Monday, November 30, 2009

The Kalin Twins

Boys, Herbie and Hal. I can’t imagine where Three O’Clock Thrill comes from, it wasn’t a hit or anything. I can’t remember where the other one comes from either, but at least it makes sense here.

The Kalin Twins:

When – Timing is everything. It’s a love song, and a typical one, but the lesson is to pay attention to the key points, those moments, those instances when things happen, and then the question, when? From the summer of 1958.
Three O’Clock Thrill – Jill, that’s his 3 o’clock thrill. That’s when they meet. Kind of an Afternoon Delight for the 50s.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

July, 1958

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jody Reynolds

Jody Reynolds, who was male, popped into the top 100 twice in 1958, his first record reaching number 5, his second reaching number 66. Then he disappeared forever…

Jody Reynolds

Endless Sleep – Rock and roll tries hard to come to terms with life, and all its suffering and tragedy. That’s a lot to carry. Tremelo guitar introduces this tale of attempted suicide in the aftermath of romantic discord. More than that, an implied pact: “come join me baby,” he hears, “in my endless sleep.” In the end though, the music can’t carry the weight of the message – he dives in and saves her. This scandal sheet was a top 10 hit in the summer of 1958.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sheb Wooley

Goofy Greats Sheb Wooley had quite the career as an actor and comedian, besides 4 top 100 hits between 1955 and 1962, and besides 5 more top 100 singles as Ben Colder between 1962 and 1966. All I’ve ever known of him, though, was his one big success, the “one eyed one-horned flying purple people eater,” which I used hear on the radio periodically as an oldie. I got it myself from a K-Tel album called Goofy Greats.

Sheb Wooley:

Purple People Eater – The ultimate loony tune, this and Alley Oop. But underneath the silliness was a serious message: the entire universe was embracing rock and roll. From the summer of 1958
Sheb Wooley

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bobby Freeman

Bobby Freeman, who wrote and recorded Do You Want To Dance, did more for rock and roll dancing than all the Chubby Checker records combined. He put 9 hits into the top 100 between 1958 and 1964. I have 3, one of which came from the American Graffiti soundtrack, one of which came right off the single, and one of which came from a K-Tel LP.

Bobby Freeman:

Do You Want To Dance – The first challenge is to think of all the different versions of this song that I’ve got kicking around: The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, Cliff Richard, Del Shannon, John Lennon, Bette Midler. The second challenge is to come to terms with the ultimate dance song. This isn’t a slow dance, compared to, say, Dance With Me by The Drifters, or a simple invitation like, say, Dance With Me by Orleans. No. This is a dancing dance song, non-denominational, so to speak, unlike The Twist, The Stroll, The Majestic. Do you wanna dance, sings Bobby, under the moonlight (beating Van Morrison by a dozen years), make romance, let’s just dance! From the spring of 1958.
(I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy – Let’s get down to specific dances. “I do the shimmy when I walk down the street.” I’d love to see that. From the fall of 1960.
C’mon And Swim – Jimmy McCracklin did the walk, Chubby Checker did the fly, The Kingsmen did the climb, why not the swim? The dance, I believe, consisted of making swimming motions with one’s arms while dancing around the room. From the summer of 1964.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ed Townsend

Ed Townsend His big moment in the sun was not the 2 hits he snuck into the charts in 1958; it was his appearance as co-writer and producer of Let’s Get It On By Marvin Gaye.

Townsend was a rarity, an r&b singer who appeared on a major label, Capital as it happens. He had, as I say, 2 hits, and here they are…

Ed Townsend

For Your Love – “For your love,” sings Ed, in a plaintive ballad style, “I would do anything.” No Ed, you wouldn’t, but it’s nice to hear you say so. “More foolish I grow,” he sings in his mannered style. Covered by Peaches & Herb, and not The Yardbirds song. From the spring of 1958.
When I Grow Too Old To Dream – A song from 1934, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. I guess the song is given a slightly R & B treatment here, but it doesn’t escape its tin pan alley origin. Linda Ronstadt did this, and I think I like her vesion better. From the autumn of 1958.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Art & Dotty Todd

Art & Dotty Todd The original Sonny & Cher? Well, they were married, and to each other to boot. They only ever had one hit, and I got it straight from the single.

Art & Dotty Todd:

Chanson D’Amour (Song Of Love) – An old-fashioned Andrews Sisters type ballad. Not much in the way of lyrics, just hey, this is a love song. Also done by The Fontane Sisters, and covered much later by The Manhattan Transfer, which is the first version of this that I ever heard, though it didn’t seem to have been much of a hit. From the spring of 1958.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

David Seville

He made straight comedy records under his real name, Ross Bagdasarian, but as David Seville he created the nexus between rock and roll and cartoons, and he did it with speed.

The Chipmunks came a bit later. As David Seville he put 6 hits on the top 100 in 1958 and 1959. The 2 I have are his 2 top 40 records.

David Seville:

Witch Doctor – How do I make her like me? David Seville has one answer in this song that went to number 1 in the spring of 1958. Seville introduces the as yet unidentified cartoon voices into his music; later the witch doctor would morph into a chipmunk called Alvin.
The Bird On My Head – Some people, when they are despondent they eat worms. David Seville, he sits in a parking lot with a bird on his head. The bird, it doesn’t sound like a chipmunk, not exactly, nor of course should it. It does, though, have a vaguely electronic sound to it, like it’s a kid’s toy bird. From the summer of 1958.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kathy Linden

Kathy Linden Her entire top 40 collection is here. Besides that she had 2 more hits on the top 100.

Kathy Linden:

Billy – Love as hero worship and constant companionship. When I walk I want to walk with Billy, when I talk I want to talk with Billy etc etc. “When I die…” is kind of creepy, until you realize that what she is saying is actually “dine.” Then she sets us up: when I sleep… whoa, this was 1958. A hit in the spring.
Goodbye Jimmy Goodbye – This isn’t a send off, it’s a farewell until we meet again. It reminds me of We’ll Sing In The Sunshine, but it’s a lot more fey. From the summer of 1959.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jack Scott

Original Hits Here is the truth. Jack Scott, whom most people have never heard of, is noted in Whitburn’s Top Pop Artists & Singles 1955 – 1978 as “one of Pop music’s all-time most popular singers.” (The capitalization of “pop” is his, not mine.) I don’t know what qualifies him for the distinction, given that, as I say, few people know who he is.

Here are the facts: Scott recorded for Carlton, and he recorded for Top Rank. His last 3 hits came out on Capital. Altogether he put 19 songs into the top 100. 4 of those singles were in the top 10, 9 in the top 40. And here is the impressive part. I have two collections by Jack Scott, one on Capital called Burning Bridges, and one on Attic called Original Recordings 1958 – 1959. And on those 2 collections I have every hit that Jack Scott ever had. That means that both record companies got it right, an event so unnatural as to suggest that supernatural forces were at play here.

