Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Harry Belafonte

Well my father was ostensibly a Harry Belafonte fan, and my parents actually went to hear him play in concert. I remember my mother, I think it was my mother, saying how nice it would have been had he played a low key concert, just Belafonte on stage with a guitar. I take she thought it was overdone. And we did have one Belafonte album, called An Evening With Belafonte, and that’s where I got Mary’s Boy Child, though despite the inclusion and the title it was neither a Christmas album nor a live album.

The bulk of this collection comes from This Is Harry Belafonte, part of the RCA “This Is” series, such as it was. It was a library album, from my neighbourhood library, and it was in my collection for a long long time. I supplemented it with a few tracks from a joint TeeVee / RCA release, which was just called Harry Belafonte.

Now Belafonte, he sustained a long and distinguished career, going so far as to cowrite We Are The World in 1985, when most people had forgotten that he’d existed, indeed if they ever knew. And he seems to have maintained his artistic integrity, eschewing the following of trends that defeated so many of his contemporaries. Now I don’t know what his records looks like on the Adult Contemporary charts, but on the Billboard pop charts, he only ever 8 records (well 8 songs, 7 records), and all of those were in 1956 – 57. 6 of them are here.

Harry Belafonte

Sit Down – A great opening track for this collection. Harry is dead. Seriously. He can’t sit down, because he just got to heaven. Children’s choruses don’t usually work in pop music, and it doesn’t work so much here. From 1963
False Love (Waly Waly) – This is one of those very serious sounding ballads that Belafonte was given to. His vocal delivery is very intense, the arrangement is sparse, and there is a somber and rather understated chorus. This is from 1967, and his style hadn’t changed from 10 years before.
Mangwene Mpulele – I don’t know what language this is, but it isn’t English. In today’s world, this would be called World Music. This is from 1963.
Those Three Are On My Mind – A civil rights song, I’m guessing. It’s about Andy, James, and Michael. From 1967, the same LP as False Love.
There’s A Hole In The Bucket – Live at Carnegie Hall in 1960, with Odetta. A children’s song, more or less. Odetta is truly annoying.
Betty And Dupree – This is a more full length version of the song that was a hit for Chuck Willis. Very much in the Frankie And Johnny – Stack-O-Lee mold. A tale of love, theft, and murder. Recorded in 1963.
Scarlet Ribbons – A haunting tale of childhood innocence. Belafonte’s version has a far more haunting quality than The Browns’ hit version. He recorded a version of this in 1952 and one in 1955 and I don’t know which one I have.
Here Rattler Here – A prison song. Johnny Cash sang prison, always resentful and yearning for freedom. Belafonte’s prison has anger, but mostly a determination to see out his time. Rattler is a guard dog. The song is done hymn-style. From 1960
Turn Around – A song about growing up, and growing old. Another one of those haunting guitar ballads. From 1958.
Try To Remember – A harp provides the accompaniment, with the orchestra coming round when necessary. This song of nostalgia for times that never existed was a 60s lounge standard, though it never got higher than 73 on Billboard, and that was by Ed Ames, and The Brothers Four and Roger Williams both got it into the top 90. Then Gladys Knight & The Pips put it into a medley with The Way We Were, and it went to number 11 in 1975. Belafonte’s is far and away the best I’ve heard – all the corn removed, though he doesn’t change a word. This is from 1962.
Jump Down Spin Around – A slave song. He does it simply with some percussion and chorus. Doesn’t have the rhythmic power of Lonnie Donegan’s version, but it has authenticity. From 1955.
Bald Headed Woman – In today’s world it would mean something different. Sinaid O’Connor perhaps. This was covered by The Kinks and by The Who, both early on in their respective careers. From 1960, the same LP as Here Rattler Here.
Jamaica Farewell – The restraint here, the tastefulness of the performance and arrangement, the class, is remarkable – no orchestra, no chorus, none of the 50s equivalents of electric piano. This song more than any other (even including The Banana Boat Song) personifies calypso, and surprisingly so, because it’s not much more than straight folk music. I guess it’s that Jamaica connection. Gorgeous stuff. From the late part of 1956.
Shenandoah – Classic ballad, done in that somber Belafonte style. I think this song was in my guitar book when I was a kid. I never figured out how to play it, either. From 1959.
Danny Boy – Not that he’s Irish or anything, but neither is Johnny Cash, nor Jackie Wilson for that matter. At first, the musical backdrop is so muted here it may as well be a capella. Then a very bit of orchestra appears, and the effect is brilliant. Ghostly stuff. Recorded live, too, at Carnegie Hall, 1959.
Matilda, Matilda – A bit of whistling, a bit of guitar, then jump right in. Belafonte does the bossa nova. Jimmy Soul changed the rhythm and put Twistin’ Matilda on the charts. From 1953.
My Old Paint – Another song from my guitar book. This is about a horse, a cowboy song really, and this time Belafonte’s ballad style doesn’t work. From 1963.
Day-O – The is The Banana Boat Song of course, a hit also for The Tarriers, and The Fontane Sisters, and others, but Belafonte put his stamp on it, and it’s the one that people remember. It’s the ultimate workers’ song, daylight come and he wan’ go home. And everything works here, it’s one of those records where every piece comes together where the whole is not just greater than the sum of its parts, but it’s a whole universe unto itself. From the winter of 1957.
Delia – A simple song of separation and heartbreak. Recorded in 1954, and very folky and appealingly understated.
Glory Manger – A Christmas song. Gets into a kind of jazz groove, but the lyrics are kind of pedestrian, even for a Christmas song. From 1963.
Soldier Soldier – A soldier and his girl parry with each other about getting married / not getting married. Then the punch line: he’s married already!!! Hahaha. From 1954.
Island In The Sun – The Carribean theme. From the summer of 1957.
Mama Look-A-Bubu – “I wonder why nobody don’t like me, or is it the fact that I’m ugly.” I guess he couldn’t have sung this had he been ugly in fact. The song was a hit in the spring of 1957, but my version isn’t the hit version. Sad, but there’s nothing I can do about it now…
Wedding Song – By Paul Stookey, the Paul of Peter, Paul & Mary. Belafonte’s version is solemn. There’s a church-like choir in there, which isn’t totally inappropriate I guess, given that this is about a wedding. From a live album recorded in 1972.
Cocoanut Woman – The island theme. This is from the summer of 1957. There’s a bit of Sammy Davis Jr. in the scatting at the end.
Mary’s Boy Child – Well this is another Christmas song, and when Boney M put this song out in 1978, I’d never heard it. Theirs was a knock out dance version that got played on the radio every 5 minutes. The song tells the basic magic birth story, with a bit of theology thrown in. Hearing the original was like revelation. It’s obviously the same song, but it’s hymn-like, and quite beautiful. A hit during the 1956 season.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Warren Smith

Rockabilly is littered with casualties – Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent sidelined by injuries, Johnny Cash sidelined by country music, Jerry Lee Lewis sidelined by bigamy, lechery, tax evasion, substance abuse, reckless abandon, and pianos at the bottom of swimming pools, and Eddie Cochrane sidelined by death. Then there are the also-rans, some of whom, like Warren Smith, seemed pretty big in their day, then ended up in the heap of forgotten would bes.

Smith gets quite a write-up in Wikipedia; makes him sound like a major recording artist. But not too many people remember him, and Billboard only lists one record – So Long I’m Gone, in the summer of 1957.

These tracks come from a cassette; it was an anthology of Sun recordings by also rans like Smith. I found it at the Centennial Library.

Warren Smith:

Miss Froggie – A forerunner of Miss Piggy? Hi stepping rockabilly, about a girl “shaped just like a frog.” What a great love song. It got radio play in Canada, and that was in the summer of 1957. The A side was So Long I’m Gone, his only Billboard pop hit.
Uranium Rock – I guess it was the era of duck and cover. I’m not sure what that has to do with this except for the uranium connection. Not easy to decipher the lyrics.

