Monday, December 28, 2009

The Olympics

The Marathons had one hit, and that was in the summer of 1961. It was called Peanut Butter. It is subsumed here under the collection by The Olympics, because The Marathons were actually The Olympics, and the song is on the same collection. There is another story, though, that The Marathons were actually The Vibrations. If so then it’s the same group that did The Watusi and My Girl Sloopy (the original, later released as Hang On Sloopy by The McCoys). And they may also be The Jayhawks. Whitburn insists that The Marathons were The Vibrations / Jayhawks, but the liner notes of my LP said no, they were The Olympics. Go know.

The album is called The Official Record Album Of The Olympics, and it played up the Olympics association It was a Rhino album, which is no longer in print, which sucks, Rhino used to be so cool, but the album, it had 12 of their 14 hits, or 13 of their 15 hits, if you count Peanut Butter, which I guess you should, because it’s on here. Their biggest was their first, Western Movies in 1958, which placed them firmly into The Coasters’ territory, where they seemed to find a comfort zone for the greater part of their chart career, which lasted until late 1966.

Searching for the group, though, on Google or YouTube or EBay, sucks.

The Olympics:

Western Movies – Before there was texting and social networking there was just sitting there in front of a console black and white TV and watching Bat Masterson and Have Gun Will Travel and Cheyenne. Our poor narrator can’t divert his girl’s attention to save his life, literally – he just got hit in the head with a brick. Oh! Says his girl. Thanks for reminding me. Maverick’s on. From the fall of 1958.
The Bounce – The piano strides in with a riff slightly reminiscent of What’d I Say, but the song takes off in a different direction. And it’s a direct line from The Twist to The Bounce. From the summer of 1963.
Dooley – The story of a mountain hick. Porter Wagoner did this, but not like this. From the summer of 1961.
Peanut Butter – Quick! How many songs can you think of about food? I thought so. A variation of (Baby) Hully Gully, just to prove that not only can one write a song about anything, but one can do it well. This song was officially by The Marathons, so called because of some kind of label issue. From the summer of 1961. Scarf now!
Dance By The Light Of The Moon – Uptempo, and while Western Movies intruded into The Coaters’ territory, this one was clearly in the same universe as The Drifters. Ok shoot me, no way, say the pundits. Too bad, I hear what I hear. And meanwhile our heroes contemplate the romantic evening of which they sing, when they will dance with the darling “with the hole in her stocking.” From the winter of 1961.
Mine Exclusively – By the time of this record, spring 1966, the group was sounding fairly Motownish.
(Baby) Hully Gully – The original, a dance going ‘round like an awful disease. It seems that nothing these guys did was serious. That’s alright. The Beach Boys covered this on their Party album. From the winter of 1960.
Good Lovin’ – This isn’t bad, swings a bit, and the group took it to number 81 in the spring of 1965. But a year later, The Young Rascals put it into overdrive and sent it to number 1.
Big Boy Pete – Another cartoon story set to music. Another song that could have been straight out of The Coasters’ repertoire. Covered by The Righteous Brothers, among others. From the fall of 1960.
Private Eye – Here we have Western Movies updated to include occupation envy; not only does he commiserate watching his girl who is now watching detective shows, but he thinks that he can divert her attention by being a dick himself. “I wanna be a private eye!” he intones, as his baby watches Peter Gunn. From the fall of 1959, the flip side of (Baby) Hully Gully.
Shimmy Like Kate – A song about dance envy. I can shimmy like Kate! insists our hero. Sure. We believe you. From the fall of 1960.
Workin’ Hard – Yackity Yak, adult style.
Little Pedro – Another humourous tale, this one about a diminutive psychopathic killer from Mexico. From the spring of 1961.
Baby Do The Philly Dog – Their last hit, from the fall of 1966. By this time, of course, the group was no longer competing with The Coasters; they were competing with The Four Tops and The Impressions and The Temptations and all those singers from Memphis, and it shows – somewhat. They still have quite a bit of their style intact, as they sing this tribute to a recipe, in common with The Mak-Keys, who did a song called Philly Dog.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Joe "Mr. Piano" Henderson

Well he played piano, I can tell you that, in a kind of piano-roll style. He was popular in England, unheard of in America. Not to be confused with Joe Henderson who did Snap Your Fingers.

Joe "Mr. Piano" Henderson:

Trudy – Reminds me of Alley Cat. A hit in England in the summer of 1958.
Treble – Lives up to its name. It’s actually listed on Wikipedia as Treble Chance and it’s very possible that I copied it down wrong. Anyway, it’s very ragtime. Crazy Otto lives…

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Slow Dance

This is like a mix tape but it’s not actually on a tape.

