental.
This Year’s Kisses – Billie Holiday did this also.
September In The Rain – A standard, I have a version by Dinah Washington, and an unofficial one by The Beatles.
Red Boy Blues – Is there a song called Blue Boy Reds?
I Want To Be Happy
Up ‘N’ Adam – Dedicate this to my dear brother-in-law…
Pass Returns – Joe Pass undoubtedly.
Three Little Words – a, the, it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tony Bennett

Growing up, I never heard Tony Bennett on the radio, which, given his stature, seems odd. But I didn’t get on board until 1965, and his biggest hits were behind him. I’ve seen him on TV and stuff though.

I got a tape, I don’t think it was called anything more than just Tony Bennett, but the series was Timeless Treasures, and it was on Everest Europa. I salvaged one track from there; the rest are from the box set called Fifty Years: The Artistry Of Tony Bennett.

Tony Bennett:

The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – I wonder if that’s where Heartbreak Hotel is, in Lonesome Town. All pervasive heartbreak and self-pity. Always walking up and down, sings Tony. From 1950
Because Of You – How one person can change the world of another. Also done by Les Baxter and Sammy Davis Jr. Number 1 in 1951. A melody he could really wrap his voice around
Cold Cold Heart – Another number 1 hit, also from 1951. This is by Hank Williams. It’s amazing how Williams’ style of country, which was such pure honky tonk, translated so nicely into an MOR medium.
Blue Velvet – She wore blue velvet. Do I remember what she wore? Did an article of clothing ever leave its mark like that in my life? The Clovers did this best, but Bennett handles it well, doesn’t oversing it, and the arrangement is gorgeous. From 1951. Bobby Vinton put back in the charts in 1963, but his version doesn't amount to much.
Rags To Riches – Love solves everything. Number 1 in 1953. One of his signature songs. Elvis covered this.
Stranger In Paradise – I get that, this isn’t really me, it’s not in my comfort zone. From 1953.
Can You Find It In Your Heart – From the summer of 1956. A forgiveness song. I wonder what he did…
In The Middle Of An Island – Ah, what a paradise. The honeymoon syndrome. From the autumn of 1957.
From The Candy Store To The Chapel On The Hill – From the autumn of 1956. The candy store is a done deal, the chapel is a dream. Candy stores are a thing in pop music. Think Johnny Cash doing Ballad Of A Teenage Queen, The Shangri Las doing Leader Of The Pack.
Just In Time – From the fall of 1956, the B side of The Autumn Waltz. Love as salvation.
Ça, C’est L’Amour – To paraphrase Bobby Darin, his French never sounded better. An offhand song about love, like Love Makes The World Go Round. From the fall of 1957.
Firefly – No it’s not a song about a car. I don’t know that describing one true love as an insect is all that much better. From the fall of 1958.
Till – A hit for Percy Faith, and a standard in elevators everywhere. It is, in spite of all, a great ballad. Bennett has the chops to pull it off.
The Autumn Waltz – So many songs about spring time and summer time, and Christmas / winter. Here’s one about autumn, it was even a hit in the autumn and that was in 1956.
There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight – Another Hank Williams song. This one is poppier. Doesn’t work as well.
I Won’t Cry Anymore – A song about a broken heart. Dinah Washington did a beautiful recording of this.
Close Your Eyes – Not The Harptones / Peaches And Herb song. Not the Edward Bear song. Jazz.
Dancing In The Dark – Not the Bruce Springsteen song. Also kind of jazzy, complete with vibraphone solo.
I Left My Heart In San Francisco – “The city by the bay…” he sings. From the fall of ’62, this kind of put Tony Bennett back on the musical map, although it only reached number 19 on Billboard. The song evokes a pre-hippy, pre-Haight-Ashbury version of the city, with cablecars, fisherman’s wharf, twin peaks. The girl seems to be almost beside the point.
I Wanna Be Around – A song of romantic revenge. Man, get over it. From the winter of 1963. Bobby Darin covered this.
Spring In Manhattan – Most people probably would write about spring somewhere else – April In Paris for example. But he is convicing enough; personally I’ve never been to Manhattan in spring, nor at all. From the summer of 1963.
This Is All I Ask – Gordon Jenkins wrote this. Harry Nilsson recorded it on A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night, and he did it better.
A Taste Of Honey – This was a show tune, and The Beatles had done it quite famously on their first album. Bennett’s version was on the top 100 in the summer of ’64. Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass sped it up to about twice its normal tempo, and put it into the top 10 in the fall of 1965.
When Joanna Loved Me – No Joanna ever loved me. The only Joanna I ever knew was a therapist I worked with for a while. From the spring of 1964.
Who Can I Turn To – So many versions of this: Shirley Bassey, Sammy Davis Jr. The support group song. TB sings it ok, but there are better versions. From the fall of 1964.
If I Ruled The World – This is from a musical, Carousel, I think. A dumb song – if I were God, really – from the winter of 1965. Stevie Wonder covered this, and his version wasn’t any better.
Fly Me To The Moon – Could do without the intro. Otherwise it’s a beautifully rendered performance. The song was a hit for Joe Harnell in 1963 (Fly Me To The Moon – Bossa Nova). TB’s version was from the summer of ’65.
Smile – I’m a curmudgeon; this song never quite rings true for me. From the autumn of 1959.
For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder didn’t write this, but he’s the one who put it on the charts in 1968, and his was a soul – infested upbeat version, but every other recording of it takes it as a slow ballad. This is no exception. I’ll take Stevie. From the fall of 1967. This was the last time that Tony Bennett was in the top 100.
Something – By George Harrison. A hit for The Beatles in 1969. Sinatra also did this, and so did Joe Cocker, and Booker T & The MGs
That Old Devil Moon – A song about infatuation. I’m not sure what the moon has to do with it. Live
Antonia – Seems to be a song about a daughter, but it’s a bit weird for that…

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

June, 1956

Here are some songs that were on the music charts in June, 1956. I have the blue ones.

  • Can You Find It In Your Heart - Tony Bennett
  • (How Little It Matters) How Little We Know - Frank Sinatra
  • Church Bells May Ring - The Diamonds
  • Delilah Jones - The McGuire Sisters
  • Ooby Dooby - Roy Orbison
  • I Want You I Need You I Love You - Elvis Presley
  • It Only Hurts A Little While - The Ames Brothers
  • I Want You To Be My Girl - Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
  • Graduation Day - The Four Freshmen
  • Treasure Of Love - Clyde McPhatter
  • My Baby Left Me - Elvis Presley
  • I Promise To Remember - Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
  • I Almost Lost My Mind - Pat Boone
  • Born To Be With You - The Chordettes
  • Transfusion - Nervous Norvus
  • On The Street Where You Live- Vic Damone
  • Portuguese Washerwoman - Joe "Fingers" Carr
  • Too Close For Comfort - Eydie Gourmet
  • I Could Have Danced All Night - Sylvia Sims
  • Church Bells May Ring - The Willows
  • Walk Hand In Hand - Tony Martin
  • Graduation Day - The Rover Boys
  • On The Street Where You Live - Eddie Fisher
  • More / Glendora - Perry Como
  • Slippin' And Slidin' - Little Richard
  • Boppin' The Blues - Carl Perkins
  • Roll Over Beethoven - Chuck Berry

Monday, April 20, 2009

Joe Turner

I had a collection by Joe Turner once; it was a “roots of rock and roll” affair and it covered his Savoy recordings, which were jump blues, and not rock and roll, or even R & B, at all. He got into the rock and roll thing when he switched to Atlantic, and all these tracks are from the Atlantic Rhythm And Blues 1947 – 1974 series.