January, 1957

  • Don't Forbid Me - Pat Boone
  • Mary's Boy Child - Harry Belafonte
  • Poor Boy - Elvis Presley
  • Since I Met You Baby - Mindy Carson
  • I Feel Good - Shirley & Lee
  • Young Love - Sonny James
  • Jamaican Farewell - Harry Belafonte
  • Wisdom Of A Fool - The Five Keys
  • Banana Boat Song - Sarah Vaughan
  • Banana Boat Song - The Fontane Sisters
  • Garden Of Eden - Garry Miller
  • Ain't Got No Home - Clarence "Frogman" Henry
  • Young Love - Tab Hunter
  • Day - O (Banana Boat Song) - Harry Belafonte
  • Blue Monday - Fats Domino
  • Banana Boat Song - Steve Lawrence
  • Don't You Rock Me Daddy-O - Lonnie Donegan
  • Anastasia - Pat Boone
  • Young Love - The Crew Cuts
  • Trees - Al Hibbler
  • The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
  • Let's Go Calypso - Rusty Draper

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Tarriers

The original calypso group. Vince Martin was the leader, and Erik Darling went off to for The Rooftop Singers, and Alan Arkin went off to be an actor. This is the original single.

The Tarriers:

The Banana Boat Song – Calypso’s signature song. Said to be a Jamaican folk song, it was recorded here and there in the early 50s, and it seems to have been picked up by Harry Belafonte first as part of the calypso thing. This is a smooth folky version, with just enough patois to make it authentic. It was a hit in the winter of 1957. It was also a hit by Belafonte, by The Fontane Sisters, and by Stan Freberg.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Frankie Laine

Now this guy is a belter, not a crooner, a belter.

This album, Frankie Laine’s Greatest Hits, was a popular one, turned up a lot in second hand stores. But it focuses on the early 50s; Laine had 15 hits from 1955 on, and only one is on here. Another one, You Gave Me A Mountain, I got from somewhere else. And Rawhide came from somewhere lese entirely. I originally got Moonlight Gambler from my friend’s copy of the soundtrack to Eskimo Limon (that’s like “lemon popscicle” in Hebrew).

Frankie Laine:

Moonlight Gambler – From the winter of 1956 / 57. Love as a card game, or something.
Jalousie – I guess this was originally a French song, hence the spelling. This seems to have been from 1950. One of those songs like Suspicion; emotions that go back and forth.
High Noon – The Tex Ritter hit. From 1952. Laine brings high drama to High Noon, a song that has plenty of drama to start with.
Your Cheatin’ Heart – The Hank Williams song, slightly uncountrified. From 1953.
Some Day – Also from 1953.
I Believe – Laine attacks this venerable hymn with all he’s got. Wikipedia says that his is from 1965, but it seems to me that this LP is older than that.
Jezebel – From 1950. A great great song. I’m not sure why, but it is. Jezebel, of course, is named after the biblical Jezebel, whose name, in Hebrew, was actually Izevel. Anyway, the girl promises one thing and delivers another, but that’s not real. The promise was in his head, in his heart, she can’t be held responsible. Herman’s Hermits did a knock-em-dead rocked up version in 1967 on There’s A Kind Of Hush All Over The World, and the arrangement was picked up by Witness Inc. who had a minor Canadian hit in the summer of ’67. Minor, but sublime.
Granada – From 1953 Elvis never did this.
• That Lucky Old Sun – Ray Charles did this also; I think Laine is more restrained, and the song works better for that. From 1957.
Rose I Love You
That’s My Desire – This seems to have been from 1946. Dion & The Belmonts did a great cover.
Answer Me – Nat King Cole did this, and his version was “answer me oh my love;” Laine sings “answer me Lord above.” But both songs are about the same thing, a failed romance.
Rawhide – From one of those TV westerns, with all the drama that one would expect. Made the UK top 20 in the autumn of ’59.
You Gave Me A Mountain – A mountain here is a bad thing, something too high to overcome. This is terribly maudlin, about 10 times worse than, say, Honey. From the winter of 1969, but thankfully I don’t remember hearing this on the radio.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ivory Joe Hunter

Another Atlantic R & B singer. He had 4 hits, one of which was City Lights, the same City Lights that was a hit for Ray Price. Well, I don’t have that one, but I have these two, both of which came off an Atlantic R & B anthology.

Ivory Joe Hunter:

Since I Met You Baby – My whole world has changed, he says. Great sentiment, I just wonder how healthy it is. Doesn’t matter, though, when you hear him sing it. From late 1956.
Empty Arms – Images of deflated limbs. From the spring of 1957.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Heartbeats

Well The Heartbeats were another doo wop group from the 50s; they had two pop hits and I have them both. I think that A Thousand Miles Away came from Echoes From A Rock & Roll Era, and the other was from some oldies anthology, the same one that had The Paradons / Paragons, and Charlie Ryan.

The Heartbeats

A Thousand Miles Away – Considering this song’s legendary status, it’s amazing that it never made the top 40, having reached only number 53, and that was in the winter of 1957. A song of separation and longing. “All I do is pray, baby, just for you.”
Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool – Not the Connie Francis song. This is one of the most disjointed songs I’ve ever heard. They lyrics are all over the map. What you do will come back to you. Love is great when it starts, sad when it ends. Don’t forget about God. This encyclopedia of topics was a hit of sorts in the summer of 1957.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ray Price

Did I get this from Pyramid? Probably, though I don’t remember exactly. I haven’t written about Pyramid yet, I keep threatening to, but I guess I have to be in the right mood, and maybe have a better recollection than “maybe I bought it there and maybe I didn’t.”

This is called Ray Price's Greatest Hits, released in 1961, followed by For The Good Times, which I don’t remember where I got, but Ray Price's Greatest Hits Volume 2 would be nice here, but I don’t have it.

Ray Price:

Crazy Arms – Anthropomorphic limbs, why not. This sounded old fashioned even back at the end of 1956, when this was a hit. Ah, his romantic dysfunction has thrown our hero into a paroxysm of despair. Well his true love is marrying another. What do you expect. Chuck Berry covered this, interestingly. It was number 1 on the country chart.
You Done Me Wrong – I like this, it isn’t “it didn’t work out,” it isn’t “you weren’t fulfilling my needs,” it isn’t even “I’m sad without you,” it’s “you done me wrong.” Way to call a spade a spade, even if it’s a totally distorted spade.
City Lights – Go drown your sorrows, an old story. How different is the “gay and bright” world from what’s inside my heart. A hit in the fall of 1962. And another number 1 on the country chart.
Invitation To The Blues – From the fall of 1958.
I’ve Got A New Heartache – This was a country hit during 1956. We think we are over it, but we are not over it.
Who’ll Be The First – Yet another song of heartbreak. Either this guy had a miserable life, or he picked songwriters who had miserable lives…
Heartaches By The Number – Even more heartache. This was a hit for Guy Mitchell in 1959.
The Same Old Me – A song about the inability to move on, after a relationship malfunction. Number 1 on the country chart in 1959.
Release Me – This song was actually the B side of I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me) and it reached number 6 on the country chart in 1954. The song was written, apparently, by Eddie Miller, Robert Yount, and Dub Williams in 1943, it was recorded by Miller in 1953, but after Price did it it took on a life of its own, with versions by Kitty Wells, Esther Phillips, Charlie McCoy, The Bonzo Dog Band, Elvis Presley, and Engelbert Humperdinck. It’s a song about a dead relationship, but one in which the partners won’t quit. One wonders what’s keeping the narrator from just bolting. Price (and Wells and most others) sang “to live together is a sin,” and Engelbert changed it to “to waste our lives would be a sin.” I guess by 1967 it was okay to live together.
One More Time – I guess this is from 1960. This one’s a bit different. This isn’t a song about heartbreak, it’s a song about addiction. Think of Devil Woman by Marty Robbins, where he confessed his affair, was trying to rebuild his marriage, but couldn’t keep away from the girl. Here there’s no cheating, just a dysfunctional relationship.
My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You – First he had crazy arms, arms with a mind of their own so to speak. Here it’s his shoes. Well it’s his arms and eyes too. And his lips. From the fall of 1957.
I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me) – It’s not the Bobby Darin song, nor the Jackson Five song. A song of love and dedication. A country hit in 1954.
For The Good Times – A song about the end of a relationship. This is by Kris Kristofferson and it’s a bit contrived. Relationships don’t end in one shot like this. The feelings, though, are real. This was a hit towards the end of 1970, and if this is any indication, the edge had gone from his music, though this is nice enough.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Lennon Sisters

The TV was always on I guess, so I remember a lot of TV shows that I never actually watched. And so I remember Lawrence Welk, and I remember hearing him introduce The Lennon Sisters every time. That’s all. I didn’t find out until later that they’d actually had a couple of hit singles.

