Monday, August 31, 2009

Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie Rodgers was a legend, one of the architects of country music. Born in 1897, Rodgers, known as the Singing Brakeman, made dozens of recordings and was a huge influence on generations of country singers. He died in 1933.

That’s not who this is about. This about Jimmie Rodgers who was born in 1933, the year his namesake died. This other Jimmie Rodgers has been described as a “pop singer,” which isn’t totally inaccurate, but really his music was a kind of folk-rock, and that was a musical generation before the term existed.

And I don’t know why he called himself Jimmie Rodgers, even if it was his name. Imagine a young new recording artist calling himself “John Lennon.” Uh huh…

The core of this collection was a Canada-only release on Quality Records, called Greatest Hits. That was 10 tracks. The rest come from a CD and from 45s. I’m kind of impressed with the collection I put together actually. I’ve managed to procure 19 of his 25 top 100 singles. Not bad.

Jimmie Rodgers:

Honeycomb – One of those tunes that go here and there and up and down and all around, and it’s that tune undoubtedly that propelled this song to number one in the fall of 1957. Imagine describing your wife as a “hank o’hair and piece o’bone.” The song was used, with new words obviously, for Post Honeycomb commercials, in the old days.
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine – This tale of the romance of the century was a hit in the winter of 1957 / 1958. Some people like dry wine…
Oh Oh I’m Falling In Love Again – The tune is Honeycomb redux. The words are kind of Kisses Sweeter Than Wine redux. This is from the winter of 1958.
Woman From Liberia – Jimmie Rodgers’ music often had the aura of authentic folk music, and it was given a boost by references to exotic places, Liberia in this case. The song is a metaphor – he is thirsty, the woman has water, he wants to know the source. And it’s all given over in that chripy Rodgers style.
The Wreck Of The “John B” – A hit of sorts in the fall of 1960, and a hit in the UK for Lonnie Donegan earlier in the same year (as I Want To Go Home), it was The Beach Boys who put this in the spotlight in 1966 (Sloop John B).
Bimbombey – Another one of those songs about a far off place. Of course the exotic nature of the location renders the girl just as exotic. From the winter of 1958 / 1959.
Tucumcari – A soldier comes home to his girl, little by little, mile by mile, finds her with, what else, someone else, and keeps going. From the fall of 1959. Very stoic this whole thing, and I think it’s more effective for that. Of course, it does have a happy ending…
Just A Closer Walk With Thee – I don’t know what it is about this spiritual that attracts pop singers. Joan Baez recorded it; there were others. From the spring of 1960.
Are You Really Mine – Jimmie can’t believe his luck. There is a possessiveness in songs like this that’s just a little bit unsettling. From the autumn of 1958.
Secretly – Jimmie brings his sunshine to the tale of a clandestine affair. It’s not so clear why they have to meet “secretly;” one can only guess. But there’s a feeling that the situation for them is temporary. “Till we have the right…” From the spring of 1958.
Wonderful You – Vocal chorus on this, subdued background, the way his voice dips on “wonder,” there’s a Harry Belafonte feeling on this. Also slightly reminiscent of, believe it or not, The Little Drummer Boy by The Harry Simeone Chorale. This was the B side of Ring Ling A Lario, and was a hit in the summer of 1959.
Ring Ling A Lario – A man recalls his history of romantic entanglements, and how he got out of every one of them – until he finally got caught, of course. From the summer of 1959.
TLC (Tender Love And Care) – A song of undying love. Another major chorus on this, male and female. It seems that he was modifying his style to fit in more with top 40 trends. From the winter of 1960.
English Country Garden – What a melody, written of course by Percy Grainger. It’s one of those tunes that everyone knows, but nobody knows from where. A UK hit in the summer of 1962.
The Long Hot Summer – I wonder what it would like to live in a place with a long hot summer. This uncharacteristic orchestrated love ballad was the B side of Oh Oh I’m Falling In Love Again, and a hit in the spring of 1958.
Make Me A Miracle – This was the B side of Secretly. This seems to be a love song, you have the power over me to determine who and what I am. I wonder how many relationships have been scuttled by the dysfunctional attitudes romanticized in songs like this. From the spring of 1958.
The Wizard – This supernatural tale was the B side of Are You Really Mine. It was a hit in the fall of 1958.
I’m Never Gonna Tell – Cute. You don’t tell on me and I won’t tell on you. What’s notable about this song is that Jimmie lets his guard down, and his New York accent comes through loud and clear on “tell.” From the spring of 1959.
Waltzing Matilda – The top 40 version of this ultra-pop song doesn’t lose any of its cuteness, unfortunately. But it does put Australia into Rodgers’ repertoire of foreign places, along with Liberia, Tucumcary, Bimbombey etc. From the winter of 1960, this was the B side of TLC (Tender Love And Care).
It’s Over – Jimmie Rodgers enters the modern era. This is a moving ballad. From the spring of 1966. Covered by Mason Williams
Child Of Clay – The story of a misfit, a child who got lost in the family rat race. The understated approach makes up for the heavy handed message. This was from the fall of 1967, and it was the last time that Jimmie Rodgers was on the charts. Just in time, because I kind of remember hearing this.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Percy Faith

So here’s an example of the “emergency CD.”

I picked up Percy Faith’s Greatest Hits at some library or other, committed it to tape like I always do, and everyone was happy. Then somehow or other, I managed accidently to erase part of it. So I ended up buying the CD from the HMV store in Garden City to replace the tracks I’d trashed.

That’s it – whole story. Percy Faith was Canadian, just to let you know, and he was a conductor and arranger for Columbia Records for years and years. And he made his own recordings of course, major elevator music. He put 6 records into the top 100 between 1956 and 1960, two of which were included on his greatest hits, one of which (Young Lovers) I got from the single.

Percy Faith:

Theme From “A Summer Place” – It doesn’t get smoother than this. This song veritably defined “crossover,” reaching number 1 on the MOR charts and the R & B charts at the same time that it reached #1 on the pop charts, which it was for 9 weeks in the winter and spring of 1960. The record was much bigger than the movie from which it came, which starred Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. The Letterman sang it and put it back on the charts in 1965.
Non Domenticar (Don’t Forget) – A hit for Nat King Cole.
Till – We’ve heard this, haven’t we. Tony Bennett did it, and Mantovani. Faith’s version was a hit in the summer of 1957; The Angels did it in 1961 (called it ‘Til) and The Vogues did it in 1968. I’ve said it before, you’d have to have a heart of stone for this song not to make you melt.
All My LovePatti Page did this. Another beautiful song.
Jamaican Rhumba – Maybe it’s a rhumba, but it doesn’t sound all that Jamaican.
The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart) – Felicia Sanders on vocal. In the grand style of jazz bands / orchestras (not that this is jazz) she comes in half way through. This was a number 1 hit back around 1954. There was a new movie that has nothing to do with this.
Tropical Merengue
They Can’t Take That Away From Me
The Rain In Spain (From the Broadway Production “My Fair Lady”) – I guess the title has all the information you need.
The Syncopated Clock
Swedish Rhapsody (Midsummer Vigil) – We heard this by Mantovani.
Theme For Young Lovers – This was the follow up to Summer Place, it was a bit of a soundalike, and it snuck into the top 40 in the summer of 1960.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Dubs

Ok so these guys got together in Harlem, back in 1956 or so, and said what can we call ourselves to guarantee that no one will remember us in future years. People remember The Drifters, The Coasters, but not the Dubs; The Penguins, ok, The Five Satins, sure, who doesn’t know I’ll Remember (In The Still Of The Night), even The Danleers have a chance, but nobody remembers The Dubs. And why would they? The Dubs? Really.

They actually had 3 singles on the top 100, but only 1 made the top 40, and for the life of me I can’t remember where I got it.

The Dubs:

Could This Be Magic – Romance presented as an aspect of the supernatural. Not a new idea, even then. Think It’s Magic, by Doris Day, Black Magic Woman by Fleetwood Mac (ha! You thought it was Santana, didn’t you?) This is a little remembered but highly beautiful doo-wop record, of a type which was becoming old-fashioned even then. Not the Barry Manilow song (which was Could It Be Magic, anyway), and 100 times better. From the fall / winter of 1957.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Duke Ellington

I am out of my comfort zone here, so let’s just let Stevie have the last word:

Duke Ellington

East St. Louis Toodle-Oo – Dates back to the 20s. Steely Dan covered this.
In A Sentimental Mood – From 1935
Stompy Jones – Originally recorded in 1934. A lively one.
Prelude To A Kiss – High romance. Recorded in 1938 with Mary McHugh on vocal.
Take The “A” Train – Billy Strayhorn wrote this. Betty Roche sings on this 1942 recording. A jazz standard.
Dimuendo And Crescendo In Blue – Live track.
Mood Indigo – One of his signature songs, first recorded in 1930.
Solitude – Another song that followed him through his career, beginning in 1934.
C Jam Blues – Has to be one of the greatest titles ever.
• In A Mellow Tone
Sentimental Lady – Not the Fleetwood Mac / Bob Welch song.
Caravan – Now we’re talking, Unique in the annals of pop music. Covered by Les Paul and by The Ventures. Not the Van Morrison song.
I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart – From 1951, vocals by Al Hibbler.
Satin Doll – I know this song because my sister used to practice it on the piano. One of Duke’s later compositions, dating from 1953.
I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good
Don’t Get Around Much Any More – There’s actually a version of Paul McCartney doing this.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Buddy Holly

I was not quite 2 years old when Buddy Holly died, and I don’t think I read the paper that day, so I was unaware of that bit of news. It was, according to Don McLean, “the day the music died.”