Mr. Sound was the name of the store where I bought Burning Bridges; I don’t remember where I got the other – it’s a cassette and I know I picked it up second hand.

Oh, and he’s Canadian…

Jack Scott:

The Way I Walk – I am what I am, I am who I am, I don’t apologize. No relation to Popeye. All that in a piece of not-quite-rockabilly from the summer of 1959.
Geraldine – Proof positive that you can right a love song to anyone with any name. And it’s not just the song title; he says “Geraldine” more times than you can shake a stick at. With Your Love was the A side of this. From the fall of 1958.
Goodbye Baby – Truly mournful. Johnny’s going away he says. Who’s Johnny? From the winter of 1959.
Leroy – Tale of a perpetual wrongdoer. “Leroy’s back in jail.” Shades of Jailhouse Rock. A hit from the summer of 1958 and the B side of My True Love.
My True Love – This song could be a parody. Everything is exaggerated: The background vocals, Scott’s vocals, his spoken bridge, the rhythm. But it’s not a parody, it’s dead serious. Scott’s biggest record, from the summer of 1958. • Go Wild Little Sadie – Odd. She messed my hair, she pulled my tie. How wild is that. Released in 1960 on Guaranteed Records; did not make the chart.
With Your Love – Another languorous ballad, kind of a My True Love rewrite. When he moves up an octave though… From the fall of 1958.
What Am I Living For – The Chuck Willis song. Like Go Wild Little Sadie, this was released in 1960 on Guaranteed Records.
I Never Felt Like This – An obvious spoof of All Shook Up. At least that’s my best guess. From the spring of 1959.
There Comes A Time – The inevitability of heartbreak, very philosophical. But of course, it’s happening to poor Jack. From the fall of 1959.
Save My Soul – Jack gets religion. The flip of Goodbye Baby. From the winter of 1959.
• Midgie – The story of a woman who’s “got herself another man,” and that makes her “the strangest woman in the land.”
Apple Blossom Time – Usually called I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time. At the risk of being a heretic I’ll admit that I like Wayne Newton’s version of this, from 1965.
Bella – Now it’s odd for me to hear songs about someone named Bella; the only Bellas I’ve ever known have been adults, at a time when I wasn’t one myself.
Bo’s Going To Jail – A hard luck tale, about Bo, who is going to jail. He shot John. Too bad. A bit folky this song. Also a bit silly.
Burning Bridges – Here’s where the Top Rank collection starts. Burning Bridges, a ballad in the My True Love style about a failed romance, was a hit in the summer of 1960. Glen Campbell covered this.
Oh Little One – A straightforward love song, Jack Scott style. The flip of Burning Bridges, from the summer of 1960.
A Little Feeling (Called Love) – From the summer of 1961. “I don’t know right from wrong,” he sings, “when I’m in my baby’s arms.”
My Dream Come True – From the fall of 1961.
All I See Is Blue – A song of regret.
Laugh And The World Laughs With You – Just to prove that he could do a standard. And he does it with fuzz tone guitar.
What In The World’s Come Over You – Imagine, she’s changed, he hasn’t. Arbitrarily it seems. The whole thing. From the winter of 1960, this single kicked off his Top Rank career.
Cool Water – The B side of It Only Happened Yesterday, this was a hit in the summer of 1960. Burning BridgesOriginally by Sons Of The Pioneers, also done by Marty Robbins.
It Only Happened Yesterday – Jack did something dumb, now he regrets it. This really pulls out all the stops – male and female chorus, full complement of strings (even pizzicato). From the fall of 1960. I wonder if this is where Paul McCartney got his idea.
Steps 1 And 2 – Remember Chuck Berry? 13 Question Method? Only 2 steps for Jack. This was his last hit, from the winter of 1961 / 1962 by which time his singles were being released on Capital.
Is There Something On Your Mind – Jack detects something wrong in paradise. From the winter of 1961.
Patsy – So Jack has a taste for women with 2 syllable names: Patsy, Midgie, Bella, Sadie. Exception: Geraldine (Gerry?). Apparently he is also partial to rather young women (I’ll be waitin’ by the school yard gate) On Patsy he finally rocks it up again. From the autumn of 1960.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

June, 1958

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

John Lewis

Piano, more piano, same instrument, different universe. I’m thinking, of course, of my last entry, about Floyd Cramer.

Lewis was the leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and I have one solo recording that he did (he did many) which comes from some anthology of various artists.

John Lewis:

Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West – Very different this is from what he was doing with MJQ. Heavy on the string arrangement, a completely different feel.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Floyd Cramer

The Best Of Floyd CramerI didn’t take piano lessons. My sisters did; I didn’t. I took guitar lessons, but I didn’t get very far. But piano, I wonder. I wonder how difficult it is to do what Floyd Cramer does. The songs, one could learn. The style, not hardly likely…

My favourite Cramer recording isn’t on here, because my favourite Cramer performance is the piano he played on Puppet On A String by Elvis. That’s not to denigrate anything else he’s done, just a personal favourite of mine.

Cramer had 11 songs on the top 100 (more on the country charts I guess) between 1958 and 1963. 7 of them are on this collection, called The Best Of Floyd Cramer, an old RCA Victor release.

Floyd Cramer:

Last Date – The signature tune of a signature pianist, a song about a fatal encounter, something like Yesterday but not so obviously dramatic. From the winter of 1961 / 1962. Skeeter Davis hit with this about 6 months later, as My Last Date (With You).
Tricks – A bit jazzy, with a sax solo and all…
Lovesick Blues – The Hank Williams song, Floyd Cramer style. This was a hit in the fall of 1962.
Unchained Melody – This is our 5th encounter with this song: Roy Hamilton, Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, Gisele Mackenzie, and this one. This is the first instrumental version. Not surprisingly, it’s pretty without being saccharine, strings and all.
Satan’s Doll – Not to be confused with Satin Doll by Duke Ellington.
San Antonio Rose – Written and originally recorded by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Cramer’s version was a hit in the summer of 1961.
On The Rebound – Uptempo. From the spring of 1961.
Your Last Goodbye – Sad. From the fall of 1961.
Java – The great song by Allan Toussaint, and a major hit for Al Hirt in 1964. I have to admit, the trumpet handles this a lot better than the piano does. The arrangement, though, is almost identical. From the winter of 1963.
Swing Low – This is Swing Low Sweet Chariot obviously, with a truncated title. The muted vocal chorus, though, just sings “Swing loooowwww….”
(These Are) The Young Years – An obvious attempt to redo The Last Date, and appeal to the teenagers of the day.
Flip Flop And Bop – Kind of rock and roll, Floyd Cramer style. This was his first pop hit, in spring, 1958.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Don Gibson

Don Gibson I grew up with I Can’t Stop Loving You by Ray Charles as a fact of life. Oh Lonesome Me entered my life when I heard Neil Young sing it on the radio in 1970, and Sea Of Heartbreak came about 8 years later, when I picked up a collection by The Searchers. And I discovered Sweet Dreams when I discovered Patsy Cline.