Joe Turner:

Shake Rattle And Roll – A founding document of rock and roll. Get out of that bed! Sings Joe. Wash your face and hands! Rendered pale by Bill Haley: Get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans. That loping rhythm doesn’t hurt any either. “Baby you make me grit my teeth!"
The Chicken And The Hawk – We gonna fly all day sings Joe, in a tribute to whatever it is birds do…
Corrine Corrina – From the spring of 1956, just missed the top 40. I’m not sure why the name is different each time. Maybe it’s her full name. A hit later for Ray Peterson, and Bob Dylan put it on his second album. Bill Haley covered it with his comets, also.
Midnight Special Train – The R & B version. A hit in 1960 for Paul Evans, popular among folk and R&B artists.

May, 1956

Here are some songs that were on the music charts in May, 1956. I have the blue ones.

  • Corinne Corrina - Joe Turner
  • Moonglow / Theme From "Picnic" - Moris Stoloff
  • I'm In Love Again - Fats Domino
  • Theme From "Picnic" / Moonglow - George Cates
  • Happy Whistler - Don Robertson
  • Long Tall Sally - Pat Boone
  • Ivory Tower - Gale Storm
  • Hot Dog Buddy Buddy - Bill Haley & His Comets
  • Standing On The Corner - The Four Lads
  • Wayward Wind - Gogi Grant
  • My Blue Heaven - Fats Domino
  • A Little Can Go A Long Way - The Dream Weavers
  • Kiss Me Another - Georgia Gibbs
  • Standing On The Corner - Dean Martin
  • Picnic - The McGuire Sisters

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bo Diddley

Just as jump blues was becoming R & B, Bo Diddley stripped out the B, made it all about the rhythm. You don’t get the full impact unless you turn up the volume aways, watch him perform live, even with the crappy sound available on YouTube videos. He is said to have had a massive impact on the development of rock and roll, and I suppose he did, though I leave the detailed analysis to others.

Chess Records, or whoever owned Chess Records in the 80s, licensed 10 tracks to Quality Records in Canada, and the latter released a Greatest Hits collection that was part of the same series as The Chordettes, Chuck Berry, et al. But I got my hands on The Chess Box, and I was happy to see that all 10 tracks were there, but, and this is weird, the version of Bring It To Jerome was different. There were no annotations suggesting anything untoward about this track, so I can only conclude that it was a part 1 part 2 affair, so I have them both. I think this was from the West Kildonan Library.

Bo Diddley:

Bo Diddley – Buddy Holly did The Holly Hop, and Jerry Lee Lewis did The Lewis Boogie, but nobody had the audacity to name his first record after himself. If he hadn’t changed his name, this song would be called Elias McDaniel. And I guess the rhythm would have had to have been quite different. Imagine. I like the guitar figure that Buddy Holly used when he covered this, but Bo’s rhythm pounds harder. Still, for all its fame and glory this song did not even place in the Billboard top 100, though it did make it to Cashbox in the winter of 1956. There are cover versions galore, starting with Ronnie Hawkins…
I’m A Man – A landmark. Doesn’t exactly conform to the beat, but it’s classic Bo nonetheless. The Yardbirds did this rather famously, and Peggy Lee turned it into I’m A Woman, and Muddy Waters rewrote it as Mannish Boy. Not the Spencer Davis Group / Chicago song.
You Don’t Love Me – Not exactly the song on Supersessions by Al Kooper and company.
Diddley Daddy – Using “Diddley” as a surname, then using it as the basis of numerous song titles, well that just lends itself to all kinds of kinkiness..
Pretty Thing – Recorded, predictably, by The Pretty Things. Not the Gary Lewis & The Playboys song.
Bring It To Jerome – Jerome was Jerome Green, who played maracas in Bo’s band. He seems to sing lead on this too. Manfred Mann covered this.
Bring It To Jerome – The same song, different take, probably part 2, though neither is labelled anything other than “Bring It To Jerome.”
Diddy Wah Diddy – There was probably nobody like Bo who excelled in the use of nonsense syllables to mean very specific but indefinable things. Captain Beefheart covered this, and so did Leon Redbone.
I’m Looking For A Woman – Shouldn’t be too hard to find; sheesh, there’s a bunch in this house alone…
Who Do You Love – Who indeed. I’m not sure what this has to do with love. It’s all about voodoo and skulls and rattlesnake whips and flying ice wagons. Hits home with the force of a power drill, and has the same effect on your brain. This song acquired a life of its own, seeing versions by Ronnie Hawkins, The Quicksilver Messenger Service, Smith, The Doors, Jesus And Mary Chain, and on and on. Listen to Hawkins do it with The Band on The Last Waltz. The first version I ever heard was by Tom Rush; it was a radio hit in the early 70s, but it’s the one that I don’t have, and can’t find. Jeepers.
Down Home Special – Closely related to Chuck Berry’s Downbound Train, Down Home Special is nothing more than Bo telling us how he’s going home to his baby, but the music is something else. If it’s not a minor key it should be, because there is definitely something sinister going on underneath…
Hey Bo Diddley – The legend continues. In a way this is no more than Bo Diddley with refrains of “hey! Bo Diddley” thrown in liberally throughout, and the two songs are titled interchangeably in the repertoire, but listen to the rhythm. The classic doop da doop doop, doop doop, is replaced by a simple but effective boom cha boom cha boom cha. Nothing simple about this guy…
Mona – I had a French teacher whose first name was Mona. We called her “The Armoured Truck.” I did know another Mona. I sat behind her in grade six. My friend David S said I had a crush on her, but I didn’t. Then one day he was caught but the teacher mixed up our names: dj stop teasing Mona! She said. Hey it’s not me. see? I said to him. You’re the one with the crush. No it’s you he said, that’s why she used your name. The Stones covered this, and so did Quicksilver Messenger Service…
Say Boss Man – Not to be confused with Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man. Bo has 19 kids. Somehow his boss is supposed to be sympathetic.
Before You Accuse Me – What’s good for the goose… CCR did a cover of this on Cosmo’s Factory.
Say Man – Bo and Jerome signifyin’. Jerome plays the straight man, Bo sounds like a half-crazed banshee. This was Bo’s only top 40 hit, reaching number 20 in the fall of 1959.
Hush Your Mouth – Another rewrite of Bo Diddley.
The Clock Strikes Twice – An instrumental
Dearest Darling
Crackin’ Up – It’s only fitting I suppose that Bo write his paean to insanity, typically disguised as romantic woes. The Stones covered this on Love You Live. From the summer of 1959.
Don’t Let Go – Not the Roy Hamilton song. This is yet another song of Bo Diddley singing about Bo Diddley.
I’m Sorry – Not the Brenda Lee song, nor The Platters song. A kind of ballad, and a kind of straight one.
Mumblin’ Guitar – Bo has some fun with his guitar – well, more so than usual.
The Story Of Bo Diddley – The Animals did The Story Of Bo Diddley, but they told it differently.
Bo’s Bounce – I don’t know that “bounce” really describes the nature of the rhythm here…
She’s Alright – This is as generic as Bo got.
Say Man Back Again – Say Man part 2, but this one didn’t make the charts. And the insults are getting a bit stale.
Road Runner – This one digs into a deep groove. The Pretty Things covered this, but first prize goes to The Gants for their 1965 cover. Beep beep. Not to be confused with (I’m A) Road Runner by Junior Walker & The All Stars. From the winter of 1960.
Spend My Life With You – vocals by Jerome Green. A 12 bar blues.
Cadillac – Tribute to a car. The Kinks did this on their first album
Signifying Blues – Say Man, part 3. The insults were stale on Say Man Back Again, here they are dead. Except the one the job. Oh, and the one about the tears. Oh, and the one about…
Deed And Deed I Do
You Know I Love You
Look At My Baby – Bo is entering the modern world.
Ride On Josephine – Ride on, sounds like “right on.” The song sounds a lot like Maybelline.
Aztec – Is this faintly Latin American? Title suggests it.
Back Home
Pills – A rollicking rock and roll song about being sick.
Untitled Instrumental – the irony of the title needs no comment…
I Can Tell – The Searchers covered this.
You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover – Sounds like Jerome Green vocals. From the fall of 1962. Covered by Manfred Mann.
Who May Your Lover Be
The Greatest Lover In The World – From the man who gave us I’m A Man. No boast was too big for Mr. Diddley.
500% More Man – Speaking of which…
Ooh Baby – Sounds like a Smokey Robinson song, but it isn’t. Though it’s kind of mellow for Bo, a hit of sorts in the winter of 1967.
Bo Diddley, 1969 – Wrapping it up, a reprise of his theme song, updated with chorus.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lonnie Donegan