But… not so. Not only did the music not die, but The Crickets left their stamp on every rock band that’s played from then until now, from The Beatles (named in their honour) to Rascal Flatts. Sure, maybe Chuck Berry invented rock and roll, and maybe Little Richard “brought it to life” (yes I know it was Dick Clark in The Beach Boys’ song), but it was Buddy Holly that created the template, and he had the music to back it up.

And man, look at him. Sure, Elvis was every girl’s dream. But Buddy was every guy’s. He proved that you didn’t have to look like anything to be amazing.

So let’s get this over with right at the start: I don’t have Fool’s Paradise, a Crickets single that’s the B side of Think It Over and which was a hit in the summer of 1958. Holly had 11 singles on the Billboard top 100, 15 on the UK top 20, and they can’t seem to fit them all onto a single collection. Baffles me.

I was in Toronto in the summer of 1978, that’s where I got 20 Golden Greats. It may have been at Sam The Record Man, but I can’t remember. It was somewhere on Yonge St. anyway. My friend had been to high school there, and so he had friends there, so we drove down in Daddy’s car and stayed with one of his friends, whose exact name escapes me. And we met up with DW, no relation to Arthur, who eventually took us home to his home in Ottawa. Anyway, that album’s been with me for a long time.

Some of these tracks come from A Rock & Roll Collection, and some come from a K-tel album, and some come from an original copy of The Buddy Holly Story, vol. II. Both sides of the Love Is Strange single came right off the single. A few more stray tracks I got from here and there...

Some of these recordings were credited to “Buddy Holly” and some to “The Crickets,” though most of the Buddy Holly records were actually The Crickets; some of the later ones used studio musicians, and some of the posthumous ones The Fireballs. But in his life time, no recordings were issued by “Buddy Holly & the Crickets.”

Buddy Holly / The Crickets:

That’ll Be The Day – This is where The Beatles learned all their tricks, and in fact a very early recording of a very early version of The Beatles doing this was released on the first volume of their Anthology. There is strength here, and it’s appropriate that Holly pilloried the title from John Wayne, because there is as much swagger in this song as there is in any of Wayne’s characters, and Holly’s advantage was that he was invisible to radio listeners, so by the time they actually saw what he looked like, they were hooked. Number 1 in the fall of 1957 by The Crickets, and Linda Rondstadt put it back into the top 20 19 years later.
Peggy Sue – By Holly, solo on the label, but of course it was The Crickets. He stripped everything down to basics, guitar, drum, maybe a bass that if it’s there you can’t hear it, and he said everything he needed to say. This was in the top 10 as 1957 drew to a close.
Words Of Love – This is sappy but Holly pulls it off, and he does it with musical smarts to spare. One of his best known songs because The Beatles did it on Beatles For Sale / Beatles VI, but it was The Diamonds who put it on the chart in the summer of 1957, beating Holly to the charts by that much.
Everyday – This was the flip side of Peggy Sue, and Bobby Vee had a crack at it, and so did James Taylor, but they needn’t have bothered. Holly owns it, not surprisingly, and the surprise here is the … xylophone? Chimes? Whatever. It works.
Not Fade Away – The flip side of Oh Boy, this was made famous by The Rolling Stones, for whom it was their first North American hit. Buddy takes on Bo Diddley, and gives him a good run for the money.
Oh, Boy! – By The Crickets, from late 1957. This is the same sort of song as Tonight’s The Night by Rod Stewart, Tonight’s The Night by The Shirelles, Tonight My Love Tonight by Paul Anka, but Holly’s take avoids the juvenile angle somehow. Go for it…
Maybe Baby – Another Crickets single, this one a hit in winter, 1958. All the uncertainty of attraction is here in two words.
Listen To Me – There’s a wistfulness here that changes the meaning of the title from “do what I say” to “hear my heart.” This was the B side of I’m Gonna Love You Too, from 1958. The Hollies did a different song called Listen To Me, then in 1980 they covered this on their Buddy Holly album.
Heartbeat – The physical impact of love, as only Holly could tell it. A Buddy Holly single from the winter of 1959. Herman’s Hermits covered this, and so did Humble Pie.
Think It Over – Another “Buddy Holly” record. From the summer of 1958.
It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – This one opens up a whole new universe. This is a “Buddy Holly” on which The Crickets are undoubtedly absent. What we have is a whole string section, playing a lot of pizzicato, on a song written by Paul Anka. When this hit the chart in the spring of 1958, Holly was a memory, but it still mattered.
It’s So Easy – “It’s so easy to fall in love” proclaims Buddy, with a certainty that belies just about every other pop song that ever been written in the history of the universe. This was released as a single in 1958 but it didn’t crack the chart. Linda Ronstadt hit with it though, 19 years later.
Well All Right – A song of youthful defiance, the flip side of Heartbeat. Blind Faith took this to another level on their one and only LP in 1969.
Rave On – Total celebration. If you can sit through this without moving, your’re dead. From the spring of 1958.
Raining In My Heart – The arrangement is like It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, of which this is the flip side, but the song is more MOR, total pop ballad. But it’s Buddy so it’s good. This is not the Slim Harpo song. From the spring of 1959.
True Love Ways – A real syrupy ballad this time, makes Raining In My Heart sound like Bo Diddley. Released as a single in 1960. A hit for Peter & Gordon in 1965.
Peggy Sue Got Married – Priceless. This update of Peggy Sue was a UK hit in the fall of 1959. They built a whole movie out of this song.
Bo Diddley – Nobody does Bo Diddley like Bo Diddley of course. But nobody does Bo Diddley like Buddy Holly either. At just the right volume this shakes the foundation of the universe. A UK hit in the spring of 1963.
Brown Eyed Handsome Man – Just to prove that he can do Chuck Berry as well as he can do Bo Diddley. A UK hit in the winter of 1963. The writer of this blog may be considered by some to be a brown eyed handsome man; but of course, I leave that to others to decide. And I think we can agree that it's Jackie Robinson in the last verse?
Wishing – Buddy gets wistful again. A UK hit in the fall of 1963.
Tell Me How – The B side of Maybe Baby. The point here is that relationships should come with an instruction manual.
Peggy Sue Got Married – An alternate mix, without background vocals, which kind of defeats the purpose in this case.
Slippin’ And Slidin’ – Well we’ve heard Buddy do Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, and here he is doing Little Richard, and his Little Richard is a lot more mellow. The riff is borrowed from The Everlys’ Bird Dog.
What To Do – A jilted lover contemplates his options. “What to do to keep from being lonely” – some real issues here.
Love’s Made A Fool Of You – A hit for The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966, their follow-up to I Fought The Law, which was written by Sonny Curtis of, and originally recorded by, the post Buddy Holly Crickets.
Reminiscing – A hit on the UK chart in the fall of 1962, the same time as Love Me Do by The Beatles.
Lonesome Tears – The B side of It’s So Easy. Also wasn’t a hit.
Down The Line – The best type of rock and roll – great dance track and you can’t understand a single word.
You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care) – What happens when you’re in love with a non-conformist. Elvis did this too, but Buddy’s version was a UK hit in the summer of 1961.
Crying, Waiting, Hoping – The Beatles did this at their Decca Records audition. Buddy does it better. This is the B side of Peggy Sue Got Married. Pop music seems to be big on self pity, on obsessing, on not moving on.
Reddy Teddy – This Little Richard cover is closer to the spirit. This is good, but Little Richard is hard to cover, and Buddy Holly, I love him and all, but he’s no Paul McCartney when it comes to this stuff.
Send Me Some Lovin’ – I don’t know who wrote this or who the original recording artist was (anyone?) but it was recorded by Little Richard and by Sam Cooke, who had a hit with it. John Lennon covered it on his Rock And Roll album. Buddy does it straight, but he doesn’t make you forget Sam Cooke.
Shake Rattle And Roll – The Jesse Calhoun song, recorded originally by Joe Turner, and a huge hit for Bill Haley & His Comets. Buddy rocks it up in style, and uses some lyrics from Haley’s clean version, and some from the original.
Early In The Morning – Not the song that Nilsson does on Nilsson Schmilsson. Buddy’s version of this song was a hit in the summer of 1958, and so was the Rinky Dinks’, and the Rinky Dinks were really Bobby Darin, and I wouldn’t want to choose between them. Buddy’s version definitely does not have The Crickets on it, but it does have a female chorus, which makes it different from his usual fare.
That Makes It Tough – This has a bit of a country feel; it’s the B side of True Love Ways.
Now We’re One – A celebration of marriage. This was the B side of Early In The Morning.
Take Your Time – This is the B side of Rave On. The Hollies, who named themselves after Buddy Holly, did a Buddy Holly tribute album in 1980, but this is the only Holly song they did prior to that, and that was in 1966. (They redid it on the Buddy Holly album too).
Learning The Game – This is the A side of That Makes It Tough, released in 1960. The Searchers covered this, but the album cover called it “Led In The Game.”
Little Baby – Not about an infant. Otherwise it’s pretty routine, except for the prominent place of the piano on this, unusual on a Buddy Holly record.
Moondreams – This is real smooth, with strings. It was the B side of True Love Ways in the UK.
That’s What They Say – A bit of philosophy, things will happen when the time is right and all that. The B side of What To Do.
You’re The One – Originally the B side of Love’s Made A Fool Of You, but reissued as the B side of Love Is Strange in 1969, and there’s where I found it. The Fireballs play on this; it was done posthumously.
I’m Looking For Someone To Love – Allegedly written, or partly written, by Buddy’s mother, this Chuck Berryish track was the B side of That’ll Be The Day.
I’m Gonna Love You Too – This was the A side of Listen To Me. It was a Canadian hit for Terry Jacks in the early 70s.
Midnight Shift – An early (pre-That’ll Be The Day) recording. This apparently was part of the Annie series (Roll With Me Annie, Annie Had A Baby etc) but it’s become more associated with Buddy Holly than with whoever originated it (Hank Ballard, in the case of Work With Me Annie). A song about a trollop. There’s a more than decent version by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen.
Love Is Strange – Buddy’s take on the Mickey & Sylvia hit. The Fireballs play. Released in 1969, ten years after Buddy died.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gerry Mulligan