This collection, called Among Our Souvenirs, has both, plus many other songs, most of which are anemic sounding cover versions of popular hits by others. I found this at some library or other.

The Lennon Sisters:

He – Originally a hit for Al Hibbler and for The McGuire Sisters, and ten years later for The Righteous Brothers, this is a song about God, and the arrangement here is very churchy, which makes sense I suppose. No profound theology here.
Tonight You Belong To Me – This is The Lennon Sisters’ big success story, a hit in the fall of 1956. There is a male group singing along with them. This is a happy, even chipper, song about a romantic triangle and the complications that ensue as a result thereof.
Dear One – Not the Larry Finnegan hit, this is just a standard love song, mushy, the too-shy variety.
White Silver Sands – A hit for Bill Black’s Combo. This version has words.
Stars Fell On Alabama – Another love song. I was in Alabama when I was about 14. I don't remember any stars falling.
Repeat After Me
A Little Street Where Our Friends Meet – A song about the safe and familiar.
Among My Souvenirs – A hit for Connie Francis in 1960 and for Marty Robbins in 1976. A song of memories and nostalgia.
Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) – From the fall of 1961. A hit for Sue Thompson at the same time, but Thomson’s version was in the top 10, this was in the top 50. The sad story of a girl who goes to see a film and happens to sit behind her beau with his new love. And so her mother asks what’s wrong, and she doesn’t lie, but she doesn’t tell the story either. Sad movies make me cry, she says. And so there is an underlying theme of non-communication between generations.
Blue Hawaii – And so the girls take a stab at this standard. Well, it’s been done better…
Can’t Help Falling In Love – Elvis’s hit from 1962.
Greensleeves – This is, well, it’s Greensleeves. I don’t know if I ever heard these words anywhere else. I’ve heard the Christmas version, but this isn’t it.
Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You – A hit by Connie Francis in the winter of 1962.
The End Of The World – A hit for Skeeter Davis, and there is a fairly well known version by Herman’s Hermits.
There, I’ve Said It Again – A hit originally for Vaughn Monroe, then later for Bobby Vinton.
Hit The Road Jack – Ray Charles’ hit. This is way out of their depth.
Our Day Will Come – Number 1 hit for Ruby & The Romantics
If I Had A Hammer – This almost sounds good. A hit for Peter, Paul & Mary, and for Trini Lopez.
Calypso Medley: The Banana Boat song / Island In The Sun / Jamaica Farewell – All hits by Harry Belafonte, Banana Boat was also a hit for The Tarriers, and, in a version not so unlike this one, for The Fontane Sisters. The harmonies are nice, there is a bit of almost authentic percussion, and the acoustic guitar is beautiful. But this is still elevator music.
Sentimental Journey – A song from 1944, written by Les Brown, Ben Homer, and Bud Green. It was a hit for Brown’s band, with vocals by Doris Day. This was the title track of Ringo Starr’s first solo album in 1970.
Fascination – A song from a jewellery commercial. Actually a hit for Jane Morgan.
Twilight Time – Also a hit for Les Brown with Doris Day, but this one was written by Buck Ram, who became the manager and producer of The Platters, and this was a number 1 hit for the said Platters in 1958.
The Nearness Of You
Lover’s Concerto – Based on Bach, it was as hit for The Toys in 1965. The Sisters here have nice harmonies, but they are white bread. The Toys are French pumpernickel.
You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me – One song that doesn’t work as a harmony vehicle. This was a hit for Dusty Springfield in 1966 and for Elvis in 1970.
This Is My Song – A hit for Petula Clark, and, in a grossly operatic arrangement, by Harry Secombe.
Never My Love – A hit for The Association in 1967, which was redone by The Fifth Dimension and then by Blue Swede.
Till – A late 50s almost-hit for Percy Faith, and redone in the late 60s by The Vogues.
What The World Needs Now – A Bacharach & David song, a hit for Jackie DeShannon in 1965.
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me – A hit in 1968 for Diana Ross & The Supremes And The Temptations (I know, too many “ands”), and, in comparison with the original, this may be the most anemic sounding cover on this collection, and that’s an achievement.
It Must Be Him – A hit for Vikki Carr. I remember this song from a guitar book I had; I found it in the book before I ever heard it on the radio. I worked it out, and I was pretty close.
California Dreaming – The Mamas & The Papas’ hit from 1966. The Beach Boys revived this in the 80s. And The Lennon Sisters, well, I don’t know why they bothered…
Promises, Promises – Not the Dionne Warwick, but same idea. This has the advantage of not having an original to compare it to (at least none that I know). But it’s still fairly anemic sounding.
Here Comes My Baby Back Again – The original is by Eddy Arnold.
Funny How Time Slips Away – A Willie Nelson song, recorded by many, and a hit for Jimmy Elledge and for Joe Hinton. I have a kind of strange version by The Supremes. It’s better than this one, but not by much.
You Are My Special Angel – Ok, I was thinking this song recently, for reasons that I won’t get into. A hit originally for Bobby Helms and 10 years later for The Vogues. The title is usually rendered simply My Special Angel.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jesse Belvin

Belvin was apparently quite the songwriter, and he was behind the scenes a lot in the music industry, but he only ever had 2 songs on the top 100, one was called Guess Who, and one was called Funny. I don’t have either one. But he is best remembered for Goodnight My Love, which I got from Echoes Of A Rock Era. He was 28 when he died in 1960.

Jesse Belvin:

Goodnight My Love – Probably the greatest end-of-date record ever. And what a great slow dance. Amazingly, the record did not make Billboard top 100, though it reached #23 on Cashbox (how did that discrepancy happen?), and a contemporary cover by The McGuire Sisters reached the top 40. Paul Anka did it again a decade later. But nobody could capture a tenth of the original; everything about this record was magic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

December, 1956

  • Night Lights - Nat King Cole
  • I Wouldn't Know Where To Begin - Eddy Arnold
  • Old Shep - Elvis Presley
  • Crazy Arms - Ray Price
  • Slow Walk - Sil Austin
  • Petticoats Of Portugal - Dick Jacobs
  • The Auctioneer - Leroy Van Dyke
  • The Money Tree - Margaret Whiting
  • Goodnight My Love - Jesse Belvin
  • Since I Met You Baby - Ivory Joe Hunter
  • Confidential - Sonny Knight
  • Blueberry Hill - Louis Armstrong
  • Slow Walk - Bill Doggett
  • A Thousand Miles Away - The Heartbeats
  • Paralyzed - Elvis Presley
  • Rock-A-Bye Your Baby To A Dixie Melody - Jerry Lewis
  • Tra La La - Georgia Gibbs
  • Goodnight My Love, Pleasant Dreams - The McGuire Sisters
  • On London Bridge - Jo Stafford
  • Baby Doll - Andy Williams
  • Singing The Blues - Tommy Steele
  • Moonlight Gambler - Frankie Laine
  • Day-O - The Tarriers
  • Jim Dandy - LaVerne Baker
  • When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again - Elvis Presley

Marty Robbins

The last two tracks on this collection come from the More Greatest Hits album, and I found that at the West Kildonan Library. It was a cassette. The rest is an album called 20 Golden Memories, a "CBS Direct" release, which I found at Woolco.