It is cool hearing the originals, by the man who wrote them. (I don’t have Gibson’s recording of Sweet Dreams – there’s a version on YouTube.)

It’s easy for me to tell you that I bought this Don Gibson collection at the Country Music Centre; you can’t prove I didn’t. Truth is I probably did. I can’t prove I didn’t. I’m fairly sure that I bought it new. It’s a cassette and it’s just called nothing more than Don Gibson. But the series is called "Lassoes ‘N Spurs"; it was a series that features various collections by various country artists. The cassette version had 8 tracks, the CD 10. I have the cassette, and I got 2 extra tracks somewhere, some collection of country songs on K-Tel maybe.

The 8 tracks contained 3 of his 4 top 40 hits, 5 of his 14 top 100 entries. Just One Time got me one more.

Don Gibson:

Oh Lonesome Me - I feel bad but I shouldn’t feel bad, I should be fine, I should go out and have fun. That’s the theme here. Maybe it’s a guy thing, a stigma about having bad feelings, no matter how appropriate they are. Be happy, at all costs. “I bet she’s not like me,” he sings, “she’s out and fancy free…” I first heard this song in a version by Neil Young; it was on his After The Gold Rush album, and it got some radio play because it was the flip side of Only Love Can Break Your Heart. He halved the tempo. There’s also a version by Loggins & Messina. This is from the spring of 1958.
Blue Blue Day – “I feel like running away.” I bet. His life is falling apart after all, and he is experiencing all kinds of emotions, all bad. From the summer of 1958.
Sea Of Heartbreak – On the surface (get it?) it’s just another song of sadness. But the sea idea speaks to us of drifting, of endlessness, of drowning. I learned this from a version by The Searchers. From the summer of 1961.
Good Morning, Dear – Reminiscence by detail.
I Can’t Stop Loving You – This is the flip side of Oh Lonesome Me, and it tells the tale of someone obsessing. It was hit in the spring of 1958, but it was Ray Charles who really put this song on the map, with his chart-topping, pattern-breaking version in 1962.
Lonesome Number One – Another great self-pity song. Every hates me. I wonder if Don Gibson ate worms. From the winter of 1961 / 1962, this was Gibson’s last top 100 single.
Solitary – A song about incarceration, fairly straightforward. Am I gonna let it get me? he asks, no not me, he says, after saying I wish I were struck down dead.
Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings – A Mickey Newbury song. All the contradictions here, familiar, forgotten. And how those feelings don’t just come to him, they don’t just bother him, they walk all over his mind.
Just One Time – Bargaining. From the spring of 1960.
Head Over Heels In Love With You – This is a love song, and it’s not a love lost song. But he is feeling blue even here. He always feeling blue…

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Monotones

Odd that a group would call itself The Monotones, and a harmony group to boot. They were not, though, monotone. Of course they weren’t. They had one hit, and that makes them a one hit wonder, and I found that one hit, like so many others, on Echoes Of A Rock Era. Who knows where my life would be if I hadn’t found those 2 obscure volumes.

The Monotones:

The Book Of Love – It’s the ultimate expression of Platonic philosophy in pop music, and in a 50s doo wop track no less, that’s there is a “Book of Love” to which all our relationships adhere. We hear of 4 chapters: Chapter 1: You love her, Chapter 2: You’re never gonna part, Chapter 3: Remember the meaning of romance, Chapter 4: Break up, but give her one more chance. Slightly paraphrased that,. From the spring of 1958.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Huey Smith & The Clowns

A group called The Clowns would conjure up images of guys with orange hair and big red noses. But not so Huey Smith & The Clowns, and I’m not sure just why that is.

The group had 4 hits on the to 100, the best known of which in the long term is probably Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu, which is undoubtedly better known in its version by Johnny Rivers. I have their only top 40 hit. It went to number 9. Their next biggest hit went to 51. I got the song off of a CD that I will not tell you about until we get to Jimmy Clanton.

Huey Smith & The Clowns:

Don’t You Just Know It – New Orleans in excelsis. Difficult to understand the lyrics, but it sounds vaguely corrupt, if not outright demented.. “You got me rockin’ when I ought to be rollin’…” From the spring of 1958.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lou Monte

Lou Monte was a comedian. That’s what he was, a comedian. And comedians make records. Most comedians made LPs with jokes and routines on them. Bill Cosby did that. Bob Newhart did that. Ross Bagdasarian did that.

Some comedians occasionally put out a single, and it would find itself on top 40 radio. Allan Sherman had Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. Bill Cosby had Little Old Man, though it was just a straight record, and Bill Dana, as Jose Jiminez, did The Astronaut.

Lou Monte had 4 records on the top 100, 2 on the top 40. I have those two. They are silly, but I would expect nothing less. 2 of his records were from 1958, and 2 were from 1963.

Lou Monte:

Lazy Mary – From the spring of 1958.This has the air of one of those songs done by a comedian as part of his act. He switches back and forth between English and Italian in a way that makes him sound like he’s hiding all the good parts. Apparently Lou sings the part of the mother. Pay attention to me, he says, marry a fireman. Why? He’ll come and go, go and come. No shame here, and this was 1958.
Pepino The Italian Mouse – Another novelty song. A song about a troublesome mouse, perhaps the only one that ever reached the top 40. (Ben doesn’t count; it’s about a rat). Again he switches between the 2 languages, but the mouse speaks only Italian. From the winter of 1963. 7Ipjw4

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Laurie London

Laurie LondonDippy looking kid.

He was 13 when he had his one and only hit, and I guess that would make him the Donny Osmond of his day, except that he was not marketed as a preteen heartthrob, and he was English, and his only hit was a spiritual, so I really he wasn’t like Donny Osmond at all.

This is another track from The Roots Of British Rock.

Laurie London:

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands – A spiritual of sorts, nondenominational. Number 1 in the spring of 1958. Has the distinction of being the only spiritual, and allegedly the first UK record, to reach number 1. It just proves that there was a time when anything could be in the top 40, and anything could even reach number 1.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Link Wray & The Ray Men

This takes me back to about 1983, when I discovered Pyramid Records, and they still carried a very limited selection of new LPs, imports generally, some Rhino, and some Charly, including this LP, called Rock ‘N’ Roll Rumble, a collection of tracks by Link Wray & The Raymen. It was called Rumble on the record label. I suppose now you could order something like this on Amazon, and that, of course, takes all the fun out of it.

But this album was a rarity when I found it. And for years after, you could search the city high and low and not find anything like it. And the punch line is this. There are 17 tracks on this LP, but only 2 of Wray’s 3 top 100 hits are included. Raw-Hide didn’t make it; lucky I found it elsewhere.