In a previous life I was a jazz fan. I knew jazz, understood the language, knew the history. I could discourse for hours on the merits of Miles Davis Prestige albums, or on Lester Young’s strengths as a tenor sax player. I’d go to the library and seek out CDs, not old Frank Zappa recordings or obscure Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons material, but previously unreleased live performances by Art Pepper and Art Blakey. My preference was for post bop or for West Coast cool jazz, like these Mulligan performances, or Chet Baker, or Stan Getz, and I didn’t apologize.

Of course I’ve been reincarnated, so all traces of that life should have been erased. But some of it got left behind, so when I listen to this stuff it resonates on a level that my conscious mind can’t quite access.

This is Compact Jazz, which has recordings Mulligan made in the mid 50s and early 60 – not so representative, but it is what it is.

Gerry Mulligan:

Bernie’s Tune
Festive Minor
The Lady Is A Tramp – From the movie Lady And The Tramp.
Blue At The Roots
Sweet And Lovely
Line For Lyons – I knew a Lyons family; I could tell you stories about various family members, but I don’t think I will…
Spring Is Sprung
Theme For Jobim – For Carlos?
Makin’ Whoopee – This is an old standard from the 30s. I have version by Harry Nilsson.
Westwood Walk
Night Lights

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jerry Lee Lewis

It was one day that I walked into A&A Records in Eaton Place that I came upon all these treasures. A&A was your typical shopping centre record store – top 40, popular soundtracks, a bit of back catalogue, sale items, maybe a small cutout bin. It wasn’t a place I’d go if I were looking for something special.

But there it was, a selection of Pickwick imports, and that’s where I got The Everly Brothers Cadence hits, and that’s where I got a double LP collection by Jerry Lee Lewis.

This stuff was hard to find in those days. Remember, the advent of CDs rejuvenated (for a while) interest in “musical history;” box sets started coming out of the woodwork, back catalogues were mined for their gold, reissues flooded the market, and never would anyone have expected the release of so many unreleased tracks.

So the point is this. You could look high and low back then, back then being perhaps the late 1980s or early 1990s, and you’d never find collections by Jerry Lee Lewis (or the Everly Brothers, for that matter).

So back in the store, I remember having to choose between two double LPs, one of which had his two big hits and one of which didn’t. I pondered it for a while, so it was as much of a no-brainer as it seems now, I don’t remember why really, but there you have it.

A few years later I picked up a picture disc called Jerry Lee Lewis Greatest Hits, and only 3 of its tracks were also on the aforementioned double LP, the three tracks being Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, Great Balls Of Fire, and Lewis Boogie. But now at least I had Breathless and High School Confidential, and that made me happy.

The picture on the picture disc was a famous one, you saw it everywhere. It’s on his 18 Greatest Hits cover now, but that’s the only place I can find it. And they’ve modified it.

I still, though, didn’t have all his Sun hits. I still don’t actually. But one song that wasn’t on either LP was What’d I Say, and I found a copy of that at Argy’s, with the original Sun label from Memphis, and I still have it somewhere.

Then came his Smash / Mercury recordings. I got Chanilly Lace from some obscure soundtrack that actually belonged to my friend AS, and the rest is a collection called Killer Country, which has 20 tracks, but only includes 3 of his 12 hits on those labels. I have the cassette version, and I think I picked it up at Sam The Record Man, in Garden City Shopping Centre, the story of which will have to wait for another day…