I played this album once during a family gathering. I’m not sure why; I think my brother-in-law and I had been discussing Donegan. That in itself is interesting. My sister, though, said that this has to be the most disagreeable music I owned. Well, I guess it’s not for all tastes.

I found an album at the Centennial Library called The Roots Of British Rock. The album featured an array of hits from the pre-Beatles era UK: Tommy Steele, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, Adam Faith, The Tornadoes, Kenny Ball, and Rock Island Line by Lonnie Donegan. The album, by the way, was really mistitled, because the roots of British rock truly were American – Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino – the same as the roots of American rock. A better title would have been "The British Roots of Rock", or simply "Early British Rock".

Rock Island Line was recorded by Donegan when he was a member of Chris Barber’s Band, after which he signed with Pye Records, and all the songs on this collection, except for the first, are from The Lonnie Donegan File, part of The File Series, released in the late 70s. Donegan had 26 songs on the UK top 20 between 1956 and 1962, and they are all here apart from The Comancheros, from 1962, and Lumbered, the B side of Michael.

Lonnie Donegan:

Rock Island Line – The standard-bearer for skiffle. This song was by Leadbelly and it doesn’t make a lot of sense but it doesn’t matter. Johnny Cash covered it, but Lonnie Donegan nailed it. A top 10 hit in the spring of 1956, number 1 in the UK.
Midnight Special – Another standard. A hit for Joe Turner (he called it Midnight Special Train) and for Paul Evans and for Johnny Rivers. The Limeliters recorded a lame version. And CCR did one-two punch version on their Willie & The Poor Boys album in 1969.
It Takes A Worried Man To Sing A Worried Song – The Kingston Trio did this one, as A Worried Man.
Railroad Bill
Stackolee – Stagger Lee by any other name, a hit for Lloyd Price in 1959, and for Wilson Pickett in 1967. The song dates from a long time ago, a story of the ages.
Wabash Cannonball – A hit for Roy Acuff, one of the great train songs…
I Shall Not Be Moved – Only Lonnie Donegan could take a hymn (I think this is a hymn?) and make it sound like a drunken brawl…
I’m Alabamy Bound – A slave’s lament of sorts. I was in Alabama when I was 14; I don’t remember much except being there, and eating at a lunch counter at a downtown department store.
Lost John – Another song about another John. This John is lost. No GPS. This was hit in the spring of 1956. It looks like Pye put it out right away to steal thunder from Decca’s release of Rock Island Line.
Stewball – I am trying to work out whether this is the same song that Peter, Paul & Mary do; it doesn’t sound like it, but it sounds like it inhabits the same universe somehow. They are both about a racehorse, but the words are different, and so is the tune, and so is the tempo. Still, you never know…
Dead Or Alive – Lonnie as the wanted man, the fugitive. Thing with Lonnie Donegan is that even when he is singing about running from the law, he sounds like he’s having a whole lotta fun…
Bring A Little Water, Sylvie – Another slave song, a hit in the summer of 1956.
Don’t You Rock Me, Daddy-O – A hit in the summer of 1956.
Cumberland Gap – “I got a gal six feet tall” sings Lonnie. “Sleeps in the kitchen with her feet in the hall.” He sings so fast that’s easy to miss the nonsense lyrics. This was a hit in the spring of 1957.
Puttin’ On The Style – Musical style hasn’t changed, but the lyrics are about youth culture, not about the US eastern mountain ranges, or slave labour, or some such. A hit in the summer of 1957.
Gambling Man – The B side of Puttin’ On The Style, and a hit at the same time in the same place.
My Dixie Darling – Back to American civil war. This was a hit in the fall of 1957.
Jack O’Diamonds – There’s symbolism here I suppose. Life is like a game of cards sings Lonnie. From late 1957.
Grand Coulee Damn – A Woody Guthrie song. Guthrie was commissioned to write it, and there is a recording of Dylan doing it at some live event. A hit in the spring of 1958.
Sally Don’t You Grieve – A song about death, and I’ve never heard a happier one. There is definitely an electric guitar playing some kind of figure in there. Skiffle! This, and the B side, which is next, was a hit in the summer of 1958.
Betty Betty Betty – Also known as Betty & Dupree, it was also a hit for Chuck Willis, and there is version by Harry Belafonte.
Tom Dooley – This tale of murder and justice was the Kingston Trio hit that kicked off the whole hootenanny folk revival. This version was more or less contemporary, and was a lot faster, and less mournful.
Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On The Bedpost Overnight) – This is where he gets silly. The song was his biggest North American hit, reaching the top 10 in the fall of 1961. It was on the UK chart in early 1959. I don’t know why the delay.
Forth Worth Jail – From the spring of 1959 comes this tale of stuck-here-in-prison woe. Nobody cares about me, sings Lonnie, cause I ain’t got no dough. Can’t get more poetic than that. Hey wait, are those drums I here?
Battle Of New Orleans – A history lesson is song. Johnny Driftwood wrote this, and I know nothing about him, except that he wrote Battle Of New Orleans. A hit on both sides of the Atlantic for Johnny Horton, that was in the summer of 1959. Donegan’s version was a UK hit at the same time, beating out Horton’s version by 14 chart placings (#2 vs. #16 – Horton’s version reached number 1 in the States.) Harper’s Bizarre covered this in the late 60s, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band did a version that more than respectable.
Sal’s Got A Sugarlip – One can only speculate about what this all means. He runs through the lyrics so fast that it’s hard to make any sense of it. From the fall of 1959.
My Old Man’s A Dustman – This song reached number 1 in early 1960. And it showed up on the Toronto charts in June. Americans would not understand it, what with its references to a dustman, counsel flats, and cor blimey trousers. The Irish Rovers did this.
I Wanna Go Home (Wreck Of The Old John “B’) – The best known version of this is by The Beach Boys, who put it out as Sloop John B in 1966, and tacked it onto their Pet Sounds album. But other people did it before that, Donegan for one, and Jimmie Rogers (the guy that did Honeycomb, not the singing brakeman). Donegan’s version was a hit in the spring of 1960.
Lorelei – Here is where the production goes well beyond the bounds of skiffle: a chorus, horn charts. The song is about mermaid. It was a hit in the summer of 1960.
Lively – A fun song about criminal activity. From the fall of 1960.
Have A Drink On Me – Just what it sounds like. From the spring of 1961. Also showed up in TO, in the summer.
Seven Golden Daffodils – Lonnie tackles a ballad. It’s not all that bad, but it’s certainly not his natural habitat.
Michael Row The Boat Ashore – I never understood this song, but I’m told that the content is religious. I believe it but I don’t get it. This was from the fall of 1961, more or less contemporary with the better known version by The Highwaymen. It is also somewhat less reverent sounding.
The Party’s Over – Here is where Donegan abandons skiffle altogether. A subdued ballad, from the spring of 1962. My favourite version of this is by Julie London.
Pick A Bail Of Cotton – Back where he belongs, in the cotton field. This swings. From the fall of 1962, and Donegan’s last foray into the top 20.
Rock Island Line – The Pye remake. Totally unnecessary.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April, 1956

