Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sonny James

Look at a map of Winnipeg and you’ll see that the downtown streets follow a predictable east-west / north-south pattern, but there’s a point slightly north where the angle shifts, and the direction is more northwest- southeast / northeast-southwest. The twain meets right on the corner of Notre Dame (pronounced English “noter dame”, not French) and Princess, which is Donald going south. Right at that corner is where I discovered Pyramid Records and that was in 1983.

The trade then was highly organized, and the records were neatly categorized. So if you brought them blues albums to trade, you could trade it for blues albums, and if you brought country albums, you could take country albums, and it worked like that for all the categories. Didn’t last long, the system, but it was a noble experiment. They also had a rack of new albums, imports, and I didn’t buy many, but I got a few: Link Wray, The Beatles At The Star Club. They had a Danny & The Juniors collection that I did not buy, for which I have been kicking myself ever since (well not hard, I couldn’t buy everything).

The moved a few times, and when I picked up this Sonny James album the store lived on the south side of Portage Avenue, near Edmonton, and it was there until 1993, when it moved, the 5th time, to a location on Smith Street, which I was only ever at maybe twice. There is an obscure web source that suggests that it moved to Portage it 1990, but it seems that it was there longer than 4 years. Anyway it was on the way home from work, and it was downtown and I could take a quick detour when I had court appearances and the like. Don was the owner, Ken was in charge of the books. I assume the book section was clean, I know that they didn’t sell “dirty” magazines, not even old copies of Playboy.

It wasn’t just a store, Pyramid, it was a culture unto itself, a small universe. I spent more hours there then at all the other stores combined, and I traded and traded and traded. And we were all on a first name basis. Don even sent me a client once.

It was a TV advertised album I think, The Sonny James album, and I also had a cassette collection that had nine tracks. James had a phenomenal number of hits on the country chart, a phenomenal number of them number 1, but on the pop charts he had 18 records between 1957 and 1971. I have 10 of them.

Sonny James:

You’re The Only World I Know – This song about romantic fusion was a hit late in 1964.
True Love’s A Blessing – Not every relationship is based on love, says Sonny. He delivers this with all the panache of an adolescent reading about love in a comic book. From 1966.
Behind The Tear – Sonny sings of crying, and all the layers behind it.
I’ll Keep Holding On – Not The Marvelettes song. A song of dedication, though “holding on” is a strange way to express it. This is from 1965
Room In Your Heart – I still love you, sings, Sonny, can’t you see. Is there room in your heart he asks. It’s a bit disjointed from a temporal perspective. From 1966.
Young Love – His pop hit, from the winter of 1957. Went right to number 1, artistically blowing away the competition by Tab Hunter. Donny Osmond covered this, but we won’t talk of that. A great starry eyed teenage romance record, with the best brushes this side of Ringo Starr.
Take Good Care Of Her – It was Adam Wade that put this on the map, but Sonny’s version gives it a country flavour to this tale of a love gone to someone else.
First Date, First Kiss, First Love – The obvious follow-up to Young Love, it has a bit of opportunism about it. Plays fast and loose with dating experience, and patronizing. From the spring of 1957.
The Minute Your Gone – A song about obsessiveness. Covered by Cliff Richard. From the summer of 1963.
Since I Met You Baby – The Ivory Joe Hunter hit. It didn’t take much to countrify it. From the fall of 1969.
Only The Lonely – The Roy Orbison hit. James’ version was number 1 on the country chart in 1969.
Here Comes Honey Again – Now we know what happened to Bobby Goldsboro’s chick. From 1972.
That’s Why I Love You Like I Do – From 1971
Don’t Keep Me Hangin’ On – Release Me, with new words and tune, or You Keep Me Hanging On. From 1970 in waltz time.
Running Bear – From the summer of 1969, and a number 1 for Johnny Preston 9 ½ years earlier. This is very silly really, and way out of date by 1969. The Guess Who redid it 1972.
Bright Lights, Big City – The Jimmy Reed song, a bit out of character for James, but it’s good. From the summer of 1971.
It’s The Little Things – A song about the trivialities of married life, those ones that make the difference. From 1967.
Need You – A come back to me song. Please forget and forgive the days gone by he sings. It’s all so simple, isn’t it. From 1967
Heaven Says Hello – Everything’s perfect here. From 1968.
Born To Be With You – He gives this old Chordettes hit a rather frantic arrangement. From late 1968.
Only Love Can Break A Heart – The old Gene Pitney song. From 1972.
I’ll Never Find Another You – This remake of The Seekers hit from 1965 was a hit for James in the summer of 1967. The words here are the typical romantic claptrap, but there’s a beauty in the melody, and in James’ delivery, that makes the whole thing very real.

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