Jerry Lee Lewis

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On – If I’m not mistaken, Little Richard did this first. But Richard, savant that he was notwithstanding, didn’t get it right. For him it’s another rock and roll song. For Lewis, it’s an anthem. All that shakin’, all that dancing, the rhythm, it transcends its era and its style – and it will live forever. Shake it baby shake it. From the fall of 1957.
Great Balls Of Fire – It’s been suggested that there is something lewd about this, but if there is, it’s only in the sense that there is something vaguely lewd about everything Jerry Lee does. Another rock and roll anthem. From late 1957.
Breathless – This love was meant for you and I, he sings, sacrificing grammar to the muse. Used originally as part of a promotion for some chewing, his third top 10 single is not nearly as well known as the first two. From the winter of 1958.
High School Confidential – He never sings the title, what he sings is “high school hop.” The discrepancy between the title and the lyrics creates a another dimension to song. From the summer of 1958.
Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee – Stick McGhee & His Buddies hit from 1949. Jerry Lee takes the blues and smothers it in rockabilly. A remake of this paean to inebriation on Mercury just missed the top 40 in the spring of 1973.
Milkshake Mademoiselle – What a great description of a teenage girl in bobby sox.
Let The Good Times Roll – The Ray Charles song, not the Shirley & Lee. This could have been his theme; it’s what all his music is about.
Wild One – Not the Bobby Rydell song. There is a very obscure version of The Guess Who doing this, way back before These Eyes. Another song that could be his theme song.
The Crawdad Song – Only Jerry Lee could take a song about fishing and make a party out of it.
Put Me Down – Most people whine and cry about romantic disappointment. Jerry Lee brags about it.
Ubangi Stomp – A vaguely racist song about native African rock and roll, or something. Originally by Warren Smith, covered by John Prine.
Big Legged Woman – Now this is lewd…
Lewis Boogie – Jerry Lee takes all his tricks, puts them into one song, names it after himself, and away we go…
Carrying On (Sexy Ways) – It starts like Whole Lotta Shakin’, but it’s the Hank Ballard song. How many times can you say “wiggle” in one song.
Sweet Little Sixteen – It was bad enough when Chuck Berry sang about a 16 years old, but when Jerry Lee does it it makes you want to cringe. Great stuff. From the fall of 1962, when his career was in very slight and very temporary recovery mode.
Fools Like Me – This is downhome bar stool music, not unlike what he’d do for Mercury later on.
It All Depends – His ex, fallen on hard times. Classic tale of a dissolute woman.
Jailhouse Rock – Jerry Lee tackles Elvis. Elvis rocks it, Jerry Lee swings it.
I’ve Been Twistin’ – The song exists in the “boogie” category as well. This is Jerry Lee’s entry into the twist sweepstakes.
Jambalaya – Jerry Lee’s version of Hank Williams’ standard isn’t as country as the original, but it isn’t as rocking as his usual stuff.
Turnaround – Turn around, says Jerry Lee, I’ll be following you. He means it in the best possible way, as in I’ll always be there. But there’s always something creepy about songs like this. And the fact that it’s Jerry Lee Lewis doesn’t make it less creepy…
When The Saints Go Marching In – We’ve heard Bill Haley, we’ve heard Louis Armstrong, we’ve heard Elvis, and we haven’t heard the last of it. Jerry Lee highlights the spiritual component, all his is swinging rockabilly style.
You’re The Only Star (In My Blue Heaven) – Sweet talk, Jerry Lee style. No doubt the allusion to Fats Domino is not accidental.
Be-Bop-A-Lula – The Gene Vincent song, mellowed out, slowed down, aimed straight.
Am I To Be The One – Romantic competition. Difficult to believe that Jerry Lee would countenance competition.
C. C. Rider – The sax goin’ on here makes just a little soulful. Otherwise it’s standard Jerry Lee.
Johnny B Goode – True that Jerry Lee is a pioneer rock and roller, but listening to this next to the original by Chuck Berry you can hear just how country he is.
You’re Cheating Heart – The Hank Williams song. When Jerry Lee did rock he sounded country, and when he did country he sounded rock. That can only mean that his music is transcendent…
Big Blond Baby – Say no more…
Matchbox – The Carl Perkins song. The Beatles did this, but this is closer to the original, not surprisingly, given that Jerry Lee and Carl were label mates on Sun.
What’d I Say – Jerry Lee tackles Ray Charles. He has stiff competition – Elvis, Bobby Darin, The Searchers, Johnny Rivers, Rare Earth, Ray himself. He acquits himself well. This was a bit of a comeback hit in the spring of 1961. I have the original Sun single of this.
Chantilly Lace – Hellooooooo says Jerry Lee off the top, this is the Killer speaking, but the version I picked up off the soundtrack to “Eskimo Limon” (Lemon Popsicle) cut that line out. No reference to killers allowed. I remember this being a hit, that was in the spring of 1972, so I was surprised to learn that it only ever reached number 43 on Billboard. Lewis takes The Big Bopper’s song into another category of invitation.
Another Place, Another Time – This was Jerry Lee’s big comeback, from the spring of 1968. Here is where he reinvented himself as a country singer, and it was a natural metamorphosis. This sad tale of happiness gone by was big on the country chart, and snuck into the top 90 of the pop chart.
What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me) – Yet another country song about the relationship between heartbreak and inebriation. From the summer of 1968.
Walking The Floor Over You – Ernest Tubb’s signature song. Jerry Lee sounds positively exuberant.
The Hole He Said He’d Dig For Me – According to the liner notes this is the first recording he made for Mercury, back in 1963. A song of romantic revenge, pretty serious.
She Still Comes Around (To Love What’s Left Of Me) – The story of a reprobate, and a tribute to an enabler.
Waitin’ For A Train – Jerry Lee does Jimmie Rodgers
She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye – A man looks at himself as others see him, in the wake of a breakup. And in the midst of everything his sympathy is with her. She didn’t mean to be unkind. The opposite of Softly I Will Leave You, maybe. Then the “goodbye baby” at the end kind of changes everything…
Workin’ Man Blues – Jerry Lee sings Merle Haggard.
There Must Be More To Love Than This – It’s an affair; his woman is married to someone else, so Jerry Lee’s a bit unfulfilled.
Me And Bobby McGee – More rock and roll than one would expect, given the nature of the song and the general style of Jerry Lee’s music at the time. Lewis’ take on Krisofferson’s most famous song was a pop hit in late 1971, somewhat after Janis Joplin’s much more celebrated version.
Once More With Feeling – Another Kristofferson song, co-written with Shel Silverstein.
Touching Home – How it feels when you become desperate, more powerful for our not knowing exactly what’s going on. Dallas Frazier wrote this, the man who wrote Elvira.
Jack Daniels Old No. 7 – The theme here is a bit too up front and centre, a bit too forced. But heck, everyone has a bad day…
Think About It, Darlin’ – We know we are in different territory when we hear the strings that kick this number off, while Jerry Lee tries desperately to salvage a crumbling relationship. I know those strings…
Pee Wee’s Place – Next in line in a long traditions of songs celebrating great drinking and music places, Sugar Shack, 333, Down At Lulu’s. But Pee Wee’s must be some place, home to “rednecks and hippies too.”
He Can’t Fill My Shoes – No indeed, I bet he can’t. But judging by the relationship he seems to have had with her (“the hell she put me through”) maybe that’s a good thing. Sing it Jerry Lee… sing it….
Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano? – Jerry Lee contemplates his own demise. The answer is no one, and I think that’s the point…
Middle Age Crazy – A bit of electric piano sets off this tale of a man in mid life crisis – a man “trying to prove he still can.” And the truth isn’t in the lyrics, the truth is in his voice, how he sings “bin a looong uphill climb,” man, you know it’s been long.
You’re All Too Ugly Tonight – Only Jerry Lee could get away with this. Gotta love him…
A Damn Good Country Song – A song written by Donnie Fritz, maybe he wrote it for Jerry Lee. Put it alongside Chuck Berry’s Bio as a true-to-life autobiography. The version here, according to the liner votes, has original vocals that were replaced later. It’s rough sounding, but I guess that’s the point.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Paul Anka

Well, Paul Anka was Canadian, so that’s worth something. He didn’t stay in Canada, of course, neither did The Diamonds or The Crew Cuts, and neither did Joni Mitchell or Neil Young, no way he could have become who he became had he stayed. But he was from Ottawa, which is the capital, and it’s a nice city, about 2 hours drive from here. Ottawa, I’d go. Capital Hill, Spark Street mall, National Gallery etc.

This collection starts with an old album called Paul Anka Sings His Big 15, which had 15 tracks, obviously, 12 of which had been hits. That was on ABC Paramount, and he went on to have more hits on ABC Paramount, some of which I have here. They all came from singles.

He was a teen idol, and a dippy one. His music tended to be on the maudlin side, but I guess teenage girls liked it, because he was quite popular.

In 1962 he switched to RCA, and he never had the success he’d had on ABC Paramount. Still though, he put 11 singles on the chart between 1962 and 1969, and I have some of them here, all of which come from more singles.

He was shutout between 1963 and 1969, but when he reappeared he was different. Paul Anka was an adult. He sounded different, his songs were different, more adult, sometimes in both senses of the word.

Around 1970 he switched over to Buddha, and he didn’t have huge success there, but he made some decent records, and I got those songs, including both his hits on the label, from a Canada only release called Greatest Hits on the Quality label.

Then came his second big breakthrough, and that period is captured here on His Best. And that is his United Artists period. And that’s the whole story.

Paul Anka:

Diana – The song with the million dollar sax. Totally dumb, I mean it’s about his baby-sitter for Pete’s sake, though obviously he was too old for a baby sitter when he did this, about 16. A song of unrequited love (well what do you expect when you have a crush on your baby-sitter) and Anka’s first hit, it went to #1 in the summer of 1957. Not to be confused with “Diane” by Mantovani, The Bachelors etc.
Put Your Head On My Shoulder – This may be Anka’s key first-era ballad, and it’s pretty sappy. From the fall of 1959. I remember that some guys in high school put together an impromptu vocal quartet, and they performed at school functions once or twice, and they did this song, and a teacher, one whose nickname was “the Armored Truck,” well she put her head on the lead singer’s shoulder, and wow…
Crazy Love – From the spring of 1958. Not the Van Morrison song. I don’t quite get what’s crazy about crazy love, but whatever it is, Anka is quite perturbed.
Don’t Gamble With Love – A precautionary tale. We’re not really told what said gambling consists of, but you better not do it…
I Love You Baby – A basic uptempo poppy love song, with a harpsichord. Covered by Freddie & The Dreamers. From late 1957.
Midnight – A song about you-know-what. Something about midnight appeals to pop music, just ask Wilson Picket. The Night Time Is The Right Time sang Ray Charles. From the summer of 1958.
Don’t Ever Leave Me – You have to wonder what’s going in a relationship that makes one party ask the other to make a promise like this.
It’s Time To Cry – Indeed, we live in a feel-good culture, where sometimes we think there’s no room for negativity. But, indeed, “when your baby leaves you, that’s the time to cry…” Where is Johnny Ray when you need him? From the winter of 1960.
Lonely Boy – A song of supreme self-pity. Number 1 in the summer of 1959. Covered by Donny Osmond.
All Of A Sudden My Heart Sings – More sappy romance. Funny, Mel Carter covered it, but it doesn’t sound sappy when he does it. This is from the winter of 1959.
I Miss You So – A song of separation. From the spring of 1959. A hit in 1965 for Little Anthony & The Imperials.
You Are My Destiny – This is high drama. She is not just his intended, or his soul-mate, no sir, she is his destiny. That puts a lot at stake in this relationship. From the winter of 1958.
That’s Love
Puppy Love – One of the classic “we are not too young” songs. That doesn’t make it any good. It’s quite hokey actually. A hit in the spring of 1960. Donny Osmond put it back on the chart about a dozen years later.
Adam And Eve – Genesis: the pop version. From the spring of 1960 and the B side of Puppy Love.
A Steel Guitar And A Glass Of Wine – A man sits in a bar, drinks wine to forget, and listens to the sad music. There is no steel guitar on this track. And he’d do better with gin. From the summer of 1962.
Summer’s Gone – And so is his romance. Chad & Jeremy did it better on A Summer Song, but there you go. This was a hit in the fall of 1960. At least they timed it right.
Hello Young Lovers – A song, I suppose, that cupid might sing. From the fall of 1960. This was a pop standard; Perry Como did this also.
Dance On Little Girl – One of those songs where he watches his girl dance with someone else; think Save The Last Dance For Me or I’ll Never Dance Again. From the summer of 1961.
Every Night (Without You) – Paul prays. But there’s a determination here, it’s a song you can march to. “I keep praying” he sings, but “I command” would sound more natural in the musical context. From the fall of 1962.
Remember Diana – The sequel to Diana, but it sounds like a rewrite of Little Darling by The Gladiolas / The Diamonds. Turns out things didn’t really work out with his former baby-sitter. In fact, he’s quite peeved. From the spring of 1963.
I Love You In The Same Old Way – Paul waxes nostalgic for a time that he describes as long ago, but which was probably a year ago. From the fall of 1960, and the B side of Hello Young Lovers.
My Home Town – Is he singing about Ottawa? I don’t know, but this is one of the silliest songs in his vast repertoire of silly songs. “I hear a birdie up in this tree” he sings, as he describes the music in his heart. From the summer of 1960.
Eso Beso (That Kiss) – Sounds like Vegas, with a bossa nova beat. Anka is sounding here a bit older, more like his 70s You’re Having My Baby self. From late 1962.
Goodnight My Love – After 1963, Anka disappeared from the pop charts until 1969, and this is the song he reappeared with. I remember hearing this. He doesn’t make you forget Jesse Belvin, but he sounds mature and self-confidant, and it’s not a bad comeback. From the winter of
Love Me Warm And Tender – From the spring of 1962.
Tonight My Love Tonight – I will love you forever he says. Sure, whatever it takes. A subject Anka was to return to in the mature phase of his career, much more graphically. From the spring of 1961.
Love (Makes The World Go Round) – A musical lesson in geography. This is so chauvinistic that it makes You’re Having My Baby sound like a women’s lib anthem. From the winter of 1963.
My Way – He didn’t write the melody; he took an existing French song and wrote English lyrics, and he handed it to Frank Sinatra. It’s been said that he didn’t do him any favours; personally I think it was a brilliant move. Elvis did this song, and I’ve never cared for his version. The Sex Pistols did it… Anka does, I think, an incredibly good job with it, it rivals Frankie’s I dare say. Interestingly, he skips out the first bit of the first verse. It was not a hit, which makes sense; it was issued in 1972 as the B side of a single that was never a hit either.
Do I Love You – From the fall of 1971. It wasn’t a big hit in the US, but the Canadian radio stations played it plenty, probably because of the Canadian content regulations that were implemented in 1970. In a way this is the same type of over the top love song he did early in his career, but now he had the vocal smarts to pull it off. A guilty pleasure.
Jubilation – I remember this being a radio hit, and it being a bit out of character for Anka, with its Christian content and all, and that was in the spring of 1972. And I remember a school dance where we had a DJ, and this song was the grand finale. Of course he played the full length version, which runs 7 something minutes, not the truncated radio version, and it didn’t occur to me until years later, thinking about it, that it was a strange song to play at a dance at a decidedly non-Christian school. But still, the song does get into a groove, and coda with the horns and piano and strings... Another guilty pleasure.
She’s A Lady – Anka wrote this but you’re used to hearing this by Tom Jones, who had a huge hit with it in 1970. Listen to Anka, it’s a whole other angle.
Life Song – A man looks at the big picture. Not so inspiring, this one…
Double Life – An affair. He tries, but I think it’s been done better. Listen to Lightfoot do Affair On 8th Avenue.
Love Is – A rather mundane love song. Sorry,
(You’re) Having My Baby – Ok ok, it’s a terrible song, it’s chauvinistic, it has some terrible lyrics (“You could have swept it from your life”), it’s smarmy. But hey, listen to his voice, listen to the electric piano (the riff swiped note for note from Elton John’s Daniel, but who cares), listen to that damned addictive tune. Man, I love this song. Shoot me. And yes, I remember when it was all over the radio, the summer of 1974, I was 17. What did I know…
One Man Woman / One Woman Man – The female voice on (You’re) Having My Baby was Odia Coates, and here she gets label credit. This song, which was a hit in the winter of 1975, is, I have to say, silly, a total trivialization of infidelity. They can’t all be great, can they?
Wake Up – Electric sitar colours this tale of lost love, but it really can’t save a song that just falls a little flat. The song’s ok, the vocal’s ok, but the production kills it.
Bring The Wine – Supposed to be romantic, but just overwrought.
Times Of Your Life – Maudlin. Started life as a Kodak commercial. From the winter of 1976. Thankfully I was out of the country so I missed this one.
I Don’t Like To Sleep Alone – With Odia Coates. Another one where the lyrics say one thing (I’m an imaginationless dork) and the music says another (dance with me). The descending piano figure saves this. From the spring of 1975, I was 18 and graduating.
Let Me Get To Know You – Another song about sex. This was a hit (yes I remember it) before he broke huge, that was in the winter of 1974. It was released on the Fame label, and I think my version is a rerecording for RCA, but I can’t 100% tell.
(I Believe) There’s Nothing Stronger Than Our Love – Odia Coates on this again, and now it’s just formula. From the fall of 1975.
Papa – Songs about parents don’t usually work, and this is no exception. Perhaps it’s a companion piece to Mama by B. J. Thomas.
Anytime (I’ll Be There) – This was a hit in the spring of 1976, and I was back in the country then, but I don’t remember hearing this. Hit or not, maybe even the radio stations didn’t like it…
Everything’s Been Changing – More formula stuff. A song about heartbreak, but not all that powerful.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bobby Bland

...AKA Bobby “Blue” Bland. If the number of chart singles measures success, then Bland was the single most successful blues artist. He had 37 songs on the Billboard top 100 between 1957 and 1974. B.B. King had 34 up till 1975. Slim Harpo had 2, Muddy Waters had 0. And Bland was pure blues, out of step with everything else around him on the top 100. Something about him appealed to radio programmers and record buyers.

I got The Best Of Bobby Bland in St. Paul, Minnesota, at Cheapo’s, in the summer of 1986. That was my first time in Cheapo’s, and it was the only copy of that LP I ever saw. I added some tracks later, everything up to That’s Why, which came from a CD anthology that I picked up at the WK Library.

Bobby Bland:

I.O.U. Blues – Genuine 12 bar blues about indebtedness in an relationship context. From 1952.
It’s My Life Baby – A song of defiance, take me as I am, from 1955.
A Million Miles From Nowhere – Bland sings about screwing up his life. Not to be confused with Cat Stevens.
Bobby’s Blues – Bobby made a bad marriage, now he’s resentful. “Farther on up the road…” sings Bobby, presaging his fall 1957 hit, “you’re gonna get what’s coming to you.” This is from 1957..
Lead Me On – Dave Marsh calls this “the greatest 3:00 AM record ever made.” I hear it. It’s a song about putting yourself is someone else’s hands, and doing so in the most alienating circumstances. The arrangement here is very different, with an orchestra that sounds like it specializes in horror film soundtracks, and I mean that in the best possible way. A non-hit from 1960.
Don’t Cry No More – From the fall of 1961. Crying presented as evidence of love.
That’s Why – This is as close to The Platters as Bland got. This is from 1959, the B side of I’ll Take Care Of You.
Poverty – About what it says it’s about. This is from the fall of 1966 and it sounds like it, right up to date with 60s R&B, but Bland is still Bland.
I Smell Trouble – From 1957. Another hard luck story. I try, he sings, but…
Some Day – From 1959.
I’ll Take Care Of You – What every woman wants to hear. Another haunting ballad in the same vain as Lead Me On, with organ this time. From the winter of 1960.
I Pity The Fool – Everything that’s good about the blues is here. From the winter of 1961. This turned up here and there, Paul Butterfield did it.
Cry Cry Cry – From the fall of 1960. Another song of romantic vengeance, like Cry Me A River. It even has those lyrics. Not the Johnny Cash song.
Turn On Your Love Light – The Human Beinz did this and so did The Grateful Dead, and so did 4,567,333 bar bands. This is the original. From the winter of 1962.
Call On Me – Not the Chicago song, and not the Big Brother & The Holding Company song. From the winter of 1963.
Ain’t Nothing You Can Do – About the hopelessness of romantic attachment. His biggest, and only top 20, hit, from the spring of 1964, during the height of Beatlemania. The Band covered this.
If You Could Read My Mind – Not the Lightfoot song, obviously, but still a ballad, and a sad one. What’s inside is not what you see on the outside, and that’s a common theme in pop music, but it’s rarely presented this poignantly.
Farther On Up The Road – From the fall of 1957 and standard blues. Clapton did this with the Band on The Last Waltz.
Stormy Monday – The blues / jazz standard that it seems everyone had to do, from Lou Rawls to The McCoys to Bobby Bland himself. At least Bland knew what he was doing. From the fall of 1962.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alfred Apaka

The astute reader will notice that I sneak in non-chart artists at random intervals. There is no magic to this. It’s how my collection is arranged.