Here are some songs that were on the music charts in April, 1956. I have the blue ones.

  • Magic Touch - The Platters
  • Bo Weevil - Teresa Brewer
  • Bo Weevil - Fats Domino
  • Main Title and Molly-O - Dick Jacobs
  • Innamorata - Dean Martin
  • The Poor People Of Paris - Lawrence Welk
  • R-O-C-K / Saints Rock And Roll - Bill Haley & His Comets
  • Rock Island Line - Lonnie Donegan
  • Wild - Don Cherry
  • Rock Right - Georgia Gibbs
  • Long Tall Sally - Little Richard
  • Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley
  • Stewball - Lonnie Donegan
  • Too Young To Go Steady - Nat King Cole
  • Ivory Tower - Otis Williams & The Charms
  • Ivory Tower - Cathy Carr
  • Man With The Golden Arm - Richard Maltby
  • My Little Angel - The Four Lads
  • Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis Presley
  • Lost John - Lonnie Donegan

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Diamonds

We saw a group that purported to be The Diamonds a number of years ago at the free grandstand concert at the Red River Exhibition. The group on stage was a trio, interesting because The Diamonds were a quartet, and I can’t prove it, but I doubt that any of the guys singing on stage were in the original group.

They weren’t bad though…

This is a Rhino album, The Best Of The Diamonds.

I discovered Rhino at Records On Wheels, sometime mid-80s, and it was a treasure chest of re-issues and best of’s, stuff that was otherwise impossible to find. They were imports, all of them, pricey as a result. But I salivated. Great 60s garage bands like Blue Cheer and The Easybeats, reissued first run albums by The Monkees and The Rascals, the semi-psychedelic Nazz, The Turtles, The Box Tops.

Later came SeeForMiles and Charly, and later still came Sundazed (with their great 3-D catalogue) and Collectibles. So many records, so little money.

I don’t actually remember where I bought this but it was probably ROW; it was rare to find a second hand Rhino release – rare but not impossible. But I probably bought this new.

The Diamonds had 16 top 100 singles; 14 are here. And Daddy Cool wasn’t on the chart. Missing is Soft Summer Breeze from 1956, and One Summer Night from 1961, their last single and a remake of The Danleers 1958 hit.

And, most important, like their label mates The Crew Cuts, The Diamonds were Canadian. But unlike aforesaid Crew Cuts, The Diamonds understood the music they were recording.

The Diamonds:

Little Darlin – One of the great classics of the 50s. A cover of The Gladiolas hit, but generally considered superior to the original. In the song the singer pleads for forgiveness, but somehow it just all seems so beside the point. From the spring of 1957.
The Church Bells May Ring – From the spring of 1956. This swings big time, complete with a bell solo…
Why Do Fools Fall In Love – The Diamonds’ first hit (from winter, 1956) had some nice touches – the way he streches out “why,” the background vocals – but it’s no match for The Teenagers’ original. It didn’t do as well on the charts either.
Words Of Love – The Diamonds do Buddy Holly, never more than a B side for the Crickets. This is from the summer of 1957. The Beatles covered this later.
Ka-Ding-Dong – Nonesense lyrics form the background of an excuse to dance up a storm. This was the B side of a two sided hit. That was in the fall of 1956. Soft Summer Breeze was the A side. Rhino, for some reason, did not feel it worthy of inclusion.
Silhouettes – A cover of The Rays’ hit from 1957. The Diamonds do a respectable version, but they don’t beat the original. This was in the top 10 as 1957 drew to a close. I’ve always liked Herman’s Hermits’ version.
Daddy Cool – The Diamonds are in Coasters territory with this one.
The Stroll – A dance. Chuck Willis is said to have been the master of the stroll, but it’s The Diamonds who had the hit. They played this on American Graffiti, during the prom scene. From the winter of 1958
Love, Love, Love – A cover of The Clovers hit. From the summer of 1956.
High Sign – Like Daddy Cool. The Diamonds were into the symbolism of the era. From the spring of 1958.
Zip Zip – And novelty songs. They were into novelty songs. From the fall of ’57. At least they were having fun.
She Say (Ooby Dooby Doom) – The harmonies on this one are more straight barbershop, but the song is typical Diamonds silly. From the winter of 1959.
Kathy-O – It starts with the Jingle Bells refrain, and if you don’t listen too hard to the words, this could easily be a Christmas song. But it was a hit in the summer of 1958, and it is a love song plain and simple, notwithstanding the bells in the background. This is a ballad worthy of The Ames Brothers, the only one on this collection.
Walking Along – “Singing a song, I will be gay…” sing The Diamonds, on this hit from the fall of 1958. This was the song they started with when I saw them, such as they were…

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Elvis Presley - King Of The Whole Wide World

Besides what’s here, here is a list of Elvis albums I’ve got, in various formats, in completely random order:

Elvis Presley
• Elvis
• Elvis
• Lovin’ You
• Pot Luck With Elvis
• Blue Hawaii
• Girls! Girls! Girls!
• Girl Happy
• Elvis Is Back
• On Stage – February 1970
• Raised On Rock
• G.I. Blues
• Kissin’ Cousins
• Harum Scarum
• Elvis NBC TV Special
• Back In Memphis
• That’s The Way It Is
• Elvis Now
• Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite
• Elvis Country
• Love Letters From Elvis
• Good Times
• Today
• Moody Blue
• In Person At The International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
• Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden
• From Elvis In Memphis
• Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis

Elvis Presley:

Don’t Cry Daddy – A song of recovery. Death is a really tough subject to treat seriously in pop music, but this is one of the best efforts. Still though, it’s a bit hokey. A top 10 hit in the winter of 1970.
Rubbernecking – This was the B side of Don’t Cry Daddy, and as close as Elvis ever came to filler. The song reached number 69 in the winter of 1970.
Kentucky Rain – From the winter / spring of 1970. A song of searching. There is a hopelessness to the quest that Elvis describes. Doesn’t stop him. The song was a majestic ending the Worldwide Gold Hit Awards collection. I was in Kentucky once, as an adolescent, but I don’t remember if it rained.
My Little Friend – The B side of Kentucky rain. The story of an old love
The Wonder Of You – Elvis takes a non-descript hit by Ray Peterson (the guy that did Tell Laura I Love Her) and renders it into a majestic performance. This was from the album On Stage – February, 1970, an album that consisted entirely of covers. From the summer of 1970.
I’ve Lost You – One of Elvis’ saddest songs. This is from the late summer of 1970. The story is the slow disintegration of a marriage, and how talking is not so useful when “reason can’t stand in for feeling.”
The Next Step Is Love – This contrasts nicely with the A side. A song about a growing romance, it was a hit at the same time as I’ve Lost You.
You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me – I remember when this song was a hit by Dusty Springfield, and I remember this remake by Elvis. I wouldn’t want to choose between them, but Elvis was definitely on a roll. This was a hit in the fall of 1970.
Patch It Up – The A side of You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, but not the hit side. Well, it reached number 90. It rocks out a bit, but this song of reconciliation isn’t totally convincing. On the other hand, maybe that’s the point…
There Goes My Everything – Jack Greene put this on the country charts; that was in 1967. And Engelbert Humperdinck put in on the pop charts. Elvis trumps them all, but the song is a bit weird. There goes my reason for living, ok I get that, though he’ll have to get over it. But there goes my only possession? No wonder she’s going. A hit at the beginning of 1971.
I Really Don’t Want To Know - A hit for Les Paul & Mary Ford, for Ronnie Dove, for Tommy Edwards, etc. Again Elvis trumps them. The A Side of There Goes My Everything, this was also a hit in early 1971. Guitarist James Burton shines.
Merry Christmas Baby – Charles Brown’s Christmas Blues. Dig it James! yells Elvis. Elvis proves that he never lost the R & B spirit that animated his Sun recordings. Released in the fall of 1971.
Burning Love – Elvis rocks out for his biggest hit since 1969’s Suspicious Minds. This reached number 2 in the fall of ’72, and was all over the radio. The album it was on was called Burning Love And Hits From His Movies, Volume 2. Amazing.
It’s A Matter Of Time – The B side of Burning Love is yet another superb ballad. Only Elvis could sing with resignation and self assurance, all at the same time, without sacrificing either one.
Always On My Mind – Maybe I didn’t treat you, quite as good as I should have, sings Elvis, in this Willie Nelson song that could have been written for him, and who couldn’t sing those words, and mean them. Glen D. Hardin gets the kudos on this one. The B side of …
Separate Ways – Yet another song of failed romance. There is resignation here, and there is incredible sadness. It’s too easy to view these songs as being about Elvis’ marriage. That’s undoubtedly part of it, but there is more going on here. One can not begin to imagine what it must have been to be Elvis Presley. This was a hit early in 1972.
It’s Impossible – From Elvis, released in the summer of 1973, not to be confused with Elvis, released in the fall of 1956. Originally by Perry Como, and as good as Elvis is, I think I prefer Como.
I Got A Thing About You Baby – From the winter of 1974, a short song, nice but the female choir is a bit overwhelming. Featured on the album Good Times.
Promised Land – Elvis didn’t record so many songs by Chuck Berry (Too Much Monkey Business comes to mind). Here he his singing Berry’s tribute to California. He brings his own unique Elvis-in-the-70s style to it, and it works. It was a hit in the fall of 1974. The album Promised Land wasn’t released until January, 1975.
Hurt – originally by Timi Yuro, and covered by Little Anthony & The Imperials and by The Manhattans, this is as dramatic as Elvis ever got, and it falls somewhere between melodrama and reality. From the spring of 1976. From From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee.
Moody Blue – Elvis’ last hit during his lifetime. A hit early in 1977. From the Moody Blue album.
Way Down – Not the John Prine song. Elvis’s first posthumous hit, from the fall of ’77. Considering the emotional impact of Elvis’ death, it’s surprising this wasn’t bigger than it was, only reaching number 18. And it’s not bad. From the Moody Blue album.
My Way – Seen, I guess, as fitting epitaph. Taken from the posthumous album Elvis In Concert, a hit of sorts in late 1977. He sings well enough, but he doesn’t make you forget Frank Sinatra.
An American Trilogy – Dixie, Battle Hymn Of The Republic, and All My Trials. A true show piece. Some version of this was a hit in was a hit in the spring of ’72. My version comes from This Is Elvis, released in 1981.
Don’t Be Cruel – Live on Ed Sullivan, from This Is Elvis
King Of The Whole Wide World – Out of sequence. This is not gospel, it’s about he who is happy with what he has. A hit in the fall of 1962. Appeared first on the EP Kid Galahad. Appeared on an LP in 1971 – C’mon Everybody.
This Is Livin’ – From the same EP / LP.
Raised On Rock – Elvis’ tribute to his muse doesn’t pull any punches. From the fall of ’73. From the album Raised On Rock.
For Ol’ Times Sake – The B side of Raised On Rock, another song of romantic failure. From the same LP. This song just squeezed into the top 100 in the fall of 1973, and it makes a much better epitaph for Elvis’ career than My Way.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Elvis Presley - Edge Of Reality

I was at HMV Superstore recently, and I checked the Elvis CDs available, and I realize how out of date I am. There are so many new collections: Elvis’ country recordings, Elvis’ R & B hits, Elvis sings gospel, Elvis sings corny, Elvis sings crap. There is no end. None of it makes much sense.

I remember Capital releasing a collection of love songs by The Beatles, and a companion collection of rock and roll songs, and thinking about how they totally missed the point. And the same is true of Elvis. One of the great things about him was his versatility; In the same TV show, he could scale the heights of If I Can Dream, and plunge to the morass of Memories. Listen to King Creole next to Double Trouble (hint: the latter has Old McDonald.) And what he does really is that he transcends all these boundaries – when he does country it’s Elvis, and when he does R & B it’s Elvis, and when he does a ballad it’s Elvis, and when he does…

Elvis Presley:

Puppet On A String – This protestation of total malleability is surely one of the most beautiful records Elvis ever made. Totally ignored by the pundits, here is one where everything just coalesces – Floyd Cramer’s piano, The Jordinaires, Elvis’ voice. It was from Girl Happy, and a top 20 hit at the end of 1965.
Crying In The Chapel – Elvis sings here of the power of prayer. In so doing, he takes a faux gospel song written by Artie Glenn, and a hit originally in 1953 for Sonny Til & The Orioles, and renders it more authentic sounding than it was ever meant to be. The song was recorded in 1960, but not released until April, 1965, with I Believe In The Man In The Sky slapped onto the B side. It didn’t appear on an album until 1967’s How Great Thou Art. It was a top 5 hit in the summer of 1965.
Santa Lucia – A track from Elvis For Everybody!. The album title kind of reflects the efforts that RCA and Colonel Parker were making to transform Elvis into a family entertainer.
Tell Me Why – This is one that Gale Storm did. It’s not the one that The Four Aces did, nor the one that The Beatles did. Tell my why pop songs assume that one can never get over a lost love. A hit of sorts early in 1966.
Frankie And Johnny – A hit for Sam Cooke, and hit for Brook Benton. Bob Dylan recorded it as Frankie And Albert. Elvis’ version was a hit in the spring of 1966. I don’t remember hearing this, nor any of the other Elvis songs on this list so far, except, maybe, Crying In The Chapel. Elvis’ version is a Hollywood version, which is no coincidence; it is the title track from the movie, and the soundtrack album.
Down By The Riverside / When The Saint Go Marching In – On the one hand it’s not surprising at all that Elvis did The Saints; on the other hand it is. I can’t explain it more than that. This is from Frankie And Johnny.
Love Letters – Elvis does a super straight reading of this song that was a hit for Ketty Lester in 1962. It was a hit in the summer of 1966, but the album Love Letters From Elvis did not come out until 1971.
Spinout – The title track of the movie, and the LP, was a hit in the fall of 1966. It reached number 40 on Billboard, so I guess it was a top 40 hit. Romance as a car race…
All That I Am – A quiet starlit night. This is a ballad that works. There are strings on this, which isn’t so amazing, except that so few Elvis records had strings on them. This was the B side of Spinout, and it reached number 41 (dang!) in the fall of 1966.
Tomorrow Is A Long Time – Here’s where the whole Elvis phenomenon reveals itself for what it was. This is a heartfelt, beautifully arranged, sung, and recorded performance of Dylan’s song, and RCA tacked it on to the end of the Spinout soundtrack (it wasn’t in the movie) and left it there to languish, after which Elvis went back to the movie stuff. Anyone else would have parlayed a career out of it. Dylan recorded a live version of this around 1963, and that’s the version that turned up on his Greatest Hits Volume 2 in 1971. Glen Yarborough did this also.
Indescribably Blue – Yes, very sad. How I miss you, sings Elvis. That’s a real thing, the indescribably blue thing. I’m not sure this song really captures it though. From the winter of 1967.
Fools Fall In Love – A hit for The Drifters about 10 years earlier. Elvis’ version is jazzy, I like The Drifters better, really. This was the B side of Indescribably Blue, and, unlike The Drifters’ version, it did not make the charts.
Easy Come Easy Go – This was from an EP released in the spring of 1967. Elvis was still in the musical wilderness. This is not the Bobby Sherman song, which I think was actually better than this…
Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) – Elvis reduced to total salaciousness. From the summer of ’67. From Double Trouble.
I Love Only One Girl – Dumb. From the soundtrack of Double Trouble. That should tell you something.
You Don’t Know Me – From the soundtrack LP / movie Clambake. Jerry Vale’s big hit from 1956, redone by Ray Charles in 1962, was minor hit for Elvis in the fall of 1967. I like Jerry Vale doing this; for my money Elvis doesn’t quite nail it.
Big Boss Man – Elvis does Jimmy Reed, and he does it well. Getting back into his element here. The A side of You Don’t Know Me, hit the charts at the same time. Also from Clambake.
Guitar Man – One book lists this as one of his best records, one lists is as one of his worst. The lead guitar, if I remember, is by Jerry Reed. Elvis postions himself as a rock and roll performer. Imagine. From the winter of 1958. Another track from Clambake.
Stay Away – From the spring of 1968, B side of US Male.
U.S. Male – Elvis posturing as the ultimate macho man. From the spring of 1968.
You’ll Never Walk Alone – Elvis oversings this. Big time. I’ve never been quite clear on whether this is actually a hymn. It was a hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers in 1965. Elvis’ version reached number 90 on Billboard in the spring of 1968.
Almost In Love – Almost In Love reached the great height of number 95 in the fall of 1968. I don’t know, to me it sounds like one of the great unrecognized Elvis performances, a superb night club atmosphere, great vocals, wonderful ambience. This is from the movie Live A Little, Love A Little.
A Little Less Conversation – The B side of Almost In Love did somewhat better, reaching number 69, but it was revived and remixed a few years ago, in one of those pathetic attempts to milk the repertoire.
If I Can Dream – Enough has been written about Elvis’ 1968 comeback. I won’t add to it. But I remember this song. I remember hearing it on the radio. This is where my personal relationship with Elvis started. The song blew me away when I was 10 years old. And I hear it now, and it blows me away now; the power of it astounds me, and whoever had the idea of putting an organ so high the mix was brilliant. Truly shiver worthy. The world, though, wasn’t ready for Elvis to come back; the song only reached number 12, which was better than Elvis had done in a long time, but not better enough. That was in early 1969.
Edge Of Reality – The B side of If I Can Dream. This song didn’t make the pop charts, and one can understand why. This is about obsession bordering on madness, that place where someone finds an odd place in your heart, not the normal place, some place that makes no rational sense, a place you didn’t even know existed until *someone* takes up permanent residence. On another level, the title could refer to Elvis’ life… From the movie Live A Little, Love A Little.
Too Much Monkey Business – This lost treasure comes from Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others, a budget release from late 1968. Elvis sings this Chuck Berry standard in his “late 60s” voice, but it works.
All I Needed Was The Rain – From the same LP. Just when you thinking nothing else can go wrong…
Memories – This was the pap that ended one of the great historical moments in music history, on his “comeback” special. It’s the song that’s pap; still, it’s hard to believe that Elvis couldn’t do it better than this. It was a hit in the spring of 1969.
Charro – The B side of Memories, and the title track from the movie. I remember this movie; it was a western, and it was about honour and revenge. It wasn’t the worst movie Elvis ever made. The story was typically dumb, but Elvis was good, as I remember.
In The Ghetto – Elvis does social commentary, very unusual. The song was written, and recorded at some point, by Mac Davis. Reached number 3 in the summer of 1969, the biggest hit Elvis had had for many years. It was the closing track on From Elvis In Memphis.
Any Day Now – The B song of In The Ghetto, originally a hit by Chuck Jackson. A tale of the inevitability of separation, it’s fairly odd, but real. Elvis sings it beautifully. Also from From Elvis In Memphis.
Clean Up Your Own Backyard – Oddly, I will always associate this song with Los Angeles, because it was on an LA radio station chart that I first became aware of this song. I heard it on the radio, maybe twice. This bluesy morality tale of he has no sin was a hit in the late summer of 1969. It came from a movie called The Trouble With Girls (And How To Get Into It).
Suspicious Minds – Mark James wrote this, the same guy that wrote Hooked On A Feeling, and it was Elvis’ last number 1 record. That was in the fall of ’69. The power in this is indescribable. Somewhere about a third of the way into the song, that distinctive guitar figure that opens the record gets buried, and it never gets rescued. If I’d have been the arranger, I’d have brought it back.
You’ll Think Of Me – Elvis was on a streak. Another song about failed romance, where Elvis delivers. Even the sitar works.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Elvis Presley - Flaming Star

Elvis movies are a lot of fun. The critics don’t get it. The critics analyse these movies as if they were, like, real movies. But the point is that they are Elvis movies.

Yes they are dumb. Yes Elvis was a great actor. Yes his talent was wasted. Yes it was a total and complete prostitution of a gift. All beside the point. Elvis movies are a lot of fun. That’s the point.

The first few were serious, or semi-serious at least. The rest were cannon fodder, B movies whose sole purpose was to earn money. But, I say, they were fun. Watching Elvis was just plain fun.