Marty Robbins:

El Paso – Ok, so he’s in love with this girl. Feleena, she’s a Mexican maiden. She dances, we know that, her eyes are black, and she is “wicked and evil.” He knows that his love is in vain. So far, the picture is not very hopeful. And yet, he sees her having a drink with a “handsome young stranger” and he kills him. Now Feleena works in this bar, and she is wicked and all that, and this is the first time he’s seen her having a drink with someone. Well he ends up being a fugitive for a while, then taking an unbelievably stupid risk he goes back to see her once more, gets ambushed, but miracle of miracles, Feleena is there to kiss him goodbye as he drops dead. Or, perhaps, this is a song of the incredible power of attraction, infatuation, how your heart can turn your brain to mush. What kind of risks people will take. Anyway it’s the lilting melody that makes this work, the Spanish guitar arrangement, Robbins’ delivery which is serious without ever becoming maudlin. This soap opera was number 1 in January of 1960, the first song to reach number in that great decade of the 60s.
Singing The Blues – A pop hit for Guy Mitchell, this was the country version, which isn’t like blues at all, but it is like blues for all that. This leaves Mitchell in the dust. It was a hit at the end of 1956.
Ruby Ann – Not likely I’d know anyone called Ruby Ann, and I never have. How love wins over wealth. From late 1962.
Devil Woman – An extra-marital liaison. Mary is the wife, she knows about us, she’s forgiven me, but the devil woman won’t give up so easy. The story of torn allegiances. From the fall of 1962.
Among My Souvenirs – Marty remembers his love affair. A hit for Connie Francis, and number 1 on the country charts for Robbins in 1976.
My Woman. My Woman, My Wife – He sings of his wife as a martyr more than anything else, but a tribute is a tribute. This could be corny, but he does this type of thing well. From the spring of 1970.
Ribbon Of Darkness – A great moment on this collection, Robbins does Lightfoot. The song appeared on Lightfoot’s first album in 1966, Robbins put it out as a single, which made number 1 on the country charts. He stays pretty close to the guitar, bass, and whistling original.
Cool Water – From the Sons Of The Pioneers through the Rooftop Singers and Burl Ives, straight to Marty Robbins. He keeps that cowboy ambience alive and well.
Tonight Carmen – A number 1 hit on the country charts in 1967. The great reunion, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who’s been married to anyone. Many references to his bedroom, new sheets, no crying etc. He does confirm, at one point, that she is his wife. Well…
Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me – The Four Seasons sang Opus 17, same idea. You go your way, sings Marty, I’ll be ok. The real message, of course, is I’m a mess. This was a hit in the winter of 1961.
A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation) – Playing a trivia game, once back around 1994, and there was a first year lawyer there who had worked for the public trustee, she was an older woman, older than me anyway, and her husband was older still, and I guess the category was song titles, and this guy must have been my partner, and he looked at the card and looked at me with a look that said this is a giveaway, and said “A White Sport Coat…” and I said “ And A Pink Carnation…” and he looked relieved, but everyone else in the room looked totally baffled. This is Robbins stab at the teen song market I guess; it’s from the spring of 1957, and here he is all dressed up with no place to go. Everything, in a nutshell, turned to crap.
Begging To You – The story of a dysfunctional relationship. From late 1963.
My Elusive Dream – A hit for David Houston and Tammy Wynette, but others did it, like Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood. This is a song about the marital bond, when it works.
Big Iron – A tale from the old west. From the spring of 1960.
El Paso City – Robbins revisits his hit. He’s up in the air, in a jetliner as the song begins, and we know that we are in a different world, as he explores the juxtaposition of two realities. This was a number 1 hit on the country chart in 1976.• The Story Of My Life – Just basically a how happy I am with you song. And they’re not even married yet. From late 1957.
You Gave Me A Mountain – Robbins sings of one hardship after another, lost his mother, nasty father, dog bites him, gets fired, hair loss, wife leaves him. But the mountain, the one he can’t climb, is the custody battle over his son. Of all the totally over-the-top, maudlin, bathetic, puke inducing songs I’ve heard, this is one of them. It was Frankie Laine, though, who had the hit.
Almost Persuaded – There are two songs with this title. One was a hit for David Houston, and it was about infidelity. This is the other. It’s church music. Very one-dimensional.
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You – So many people did this, Elvis for one. This is a respectable version.
I Walk Alone – From late 1968. Robbins music seems to have been strangely unaffected by Nashville trends.
Is There Any Chance – Pure Johnny Mathis territory. But Robbins sings this way better than Mathis could ever dream of. From the summer of 1960.
Ballad Of The Alamo – Not to be confused with Remember The Alamo. From late 1960.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Johnny Cash

I saw the movie. That was in 2006 in a hotel room in Toronto. But better, I saw Johnny Cash, the man, perform live. That was when? I don’t remember, late 90s I guess. He played the free Grandstand at the Red River Ex, and I went with my friend Harold. The show wasn’t great though; Cash had his family in tow, June Carter was there, and his son John Jr. who had to be coerced to appear on stage, though Rosanne was nowhere in sight. No it wasn’t a great show; the man seemed tired, there was an absence of energy throughout. But still, I saw Johnny Cash.

This is a real hodgepodge here. The Sun tracks all come from a TV album called Original Golden Hits, probably on the Syndicate label, which was the precursor to K-Tel. Then comes Johnny Cash’s Greatest Hits Volume 1 which I probably picked up at Pyramid. There was a collection of some sort that I found at the WK library, and that has the more recent tracks. And a 20 track collection that I found at Woolco so long ago. That’s where it all started. That was a Columbia special products release that I’ve only ever seen one copy of, and that was my copy. What Is Truth came from a K-Tel album.

And for all that, I’m still missing 20 of his 48 top 100 singles.

Johnny Cash:

Folsom Prison Blues – It was Merle Haggard who sang Freedom Train, but for Johnny Cash every train was a freedom train, and here he sits in his prison cell, “I know I had it comin’, I know I can’t be free.” And train whistle drives him into a kind of madness, “the train keeps on a-movin’ and that’s what tortures me.” The song later came to symbolize Cash’s seemingly symbiotic relationship to the incarcerated; a live remake hit the top 40 in 1968, and it was the title track of one of two live-in-prison albums Cash did, the other being San Quentin. Reached number 4 on the country charts, and that was late in 1955. This was the B side of So Doggone Lonesome.
Hey Porter – And here he is on the train, the porter being his liaison between the machine and the man, a workingman, it’s not the engineer he sings to. Here the train means home, Tennessee, and he’s gonna “breathe that southern air.” The B side of Cry Cry Cry.
So Doggone Lonesome – Not just a song of heartbreak, and waiting for her return that will never happen, but he will do it because “I believe that lovin’ you is right.” This is the man who “shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die,” back in Folsom Prison Blues, but there is no contradiction, and the reconciliation is not in the words, it’s in Luther Perkins’ guitar. Just listen. His first top 10 country hit, from late 1955. (I wrote this before I found the video)
There You Go – “I know you’re gonna be the way you’ve always been” sings Johnny Cash about the girl who is walking out the door. I guess that’s how people are.
Next In Line – Well he has his sights set on someone, and he says it’s his turn, and it’s an odd way of stating one’s romantic intentions, but Johnny Cash often has odd ways of expressing things.
Cry Cry Cry – She’s running around. Johnny expends a lot of energy imagining how sad she’ll be when he walks away. Not sure why he is still around… This was his first single to appear on the country charts, and that was in the summer of 1955.
I Walk The Line – A song of stability and steadfastness. He redid this in the early 60s after he joined Columbia, but it was the Sun version that was his first entry on the top 100, and that was in the fall of 1956.
Don’t Make Me Go – It ain’t over till it’s over. Not wanting to give up in the face of hopelessness. The B side of Next In Line. Words to remember: “I’m sorry that I never knew, how to show my love to you, I took too much for granted…”
Train Of Love – Not the Annette song. Here the train is a means to escape, but not for him. The B side of There You Go.
Home Of The Blues – This lament to heartbreak was on the pop charts in the fall of 1957.
Get Rhythm – A song about a shoeshine boy. Originally the B side of I Walk The Line, this record was reissued and hit the charts in late 1969.
I Guess Things Happen That Way – From the summer of 1958. Resigned and philosophical. Someone at Sun thought that a chorus would be a good idea; it sounds a bit weird. “Heaven help me be a man and have the strength to stand alone.”
Doin’ My Time – Back in prison.
Blue Train – recorded in 1958, but released in 1962 When Johnny Cash is sad, he’s not just sad, he’s riding a blue train. I can’t say that in a more modern era he’s be flying a blue plane. It’s more than just the means of locomotion. Planes just don’t have that chug a chug rhythm, for one thing…
Ballad Of A Teenage Queen – From the winter of 1958, could it be that Sun was trying to position Johnny Cash as a teen idle? A sad tale of the girl who went off to Hollywood, left the guy behind, the guy who worked at the candy store. Things didn’t work out for her, and she went back. Nice. The Candy store?
Sugartime – The McGuire Sisters’ hit, honest. Ok, released by Sun in 1961, this doesn’t really work.
Wreck Of The Old ’97 – From an album released in 1957, the fragility of life, portrayed as a train wreck.
I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You – Johnny Cash sings Hank Williams. One can’t imagine two more different country styles. It sounds totally Johnny Cash.
Rock Island Line – From the Leadbelly catalogue, and a hit in ’56 by Lonnie Donegan, Cash obviously could not resist another train tale. Not the best version I’ve ever heard. A reissue of this single crept into the charts in early 1970.
Come In Stranger – There is a version of this by Ian & Sylvia. About a reunion.
Big River – The B side of Ballad Of A Teenage Queen, and a lot more authentic. Another song of heartbreak.
You’re The Nearest Thing To Heaven – The B side of The Ways Of A Woman In Love, this is from the fall of 1958.
Ways Of A Woman In Love – From the summer of 1958. It hurts to watch your woman fall for someone else.
I Heard That Lonesome Whistle – Another Hank Williams song. Perfect for Cash though; he sings again from a prison cell. This is kind of Folsom Prison in the test tube. .
I’d Still Be There – Not my choice, he says, to have ended things. A song about how little control we have over the most important things in our lives.
What Do I Care – We are into the Columbia period now. This is from the fall of 1958.
I Still Miss Someone
Were You There – In-your-face religion. Not to get theological here or anything, but I wonder what the significance of having been there is. Chronologically, obviously nobody listening to this was there, not even anyone back in the early 60s when this was done (!). Perhaps it is speaking of spiritual heritage. I wonder.
Bonanza! – Theme song from the TV show with Lorne Green etc. Al Caiola put this on the chart in its instrumental incarnation, which is how it was heard on TV, but here are the words. From the fall of 1962.
The Big Battle – The battle ain’t over till it’s over. This is more or less literal, but also not literal. Every shot fired has an echo…
Remember The Alamo – Another war song, this one about Davy Crockatt. Donovan covered this.
Tennessee Flat Top Box – Autobiography? Though Cash strummed rhythm, I don’t think guitar was his forte per se. Maybe this was about Luther Perkins. From late 1961.
(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me) – Another spiritual. Elvis actually put this one on the charts.
It Ain’t Me Babe – Oh yeah, I gave her my heart, but she wanted my soul. Bob Dylan put this at the end of Another Side Of Bob Dylan, in 1964. Cash’s version made the pop charts a full year before The Turtles’, that was in the fall of ’64. It was the first Dylan cover by a country artist. The mariachi sounding trumpets are a bit out of place. Apart from that, Cash totally got Dylan.
The Ballad Of Ira Hayes – How our heroes are vulnerable. He was a hero in the marines, but at home he a victim of poverty. His actual biography suggests that he was a victim of post traumatic stress disorder, and alcoholism. Dylan covered this and it turned up on Dylan. Stick to Cash’s version, though.
The Rebel – He was known to have said that he didn’t “cotton much to hippahs” but Johnny Cash was as much a rebel as the freakiest Haight-Ashbury hippie. The rebel he was singing about here, though, was Johnny Yuma – and this was from the TV show. Like Bonanza, Cash sang the words that nobody knew from watching TV.
A Boy Named Sue – A song by Shel Silverstein, recorded live at San Quentin, put Johnny Cash in the mainstream. I remember this one, it’s from the summer of 1969.
What Is Truth – I remember this one too, I remember thinking that it mighty profound. The truth is that it’s a bit clichéd, but Cash pulls it off, and the folky guitar and the subtle strings don’t hurt either. From the spring of 1970.
Ring Of Fire – The trumpet in here is a bit strange. Otherwise this tale of love as fire is, well, not typical Cash actually. From the summer of 1963, there is a psychedelisized cover by Eric Burdon & The Animals.
If I Were A Carpenter – Johnny Cash & June Carter. From the winter of 1970, but I don’t remember hearing it. It’s by Tim Hardin, and it was a hit first for Bobby Darin, then for The Four Tops, before Mr. and Mrs. Cash had a crack at it. It’s alright, but Cash sounds more like the carpenter he is singing about not being than like the gentleman who is supposedly singing this.
40 Shades Of Green – Cash is Irish for this one. I’m not sure what possessed him to do this, but it isn’t exactly convincing.
Oh What A Dream – This has the corniest chorus. I think this is about being dead.
Pickin’ Time – A working man’s lament. For the farmer in the song it’s pickin time, for the retail merchant it’s December, for the accountant it’s tax time…
Seasons Of My Heart
Sunday Morning Coming Down – Cash does Kristofferson. Here he is in his element. Whoever decided to arrange the strings should have decided not to. I remember hearing Ray Stevens’ version, and I had a magazine that had song lyrics, and the magazine identified this as a Johnny Cash record. I didn’t hear it though, until years later. From the fall of 1970.
Man In Black – Autobiography.
(Ghost) Riders In The Sky – The first version of this song I actually heard, and I remember hearing when it was on the country station play list in the late 70s, as I was cruising around time in my cab. This is probably the most musically satisfying version, the only real competition being The Sons Of The Pioneers.
Without Love – Not the Clyde McPhatter song. The song is about lve generally, as a human quality, the quality that makes the difference between man and machine.
The Baron – The story of a western hero, with all too human flaws.
Guess Things Happen That Way – The Columbia re-recording, virtually indistinguishable from the original.
San Quentin – A prison, recorded live at Folsom Prison. He also recorded an album at San Quentin. This is Cash at his best. “I’ll walk out a wiser weaker man” he sings, but there is nothing about his delivery that suggests weakness. “Do you think I’ll be different when you’re through,” he sings a verse or two later, contradicting the earlier pronouncement. That’s it. And really, it’s all there in the fuzz tone lead guitar.
Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right – It was fitting that Cash did Dylan, because so many people complained that Dylan “couldn’t sing,” and so many people complained that Cash “couldn’t sing.” And what was true of both, either you get it, or you don’t. And once you get it, you know that there is a huge difference between knowing how to sing and having a “good voice.” This was one of the most covered Dylan songs, with versions by Peter, Paul & Mary, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Joan Baez, The Wonder Who, The T-Bones, Melanie. Cash delivers with his trademark bitterness, giving it a rare degree of authenticity, and making it one of the better covers around.
Orange Blossom Special – It’s all here, the tick tack train rhythm, the amazing harmonica (I can’t prove that it’s Charlie McCoy, but who else could it be), Cash serving up the song with just the right balance of humour and wistfulness. So many people recorded this one (Jimmie Rogers, Bill Monroe, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Seatrain, Charlie McCoy himself etc.) Another great performance. From the winter of 1965.
The One On The Right Is On The Left – Cash pokes fun at political expression by musicians, which is odd because he sure had enough political stuff in his music – well ok, not party politics, but surely The Ballad Of Ira Hayes was as political as anything. From the winter of 1966.
One Piece At Time – “Negatory on the cost of the mochine there Red Ryder.” Johnny works in an automobile factory and comes up with a plan to steal a car over the years “one piece at a time.” And of course in the end the pieces don’t fit and the results are knee-slappingly hilarious. “Something was de-fi-nite-ly wrong.” From the spring of 1976. “It’s a ‘49, ‘50, ‘51, ‘52, ‘53,’54, ‘55, ‘56, ‘57, ‘58, ‘59 automobile; it’s ‘60, ‘61, ‘62, ‘63, ‘64, ‘65, ‘66, ‘67, ‘68, ‘69, ‘70 automobile…”
A Thing Called Love – A bit of his corny side, doesn’t quite pull this off, for my money. A hit on the UK chart in the spring of 1972.
Daddy Sang Bass – One of his best known, and a variation of Will The Circle Be Unbroken. It’s about the sanctity and safety of stability of the family unit. And it’s all wonderful, but not borne out much in reality, except I suppose in rare cases. From the winter of 1969.
Folsom Prison Blues – The live version from 1967, a hit in the winter of ’67 / 68.
Understand Your Man – Kind of a Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right redux, but more direct and Cash-like. Strikes home like a firing squad. From the winter of 1964. http
If I Had A Hammer – What was he saying about politics and music not mixing? This was a hit by Peter, Paul & Mary and by Trini Lopez. With June Carter.
Five Feet High And Rising – The story of a flood, and the human response thereto. From the fall of 1959.
Danny Boy – Wikipedia lists what looks like about 100 versions of this. I didn’t count them. I listen to Cash sing it, and I can’t decide whether it is really good or really terrible. He is definitely out of his comfort zone, but that could be a good thing or a bad thing, and that’s what it is here, a good thing or a bad thing. It’s from the Orange Blossom Special album, 1965.
Don’t Take Your Guns To Town – From the winter of 1959. A song about male insecurity, and the tension that a mother’s love produces in the son.
Jackson – Johnny Cash & June Carter. Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood did it first. I guess this is more country. A great song of marital discord on the outside, and harmony just beneath.