I try to put them where they seem to make sense. Sometimes I have to guess. Sometimes I have to pick a spot at random.

But any type of popular music is game: rock (and roll), country, jazz, MOR, bluegrass, folk, blues. No classical, that belongs elsewhere, and no ethnic music.

Apaka, though, is a bit faux ethnic. But he was a pop singer too. This is The Best Of Alfred Apaka, and he sings about Hawaii, Hawaii, and more Hawaii.

Alfred Apaka:

• Song Of The Islands
• Lovely Hula Hands
• My Isle Of Golden Dreams
• The Hukilau Song
• Beyond The Reef
– There’s a version of this by The Ventures.
• The Moon Of Manakoora
– There’s a version of this by The Ventures.
• Little Brown Gal
• Hapa-Haole Lula Girl
• Ebb Tide
– A hit for so many. The Righteous Brothers put this on the chart in 1965.
• You Are Beautiful
• Princess Poo-Poo-Ly Has Plenty Papaya
• Forevermore
• Old Plantation
• Legend Of The Rain
• The Song Of Love
• The Magic Islands
• Hawaiian Love Call
• Far Across The Sea

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


This wasn’t just elevator music; this was elevator music in the poshest hotel.

It was my sister that introduced me to Mantovani. That was around 1969. I was into Abbey Road; she was into The World Of Mantovani. I called her a square. Who could blame me?

What I have here is Mantovani’s Golden Hits, which is ubiquitous, and More Mantovani’s Golden Hits, which isn’t, but 2 LPs worth of golden hits were not big enough to hold all his top 100 singles, which number 3. Someone at London Records forgot to include Theme From The Sundowners. Oh well…


Games That Lovers Play – I first encountered this song on a single by Connie Francis, but it’s kind of a pop standard. Eddie Fisher and Wayne Newton both put it on the pop charts in the mid 60s
Exodus Main Theme – High drama. This is the theme from the movie of course, which was such a cultural phenomenon. I never saw the movie but I read the novel by Uris, and I thought it was shoddy. Maybe one day I will blog about fiction. It was a hit in the winter of 1961, and there were competing versions by Eddie Harris and by Ferrante & Teicher. Pat Boone did a version that I don’t have and have never heard, and it reached number 61. Presumably he sang it. I have a sung version by Sammy Davis Jr, and boy is it sung.
Greensleeves – The folk classic done with more strings than you can shake a stick at.
La Vie En Rose – French for life as a rose. A hit for Edith Piaf, a long time ago.
Around The World – A bit hit for everyone in 1957. Mantovani’s version went to number 12 in 1957, competing with Victor Young and Bing Crosby. Young wrote the song, the theme from the movie Around The World In Eighty Days.
Some Enchanted Evening – My parents had this song by someone, I don’t remember who, someone with an operatic voice. Well back through the ages it sounds retroactively operatic; I was very young. The song is from South Pacific. Jay & The Americans put it on the charts in 1965.
Swedish Rhapsody – Also done by Percy Faith.
Moon River – Everyone had to do this, and so did Mantovani. Rather perverse, I think, that he uses a kind of cha cha rhythm.
Moulin Rouge Theme – Recorded by Percy Faith as “Theme From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart)” with vocals by Felicia Sanders. This is from some ancient movie. Don’t confuse it with some modern rewrite
Summertime In Venice – Not to be confused with April In Paris, or Autumn In Vermont.
Diane – A hit for The Bachelors.
Cara Mia – Beautiful beautiful song. A hit originally for David Whitfield, who apparently recorded it in 1954 with Mantovani’s orchestra. Revived in 1965 by Jay & The Americans.
Stranger In Paradise – A hit for Tony Bennett, recorded by many.
Gigi – A hit, of sorts, for Vic Damone.
Deep Purple – Another standard, and a pop hit for Nino Tempo & April Stevens.
A Certain Smile – A hit for Johnny Mathis
The Way You Look Tonight – Another beautiful melody. A hit for The Lettermen.
Love Is A Many Splendored Thing – This is the type of song tailor-made for Mr. M. A hit for The Four Aces in 1955.
Long Ago And Far Away – Not the James Taylor song.
Till – Ah… What would this collection be without Till. Another great ballroom dance. This was a hit for Percy Faith and for Roger Williams in 1957, and for The Vogues (the one that I remember) in 1968.
A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening – I’m sure…
Together – Not the Nilsson song.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Debbie Reynolds

I got my entire Debbie Reynolds collection from the original singles; of course my entire collection is 2 tracks.

She only ever had 4 records on the pop charts, 2 on Dot, 2 on Coral, and I have one of each.

Debbie Reynolds

Tammy – This was one of those great hits of the 50s, a pop ballad, very syrupy. “Tammy, Tammy, Tammy’s in love…” One can see her, frolicking starry-eyed in an open meadow... Listen closely though, and you hear all the uncertainty and insecurity. Number 1 in the summer of 1957.
Am I That Easy To Forget – The transitional stage, from the POV of the LBS. How, though, does she know how easy she is to forget; she only makes assumptions based on how his life is going, but truly, she has no idea. A hit from the winter of 1960, and again for Engelbert Humperdinck in 1968.

Monday, August 17, 2009

August, 1957

  • Tammy - Debbie Reynolds
  • My Personal Possession - Nat King Cole
  • Don't Knock The Rock - Bill Haley & His Comets
  • Diana - Paul Anka
  • Flying Saucer The Second - Buchanan & Goodman
  • To The Aisle - The Five Satins
  • Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On - Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Rainbow - Russ Hamilton
  • Love Me To Pieces - Jill Corey
  • That'll Be The Day - The Crickets
  • Goody Goody - Frankie Lymon
  • When I See You - Fats Domino
  • Honeycomb - Jimmy Rodgers
  • Till - Percy Faith

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Victor Young

Young had two hits on the pop charts, more on the Adult Contemporary charts. I have one, and I got that straight off the 45.

Victor Young:

Around The World – This was from the movie Around The World In Eighty Days, though the words don’t say anything about 80 days. This version, though, is just instrumental, by one of the composers actually. A hit in the summer of 1957, and also by Mantovani and Bing Crosby and The McGuire Sisters, and covered by many many others.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chuck Willis

The truth is that I’ve never come across a Chuck Willis collection. So I don’t have one really. I put together my own collection, the tracks all taken from Atlantic Rhythm And Blues 1947 – 1974. That nets me 4 out of 5 of his hits, which isn’t all that bad, considering.

Collections are available, though they seem to have “discontinued by the manufacturer” according to Amazon.

All his hits hit in 1957 and 1958, and he died of ulcer-related illness in April, 1958. That didn’t give him a very long career. While he lived he was one of a legion of Atlantic R & B singers, together with Clyde McPhatter, LaVerne Baker, Ray Charles, Ruth Brown etc etc. His trademark was the stroll, which was a dance, and somehow his music is meant to evoke the dance, through it’s rhythm or something, and I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound much to me like The Diamonds’ The Stroll. Maybe I’m the philistine…

Chuck Willis:

C. C. Rider – This seems to have been the original hit version of this song in the rock and roll era, for what that’s worth. It seems to have been written by Ma Rainey, in the 20s, and she may even have gotten songwriting royalties for a time, though her name isn’t always the one you see on songwriting credits. This has kind of a shuffle rhythm, supposedly though it’s the stroll for which Willis was celebrated. The female chorus is undoubtedly white, a fact which has given rise to the claim, not denied by those in the know, that this was a blatant attempt to “whiten” Atlantic’s R & B sound and thereby reach a wider audience. I don’t know whether it worked, but this song did reach number 12 on the pop chart in the summer of 1957. There are a million versions out there, from Elvis Presley to Gary Lewis & The Playboys, the most notable for my money being the hit versions by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels (it’s actually labeled Jenny Take A Ride and exists as part of a medley with Jenny Jenny Jenny) and the no-holds-barred-totally-rocked-out version by The Animals. But no other vesion, as far as I know, has a marimba.
It’s Too Late – Another one that got covered a lot. This is not the Carole King song. In this case not only is the relationship over, but she is gone.
Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes – The anti-protest song. “You ain’t gonna rock and roll no more” yelled the parent in Yakety Yak. In this one Chuck promises to do all those things that the parent wanted the kid to do in The Coasters song, that the kid didn’t want to do. Underlying it all, there is the fear of being left behind. “Rock and roll is here to stay…” A hit in the spring of 1958. The Band covered this; it seems to have been their standard encore, and there’s a few versions kicking around, most notably perhaps on Rock Of Ages.
Betty And Dupree – This was a shaggy dog story in song, but Chuck cut most of it out, getting rid of all the violence and drama. Listen to Harry Belafonte do it. From the winter of 1958.
What Am I Living For – I Cried A Tear with different words. The A side of Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes, and a hit in the summer of 1958, Willis’ biggest. But by the time he was asking what he was living for, he was dead. Also a hit for Conway Twitty.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Larry Williams

Growing up when I did, I picked up the old 50s rock and roll by hearsay and nostalgia. There was American Graffiti, there were spinoff albums, there were rock and roll revival concerts (not that I went to any), there were “graffiti weekends” on the radio, there were “best hits of all time” weekends, usually on Labour Day. And so I got to hear the originals: Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Danny & The Juniors, Bill Haley & His Comets.