Link Wray & His Ray Men:

Rumble – Presumably a musical evocation of gang war. A tone poem, perhaps, rock and roll style. And it doesn’t get more basic than this. A few chords, metallic sounding, distorted. Says everything that needs to be said. From the summer of 1958. The only covers version I know are by The Ventures and by The Dave Clark Five.
The Swag – Is this about a piece of carpet?
El Toro – It’s got that whole bull fight thing going on, without sound effects or mariachi trumpets. From 1961.
Tijuana – A tribute to the Mexican border town. It’s even got a bit of flute.
Rumble Mambo – This doesn’t sound much like Rumble, and it doesn’t sound much like a mambo. From 1963.
Raw-Hide – Not the Frankie Laine song, which means that it’s not the song from the TV show. This was Wray’s second and final top 40 hit, from the winter of 1959.
Jack The Ripper – Kick-ass stuff. Wray’s 3rd and final top 100 hit, from the summer of 1963.
The Black Widow
Weekend – A weird shopping centre organ dominates this one, but it still sounds like Link Wray. Not the Eddie Cochran song.
Turnpike U.S.A.
The Sweeper
Good Rockin’ Tonight – A rare vocal. As a vocalist, Wray was a good guitarist, but it’s not terrible. From 1965.
I’m Branded – From 1965.
Hang On – The B side of I’m Branded.
Batman – Seems everyone had to jump on the Batman bandwagon, and Link Wray did too. This is the Neal Hefti theme, the one used on the TV show, and it’s played at the same tempo as the original, but it sounds like it’s on speed. From 1966, the year of the TV show. Spiced throughout with little bits of silly dialogue.
Alone – The B side of Batman. A ballad. Somewhere between Sleepwalk and Last Date. Not the Shepherd Sisters song.
Ace Of Spades – Another great instrumental, this one from 1965. I have another version of this, I think it’s by The Surfaris.
Hidden Charms – Vicious. “You’re the sweetest girl,” sings Link, “I’ve ever seen,” sounding like he’s about to rip her in half. The B side of Ace Of Spades.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dion / Dion & The Belmonts

This collection is a mess. I’m ashamed of it. What have I done here that’s so bad? Well what I’ve done is this. I’ve mixed up what should be two separate entries – one by Dion & The Belmonts, one by Dion.

The problem, though, is this. There are 4 tracks here that I could not identify. They are: I Got The Blues, Runaway Girl, Teen Angel, and That’s My Desire. Google did not exist when I put this collection together. Now it does, so now I could do it. But I’m not doing it now. It’s done. And it’s a mess.

The name of the album that started this collection was Everything You Always Wanted To Hear By Dion & The Belmonts But Couldn’t Get. It was obviously named in honour of the then famous David Reuben book, but anyway it wasn’t true. To begin with, only five of their 9 top 100 singles are on it.

More important, the album is a mix of tracks by Dion & The Belmonts, and by Dion, solo artist. And so that’s how my collection ended up a mess. I found the album at Kelly’s, which was a downtown record store, and not a very exciting one. Kelly’s was a small chain, meaning that they had more than one store, but this one was downtown, at the corner of Kennedy and Portage, the northeast corner.

It was a Polydor album, but it featured tracks that had originally been issued on Laurie Records, and there were others in the series, one I found later by The Chiffons, same title. Well obviously not the exact same title.

And if you look at Dion’s solo career, he had 16 Laurie singles in the top 100, 13 before he defected to Columbia, and of those 13, 10 are on the album. So much for truth in titling. And just for the record, Dion had 6 Columbia singles, 5 of which I have, and 1 on Warner Brothers, which I don’t have; that was in 1970, his last chart entry.

Some of these tracks came from a K-Tel album, and the Columbia tracks came from elsewhere, VA compilations and random singles. I also have King Of The Streets, a 3 CD collection by Dion, but some of the omissions on that (The Wanderer) are downright bizarre.

Dion & The Belmonts / Dion:

Runaround Sue – By Dion. He is foaming here, frothing if you will, expressing all the self-righteous anger of someone wronged in romance. Here’s my story, he says, it’s sad but true, about a girl that I once knew. And he procedes to eviscerate his former belle. And what is her sin? “Sue goes out with other guys.” Everything in perspective. The song reached number 1 in the fall of 1961.
The Wanderer – By Dion. I am not the first to point out that he brags here about doing the very things that he castigates Sue for doing in the previous song. “Two fists of iron,” he says, “but I’m going nowhere.” The way he runs from commitment, from love, from meaning, the bravado here is empty – going nowhere. From the winter of 1962.
The Majestic – By Dion, and the B side of The Wanderer. A dance song, from the winter of 1962. The way Dion sings about running from romance with any number of women, that’s how he sings about dancing. What’s interesting is that his performances, seen on YouTube for example, are rather staid. Maybe it was the junk he’d been on since the age of 16. Meanwhile, one can only imagine how one dances the majestic.
Love Came To Me – By Dion, from the winter of 1962 / 1963. That same spirit of bravado pervades this otherwise straight love song.
Little Diane – By Dion He is tortured by a woman he can’t live with and can’t live without. “I want to pack and leave and slap your face,” he sings, and one assumes that he will not do it in that order. “Diane” he calls her in the song, leaving one to wonder whether she is small in stature, very young, or a singer like Little Richard. Maybe the only record I know that features a kazoo solo. From the summer of 1962.
Lonely World – I wish I had someone to love, sings Dion in this tale of self-pity, released by Laurie Records in 1963 after Dion had moved to Columbia. It made it to number 101, bubbling under.
Lovers Who Wander – By Dion. A strange song, not unlike Runaround Sue, but here he has his vengeance – he’s found the place for lovers who wander. I’m not sure why he feels that that’s vengeance. Must be Lonesome Town. There are many songs by many a jilted lover, but few this bitter. From the summer of 1962.
(I Was) Born To Cry – By Dion, identified as Born To Cry on the LP cover. The B side of Lovers Who Wander. More anger here, this time about everything and anything. From the spring of 1962.
I Got The Blues – Dion & The Belmont, though I wouldn’t have thought so from the sound. Dion sings with his usual swagger, like he’s got the blues, and he dares anyone to say he hasn’t…
I Wonder Why – Back to the beginning, Dion & The Belmonts from the summer of 1958, their first hit. All the uncertainty and insecurity of love and romance expressed in a series of staccato na na na’s and Dion’s surprisingly sincere delivery. Great Italian-American-New York doo wop, a direction that the group didn’t really follow.
Teenager In Love – This would be cloying, as any self-referential teenager song is wont to be, if anyone else were doing it. The delivery here, though, is so innocent that it works perfectly. Dion & The Belmonts from the spring of 1959. I learned this song from a Sha Na Na album called The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll.
Where Or When – Rogers & Hart wrote this in 1937. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of versions, but Dion & The Belmonts’ version was in the top 5 in the winter of 1960.
Runaway Girl – Another track that didn’t make the top 100, but this one doesn’t appear to have been a chart single at all, but based on the sound I’d say Dion solo, and I’d be right. It’s not to be confused with Runaway by Del Shannon, which stomps all over this one anyway.
Lonely Teenager – Dion first solo hit, in the winter of 1960 / 1961. The background vocal group on this is female, so he was obviously going for a different sound, though it didn’t take long for him to find his swagger.
When You Wish Upon A Star – Dion & The Belmonts, from the spring of 1960. They do a pretty straight version of this, they don’t rock it up or anything.
Teen Angel – This is a solo track by Dion, it turns out. It’s a syrupy ballad, but not to be confused with Teen Angel by Mark Dinning. The object of Dion’s affection is very much alive, though Dion barely is, judging by his performance. Donovan also did a song called Teen Angel.
A Lover’s Prayer – Dion & The Belmonts, from the fall of 1959. The other side of this was called Every Little Thing I Do, and it made the chart at the same time.
That’s My Desire – Another one that didn’t make the charts, but I know it’s Dion & The Belmonts because a. it is very much a group vocal and b. I looked up the song on Wikipedia. It was written in 1931 by no one I’ve ever heard of. It was a bit hit for Frankie Laine in 1946. This version is apparently from 1960.
Sandy – Dion. Another hard luck Sue-like tale. From the spring of 1963. Not the Larry Hall song, nor the Ronny & The Daytonas song, nor the Bruce Springsteen / Hollies song.
No One Knows – Another sad song about an old flame. Dion & The Belmonts from the fall of 1958.
Havin’ Fun – Dion in the winter of 1961. He’s not the one having fun, it’s his girl, no surprise. This is tame, compared to his usual fare, though it does have a just-you-wait aspect to it.
Don’t Pity Me – Not the Peter & Gordon song. A Belmonts hit from the winter of 1959, though the group is very subdued on this.
In The Still Of The Night – The Cole Porter song, written in 1937. In other words, not I’ll Remember (In The Still Of The Night) by The Five Satins. The Belmonts from the summer of 1960, their last hit. They do it very straight.
This Little Girl – This was Dion on Columbia, his follow up to Ruby Baby. This style is very much in the Runaround Sue mold, toned down a bit. The sentiment expressed is misogyny personified, a kind of Under My Thumb prototype. From the spring of 1963.
Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw – A people in glass houses morality tale. Very silly. This is Dion from the summer of 1963.
Ruby Baby – By Leiber & Stoller, a hit for The Drifters on the R & B charts in the 50s. Finally Dion gets something he can wrap his voice around. From the winter of 1963. Ronnie Hawkins did a good version. These Columbia recordings by Dion, by the way, were Columbia's first foray into the world of rock and roll.
Drip Drop – Another Drifters’ hit, from 1958, also by Leiber & Stoller. Same style as Ruby Baby, funkier if anything. From the winter of 1963 / 1964.
Donna The Prima Donna – Dion from the fall of 1963. This is the Dion song that I heard occasionally as a “flashback” growing up. More self-righteousness, this time about a stuck up girl and sour grapes. Dion in this mood was a wonder to hear.
Purple Haze – For his follow up to Abraham, Martin And John, Dion took Hendrix’s signature song, slowed it down, I mean really slowed it down, and put it out as a single, The song spent 4 weeks in the top 100 in the winter of 1969, maxing out at number 63. All the momentum that he’d created just went poof! There’s some nice flute on it, though.
Abraham, Martin And John – I’m old enough to remember the assassinations of all the heroes of this song (well, not Abraham Lincoln), though I don’t specifically remember King’s. I was only 6 when JFK died, but I remember Bobby, and it saddened me. I was 11, but the American election process was up front and centre, even up here north of the border. I was in grade 5, and we listened to the radio to hear what was happening. And I remember the first time I heard this record; it was at 11:45 at night, on CKRC, our local top 40 station, and at that time every night the DJ would play a special selection of 3 profound songs, and that night he introduced this, and the funny thing is that I didn’t get it for a long time, who Abraham, Martin and John were. Was I a dumb kid? A little slow maybe.

There is a YouTube video of Dion doing this on stage, solo, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, and it doesn’t work. The truth is that the song isn’t all that great, covers my Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and by Moms Mabley are underwhelming. But the Dion record is all about context; they surround the singer with such a beautiful arrangement (the oboe off the top is ingenius), which Dion matches with a vocal that never become saccharine, that the whole thing becomes a perfect example of musical synergy, the sum being so much more that the parts. Let the pundits say what they will; this is one beautiful record. From the fall of 1968. The song, by the way, was written by Dick Holler, who also wrote Snoopy And The Red Baron for The Royal Guardsmen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

May, 1958

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Shirelles

I didn’t know The Shirelles much, if at all, before picking up an album called 16 Greatest Hits in that magic section of Country Music Centre which was labeled “50s and 60s.” The LP actually had 13 hits on it, plus a remake of I Met Him On A Sunday (the original was on Decca, the reissues were all from Scepter), plus Boys, plus What Is Love. A few years later I picked up Juke Box Giants, the Shirelles edition, and I filled in some more songs, and Sha La La came from somewhere else, and so did the Decca tracks, which are the first 2 here.

The Shirelles were not the first girl group, and I won’t explain what I mean by “girl group,” except to say that none of the following qualify: The Chordettes, The Fontane Sisters, The Lennon Sisters, The De Castro Sisters, The Andrews Sisters. But The Chantels, they qualify. They hit the charts before The Shirelles did, but The Chantels didn’t have much of a chart career, 8 chart records to The Shirelles’ 25, and they kept changing singers, so they didn’t develop a musical personality. The Shirelles, they had personality and then some. They were the ur-teenagers. All their songs were about the trials and tribulations of being a teenager in love, no apologies to Dion & The Belmonts, and they were never cloying or patronizing.

As I say, they had 25 records in the charts, 12 of those in the top 40, and most between 1958 and 1964. In 1967 they had one more hit, called Last Minute Miracle, which I guess it was, though it wasn’t really much of a hit (it reached number 99 and stayed on the top 100 for 2 weeks).

I’ve managed to accumulate 18 of those 25 songs, and here they are.