100 songs for a romantic evening – a long romantic evening. It’s random, they are not all slow, and there are no rules, apart from this: it had to feel right. Not all the songs are romantic, (Dion, Grateful Dead), and some are shameless (Righteous Brothers, Chicago). They aren’t even all slow (Four Seasons).

But listen to them end to end and I promise you, it’s intense…

• Dance With Me – The Drifters
• Just The Two Of Us – Grover Washington Jr. with Bill Withers
• Help Me Make It Through The Night – Sammi Smith
• I’m Happy Just To Dance With You – The Beatles
• Hooked On A Feeling – B. J. Thomas
• I’ll Never Find Another You – The Seekers
• Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye
• That Is All – Nilsson
• Touch Of Grey – The Grateful Dead
• Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
• Meant For You – The Beach Boys
• Tonite Tonite – The Mello-Kings
• Sweet Baby James – James Taylor
• I Put A Spell On You – Creedence Clearwater Revival
• I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton
• The Last Thing On My Mind – Neil Diamond
• Midnight Train To Georgia – Gladys Knight & The Pips
• Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers
• Don’t Worry Baby – The Beach Boys
• Dunrobin’s Gone – Brave Belt
• Miracles – Jefferson Starship
• I’m So Young – The Students
• Oh Very Young – Cat Stevens
• Lovers Never Say Goodbye – The Flamingos
• Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
• Will You Love Me Tomorrow – The Shirelles
• Lay Lady Lay – Bob Dylan
• Silence Is Golden – The Tremeloes
• Words Don’t Come Easy – The Hollies
• Tonight I Fell In Love – The Tokens
• Catch The Wind – Donovan
• Every Breath I Take – Gene Pitney
• Leaving On A Jet Plane – John Denver
• If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
• Without You – Nilsson
• Wasn’t Born To Follow – The Byrds
• Goodbye To Love – The Carpenters
• Circus – John Denver
• When A Man Loves A Woman – Percy Sledge
• Joanne – Michael Nesmith & The First National Band
• Because – The Dave Clark Five
• Comin’ Back To Me – Jefferson Airplane
• (If You Cry) True True Love – The Drifters
• Moments – The Kinks
• I’m Stone In Love With You – The Stylistics
• Rag Doll – The Four Seasons
• The Nearest Faraway Place – The Beach Boys
• If You Go Away – Neil Diamond
• The Lottery Song – Nilsson
• Desafinado – Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd
• Something – Joe Cocker
• And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind – Elvis Presley
• Kathy’s Song – Simon & Garfunkel
• Only With You – The Beach Boys
• I’ll Be Back – The Beatles
• I Just Can’t Help Believing – B. J. Thomas
• Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall – Simon & Garfunkel
• God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
• If I Fell – The Beatles
• 10 Degrees And Getting Colder – Gordon Lightfoot
• Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) – The Delfonics
• Moondance – Van Morrison
• Abraham, Martin And John – Dion
• Oh Girl – The Chi-Lites
• Solitary Man – Neil Diamond
• O-o-h Child – The Five Stairsteps
• Reason To Believe – Rod Stewart
• Cruisin’ – Smokey Robinson
• Sour Suite – The Guess Who
• I’ll Take You Home – The Drifters
• South City Midnight Lady – The Doobie Brothers
• To The Aisle – The Five Satins
• The Best Of My Love – The Eagles
• Blue Velvet – The Clovers
• Goodbye – America
• Ruby Tuesday – The Rolling Stones
• Long Dark Road – The Hollies
• Lazy Lady – Michael Nesmith
• Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby) – Lulu
• Dreams – The Guess Who
• Rock And Roll Lullaby – B. J. Thomas
• The Night Has A Thousand Eyes – Bobby Vee
• Caroline, No – Brian Wilson
• Third Week In The Chelsea – Jefferson Airplane
• December 63 (Oh What A Night) – The Four Seasons
• Who Am I To Say – The Statler Brothers
• Everyone’s Gone To The Moon – Jonathan King
• Affair On 8th Avenue – Gordon Lightfoot
• Lady-O – The Turtles
• Look At Me Girl – Bobby Vee
• Forget Him – Bobby Rydell
• Flying On The Ground Is Wrong – The Guess Who
• I’ve Lost You – Elvis Presley
• Never My Love – The Association
• Sealed With A Kiss – Gary Lewis & The Playboys
• I Will Take You There – Nilsson
• Wanderlust – Paul McCartney
• If You Leave Me Now – Chicago
• Total Eclipse Of The Heart – Bonny Tyler
• All I Ever Need Is You – Sonny & Cher

Notes: Caroline, No is usually labeled as a Beach Boys track; it's on Pet Sounds. The single was originally released with just Brian Wilson's name. Feel free to substitute the original version of That Is All (George Harrison) and / or the hit version of Leaving On A Jet Plane (Peter, Paul & Mary)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eddie Condon & His Boys

Another jazz man. He was big in the 30s and 40s, still kicking in the 50s. I don’t have a collection by him, just this one song that I picked up off The Best Of Dixieland.