I saw Love Me Tender, his first movie, a western. I saw Jailhouse Rock. Those were okay. After he got out of the army, though, that’s when the fun really starts. Viva Las Vegas, that was with Ann Margaret. I remember The Walls Have Ears.

Girls! Girls! Girls!, I think I saw that one. I remember the scene where he did Return To Sender. But the truth is that I can’t remember for sure which ones I’ve seen, and I can’t remember what they were about. I do remember Change Of Habit, with Mary Tyler Moore; well I remember seeing it when I was about 12. And Charro, another western. The worst, though, was Frankie And Johnny. Elvis was so bored in that one; he’d obviously stopped trying.

Given that I don’t have a working TV at the moment, it’s not likely that I’ll see any more Elvis movies anytime soon. Still, I’d rather watch Girl Happy than Lord Of The Rings any day…

Elvis Presley:

Flaming Star – A strange song about destiny, with an odd rhythm – vaguely Bo Diddley – for an Elvis record. A hit in the spring of 1961.This was from an EP called, you guessed it, Flaming Star
I Feel So Bad – It doesn’t sound like he feels bad at all. In fact he sounds kind of exuberant. From the summer of ’61.
Wild In The Country – Nothing wild about this, it’s a subdued ballad. The song is about vegetation, and it goes on from there. From the summer of 1961, the B side of I Feel So Bad
Little Sister – Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind, sang The Lovin’ Spoonful. Elvis has made up his mind, went for the Younger Girl, but all is not well. Get Jim Dandy out of the picture. A top 5 hit in 1961, and Ry Cooder covered it.
(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame – I heard this first by Sha Na Na; it wasn’t on Worldwide Gold Hit Awards. I heard the Elvis version, though, when I got my hands on The Other Sides, and it blew me away. It still blows me away. It’s one of the most underrated Elvis records. The A side of Little Sister, it was on the chart at the same time.
Can’t Help Falling In Love – Another signature song, though it didn’t get to number 1. This is the song he ended every concert with. Featured in the movie, and soundtrack LP, Blue Hawaii. Winter 1961 - 1962.
Rock-A-Hula Baby – The B side of Can’t Help Falling In Love, it reached number 23 on Billboard in its own right. That was in January 1962. This is from Blue Hawaii.
No More – A track from Blue Hawaii. Slightly in the Now Or Never vain.
Good Luck Charm – Yet another way of objectifying one’s love interest. Be my little good luck charm. Yet another number 1 hit, this one from the spring of 1962.
Anything That’s Part Of You – Slightly country, with piano that may or may not be Floyd Cramer. The B side of Good Luck Charm, reached the top 40 in the spring of ’62.
Follow That Dream – Has a slightly gospel feel to it. This is from the summer of 1962, and it comes from an EP called Follow That Dream.
Kiss Me Quick – A bit like Such A Night, and a bit not like Such A Night. It was the lead off track on the Pot Luck With Elvis album, released in June, 1962, and for some reason released as a single in 1964. It reached the top 40 in the spring of that year.
(Such An) Easy Question – This was a top 20 hit in the summer of 1965. I’ve never heard it on the radio, and it has never been on best of or anthology until it showed up on From Nashville To Memphis, The Essential 60s Masters. RCA. Morons. It comes from Pot Luck With Elvis, and it’s anybody’s guess why RCA raided this album in 1964 – 1965 for random singles.
I’m Yours – Another track from Pot Luck, and another track that made the charts in 1965, this one in the fall. Muted organ / guitar accompaniment on this romantic outing.
Suspicion – The prototype, one supposes, for Suspicious Minds. This is another track from Pot Luck, but RCA didn’t put this out as a single until 1964 when it was the B side of Kiss Me Quick. It was the Crusader label that made it a hit, and they didn’t have Elvis, so they got Terry Stafford to do it, and it was Stafford’s version that reached the top 10 in 1964.
She’s Not You – Get over it Elvis. Like, there’s only one right person. From the fall of ’62.
Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello – The record label, my copy anyway, said “him,” Just Tell Her Him Said Hello. Hello? This was the B side of She’s Not You, and so it’s not surprise that it was a hit of sorts in the fall of ’62, though it only reached number 55. This is rather whistful…
Return To Sender – This only made number 2. Aww. I like this one, must be the sax. I remember watching the movie, Girls! Girls! Girls!, on the soundtrack of which this was, and I was happy I’d finally learn the story surrounding the song. But there was none; the movie showed Elvis performing this on stage. What a copout. From the autumn of 1962.
Where Do You Come From – The B side of Return To Sender, and another track from Girls! Girls! Girls!. A piano ballad, a bit over the top. Reached number 99 on the top 100, in the fall of ’62.
• Girls! Girls! Girls! – Title track of the movie, and of the LP. The original, I understand, was done by The Coasters, though I haven’t heard it. The Fourmost did a totally goofy version, which makes sense. Elvis did a straightforward version, which doesn’t, though it does have a good sax break.
One Broken Heart For Sale – Poor Elvis. From the winter of 1963. From the soundtrack LP It Happened At The World’s Fair
They Remind Me Too Much Of You – Another tale of a broken heart. The B side of One Broken Heart For Sale made the top 60 in the winter of 1963. From the same soundtrack.
How Would You Like To Be – A track from It Happened At The World’s Fair. Very pop, typical of the type of song that would appear with increasing regularity on his soundtracks.
(You’re The) Devil In Disguise – One of Elvis’ better known songs. From the summer of 1963.
Please Don’t Drag That String Around – Sure I’m a puppet on a string, says Elvis, just don’t abuse the situation. The B side of Devil In Disguise. Finally a B side that didn’t make the chart. Times were changing for Elvis…
Bossa Nova Baby – All the rage, The Girl From Ipanema and all that. This was faux bossa nova anyway. From the LP soundtrack Fun In Acupulco, this was in the top 10 in the fall of 1963.
Witchcraft – After singing about the devil, his girl is using witchcraft. His head is spinning. The B side of Bossa Nova Baby, this was a top 40 hit in the fall of 1963.
Kissin’ Cousins – This tale of incest was a hit in the winter of 1964.
It Hurts Me – The B side of Kissin’ Cousins. It’s amazing that these songs could be two sides of the same single. This one is a beautiful performance of a beautiful song, looking ahead to what he would do in the 70s. It only reached 39 in the winter of 1964. One of the most underrated of Elvis’ recordings.
Guadalajara – This is from Fun At Acapulco. I got it from a cheap anthology of movie songs.
Tender Feeling – A not bad ballad from Kissin’ Cousins.
Viva Las Vegas – From the movie with Ann Margaret. It may have been the first Elvis movie I saw. A hit, but not a huge one, in the summer of 1964. It was the B side of…
What’d I Say – Elvis does Ray Charles. The truth is that his version isn’t as good as covers by Bobby Darin or Jerry Lee Lewis. From the summer of ’64. Left off just about every compiliation. Included on Elvis Golden Records Volume 4, which is where I found it…
If You Think I Don’t Need You – From the Viva Las Vegas EP.
Ain’t That Loving You Baby – This was a good piece of rock and roll, recorded in the late 50s, but not released until September, 1964, shortly after which it became a top 20 hit.
Ask Me – The flip side of Ain’t That Loving You Baby actually did a bit better in the charts than the A side. File it with Love Me, Let Me etc.
Do The Clam – From the soundtrack LP Girl Happy. Often cited as an example oh how “out of touch” Elvis was. Well it’s silly, but is it sillier than, say, Wooly Bully, or Twine Time? A hit in the spring of 1965. The song reached number 21 on Billboard, but it’s another one that never made to a Elvis’ Golden Records, or World Wide Hit Awards, or any anthology.
You’ll Be Gone – The B side of Do The Clam, from Girl Happy. Another let’s make love tonight song, with that darn Latin beat again.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Elvis Presley - Fame And Fortune

Elvis had 145 records in the top 100 between 1956 and 1977. This collection is missing 20 of them. For the record, they are:

· Steamroller Blues
· My Boy
· Where Did They Go, Lord
· I’m Leavin’
· Until It’s Time For You To Go
· Please Don’t Stop Loving Me
· It’s Only Love
· Life
· There’s Always Me
· Take Good Care Of Her
· Bringing It Back
· Mama Liked The Roses
· Let Yourself Go
· Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet, Baby
· Money Honey
· Judy
· Fool
· Only Believe
· For The Heart
· Blue River

For the record, I have some of these elsewhere.