The Turbans

This should have been back in December of 1955. Slap me with a wooden spoon. It’s on the Doo Wop Box.

The Turbans:

When You Dance – Not the Neil Young song. Advice from a guy to a guy. Most advice songs are warning songs (You're Gonna Lose That Girl) but here we have friendly pointers. From late 1955.

The G Clefs

Apparently these guys were 4 brothers and a friend. How Beach Boys is that. Besides these 2 songs they had “A Girl Has To Know” in the fall of 1962.

I got I Understand off the single, which I don’t remember where I bought it. Then Ka Ding Dong is on the Doo Wop Box. And so this is really a virtual collection, one song an MP3, one on cassette. [By the way, the video for Ka Ding Dong is above average - check it out.]

The G Clefs:

Ka Ding Dong – I have a version of this by The Crew Cuts, but this is better. From the fall of 1956.
I Understand (Just How You Feel) – A gracious leave taking, incorporates Old Lang Syne, and covered by Freddie & The Dreamers. From late 1961.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dizzy Gillespie Big Band

Some recordings Dizzy Gillespie made in the 50s. It’s from Compact Jazz.

Dizzy Gillespie Big Band:

· Cool Breeze
· Tangerine – Not the Led Zeppelin song.
· I Can’t Get Started
· Stablemates
· That’s All
· I Remember Clifford – I knew a guy named Clifford once. He was in my French class. I am told by a mutual acquaintance that he has seen me since, and that he was disappointed that I ignored him. I did not ignore him, honest. I just never saw him.
· Annie’s Dance – Annie is my friend. “Annie” is an Anglicization of her real name, which is not “Anitra,” which is the real name of the Annie in this song, which is really an arrangement of Anitra’s Dance from Grieg’s Peer Gynt
· Hey Pete – I don’t know who Pete is
· Whisper Not – No worries.
· Groovin’ High – A remake of what is probably his signature tune.

The Paragons

The record label said “The Paradons” so I’ve been labouring under the misapprehension that this song was by The Paradons. My internet research tells me it’s the Paragons. YouTube bears it out. I don’t know if I will ever recover.

The Paragons had one hit, called If, and I don’t have it. The Paradons, as it happens, also had one hit, called Diamonds And Pearls, and I don’t have that either.

The Paragons:

· Hey Little Schoolgirl – I found this on a various artist collection that was quite ubiquitous. It’s a typical song of its genre. Think Hey Little Girl by Dee Clark. It was the flip side of a song called Florence

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Five Satins

A doo wop group, you know, The Five Satins. This collection, called The Five Satins Sing Their Greatest Hits, comes from La Grande Bibliotheque – sometimes I wonder whether I moved to this city just to have access to the great CD collection at the library – it has 20 tracks, including all 4 (!) of their top 100 singles. Cool.

The Five Satins:

In The Still Of The Night – One of the great doo wop classics. I first learned this from a Sha Na Na album, actually, one on which they did mostly original stuff. Then at the end they reverted to their usual forte, and this is the song they picked. This song stayed 24 weeks on the top 100, but only ever reached number 24. Go figure. That was in the fall of 1956. It is variously known as (I’ll Remember) In The Still Of The Night. Not to be confused with the Cole Porter song of the same name.
Shadows – “Last Semptember, our live was bright and gay.” Oh how our language has become corrupt. Things have gone bad. From late 1959.
Wonderful Girl – I’m in love with a wonderful girl. Good to know.
You Can Count On Me – The Satins sing of one of the qualities that women actually look for, I think…
I’ll Be Seeing You – The old standard. From the spring of 1960.
Oh Happy Day – Not the Edwin Hawkins Singers song
A Million To One – Not the Dean Martin song.
A Nite Like This – Reminiscing about when things were wonderful, with sweet strings, a lilting melody, and Fred Parris singing…
I Ain’t Gonna Dance – Romantic revenge.
To The Aisle – The wedding aisle, not the supermarket aisle. Romance as a foregone conclusion. I’m so used to hearing the American Graffiti soundtrack that I keep expecting to hear Wolfman Jack’s voice. From the summer of ’57, a great slow dance.
All Mine – A capella.
Our Anniversary – There is a tuba in this. This is a rare celebration of marriage. There’s a few around. Happy Anniversary by The Little River Band, etc. etc.
Our Love Is Forever – Waltz time, 1-2-3, 1-2-3…
A Nite To Remember – I bet…
Candlelight – How basic is that; we fell in love by the candlelight. Another great slow dance.
I Got Time – A fast one.
Land Of Broken Hearts – That’s wear Lonesome Town must be; centre of town you’ll find Heartbreak Hotel on Lonely Street…
The Jones Girl – Just a typical adoration song, the use of the surname being highly unusual…
Pretty Baby – This one has a modern sounding guitar solo…
Weeping Willow – Not to be confused with Willow Weep For Me, but same idea.
Wish I Had My Baby – Interesting use of the possessive…
Toni My Love – An unusual girl’s name for a love song. There’s a Toni where I work, she is some kind of project manager, a nice lady, but I wouldn’t write her a love song. I think there was a Toni in my parents’ world when I was growing up; she was a psychologist I think, and lived in LA, so we didn’t see her often. I wouldn’t write her any songs either.
Love With No Love In Return – Alright alright alright, isn’t self pity a beautiful thing. Think Love To Love by Neil Diamond.
The Time – Cute, echoes the vocal chorus from In The Still Of The Night

Monday, June 8, 2009

George Hamilton IV

The Capital Record Club, or Columbia Record Club, one of them, used to offer an album, in the weekend magazine supplement, by George Hamilton IV, called Lightfoot Country. And that’s always been the image of George Hamilton IV that’s stayed with me. It was an album of songs by Gordon Lightfoot.

And thinking about this now, and reading about Hamilton (not to be confused with actor / producer George Hamilton), and listening to Abilene, I think I need more Hamilton in my collection. So I think I’ll order something from eBay. Stay tuned…

George Hamilton IV:

· A Rose And A Baby Ruth – A flower and a chocolate bar, the ultimate way to say I’m sorry. I wonder what real teenagers thought of a song that so openly and patronizingly billed itself as a teenage song. This was George Hamilton the teeny bopper star, with a song that was a hit late in 1956. Written by John D. Loudermilk. I got this and the next one right off the original singles, probably from Argy’s.
· Why Don’t They Understand – Another teenage song; this one carries on the tradition of Too Young, and Puppy Love would come later. This is a bit like what Ricky Nelson sounded like on songs like Young Emotions. From late 1958.
· Abilene –In the early 60s Hamilton switched to RCA and country. Abilene was his swansong on the top 100, and that was in the summer of 1963. The song is seductive, Hamilton croons about this Texas paradise like there’s no tomorrow, as the women’s chorus sounds like angels in the background. This reminds me a bit of Bobby Bare, but without the angst. This comes from a reissued single. I don’t remember what was on the other side, but it wasn’t Hamilton. Another Loudermilk song.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

November, 1956

  • Singing The Blues - Guy Mitchell
  • Cindy Oh Cindy - Vince Martin
  • Hey Jealous Lover - Frank Sinatra
  • Cindy Oh Cindy - Eddie Fisher
  • Teenage Goodnight - The Chodettes
  • I Walk The Line - Johnny Cash
  • To The Ends Of The Earth - Nat King Cole
  • City Of Angels - The Highlights Featuring Frank Pisani
  • Any Way You Want Me - Elvis Presley
  • Lay Down Your Arms - The Chordettes
  • Two Different Worlds - Don Rondo
  • The Autumn Waltz - Tony Bennett
  • Mutual Admiration Society - Teresa Brewer
  • Rose And A Baby Ruth - George Hamilton IV
  • Mama From The Train - Patti Page
  • Garden Of Eden - Joe Valino
  • Priscilla - Eddie & The Dimples
  • Rudy's Rock - Bill Haley & His Comets
  • Love Me - Elvis Presley
  • Singing The Blues - Marty Robbins
  • I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine - Elvis Presley

Andy Williams

Ok, Andy Williams. I saw him on TV a lot – well maybe not a lot, maybe just some. But I did see him on TV, and he was always singing Moon River. I didn’t hear him on the radio a lot.