The Shirelles:

I Met Him On A Sunday – The group members take turns singing on this story of the life of a romance, telescoped into one week. Typical story? Girl meets guy, girl dates guy, guy does not live up to expectations, girl ditches guy. “I said ‘bye bye baby’” she sings, after being stood up once too often. Good for her. This was their first hit, and their only one on Decca, but it’s generally overlooked because it did not make the top 40, and, except in a remake, is not included on the typical compilation. From the spring of 1958.
My Love Is A Charm – The idea of having someone you can count on, someone who may not be physically present, but who is there nonetheless, that’s what this is about. Another Decca single, but it wasn’t a hit.
Dedicated To The One I Love – Another song of longing and separation. What is clear in this record, which set it apart from so many others like it, is that the singer is a teenager. It’s not in the lyrics, just listen. It was a hit later for The Mamas And The Papas, with Michelle Phillips singing lead. The Shirelles put this on the chart originally in the summer of 1959, when it reached number 89. It was reissued in 1961, and it reached number 3, and that was in the winter of that year.
Will You Love Me Tomorrow – Carole King wrote this, with her then husband Gerry Goffin, and what we have here is a teenage cliché elevated to the level of transcendental art. It’s doomed, the whole thing is doomed, don’t believe him we want to tell her, but that’s not how it feels, and in the end we make ourselves believe things that are not always good for us. But at the moment it’s real, and it’s wonderful, and that’s part of our reality too. From the winter of 1961. Number 1. Covered by: Cher, The Four Seasons, Roberta Flack, Carole King on Tapestry. Most covers don’t work, because most singers who do it are adult and sound like adults, even (especially) composer Carole King. Perversely, I am partial to Frankie Valli’s rendition with The Four Seasons, but I know that’s nuts.
Sha La La – From the spring of 1964, right in the middle of the British invasion. It’s generally said that Manfred Mann covered this and took the hit away, but their version was out half a year later. It’s true, though, the MM had the hit. “When I see you walking down the street…”
Mama Said – This one just tugs at your heart strings. Nothing I can explain to you; you have to hear it yourself. From the summer of 1961.
Foolish Little Girl – Romantic mistakes abound. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Questions of love vs. pride, learning from one’s mistakes etc. Heavy stuff. From the spring of 1963.
Boys – This was the B side of something, I can’t remember what. The Beatles covered it, and that’s what made it famous, although it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a boy to sing it.
Tonight’s The Night – So many songs with this title. The Comets did one, that’s Bill Haley’s group, about partying. And everyone knows Rod Stewart’s song, which is salacious and juvenile. This one, though, come straight from the heart. Gorgeous. How can 2 songs with the same title, and the same subject matter, be so different. "I don't know," she sings, "I might love you so." From the autumn of 1960.
Soldier Boy – There were no major wars going on in the spring of 1962 when this song reached number 1, no draft. They do a lot of unison singing on this, and it’s another winner.
Everybody Loves A Lover – Doris Day did this, but you’d barely recognize it. I don’t know if there is a better song about the exhilaration that accompanies falling in love. From the winter of 1963.
What A Sweet Thing That Was – From the summer of 61. Will you love me tomorrow later. B side of A Thing Of The Past.
Baby It’s You – An early Burt Bacharach song, about standing up to confrontation. I don’t care what they say, she sings, and she doesn’t. The Beatles covered this on their first album, and Smith, with Gayle McCormick singing, put it back on the chart in 1969 in a slightly psychedelicized, veery hysterical version. From the winter of 62.
A Thing Of The Past – The inevitable happens; love dies. That’s a painful process, and it’s what they are singing about here. From the summer of 1961.
Don’t Say Goodnight And Mean Goodbye – “Something’s wrong, I can see it in your eye.” Of course you can, another song of dying love. From the summer of 1963.
What Is Love – This is a remake of the Playmates hit from 1957, regendered.
Blue Holiday – Like other things in life, holidays happen, and they are not always good, even though they are meant to be.
It’s Love That Really Counts – Maybe, but sometimes love is not enough. covered by The Fourmost from Liverpool.
Please Tell Me
Welcome Home Baby – From The summer of 62
Stop The Music – This party is falling flat. From the fall of 1962.
Thank You Baby – It was good while it lasted. A breakup song heavy on the sarcasm. From the summer of 1964.
Big John – When you gonna marry me? she says. I think she’s in trouble. “Folks’ll say you jilted me.” I bet they will. From the fall of 1961.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

April, 1958

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Duane Eddy

I had 2 Duane Eddy albums and a few singles. Some of the singles came from Sound Exchange. Pepe, Peter Gunn, Yep! all came from 45s. One of the albums was $1,000,000 Worth Of Twang, an old collection on Jamie, and I got an old copy, an old beat up copy, picked it up at Pyramid Records like so many others.

The RCA stuff, that came from a new LP, a reissue produced by Ethel Gabriel, or so it said on the cover. I got that at Gambles, a department store which is now Zellers, and used to be Clark’s, before it was Gambles.

Clark’s was a pioneer single floor “discount” department store, a novelty in its day, though the concept has now been reduced to obscenity by Wal-Mart. I bought a few albums there in its various incarnations; besides Duane Eddy I remember buying Joe Cocker and Fragile by Yes, but that narrative will have to wait.

The RCA album was actually well-done. It had a remake of Rebel Rouser, which I suppose was unnecessary, and deceptive (it fooled me until I learned better). Besides that it had all 7 of Eddy’s RCA top 100 singles. The other collection was, as I say, released many many years ago, when Eddy was still recording for Jamie, and so it could not and did not have all his Jamie hits, which number 20. It has 11 of said 20. I have the 3 others I mentioned before. That leaves; Ramrod, Theme From Dixie, Shazam!, My Blue Heaven, Ring Of Fire, Drivin’ Home, and The Son Of Rebel Rouser.

But Duane Eddy, he played guitar. He was billed as “Duane Eddy and his Twangy Guitar” and I read somewhere that he achieved the twang effect by playing through some kind of metal pipe, like a wide water pipe or something. It’s hard for me to believe, though, that all his records were made that way. Perhaps he stumbled on it accidentally, and his producer found a way to do it electronically.

His producer, the man behind the sound, was Lee Hazelwood, who would later be the man behind Nancy Sinatra, going as far as to sing duets with her.

Eddy doesn’t sound like a brilliant guitarist. The hook here is not virtuosity; it’s style, production, attitude. What you hear is rock and roll, pure fun, no compromise – his music features catchy tunes, kick ass sax, piano, a liberal sprinkling of yelps. It’s got that anyone-can-do-it feel about it, but anyone didn’t do it. Duane Eddy did.

Oh, and by the way, he plays the guitar solo on Rock And Roll Lullaby by B. J. Thomas.