Elvis Presley:

Treat Me Nice – The B side of Jailhouse Rock reached was in the top 20 in the fall of 1957. This plea for kindness turns into an ultimatum before it’s over.
Young And Beautiful – A piano ballad, and a hoaky one. It comes from the Jailhouse Rock EP.
I Want To Be Free – Not The Monkees song. I’m not sure what he wants to be free from. Is he in jail? Well it is from the Jailhouse Rock EP…
(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care – This song about his square girlfriend is anything but square, a real rocker. Another track from the Jailhouse Rock EP, Buddy Holly did this, and did it well.
Blue Christmas – This is Elvis’s Christmas perennial, a radio staple every year, and it NEVER MADE THE TOP 100. Alright. Sorry. Interesting that Elvis puts a downspin on Christmas, making it sad. From Elvis' Christmas Album.
I Beg Of You – This is Treat Me Nice with different pajamas. It was Elvis’ introduction to 1958, a hit in the winter of that year.
Don’t – A ballad, but the sentiment is kind of adolescent. Doesn’t take much imagination. “When I feel like this…” This went to number 1 in the winter of 1958, the A side of I Beg Of You, but you don’t hear it often (ever?) on oldies radio.
Wear Your Ring Around My Neck – You have to think about that… A hit in the spring of 1958.
Doncha’ Think It’s Time – The B side of Wear Your Ring Around My Neck, also a hit in the spring of ’58. Timing is everything.
Hard Headed Woman – From the movie, and soundtrack from, King Creole. The New Orleans association inspired someone at RCA to throw horns into this, and they sound terrible. Number 1 in the summer of 1958. A philosophical treatise about evil women. Not the Cat Stevens song.
Don’t Ask Me Why – The flip side of Hard Headed Woman, and a track on the King Creole album, this song reached the top 30 in the summer of 1958.
King Creole – The title track from the movie / soundtrack. A tribute to a fictional jazz hero, who seems to bear a slight resemblance to our hero (“hip shakin’ King Creole?”) At least they didn’t put horns on this one. A top 20 hit in UK in fall 1958.
As Long As I Have You – Another track from King Creole. I don’t know what it is exactly about this ballad, but it seems to work better than most of Elvis’ period ballads. A precursor I think of Can’t Help Falling In Love
Trouble – Elvis as the bad guy. From King Creole.
Crawfish – Yet another track from King Creole, really getting into New Orleans culture.
Young Dreams – A track from King Creole. All these tracks were on The Other Sides, that’s why they are here.
Dixieland Rock – Yes, from King Creole. Kind of summary of what’s going on here. They are trying to capture the sound and mood of New Orleans without sacrificing any of Elvis, but it doesn’t work.
Lover Doll – From King Creole. Very sparse accompaniment on this one.
New Orleans – Not the Gary US Bonds song. From King Creole.
I Got Stung – From the end of 1958. This is where Elvis is really starting to cannibalize his stuff.
One Night – Elvis gives this the pile driver treatment, and it’s one of the highlights of his career. He originally sang “one night of sin,” changed it to “one night with you” but the meaning doesn’t change, just the moral context. The A side of I Got Stung, and a hit in December 1958.
Elvis Sails – The EP was called Elvis Sails, the track was called Press Interview With Elvis Presley. But on the LP it’s called Elvis Sails. Recorded in September of 1958, and released in December.
(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I – This one gets into a groove. A bit country. From the spring of 1959. Bob Dylan did this on Dylan.
I Need Your Love Tonight – The B side of A Fool Such As I, also a hit in the spring of 1959. Another of those “let’s do it tonight” songs. Buries Rod Stewart…
A Big Hunk O’ Love – Ok this one’s a bit gimmicky. Frantic. A piano solo that sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis on drugs. From the summer of 1959, number 1.
My Wish Came True – The B side is just as unfrantic. The vocal chorus here is kind of weird, a women’s chorus that sounds like it wandered into the wrong studio by mistake. Reached the top 20 in the summer of 1959.
Stuck On You – From the spring of 1960, reached number 1, just as Elvis’ armed forces tenure ended.
Fame And Fortune – One thing Elvis knew about. The B side of Stuck On You reached the top 20 in the spring of 1960.
Fever – The arrangement is almost a carbon copy of Peggy Lee. The truth is that I prefer Peggy Lee. I got this from the Pure Gold collection. This is from Elvis Is Back, released in April 1960, and considered a highlight of Elvis’ career.
Such A Night – An R & B hit for The Drifters circa 1953. Another track from Elvis Is Back, kind of Las Vegasy. RCA put it out as a single in 1964 and it was a top 20 hit in August.
A Mess Of Blues – This was the B side of the next song, a top 30 hit in the fall of 1960.
It’s Now Or Never – A number 1 hit in the fall of 1960. It’s said that this is the song that changed everything. It was an adaption of something called O Sole Mio, and Elvis became the Las Vegas shlock artist as soon as he recorded this. Not so simple, I don’t think. A lot of his stuff had schlock written all over it well before this, and Elvis was a complex artist, maintaining so many different personas, often at the same time, that no one can say with any accuracy that this or that was the turning point.
GI Blues – Title track from GI Blues, the movie and the soundtrack. I don’t know how he could stand the trivialization of his military experience.
Tonight Is So Right For Love – Another of those Las Vegas types tracks. From GI Blues.
Wooden Heart – From GI Blues. This was released as single in Europe in 1964. It has a kind of German polka thing going on. Joe Dowell covered this and rode it to number 1.
I Gotta Know – A top 20 hit at the end of 1960. I love that couplet: “I’m lonesome and I’m lovesick, Got my mind on lipstick.” The B side of…
Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis looks back on a relationship that’s ended, wonders if his former partner is doing the same. This is a bit corny, but it works, the arrangement is understated, but not overly so. Number 1 in December, 1960. Pat Boone did this, not so well, and so did Brian Hyland, also not so well.
I Believe In The Man In The Sky – I will leave aside the theological questions regarding “a man in the sky.” This is a track from Elvis’ first gospel album: His Hand In Mine, released in November, 1960.
Surrender – Another song of seduction. So many of them seem to have that slightly Latin beat. Number 1 in the winter of 1961.
Lonely Man – The B side is a ballad about searching. It reached the top 30 in the winter of 1960.
Locations of visitors to this page