There were some, though, Like Larry Williams, whose voices never surfaced. I understand that some recording artists would inevitably be relegated to obscurity, even some who were popular in their day. But Williams, his songs were all over the place. The Beatles recorded his stuff, as did a hundred and two other English bands. How many versions of Boney Maronie are there? I don’t know. Google it. Check, Wikipedia.

Williams recorded for Specialty; that’s the same label that Little Richard recorded for, and it’s possible that the competition was too harsh. I can’t say. I just know that he was a pioneer who deserves recognition.

So let’s express our gratitude to the Province of Quebec, through whose generous library funding I procured this copy of Bad Boy by Larry Williams, 23 tracks in all, including all 5 of his Specialty hits. He did have one hit on Okeh records, that was in 1967, a version of Mercy Mercy Mercy, the Cannonball Adderley hit I assume, covered so ably by The Buckinghams. But anyway, it’s not here.

Larry Williams:

Boney Maronie – The character song. There isn’t too much about Boney, but we know that she’s pretty darn skinny, and Larry makes love to her under the apple tree. Lucky guy. A favourite for bands to cover – Johnny Winter had a crack at this, so did The Cyrkle. A hit in late 1957.
She Said Yeah –The most basic statement of a successful relationship, at some level. The Stones covered this, but they didn’t capture the exuberance. • Hocus Pocus – Not the Focus song. Shades of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Lawdy Miss Clawdy – Williams’ take on the Lloyd Price classic.
Just Because – A statement of romantic defiance. It was a hit for Lloyd Price.
Dizzy Miss Lizzy – Something about the riff must have appealed to John Lennon; The Beatles covered this – it closed the Help album in its original incarnation. In North America it was in the middle of side 2 of Beatles VI, and a live version appears on The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl. From the spring of 1958.
Rockin’ Pneumonia – A world in which our hero’s rocking ambition is fraught with danger, and rock itself is some kind of illness – the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie woogie flu. A hit for Huey Smith & The Clowns, and revived by Johnny Rivers in the early 70s.
High School Dance – You’d think this would be the perfect high school dance song, but of course it isn’t. It’s a bit too tongue-in-cheek for one thing; for another it’s too self aware. Still, it’s not terrible or anything. The B side of Short Fat Fanny and a hit in the summer of 1957.
Heeby Jeebies – By Little Richard. As uptempo and rocking as this is, it doesn’t approach the franticness of the original.
Iko Iko (Aka Jockano) – Some kind of New Orleans anthem. This was a hit for The Dixie Cups, and it was covered almost reverentially by Dr. John.
Short Fat Fannie – There was Long Tall Sally and there Skinny Minnie, and now there was Short Fat Fannie. Features a who’s who of song titles, the ultimate rock and roll spoof. From the summer of 1957.
Zing Zing – The sound of his heart, in response to his loved one. I’d see a doctor.
Ting-A-Ling – Ok, this guy’s addicted to sound effects or something.
Make A Little Love – Sounds quite a bit like Heeby Jeebies, especially on the refrain at the end of the chorus.
Hootchy-Koo –A dance song, with subthemes of death, disease, urban angst. Chubby Checker, eat your heart out.
Slow Down – Kicks off with a galloping rhythm and doesn’t let up. You’re moving way too fast he sings to his girl, which given the gender direction here becomes interesting. The Beatles did this very famously, originally on an EP, and on the Something New album, and, not to be outdone, so did Gerry & The Pacemakers. Oh, and so did The Young Rascals.
You Bug Me, Baby – I don’t know if “bug” used to mean something else, but he sure isn’t singing about bugging in the sense with which I am familiar. From late 1957 and the B side of Boney Maronie.
Oh Baby – Think of a generic song title...
Little School Girl – This is Good Morning Little School Girl, recorded by Muddy Waters, by Ten Years After, by a young Rod Stewart, by The Yardbirds. Lewd and lascivious by every one of them. Written, for the record, by Willy Dixon.
Bad Boy – Another Williams song covered by The Beatles. Interesting that it was released in North America in 1965, on Beatles VI, the same album that had Dizzy Miss Lizzy, but it was not released in the UK for another year, and then only on A Collection Of Beatle Oldies. The Beatles do it pretty straight. Williams has a bit of humour going on, not unlike The Coasters’ Charlie Brown.
Peaches And Cream
Marie Marie – Not the Santana song.
The Dummy – Love song to a manequin. Honest…

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lee Andrews & The Hearts

This is one of those releases that make you wonder how legit it is. To begin with, it has two titles: Best of Lee Andrews & The Hearts, and Teardrops. That isn’t so unusual. So what else? Well the label: MCR Productions. And it’s licensed from Red Dog Express. And it was made in Holland. Lee Andrews & The Hearts recorded 2 hits for Chess, and 1 for United Artists. They are on here, all. There are no acknowledgments of the original labels. It all looks very suspicious. This kind of thing is normal.

The credits list all 10 tracks. 3 of them have songwriting credits, 7 don’t. There are no liner notes, no biographical information, no recording dates.

But the sound – the sound on these recordings is genuine 50s. There is no way for anyone to get the old guys (or any old guys) back into the studio and rerecord the old numbers, and have them sound this authentic.

This is a cassette by the way, a prerecorded cassette, the only copy I’ve ever seen, in any format. It has all 3 of their hits on it. How wonderful is that!

Lee Andrews & The Hearts:

Teardrops – I’m using the written configuration given on the cassette label. Whitburn has “Tear Drops.” Either way, I guess this is the tale of crying. Lee has done someone wrong, he tried to find happiness with “someone new,” and now he is asking forgiveness. It’s dumb, really, but a great 50s prom slow dance. The Turtles covered this; their version was first released on a late 70s compilation called Happy Together Again. This was a hit towards the end of 1957.
Try The Impossible – The impossible in this case is trying to understand “how I feel about you.” And he goes on try the incredible, try the thisable, try the thatable. This has more of tin pan alley than one usually hears in doo wop. From the summer of 1958.
Just Suppose
Glad To Be Here – A song about performing. Here’s where the group goes uptempo.
Bluebird Of Happiness – There seem to be a lot of songs about Bluebirds, Paul McCartney did one – and this is one. There isn’t much to it.
Long Lonely Nights – This is from the summer of 1957, but it didn’t get higher than 45, notwithstanding its plaintive appeal. Bobby Vinton’s version reached 17 in 1965, but it wasn’t nearly as good.
Bells Of St. Mary – The sound of this sounds like a throwback to The Harptones.
Lonely Room – Just another doo wop ballad about being broken hearted. I think he should get out of his room though.
The Fairest
The Clock – This seems to have been written by The Big Bopper. Story of a guy being driven crazy by his clock. Cf The Clock On The Wall by The Guess Who.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jim Reeves

I dunno man. This guy recorded for RCA, and he had 23 hits between 1957 and 1966, 13 top 20 singles on the UK chart between 1960 and 1969, though he died in 1964. RCA put out 3 “Best Of” albums, and they couldn’t manage to fit all 23 songs on 3 LPs. Forget the UK hits.

He was gentleman-style country singer, somewhat bland, a follower I guess of the Eddy Arnold school, and he was immensely popular. What I have is The Best Of Jim Reeves, The Best Of Jim Reeves, vol. 2, and The Best Of Jim Reeves, vol 3.