Eddie Condon & His Boys:

St. Louis Blues – A totally authentic sounding rendition of the jazz standard written early in the century by W. C. Handy. Louis Armstrong has two versions of this in Grammy Hall of Fame.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Faron Young

I can’t say much about Faron Young; I have a collection called Faron Young’s Greatest Hits, I got it on a prerecorded cassette and I have reason to believe that it was only ever released in that format. The label is Capital and it’s designated SM. There is no indication as to what that might stand for, or perhaps there is, but it’s too small to read. Special Marketing perhaps? Super Music?

Anyway, Faron Young. He had dozens of hits on the country charts, but only 6 on the pop charts, 5 of those on Capital between 1957 and 1961, 3 of them on this collection. Most of what he has here is pleasantly honky tonk, kind of like Ray Price, but not as morose.

Faron Young:

Alone With You – It’s a wish, not a fact, longing, expressed in the best country style. From the summer of 1958.
If You Ain’t Lovin’ – Real old fashioned country, from 1954. Nothing is worth anything, says Faron, without love.
Riverboat – In a drama worthy of Johnny Cash, our hero reminisces of the great years he spent gambling on the river, from his jail cell. This tale of murder (self-defence I would think, if one believes his story) is delivered very offhand, no atmosphere of tragedy about it. From the winter of 1960.
Live Fast, Love Hard, And Die Young – The country version of what would be a very rock and roll philosophy. Number 1 on the country charts in 1954.
I’ve Got Five Dollars (And It’s Saturday Night) – Little Richard sang Rip It Up – it’s Saturday night and I feel fine – and Faron Young does the same, but with a fiddle. From 1954. Nowadays 5 dollars wouldn’t even cover the tip.
Hello Walls – His woman left, what else is new, and he is so upset that he’s talking to his house. The fiddles are gone here, replaced by a chorus (answering “hello, hello, hello”) His only top 40 pop hit (it reached number 12, number 1 country), this is from the winter of 1961.
All Right – How many songs with this title? Most are rock and roll, this is hillbilly country, fiddles galore. All right, he says, I’ll set you free. He’s done something terrible, we’re not sure what, but in all his admission of responsibility, he still manages to throw it all back on her. From 1954.
Country Girl – Not the Neil Young song, which anyway is Country Girl (I Think You’re Pretty). The tale of an innocent girl corrupted by city ways. I think of The Five Man Electrical Band – Country Girl Suite, different song, same story. From 1959, and the fiddles are gone, but steel guitar still up front and centre.
Your Old Use To Be – Another song of love lost, another song of not getting over it, this one from 1960.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kitty Wells

The Kitty Wells Story
This is The Kitty Wells Story, straight goods, from start to finish. I picked the album up at Pyramid Records during a time that I was doing a hardcore exploration of country music. And it doesn’t get more country than this…

Kitty Wells:

It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels – It’s not only that this is a theologically dubious concept, but it’s coming from the world of Nashville, where gospel was sacred, so to speak. This is a condemnation that’s worse than it seems to our secularized ears. It was an answer song, this, to Wild Side Of Life by Hank Thompson, and the whole theme here, which is cheating husbands, resonates through her entire repertoire. Number 1 on the country chart in 1952.
I Heard The Jukebox Playing – “You said that you’d be happy,” sings Kitty, “with a baby on your knee.” And it’s an actual baby she’s talking about, not a girlfriend. But baby or no baby, he’s out carousing. A cheating song.
A Wedding Ring Ago – A cheating song. An unholy mix of naivety, money, recovery. From 1952.
Paying For That Back Street Affair – A cheating song. It’s Kitty who had the affair, but she was an innocent victim, knew nothing about his wife and kids. A likely story. A different time and a different place, where having an affair would ruin you for life.
I Don’t Claim To Be An Angel – Not being an angel, well I guess she was created by God then. Here it’s Kitty who’s the one who is, what we used to call, promiscuous. But now she vows to “change her ways.” Well ok, I say go for it. But keep listening… From 1953.
Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On – A cheating song. At least here she’s showing a bit of spunk. This is the B side of Makin’ Believe, from 1954.
I Gave My Wedding Dress Away – A bittersweet testimony to the nexus between sibling love and sibling rivalry. Country music seems to be full of songs where the bride, or is some cases the groom, is switched at the last minute. I can’t imagine what the wedding party is like
Release Me – Ray Price did this. Remember? So did Jeanne Shepherd. Esther Phillips put it on the pop chart in 1962, and Engelbert Humperdinck did it again in 1967. Kitty put this chestnut into the country top 10 in 1954.
After Dark – A cheating song. She is the other woman, just like she was in Paying For That Back Street Affair, though here she knows what’s going on.
Lonely Side Of Town – A cheating song. Her man is “having fun and holding hands.” We don’t find out with whom. We do learn, though, that they are not yet married. We don’t know, however, why she can’t be with him. From 1955.
Making Believe – A song of love lost, and the failure to recover from same.
Searching For Someone Like You – Given what happened to the romance, maybe she should look for some not like him. From 1956.
Repenting – A cheating song, but this time it’s Kitty who’s been cheating, again. She seems to do that a lot. From 1956.
Your Wild Way’s Gonna Let You Down – I guess she’s singing to the same guy she sang to on It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. From 1959.
Three Ways To Love You – Ok, get your mind out of the gutter. This is a waltz, which is fitting I suppose, given the title. It’s rare, a straight love song by Kitty Wells. Straight, but for the fact that the 3 ways are the right way, the wrong way, and the “way I love you.” Now, what’s that all about. From 1957.
She’s No Angel – And if she were, she would be a miscreant, apparently. From 1958.
Tough And Go Heart – An almost cheating song. From 1958.
Jealousy – Love is always so perfect in pop songs; it’s a relief when some reality sneaks in. Suspicion by Terry Stafford, Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley, and of course, Jalousy, which is not this song. All songs about jealousy, and the poison it injects into a relationship. This was not Kitty’s only top 100 single; the other was It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. This one reached number 78 in the summer of 1958.
I Can’t Help Wondering – Kind of a country version of I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now. More down to earth, we feel the everyday details of her life mixed in with the musing.
Mommy For A Day – An interesting twist. The post divorce story, kid is with Dad, highly unusual I would think, particularly in 1959 when this song was released.
Amigo’s Guitar – It’s usually the guy that sits in the bar drowning his sorrows in wine and music. From 1959.
All The Time – The B side of Amigo’s Guitar. A straightforward love song. No cheating, no jealousy, no back street affair, no honky tonk angels lurking about. What’s wrong with this guy, anyway?
The Other Cheek – Once bitten, twice smart. From 1959.
Left To Right – A song of separation, sadness, and hope. The title refers to the hands on which she wears his ring.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Impressions

This has been all about discovery. Friends talk to me about finding new stuff, listening to new sounds, discovering unheard delights. My discovery has been about what was going on that I didn’t hear, back when I was listening to radio. It’s been about what went on before I was old enough to listen.

Reading my trusty guide books, I found that The Impressions had 39 top 100 singles between 1958 and 1975. 17 of those were in the top 40, 9 of those from 1965 on. But I grew up without hearing a single recording by The Impressions. I can’t swear to that of course. But I was totally unaware of their existence.

Did the local radio stations not play them? Not so. I know that from a copy of an old CKRC chart in John Einarson’s Shakin’ All Over. People Get Ready, it was right there in the top 40. I didn’t hear it, honest I didn’t.

The first Impressions album I picked up was called Chartbusters!; it had about 9 tracks, none of which were particularly big hits, but a few years later I got a Greatest Hits album, with the big ones, and it was the first time I’d heard any of them. I remember when Brian Hyland put Gypsy Woman on the chart in 1970; I had no idea where he’d gotten it from.

Chartbusters came from Woolco, it was from one of those boxes I described in an earlier post. The Greatest Hits LP was from Country Music Centre.

And it’s all the more amazing considering what a huge impression The Impressions made on the musical atmosphere of the 60s; they were the truest purveyors of the gospel spirit that imbued all of soul music of that period, but which was so often buried under the gloss.

So be it, I did discover The Impressions, belatedly but still… Besides the 2 albums I mentioned, some of these tracks come from the CD Anthology which I picked up at Centennial Library.