That’s odd I think, because he had, between 1956 and 1976, 45 records on the top 100. He recorded for Cadence until 1961, and I have 10 of his his 16 Cadence hits from Andy Williams’ Best, which I can’t remember exactly where I got it. His Columbia hits, though, I cobbled together from here and there, LPs, singles, cassettes. I didn’t use the ubiquitous The Best Of Andy Williams. That’s all I can tell you.

Andy Williams:

The Bilbao Song – Some kind of nostalgia, not easy to tell exactly what was going on, but whatever it was must have been fantastic. From the summer of 1961.
Lonely Street – In Lonesome Town, no doubt, where you’d find Heartbreak Hotel. The idea of heartbreak and loneliness as a physical location was irresistible to songwriters. From the fall of 1959.
In The Summertime (You Don’t Want My Love) – A song of romantic discord, and how the seasons don’t mirror the inner world of the heart when you think they should. Very uptempo for a heartbreak song. Roger Miller did this, titled You Don’t Want My Love.
The Village Of St. Bernadette – From the winter of 1960. I don’t know if this is meant to be a Christmas song, but it has religious stuff. I don’t know where St. Bernadette is exactly. But he may be saying something about Lourdes.
Canadian Sunset – A number 1 hit for Hugo Winterhalter and Eddie Heywood. I don’t know if the lyrics were added after. Williams sings of a Canadian holiday during which he meets the woman of his dreams. He seems to have been on a skiing trip. He does not sing of back bacon, beer, or the metric system. From the fall of 1956.
How Wonderful To Know – This is a kind of insipid song about being in love.
The Hawaiian Wedding Song (De Kale Nei Au) – This is basically a wedding song, not unlike Paul Stookey’s later song, but very much unlike Dylan’s Wedding Song. The fact that it’s Hawaiian is just a matter of adding a bunch of Hawaiian guitars. Elvis did this, of course. So did The Ray Charles Singers, and many others. From the winter of 1959.
Do You Mind – Andy is tentative, declares his love in grandiose terms, but only if she doesn’t mind. From the summer of 1960.
Are You Sincere – I think I have a version of this by Steve Lawrence, but don’t quote me. I definitely have a version by Gene McDaniel. There is something wrong here; like, why does he have to ask. A hit in the winter of 1958.
I Like Your Kind Of Love – From when Williams was slightly rock and roll. This has the dippiest answer vocal I’ve ever heard, by Peggy Powers apparently. (No I’ve never heard of her). From the spring of 1957. “I like the way you wear your clothes…”
Don’t Go To Strangers – This was the b side of In The Summertime (You Don’t Want My Love), and it was a hit in its own right in some markets, like Canada. I guess it’s a song about having your needs filled by people outside your primary relationship. A little on the mild side given the subject matter. From the summer of 1961.
Butterfly – Butterflies are light and fast and fragile. They should be called “flutterbies.” Andy tries hard to reconcile his attachment to his “butterfly” with his recognition of her character. He is clipping her wings, he says. Sure. Williams’ single biggest hit, it reached number 1 in the winter of 1957. Also a hit for Charlie Gracie.
Stranger On The Shore – A massive hit for Aker Bilk, Andy added words and put it on the charts in the summer of 1962. One of his first Columbia hits.
Moon River – This was Andy Williams’ signature song; he sang it every week on his TV show. And lo and behold, he never put it on the charts at all. The closest entry is by Danny Williams, same surname, different person. This is Henry Mancini’s masterpiece, written for the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s, with words by Johnny Mercer. Besides the aforesaid Williams, it was a hit for Mancini himself, and for Jerry Butler. But Andy may have the last word; his rendering of this song of indefinable longing may be the best. I got this from the More American Graffiti soundtrack.
Happy Heart – This is a really good happy song. It’s from the spring of 1969, and I totally remember hearing it on the radio. My copy was from the Happy Heart LP, and I found that at the West Kildonan Library. Petula Clark did this also.
Days Of Wine And Roses – Another Mancini song, from the movie of the same name. One of those songs of nostalgia for a time that never was, when everything was perfect. From the spring of 1963, this is the b side of Can’t Get Used To Losing You.
Can’t Get Used To Losing You – Speaking of which… This was a major hit in the spring of 1963. I guess it’s one of those songs of the aftermath of heartbreak. It’s got this pizzicato thing going on…
Battle Hymn Of The Republic – I don’t know what the right word is: “Exploitative?” “Cynical?” “Machiavellian?” In June of 1968 Robert Kennedy is
assassinated, a singularly traumatic incident for a troubled US. Andy Williams, who was a friend of the family, sings this song at the funeral, and Columbia records, capitalizing on the tragedy, releases it as a single. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find the whole episode tasteless. This isn’t the funeral performance; the single was a studio recording done afterwards. It reached number 33 in late 1968. An odd choice for a radio hit, but The Mormon Tabernacle Choir actually put it into the top 20 in 1959. And Elvis later did it as part of a medley (An American Trilogy) with Dixie and All My Trials.
Hopeless – I got this right off the single, which I remember picking up at Argy’s. The words are basically a rewrite of Can’t Get Used To Losing You, but it doesn’t have nearly the charm. And the line “my heart has a mind of its own” was lifted from a Connie Francis hit. From the summer of 1963.
Madrigal – The flip side of Hopeless. Not the Yes song. I remember that the record label had a picture of Williams’ face. Madrigal seems to be a woman’s name in this song. It’s about someone who is searching.
A Fool Never Learns – “Fools rush in” sang Elvis, and then “fools rush in wear angels fear to tread.” A person in love is a fool, that’s the message. And here it is again. A hit in the winter of 1964.
Dear Heart – “Heart” here is a stand-in for “sweetheart.” He is not singing to a part of his own anatomy. A ballad about being alone, but the separation is temporary. A hit in late 1964.
On The Street Where You Live – That life of fantasy before anything happens, if anything ever does happen. A hit for Vic Damone, Eddie Fisher, and Lawrence Welk in 1956, and for Williams in the fall of 1964. This is really lush.
Don’t You Believe It – Rumours fly. Don’t believe them, he says. I don’t know. I’d be suspicious. Think of Cliff Richard doing Don’t Talk To Him. From the fall of 1962.
And Roses And Roses –It started with yellow roses, and went from there. Yellow roses are supposed to represent friendship. This is from the spring of 1965, around the same time that Red Roses For A Blue Lady was a hit. This is a bit sappy.
(Where Do I Begin) Love Story – From the movie. I remember the hit version by Henry Mancini, but this version was a top 10 hit as well. That was in the spring of 1971. I remember that all the girls in my class saw the movie 94 times, and they purported to cry each time. I saw the movie eventually, on TV, and I didn’t cry. I was still in high school, and I don’t remember thinking much of it.
MacArthur Park – A hit for Richard Harris in 1968, written by Jimmy Webb, and the song everyone loves to hate. I don’t hate it. The Four Tops redid it, and so did Donna Summer. Andy starts in the middle, and his version is not bad, but it requires a bit more drama than he brings, I think; Harris has it, and it’s why everyone hates it.
Music From Across The Way – Ruminative and high drama in turns. Another song of loss and longing.
Music To Watch Girls By – A hit without words for The Bob Crewe Generation, a kind of Tijuana Brass soundalike record. Andy sings the words, and it was better without. From the spring of 1967.

Love Theme From “The Godfather” (Speak Softly Love) – This always confused me, because it’s a love song, and the movie is about murder and violence. But I guess there was love in the movie too, and that’s the part they picked for the theme song. It’s a nice song, and Williams does it well. It was a hit in the spring of 1972 but I don’t remember hearing it. I don’t remember any Andy Williams songs, except Happy Heart. I remember reading the book, though, and I watched the movie on TV. IT was an anticlimax, I thought, after hearing so much about it.
A Song For You – A song of dedication in the face of challenges. From the summer of 1971.
The Impossible Dream (The Quest) – It’s amazing how many singers were inspired to do this one. Ol’ Andy doesn’t do a bad job. It was only Jack Jones, though, who had the hit.