Jim Reeves:

He’ll Have To Go – I actually knew this from a Ry Cooder album before I ever knew the original. A great statement of romantic competition, a phone-based showdown. From the winter of 1960. Jeanne Black did an answer song called He'll Have To Stay.
Four Walls – A man sits at home waiting for his woman to come back, and feels very sorry for himself. From the spring of 1957.
Guilty – A relationship as a criminal offence. Not the first or last time of using this idea, and not the best. From the summer of 1963.
Blue Boy – Not the painting. He is sad, obviously. From the summer of 1958.
I’m Getting Better – What he is recovering from is a broken romance. Surprised? From the summer of 1960.
The Blizzard – A tragic tale, the sacrifice made for one’s horse. From the fall of 1961 and covered by Burl Ives.
Am I Losing You? – From late 1960.
Billy Bayou – An obscure story about an obscure character. From late 1958.
Anna Marie – From the winter of 1958.
Stand At Your Window – A bit more up-tempo, but not much happier.
Adios Amigo – Two friends who compete for the same girl. And of course Jim loses out. From the spring of 1962.
Danny Boy – He has the voice, but he doesn’t quite have the chops to pull this off.
Home – What you’d think it is. More of a happy song, except even so, home is where he grew up, not where he belongs now…
Welcome To My World – This is, if I’m not mistaken, a bit of a country standard. An invitation to romance, but so darn mellow that I’d think twice about accepting. A UK hit in the spring of 1963.
I Won’t Forget You – From the fall of 1964.
Then I’ll Stop Loving You – One of those “then” or “till” songs; think No Not Much – same idea.
Is It Me? – Always question yourself when something goes wrong. Right?
I Guess I’m Crazy – Another equation of mental illness and love. I dunno man… From the fall of 1964.
Drinking Tequila – A story of Mexico and debauchery. He whoops it up a bit here, very out of character.
Penny Candy – The story of a little girl, and her real name, according to Jim, is Penelope (pronounced pen-el-ope) Candace. And the guys try to get her attention, but she is only interested in eating candy. By the time she’s 20 she will undoubtedly be a blimp.
Mexican Joe
Yonder Comes A Sucker – The sucker in this song is the other guy; he’s got his gal, and I guess he got himself a winner.
My Lips Are Sealed – Another tale of romantic loss.
According To My Heart – Premonitions of good things.
Distant Drums – He is going off to war. Mary marry me he says. From the fall of 1966.
I’m Gonna Change Everything – He’s gonna get rid of all traces of her. From the fall of 1962.
Pride Goes Before A Fall
It Hurts So Much To See You Go – A UK hit in the winter of 1965.
The Storm – About a pending romantic disaster.
That’s When I See The Blues (In Your Pretty Brown Eyes) – How many songs play with eye colour and blues.
Is It Really Over? – from late 1965.
My Missing Angel
A Fallen Star
Golden Memories And Silver Tears – A bit of mariachi trumpet on this one.
Could I Be Falling In Love

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dale Hawkins

Dale Hawkins made many records, but only 4 of them made the pop charts. And I only have one of them. And I don’t remember where I got it.

Dale Hawkins:

Suzie-Q – Established the fade-in as a hip musical device. The song is a riff and a rhythm, maybe the second greatest riff in rock, played not by Hawkins but by James Burton, who was Ricky Nelson’s, and later Elvis’, lead guitarist. Described as “swamp rock,” Suzie-Q was a hit in the summer of 1957. Lonnie Mack did this on the The Wham! Of That Memphis Man album, and it was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s first hit, which makes sense if it’s swamp rock.

Monday, August 10, 2009

July, 1957

  • I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Right Myself A Letter - Billy Williams
  • Island In The Sun - Harry Belafonte
  • Susie-Q - Dale Hawkins
  • Loving You - Elvis Presley
  • Just To Hold My Hand - Clyde McPhatter
  • Around The World - Victor Young
  • Everybody's Somebody's Fool - The Heartbeats
  • Send For Me - Nat King Cole
  • Words Of Love - The Diamonds
  • Cool Shake - The Del Vikings
  • A Fallen Star - Nick Noble
  • Long Lonely Nights - Lee Andrews & The Hearts
  • Wonderful Wonderful - Johnny Mathis
  • Tammy - The Ames Brothers
  • It's You I Love - Fats Domino
  • White Silver Sands - Dave Gardner
  • Around The World - Montovani
  • You're Cheatin' Yourself (If You're Cheatin' On Me) - Frank Sinatra
  • Further On Up the Road - Bobby Bland
  • Whispering Bells - The Del Vikings
  • Stardust - Billy Ward & The Dominoes
  • Be Careful With A Fool - B. B. King

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Johnnie & Joe

I thought they were the 50s version of Sam & Dave, until I looked them up on YouTube, and now I realize that Johnnie was a girl. Perhaps they were the 50s version of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell.

Johnnie & Joe:

Over The Mountain; Across The Sea – There is a girl somewhere in this world. The idea is that we have our intended. And the girl shows up at the end. Seriously. Here I am she says. And what a voice she has, like Minnie Mouse on steroids. That’s where Johnnie makes her presence heard. Until then she seems just to hum in the background, leaving Joe to do all the hard work. From the summer of 1957, their only hit. It found its way back into the pop chart in 1960, and Bobby Vinton revived it in 1963

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Marvin Rainwater

He is considered to have been a rockabilly … legend is a bit strong, but something like that. He had 4 hits in the late 50s, one of which was called Half Breed and was not the Cher song.

The two songs I have here came from two different places; the first was on a compilation album, K-Tel or something, the second from the original single.

Marvin Rainwater:

Gonna Find Me A Bluebird – He’s been feeling sorry for himself, but he’s done. And he’s made up his mind that things will be better. I say good for him, but there’s still some sadness here, it’s in the steel guitar, it’s in the bird’s trill, it’s in his voice. So I’m not so convinced. From the summer of 1957.
Whole Lotta Woman – Sounds like someone who needs everything on a big scale. She gotta have a “whole lotta man.” I don’t wonder. From the winter of 1958.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chas McDevitt Group

My one track from this one hit wonder skiffle group comes from The Roots Of British Rock, that I mentioned before, in connection with Lonnie Donegan, who, like McDevitt, was from Glascow. The singer, who went by the extraoridinary name of Nancy Whisky (from the song, whose name, by coincidence, is Nancy Whisky), her real name was Ann Wilson, which isn’t nearly as cool.

Chas McDevitt Group (with Nancy Whisky):

Freight Train – This seems to have been a folk song that got picked up by many recording artists. It’s the story of a guy who left. Pretty simple. This is the skiffle version, a hit in the summer of 1957, top 10 in the UK, top 40 in the US. I also have versions by Rusty Draper, and Peter, Paul & Mary.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Johnny Mathis

I don’t get too excited about Johnny Mathis. He is the anti-Elvis, a black man trying to sound white.

He had quite the chart career: 99 records on the hot 100 between 1957 and 1978. What I have here is Johnny’s Greatest Hits, most of More Johnny’s Greatest Hits, and few singles. This is all early stuff, ending in 1963.

Johnny Mathis:

Chances Are – His signature song. This was a hit in the fall of 1957, and it is a love song, obviously, and it seems to be about the capricious nature of romance. To my ears it’s facile, but that’s just one man’s opinion. The song made number 1 on Billboard
All The Time – He waxes operatic here, too much vibrato man. A hit in the summer of 1958.
The Twelfth Of Never – Another song of undying love, and an expression I used when my kids ask me when. From the fall of 1957. The B side of Chances Are.
When Sunny Gets Blue – Nobody is happy all the time.
When I Am With You – How love changes who we are. Not only is everything perfect, but our hero changes. He loves her for what he is when he is with her.
Wonderful! Wonderful! – No relation to Lawrence Welk. From the summer of 1957.
It’s Not For Me To Say – From the summer of 1957. I don’t know how two records by the same artist on the same label ended up on the chart at the same time.
Come To Me – Not The Tommy James & The Shodelles hit. From the winter of 1958. I think this would have been better sung by a woman. “My desire is that you possess me…”
Wild Is The Wind – From late 1957, nothing is wild about this song. David Bowie does a phenomenal version.
Warm And Tender – Lots of pizzicato going on here. It doesn’t help
No Love (But Your Love) – From late 1957. The A side of Wild Is The Wind.
I Look At You – How it feels to be attracted to someone who is unavailable.
Small World – Not the Disney song. How much we have in common. From the summer of 1959.
Let It Rain – Not the Derek & The Dominoes song. Another song using rain as a symbol for broken romance.
The Flame Of Love
A Certain Smile – From the summer of 1958.
Very Much In Love
Someone – A cloying song, by an artist who specialized in cloyingness. A hit in the spring of 1959, and covered by The Righteous Brothers, though they called it Guess Who.
Call Me – Not the 60s favourite that was a hit for Chris Montez. From the fall of 1958.
You Are Beautiful – From the winter of 1959.
Teacher Teacher – The DeCastro Sisters did Teach Me Tonight, and Doris Day did Teacher’s Pet, and this guy does this. It’s all sick. From the summer of 1958, the B side of All The Time.
Stairway To The Sea
Let’s Love – From the winter of 1959.
Misty – A song that became much bigger than Mathis’ recording of it. Not even Johnny could kill this one. Ray Stevens did a great version. From late 1959.
What Will Mary Say РA song about cheating, and a girl named Mary. Very blas̩. From the winter of 1963.
Gina – The A side of Come To Me and a hit in the fall of 1962. The only Gina I ever knew was Mona’s younger sister. Mona? She was my classmate in last elementary / early junior high school.
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