The Impressions:

For Your Precious Love – The Impressions first hit was by Jerry Butler & The Impressions. That wasn’t the intention, and it caused so much rancor that Butler left. He went solo, and so did the group, though apparently the feud did not last. Now what this is is an amazing slow dance romantic ballad, and the lyrics are pretty much by-the-book love song lyrics. The delivery, though, is something else again. This, for me here, is likely a bastard track, because it seems that I have an early remake by Jerry Butler on Vee Jay, but it’s hard to tell, so I leave it be, and chance that I will end up in record collector hell. The original record was a hit in the summer of 1958.
Gypsy Woman – Interesting ethnic noodling. Dumb, in a way, but it works on an atmospheric level, and the refrain (“she was a Gypsy woman…”) hits home. Remade by Jay & The Americans, and Brian Hyland put it back on the chart in 1970. A hit in the winter of 1961 / 1962.
It’s All Right – A soul anthem. The closest you can come to a secular hymn. From the fall of 1963.
We’re A Winner – Racial pride up front and centre. The musical language is still very gospel. From the winter of 1968.
Woman’s Got Soul – From the spring of 1965. The title represents the biggest compliment they could bestow.
Keep On Pushing – Another song of racial pride. The lyrics weren’t nearly as overt as they’d become just a few years later, but it was obvious enough. From the summer of 1964.
Amen – Finally, and out and out hymn, and a Christmas one at that. Teegarden and Van Winkle redid this in 1970 as God Love And Rock And Roll, without so much religion. From the winter of 64 / 65.
I’m So Proud – “I’m proud to be your partner” is the message. “I’m so proud of being loved by you.” Being with an amazing person can make you feel like that. This ballad was a hit in the spring of 1964.
People Get Ready – Surely their most covered song. Another hymn. The message of salvation is delivered with a gentleness that is its own reward. “You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.” From the winter of 1965. As I say, there are covers galore, notably Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, The Chambers Brothers, Bob Dylan.
Talking About My Baby – Falling in love makes you want to talk about the person with whom you are falling in love. Not much fun for those around you, ordinarily, unless you happen to be a singing soul trio. From the winter of 1964.
You Must Believe Me – There’s always something a bit off in songs like this, something a bit dysfunctional perhaps. When a relationship has reached this stage, the song is about more than some incident of miscommunication. From the fall of 1964. Covered by Johnny Rivers.
Little Young Lover – A rather generic song about unrequited love, from the perspective of a (presumably) high school student. From the summer of 1962.
I Need Your Love – This is an old track with, by the sound of it, Jerry Butler singing, and it’s a bit of For Your Precious Love redux. It’s rare to hear anything by The Impressions with Jerry Butler on it.
Too Slow – A song about fear of commitment, but it’s the woman who is afraid. Our narrator doesn’t have much patience. From the spring of 1966.
Since I Lost The One I Love – Since I Lost My Baby redux. The Impressions didn’t usually ape Motown so obviously. From the winter of 1966.
One Kiss From You – “All I need,” says our hero, “is just one kiss from you.” Not true, but it matters not. Thom Bell was listening carefully, and here is where the style of The Sylistics came from. From the fall of 1966.
Meeting Over Yonder – A song about a revival. Think Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show by Neil Diamond. From the summer of 1965. Imagine.
You’ve Been Cheating – The arrangement on this is more Motown redux: the strings, the tambourine. The lyrics say “I’m trying to forget” but the song is doing anything but. Even when they are angry, The Impressions are nothing but smooth. From the fall of 1965.
Can’t Satisfy – Reminds one of Motown again, This Old Heart Of Mine perhaps, but Curtis Mayfield was in a league of his own. The tale of a man frustrated by unrealistic expectations. From the fall of 1966, about half a year after the aforementioned Isley Brothers record was a much bigger hit.
I Can’t Stay Away From You – “Please release me, let me go…” said someone else in another song. This is another song of romantic inertia, from the fall of 1967.
I’m The One Who Loves You – She always goes after the wrong guys, but the guy who loves her, well, he’s, you know, just a friend. An old story. From the winter of 1963.
I Need You – A song about the specialness of that special someone, no one else will do. It’s alright if that special someone is available, not so healthy otherwise. Not The Beatles song, which was recent then, and not the America song, which wouldn’t exist for almost a decade. From the fall of 1965.
I Loved And I Lost – A song of, well…, loving and losing. “It’s better to have loved and lost…” No so clear from this song. From the summer of 1968.
We’re Rolling On (Part 1) – Another chant of pride. This one is from the spring of 1968.
Fool For You – There’s a double meaning here, and they are both up front and centre. One of the group’s best love songs. From the fall of 1968.
This Is My Country – I would say that this was openly defiant, but the message is delivered with such a smooth soul that it was ok to play it on the radio. From the winter of 1968.
Grow Closer Together – This tale of (paternal?) advice, otherwise a Gypsy Woman soundalike, is from the winter of 1962.
Choice Of Colors – The Impressions go political, in your face political. But they don’t sacrifice the groove. From the summer of 1969.
A Sad, Sad Girl And Boy – A sad tale indeed, from the summer of 1963.
Check Out Your Mind – Just before Curtis Mayfield bailed, The Impressions went modern, not quite psychedelic, but in the same universe as, say, The Temptations doing Cloud Nine or Psychedelic Shack. From the summer of 1970.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jan & Arnie