Sil Austin

An R & B instrumentalist. He had 3 top 100 singles, but only one ever reached the top 40.

Sil Austin:

· Slow Walk – This sax based instrumental is quite similar to Honky Tonk, and was on the chart at the same time, but it wasn’t nearly as popular, and hasn’t perpetuated itself as well. A hit in the summer of 1956.

Jim Lowe

He was a dj and a songwriter (he wrote Gambler’s Guitar) but he did not write his one big hit. I think I found this a various artists oldies compilation.

Jim Lowe:

The Green Door – Poor Jim, can’t sleep for the noise going on next door. But what’s bothering him isn’t the noise; it’s the fact that he can’t join the party. This song about being left out went to number 1 in the fall of 1956.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

October, 1956

  • The Green Door - Jim Lowe
  • Friendly Persuasion / Chains Of Love - Pat Boone
  • Miracle Of You - Eileen Rodgers
  • Happiness Street (Corner Sunshine Square) - Tony Bennett
  • Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind - The Five Keys
  • Only You - The Hilltoppers
  • True Love - Jane Powell
  • ABC's Of Love - Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
  • In The Middle Of The House - Rusty Draper
  • I Can't Love You Enough - LaVerne Baker
  • See Saw - The Moonglows
  • It Isn't Right - The Platters
  • I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine - Elvis Presley
  • Please Don't Leave Me - The Fontane Sisters
  • True Love - Bing Crosby & Grace Kelly
  • You'll Never Never Know - The Platters
  • Love Me Tender - Elvis Presley
  • Blueberry Hill - Fats Domino
  • You Can't Run Away From Me - The Four Aces
  • First Born - Tennessee Ernie Ford
  • Every Day Of My Life - The Fontane Sisters
  • Just In Time - Tony Bennett

Bill Doggett

This guy had some kind of career going on for a few years, he had 8 top 100 singles, but all he is remembered for now is Honky Tonk. That’s how it goes.

Bill Doggett:

Honky Tonk (Part 1) – The A side of the single, but it was the B side that was the hit.
Honky Tonk (Part 2) – One of the great rock and roll instrumentals of the 50, which is interesting because it’s so basic. There are many many cover versions of this; The Ventures did a great version on their Rock And Roll Forever album. This was a hit in the fall of 1956.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shirley & Lee

Male / female duos were always a kind of a curiosity in rock and roll, never quite in the mainstream: Mickey & Sylvia, Paul & Paula, Nino Tempo & April Stevens, Donny & Marie. The exception, of course, was Sonny & Cher.

These two had 5 top 100 singles, one of which was a minor rock & roll anthem. Leonard was Leonard Lee, and Shirley was Shirley Goodman, who was the Shirley of Shirley & Company (Shame, Shame, Shame).

Shirley & Lee:

Let The Good Times Roll – A great party song, but it’s really about a very private party. I got this from the Stand By Me soundtrack. I have versions by The Righteous Brothers, by Slade, and most impressively, by Harry Nilsson. A hit in the fall of 1956.
Feel So Good – The result, undoubtedly of Letting the good times roll. And that is, it seems, where the lyrics come from, though there is a suggestion that is actually the earlier record.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

September, 1956

  • Tonight You Belong To Me - Patience & Prudence
  • Canadian Sunset - Andy Williams
  • Mama Teach Me To Dance - Eydie Gorme
  • Rip It Up - Bill Haley & His Comets
  • The Old Philosopher - Eddie Lawrence
  • English Muffins And Irish Stew - Sylvia Syms
  • Heartaches - Somethin' Smith & The Redheads
  • In The Middle Of The House - Vaughn Monroe
  • Let The Good Times Roll - Shirley & Lee
  • When The Lilacs Bloom Again - Billy Vaughn
  • Bring A Little Water Sylvie - Lonnie Donegan
  • After The Lights Go Down Low - Al Hibbler
  • Honky Tonk (Part 2) - Bill Doggett
  • The Bus Stop Song - The Four Lads
  • A House With Love In It - The Four Lads
  • Ka Ding Dong - The G Clefs
  • St. Therese Of The Roses - Billy Ward & The Dominoes
  • Just Walking In The Rain - Johnny Ray
  • When The White Lilacs Bloom Again - Helmut Zacharias
  • Now Is The Hour - Gale Storm
  • Race With The Devil - Gene Vincent
  • Soft Summer Breeze - The Diamonds
  • Ka Ding Dong - The Diamonds
  • (I'll Remember) In The Still Of The Night - The Five Satins
  • The Italian Theme - Cyril Stapleton
  • Blue Moon - Elvis Presley

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sanford Clark

This guy was kind of rockabilly. He recorded for Dot, and he had 2 singles on the hot 100. I got this from one of those K-Tel type compilations where it wasn’t always easy to tell whether you were listening to the real thing. But this is the real thing.

Sanford Clark:

The Fool – The tragic tale of someone who mishandled his romance, and ended up alone. Not the same Fool that Elvis did, this was a hit in the fall of 1956.

Buchanan & Goodman

There isn’t a lot of humour in rock and roll, but here you have it, right at the outset, this is radically funny, not so much the actual jokes, but the delivery, the pace, the irreverence. Dickie Goodman went on to a career as a spoof artist, but he never got better than this.

I totally can not remember where I got it. It’s not the kind of thing you pick up easily, like on a compilation or something. Possibly the actual single? I do not remember…

Buchanan & Goodman:

The Flying Saucer (Parts 1 and 2) – A “break-in” record. That’s like a fake news report, with snippets of songs thrown it to make it funny. Thing is that in this case it is genuinely funny. He calls Little Richard “Madam,” he misnames all the songs and artists (The Platters are The Clatters, Maybelline is “Motor Cool Down” by Huckle Berry). The outrageous story, the frantic delivery, the allaround silliness, it’s never been duplicated. This was a hit in the summer of 1956. Rock and roll was barely a year on the charts, and it was already spoofing itself, with a record that has not been equalled.
Flying Saucer The Second – More of the same. This part of the story takes place on a distant planet. From the summer of 1957. Elvis plays himself.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Al Cohn & Zoot Sims Quintet

From an anthology of various jazz recordings through the decades all on RCA.

Al Cohn & Zoot Sims Quintet:

· East Of The Sun – Some way cool jazz.

Gene Vincent

Eaton Place is, according to Wikipedia, and where would I be without Wikipedia, now called Cityplace. It was, is I guess, a downtown shopping centre, and it occupied the south part of the block on which Eaton’s was situated, and one more square block besides that.

And that’s where the record store was where I bought Gene Vincent’s Greatest!. I’m thinking it was called Music City but it wasn’t. Sound City? That doesn’t sound right either. Maybe it’ll come to me in a future post. Keep reading.

This was the standard Gene Vincent collection for years and years. Three of his five top 100 singles are on here, all from his days on Capital, but those were his hit making days, anyway.

Gene Vincent:

Be-Bop-A-Lula – One of the great anthems of rock and roll, typical “she’s my baby” nonsense lyrics, kind of like rockabilly Little Richard. A hit in the summer of 1956, and covered later by The Everly Brothers and by John Lennon, among hundreds of others.
Little Lover – Is she really little, is she very young, does he just call her “little” as a term of endearment?
Race With The Devil – These lyrics are all but indecipherable, perhaps they would make Mick Jagger proud, but it seems that they are yet another excuse to make some great rockabilly. From the autumn of 1956.
Important Words – A ballad about communication and the importance thereof, in a romantic context, too.
She She Little Sheila – Her hair is brown, and she’s the best lookin’ girl around, but I don’t know much else about her from listening to this song. All the Sheilas I’ve known have been much much older than me, an aunt, someone’s mother, that kind of thing. And no, none were Australian.
Woman Love – Gene is a basket case, that’s how bad he needs “woman love.” This isn’t as over the top as it sounds, really…
Maybelline – The Chuck Berry song. Honestly, Vincent doesn’t add much to it. Johnny Rivers does more. But then it never hurts to hear this one more time…
Blue Jean Bop – Let’s dance…
Lotta Lovin’ – This where he goes into overdrive. Heavy on the staccato, light on profundity, from the fall of 1957.
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