Duane Eddy:

Rebel Rouser – Rebel Rouser is in a class of its own among rock and roll instrumentals. My best guess is a 2/4 time signature, and the result is a constant groove. It’s the sax that’s shouting in your ear to get up and dance, and it’s the “twangy” guitar that dances you round the room. From the summer of 1958.
Cannonball – Could be about diving, could be about artillery, could just be a great groove. From the winter of 1958 / 1959.
The Quiet Three – The title suggests a movie soundtrack, but I have no idea. There are strings on this, and it shows a more mellow side of Eddy’s artistry. From the summer of 1959, the B side of 40 Miles Of Bad Road.
Bonnie Came Back – My Bonnie, Duane Eddy style. Personally I don’t think there’s any way to save this song, My Bonnie it is, and My Bonnie it will always be. The Beatles couldn’t save it either. Ray Charles had a crack at it too. From the winter of 1960.
Because They’re Young – This is almost a ballad; maybe it is a ballad. From the summer of 1960.
Theme For Moon Children – The title gives it a slightly otherworldy feel, which maybe it would have anyway, and maybe it wouldn’t…
Movin’ And Groovin’ – Rebel Rouser gets all the credit, but this piece of non-stop groove was Eddy’s first hit, such as it was (it only reached number 58 on Billboard). From the winter of 1958.
The Lonely One – Propelled by some unusual but subtle percussion, this was a hit in the winter of 1959.
Forty Miles Of Bad Road – A song for Montreal potholes, with a lot of yelping. From the summer of 1959.
Some Kinda Earthquake – This sounds more like a major headwind than an earthquake. From the fall of 1959.
First Love, First Tears – Most of his songs were original, but obviously a few were not. This sounds like it must have been by someone else, with words. He slows things down here, the strings aren’t exactly Mantovani, but they are more up front and centre, and the chorus sounds like it’s straight out of Les Baxter. The B side of Some Kinda Earthquake, a hit in the fall of 1959.
Kommotion – Not the CCR song (that’s Commotion, anyway). Strings again, but country sounding. From the fall of 1960.
Your Baby’s Gone Surfin’ – Given surf music’s penchant for reverb, it was only to be expected that Duane Eddy would dive into the surf music phenomenon. But apart from the title and the lyrics (yes there are lyrics on this one, the matchless vocals of The Rebels) it’s not clear that this really qualifies as surf music. No matter, it is what it is. A hit in the fall of 1963.
Rebel Rouser – The RCA remake, virtually indistinguishable from the original.
Boss Guitar – Here is where it becomes self-referential. In application development we call it “reflection.” Another song with female chorus, this one from the winter of 1963.
My Baby Plays The Same Old Song On His Guitar All Night Long – Sounds like a complaint, doesn’t it. But the lyrics are ambiguous, the comfort of repetition vs. the monotony.
Fireball Mail – Duane shares the spotlight with someone playing some mean electric picking on this remake of an old country standard, done by Roy Acuff, among others. Chug chug a chug, sing the girls, in case you didn’t get that it was about a train…
High Noon – The Tex Ritter hit (also by Frankie Laine). Just the music and some oohs and ahhs, though.
Dance With The Guitar Man – Alternatively titled (Dance With The) Guitar Man, this piece of 100% groove reached number 12 in the winter of 1962 / 1963. “We’re gonna dance” sing the girls, “dance to the guitar man, here he comes now!” and Duane comes with that twang, and it sends shivers up your spine…
Yep! – That’s what they keep yelling. Typical Eddy. A hit in the spring of 1959.
Peter Gunn – Written and originally performed by Henry Mancini for the 1959 TV show, Peter Gunn was a hit for Ray Anthony before Eddy put it back on the chart in the fall of 1960, rocking it up like it was meant to be done. ELP had a good time with this one also.
Pepe – From the winter of 1961.
The Ballad Of Paladin – The theme from the TV show Have Gun Will Travel, it was Johnny Western who sang this every week. It’s probably better without the words anyway. Eddy sticks pretty close to the original, with all the drama intact. The tune, by the way, was lifted from Hummingbird (the Les Paul & Mary Ford / Frankie Laine hit from 1955). From the summer of 1962.
Deep In The Heart Of Texas – A hit for Bing Crosby. He probably picked it up from Gene Autry. From the spring of 1962.
Lonely Boy, Lonely Guitar – Music as therapy. From the summer of 1963.
Limbo Rock – The hit version of this was by The Champs. Chubby Checker did the version with words.
Wildwood Flower – Not the Jim Stafford song. This is an old country classic.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Frankie Avalon

Not Frankie Frankie Avalon was one of the Bobbies: Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Curtola, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Sherman. His name wasn’t Bobby, but he was one of the Bobbies nonetheless.

He wasn’t the first; Tommy Sands came before him. So did Tab Hunter. Neither had a distinguished career as a hit-maker. Frankie was the first to last a few years, and put a few hits under his belt: 25 in the top 100, 14 in the top 40.

Some might say that Ricky Nelson was a Bobby, and he was a kind of teen idol, but he transcended that, even then. Or Bobby Helms – but he was somewhere else.

We like to hate the Bobbies. But I don’t hate the Bobbies. Not really. Not most of them. Not Frankie.

To be fair, he did do some dismal stuff. I have an album of his called Muscle Beach Party, on side 2 of which they have him performing standards like Moon River and Nevertheless, and he is totally out of his depth.

But a good producer can take a singer like Frankie Avalon, who has an aptitude for a certain type of song, and make it work. It was probably Dave Appel that produced Frankie Avalon, and he knew exactly how to present a song like Togetherness or Venus or Dede Dinah. And me, I can’t help liking it, no matter how much it sucks.

The picture is a Chuck Berry album, because I can’t find a picture of the Frankie Avalon album, but aside from the picture on the cover and the words “Chuck Berry” and the colour of the cover, it was exactly the same, part of the Quality Records series of Greatest Hits released around 1980, featuring reissues of artists on Chess, Buddah, Cadence, Cameo-Parkway, a few others, many of which were otherwise incredibly hard to find. Only in Canada.

10 tracks were from said Greatest Hits. The remaining tracks were from another Greatest Hits collection that I picked up on cassette at Pyramid.

Frankie Avalon:

Venus – With an angelic female chorus, harpsichord flourishes, and a longing dreamy delivery, Venus stands as a monument in the annals of teen pop. The Venus of the title refers not to the planet, but to the goddess of love. A number 1 hit in the winter of 1959. And not the Shocking Blue song (duh).
Why – This one’s a bit cloying, I have to admit, but still, I’ve heard worse. Not The Byrds song. Number 1 in the winter of 1960.
Dede Dinah – Frankie’s first hit. This was in the winter of 1958. This rocks a bit, so he hadn’t settled into his final wimpy style. Also, he’s got a kind of nasal thing going on here, an effect he used on his first few records.
Bobby Sox To Stockings – A song about growing up, sort of. Mostly it’s about dating and stuff. What symbols would they use now? What would the age be? They say kids grow up a lot faster. Soothers to cigarettes? From the summer of 1959.
Ginger Bread – A song to a girl named Ginger Bread. I don’t know if Bread is her surname. She every teenage boy’s dream: naughty but nice. From the fall of 1958.
A Boy Without A Girl – Like a fish without a bicycle? Like ham without eggs? A ballad from the summer of ’59 – the B side of Bobby Sox To Stockings.
Just Ask Your Heart – A song about finding our real feelings… From the fall of 1959.
I’ll Wait For You – A twist on the we-are-so-young theme. The male chorus sounds like it was lifted from a Frankie Laine session. From the winter of 1958 / 1959.
Don’t Throw Away All Those Teardrops – The notion of throwing away tear drops, it’s interesting. On the surface it’s a sweet love song, but go deeper, there is crying, sadness, an attempt to find meaning through love. From the spring of 1960.
Togetherness – It doesn’t get cornier than this, but you won’t find me dissing it. On the contrary, everything works here, the overblown vocal chorus, the silly lyrics (“between us we’ll have 20 fingers, 20 toes”), the xylophone lurking in the background, and, of course, Frankie’s understated singing. From the fall of 1960.
What Little Girl – More uptempo, and more nasal. From the fall of ’58, the B side of I’ll Wait For You.
You Are Mine – Everyone knows but you. Here is Frankie decked out with strings and all. It does not suit him. From the spring of ’62.
Where Are You – The setting is perfect, the only thing missing is you. An old story. This is really syrupy, with strings worthy of Nelson Riddle. Frankie’s voice isn’t big enough for this, and the song isn’t all that strong. From the summer of 1960.
Swinging On A Rainbow – Very jazzy, this one. One has to admire his ambition, or at least the ambition of those under whose control his career was. This is the B side of Why. From the winter of 1960.
A Perfect Love – Good luck. From the winter of 1961.
Two Fools – The song is a bit silly, but the sentiment of not being able to make a relationship work is very real. From the fall of ’59, the B side of Just Ask Your Heart.
The Puppet Song – Ok here is where we really get flaky. This is from Pinocchio, and it’s children’s music, plain and simple. The B side of A Perfect Love, and a minor hit in the winter of 1961.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Connie Francis