Let me explain. The first Jan & Dean album I picked up was called The Very Best Of Jan & Dean. The first track was Jennie Lee.

Now Jennie Lee, it was a hit for Jan & Arnie. Jan, that was Jan Berry. And Arnie, he was Arnie Ginsburg, who was a DJ among other things. But Arnie dropped out, and Dean took over. That was Dean Torrance. And so they tacked the one and only Jan & Arnie hit to the Jan & Dean collection, makes a certain amount of sense, and so I have my Jan & Arnie / Jan & Dean collection right about here.

But, again thanks to YouTube, I now realize that the version of Jennie Lee that I have is actually a remake that Jan & Dean did early on. So no, Virgina, I don’t have anything at all by Jan & Arnie, so the collection will have to wait…

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Robin Luke

I didn’t always have all this stuff. I didn’t always know all this stuff. I didn’t always know about all this stuff.

I picked up the info here and there. Whitburn is a big part of the picture.

But then let’s talk about radio. Besides the weekly top 40 playlists that I grew up with, there would occasionally be a radio station or radio program that played stuff that opened my ears to “new” stuff. Saturday nights, c. 1981, I’d listen to some history of rock type program on Q 94. That was the first time, for example, that I heard Robin Luke. In fact, I didn’t get what the dj said, Robin Wouk? Herman Wouk?

Luke only ever had one hit, and I picked it up finally from an oldies collection, the bulk of whose tracks were not authentic, but this one was authentic enough.

Robin Luke:

Susie Darlin’ – A song about insomnia. All his trauma, not only does it happen at night, but it lasts all night. Plus this is another Susan song. We haven’t had too many yet, but there are thousands. The style here is somewhere between Buddy Holly and Jimmie Rodgers. From the fall of 1958, his only hit.

Monday, December 14, 2009

September, 1958

  • Rockin' Robin / Over And Over - Bobby Day
  • Summertime Blues - Eddie Cochran
  • Lazy Summer Night - The Four Preps
  • Itchy Twitchy Feeling - Bobby Hendricks
  • The Ways Of A Woman In Love - Johnny Cash
  • Carol - Chuck Berry
  • City Lights - Ray Price
  • It's All In The Game - Tommy Edwards
  • Tears On My Pillow - Little Anthony & The Imperials
  • Stupid Cupid - Connie Francis
  • Win Your Love For Me - Sam Cooke
  • Dance Everyone Dance - Betty Madigan
  • Put A Ring On My Finger - Les Paul & Mary Ford
  • You're The Nearest Thing To Heaven - Johnny Cash
  • Susie Darlin' - Robin Luke
  • Down The Aisle Of Love - The Quin-Tones
  • Ramrod - Duane Eddy
  • Summertime Summertime - The Jamies
  • Carveza - Boots Brown & His Blockbusters
  • No One Knows - Dion & The Belmonts
  • It's So Easy - The Crickets
  • How Time Files - Jerry Wallace
  • Near You - Roger Williams
  • Weekend - The Kingsmen
  • Go Chase A Moonbeam - Jerry Vale
  • Move It - Cliff Richard & The Shadows
  • Tea For Two Cha Cha - Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
  • The End - Earl Grant
  • Chantilly Lace / Red Riding Hood - The Big Bopper
  • Treasure Of Your Love - Eileen Rogers

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Poni-Tails

Another girl group, The Poni-tails, for sure, and their name is sometimes rendered as The Ponitails but the records label clearly says “Poni-tails.” The group actually put 3 singles into the top 100, Born Too Late which was in the top 10, and 2 more neither of which made it higher than 85: Seven Minutes In Heaven in 1958 and I’ll Be Seeing You in 1959.

In their pictures, none of them have pony tails.