Connie Francis Somebody created a blog dedicated entirely to Connie Francis. I am in awe…

I grew up with Connie Francis in the house – two albums. One was called Connie Francis Sings Jewish Favorites, which was a bit odd, given that Connie Francis is not Jewish, but not that odd, given that many people who are not Jewish sing Jewish songs. The other album was called Silverkrin Shampoo Presents Sing Along With Connie Francis. Interestingly, these LPs, which seem like the product of a has-been, were actually released during the early 60s when Connie was still having hits.

Ok that’s not what I wanted to tell you about. This is about Connie Francis. Connie Francis. She was huge, Connie Francis was. Between 1958 and 1964 she had 35 top 40 singles, and between 1957 and 1969 she had 56 top 100 singles. But all I knew of Connie Francis was those two silly LPs that my parents had, and if I ever listened to them, it’s because I made a point of listening to every LP that my parents owned, just to say I had.

My collection started with a collection of 10 songs, an LP I picked up at The Country Music Centre on Selkirk Avenue, of which I’ve written previously. I can’t even remember the name of the LP, The Best Of Connie Francis or something no doubt; it had a horrible picture of her on thConnie Francise cover, I do remember that. I picked more songs though, many on old scratchy 45s, most, if not all, at Pyramid Records, of which I’ve written previously, and from The Very Best Of Connie Francis, which had 11 that were not on that first LP that I had, the one with the ugly cover. That’s it. The story of Connie Francis.

Connie Francis:

Lipstick On Your Collar – The classic song of teenage two-timing. Judy’s Turn To Cry came later. The percussive organ here is what gives the game away. “Were you smoochin’ my best friend?” From the summer of 1959.
Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool – From the summer of 1960, this was one of 3 Connie Francis hits to reach number 1 on Billboard. The song is about an obsessive self-destructive relationship. And that shopping centre organ makes it all seem so… what… kitchy? Not The Heartbeats song.
Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You – A bit country, but just a bit. Features Connie’s multi-tracked vocals – shades of Patti Page. Another number 1 hit, this from the winter of 1962.
My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own – “ I hear your voice, and something stirs inside of me.” Number 1 in the fall of 1960.
Among My Souvenirs – Connie laments a lost love. From early 1960. Marty Robbins did this.
Where The Boys Are – This was a movie. The song, though its title wouldn’t suggest it, is a ballad – a ballad about finding Mr. Right. “My true love waits for meeee.” I don’t know where the boys are. In the locker room? In the bar? In the pool hall? From the winter of 1961.
Vacation – A song about summer vacation. This is an unrecognized summer holiday song, to stand along Summer In The City, Sunshine Superman, Here Comes Summer, Summer Holiday, and a million Beach Boys songs. The sax break is classic. From the summer of 1962.
Frankie – It isn’t specifically about Frankie Avalon, and it isn’t specifically not about Frankie Avalon. The song is about the end of the romance, but Connie and Frankie were not, as far as we know, real-life lovers. Movies and tabloids are something else. This summer of ’59 hit was the B side of Lipstick On Your Collar.
My Happiness – A song of longing. Are they separated temporarily or permanently? Not sure. From the winter of 1959.
Who’s Sorry Now – An I-told-you-so ballad, the song that put her on the map, though she’d had a song on the top 100 previously. From the winter of 1958.
Follow The Boys – This is a bit odd. Really this is kind of a Where The Boys Are rewrite. From the spring of 1963.
I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter – Just to prove that Connie didn’t show any seasonal favouritism. From the winter of 1963.
Second Hand Love – Love on the rebound, and it’s not working out. From the summer of 1962.
You’re Gonna Miss Me – Someday, she says, you’re gonna miss me. I think the missing comes sooner as opposed to later. Definitely not the 13th Floor Elevators song. From the autumn of 1959.
Many Tears Ago – Connie looks back at an old dysfunctional relationship. From late 1960.
If My Pillow Could Talk – This hit from the summer of 1963 has a girl group sound to it, not surprising – it was, after all, the summer of 1963. And what would the pillow say? Well it would speak of tears and crying and stuff. I think if a pillow could talk it would say “Help! I’m suffocating…”
Mama – Not the B. J. Thomas song. She sings this mostly in Italian, and it’s pretty MOR. The English part is pretty much what you’d expect. From the spring of 1960.
Teddy – My friend’s brother was Teddy. He married a girl that he met at university. Thing is, I met her first, she joined me at a table at the cafeteria. Can I sit here, she said, and my eyes bugged out. Good looking she was. I didn’t want to marry her, though I let her sit at the table. Teddy married her, and for some reason they ended up in the newspaper, some kind of human interest article. I don’t think they stayed married though. I can’t tell you her name, because I don’t remember it. But the song: “Teddy,” unlike “Johnny” or “Bruce” doesn’t have that aura of macho. Still, he’s her guy. From the spring of 1960, the B side of Mama.
When The Boy In Your Arms (Is The Boy In Your Heart) – I guess that’s ideal, and that’s what she sings about. The song, though, is presented philosophically, not personally. From the winter of 1960 / 1961.
Baby’s First Christmas – The B side of When The Boy In Your Arms. Yuck. It doesn’t get more maudlin than this. From the 1960 season.
Together – Not the Nilsson song, obviously. The catch here, of course, is that they did Connie Franciseverything together, even the breakup. From the summer of 1961.
Breakin’ In A Brand New Broken Heart – A self pity song from the summer of 1961.
Locations of visitors to this page