The Poni-Tails:

Born Too Late – Paul Anka lamented how “I’m so young and you’re so old.” But the Ponitails make an existential condition out of being too young to date someone. A matter of fate, and nothing to be done. From the fall of 1958.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Domenico Modugno

Domenico Modugno His one and only hit top 90 hit comes to me from an obscure soundtrack album that belonged to a friend of mine, whom I have not seen since 1981.

(Ok, he had a record that reached number 97 in 1959. It was called Piove (Ciao Ciao Bambina).

Domenico Modugno:

Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare) – The song is Italian, and the title translates to “in the blue painted blue;” “volare” means “to fly.” If you want to hear English, then listen to Dean Martin. It was also a hit, in English, for Bobby Rydell, and for The McGuire Sisters. This was huge, number 1 of the year (1958), a hit from the fall of 1958.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bobby Darin

The Record Baron was a store on Grant Avenue, in River Heights, in the big strip mall at the corner of Kenaston. I didn’t get there often, it wasn’t exactly my home territory, but I remember the few times I did go, I got The Zombies, The Spencer Davis Group, Roger Miller, and Bobby Darin.

The Bobby Darin I got was The Bobby Darin Story, and the odd thing about the album was that it was originally issued with 10 tracks, and 3 tracks were added to later releases, the cover was slightly altered, but the narrative was not amended accordingly. Narrative? Bobby Darin himself recorded a few snippets of narrative for the album, one before Splish Splash, one before Mack The Knife, one before Beyond The Sea, one before You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, which was originally the final track. Beyond The Sea, though, was the first track on side 2, originally. And so Bobby says “we go from the number one hit in the nation to the number one song on this side.” But it’s not the first track on side 2 anymore. So it’s a bit discordant.

Besides The Bobby Darin Story, I had a cassette collection called 18 Yellow Roses that had his Capital hits, and some oddball tracks from a CD collection. He actually recorded for a while for Motown; I don’t have any of those tracks.

Altogether Bobby Darin had 41 top 100 singles; I have 31.

This collection also includes The Rinky Dinks, who were Bobby Darin in disguise. Their one hit was Early In The Morning, which was included on The Bobby Darin Story.

Bobby Darin:

Splish Splash – Maybe the only song ever to draw a nexus between bathing and partying. Darin didn’t remain a rock and roller for long, but it was good while it lasted. Darin’s first hit, from the summer of 1958.
Early In The Morning – Should be in a separate post. Oh, it’s Bobby Darin alright, but the song was released by “The Rinky Dinks;” it has something do with contract issues. The song is a refreshingly defiant leave-taking, contrast Softly I Will Leave You. Buddy Holly had a competing version. From the summer of 1958. Not the Nilsson song.
Queen Of The Hop – Bobby is dating a girl known for dancing talents, he is damn proud of it, and who can blame him. One of those songs with a list of rock and roll allusions in the lyrics. From the fall of 1958.
Plain Jane – Among the myriads of songs of beautiful woman, there pops up now and then a song like this, about a girl who just doesn’t have it in the looks or style department, but Bobby loves her anyway. Of course, it’s just as disparaging either way, and it’s great pop in any case. From the winter of 1959.
Dream Lover – I learned this song from a Gary Lewis & The Playboy LP when I was relatively young. It was a long time before I heard the original; it’s a great rock and roll ballad, and I used to sing it to my kids when they were babies. From the summer of 1959. I also have a remake by Rick Nelson.
Mack The Knife – Usually titled Theme From Threepenny Opera, Darin’s straight-as-an-arrow reading of this tale of murder and horror blew all the competition out of the water. Darin’s straight reading is brilliant. A huge it, number 1 for 9 weeks in the fall and winter of 1959.
Beyond The Sea – Gets into Sinatra territory with this. This is La Mer, recorded by many, and a hit for Darin in the winter of 1960.
Clementine – Oh My Darling, all fancied up. From the spring of 1960.
Bill Bailey – A jazzed up version of this. Whitburn lists it as Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey. Fair enough, it’s what he sings after all. From the summer of 1960.
Artificial Flowers – A song about a 9 year old girl who has to support herself selling artificial flowers. This song of saccharine sentiment was a hit in the fall of 1960.
Somebody To Love – Not the Jefferson Airplane song, but same idea. Someone to call me Turtle Dove. I don’t know if I’d want that. The B side of Artificial Flowers and a hit in the fall of 1960.
Lazy River – Another old standard, a lazy song about a lazy river. From the spring of 1961.
You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby – Extrapolation. Yet another updated old standard. There is a version of this by The Dave Clark Five also. From the fall of 1961.
Multiplication – A song about reproduction. Too clever by half. From the winter of 1962, the B side of Irresistible You.
What’d I Say – It was particularly brave of Darin to tackle this one, given Darin’s notorious inability to countenance negative comparisons. It’s not bad though, compares favourably to Jerry Lee’s and Elvis’s covers. Original of course was by Ray Charles. Like the original, the song is spread out over 2 sides of a 45, and it was part one, which ends rather abruptly, that was the hit. Darin sticks fairly closely to the original. This was from the spring of 1962
Things – A song about association and memories. It’s a jaunty performance but it rings true, proving that sad songs don’t have to be slow nor maudlin. From the summer of 1962.
18 Yellow Roses –Nobody would say “you belong to another” about a girl and her father. There is something incestuous about this. Here is where the Capital songs begin. From the summer of 1963.
The Good Life – Bobby Darin takes this song made famous by Tony Bennett and gives it his best night club performance.
Treat My Baby Good – Never mind the grammar. This is Take Good Care Of My Baby redux, and if it sounds more adult it’s in Darin’s delivery, not in the lyrics.
The Things In This House – Reminds me of Walls by Jim Reeves, but I’d rather listen to Bobby Darin. Another great example of sad but uptempo and jazzy song. Not to be confused with Things. From the fall of 1964.
If A Man Answers – From the fall of 1962. This is another way of saying The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, or He’ll Have To Go. Except this: Darin doesn’t grovel.
You’re The Reason I’m Living – Darin tackles a straightforward, slightly country flavoured love song, and he does it well. From the winter of 1963. My Stein / Marsh book lists this as You’re The Reason I’m Leaving, a typo that turns it around.
Be Mad Little Girl – Think Go Away Little Girl by Steve Lawrence, Young Girl by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, Come Back When You Grow Up by Bobby Vee. “I’m not the guy who made the laws!” he protests, while she taunts “you chicken!” From the winter of 1963 / 1964.
Hello Dolly – This is a tough one to pull off. To his credit, he doesn’t touch Louis Armstrong. He does a respectable performance but the song is too much the show tune for it to work. From the winter of 1965.
I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now – Another old standard updated with a slightly country feel. The country style was very similar to what Dean Martin was doing on records like Everybody Loves Somebody, and this may have been Capital’s revenge. From the winter of 1964, the height of Beatlemania. There is a very good version of this by Harry Nilsson.
If I Were A Carpenter – The Tim Hardin song, a hit also for The Four Tops, and recorded by many more, including Joan Baez and Johnny Cash & June Carter. Darin’s version was one that put Tim Hardin on the public radar; it was a hit in the fall of 1966, and marked his return to Atlantic.
The Girl Who Stood Beside Me – Another record in his then new folky style. The tune and the arrangement are understated; the lyrics are a powerful statement of a marital bond. From the winter of 1966 / 1967.
Mighty Mighty Man – The title taken straight from the lyrics of Good Rockin Tonight, and the style and delivery too.
I’ll Be There – A beautiful song of separation. A hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers in early 1965, and covered by Elvis. Darin’s original was the B side of Bill Bailey and a small hit in the summer of 1960.
Beachcomber – A piano instrumental from the fall of 1960.
Nature Boy – A slight update of Nat King Cole’s hit. From the summer of 1961.
Baby Face – A bit too cute for my tastes. I wonder if anyone could save this. From the autumn of 1962.
Irresistible You – From the winter of 1962.
Lovin’ You – Bobby Darin does John Sebastian, and does him well. Originally recorded by The Lovin’ Spoonful, but it was Darin who had the hit in the winter of 1967.
Simple Song Of Freedom – Bobby Darin goes political. This song was a hit of sorts for Tim Hardin, Hardin’s way of repaying Darin for making a hit of If I Were A Carpenter. This is a live recording of Darin accompanying himself on guitar, with a small band and female harmony. The result is understated beauty.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Graduates

The Graduates This is apparently genuine. I say it like that because there are no references to The Graduates on Billboard, and very little information is available. A google search of ‘Graduates “What Good Is Graduation” turns up 6 pages of results.

But at least those 6 pages assure me that the single I found one day back when was the real thing. There was no Google back then or course, so I had to go with my gut. My how the world has changed…

The Graduates:

What Good Is Graduation – The Four Freshman celebrated their grad (Graduation Day) and The Cardigans saw only the sad side (Your Graduation Means Goodbye). This is the same idea as The Cardigans, but for The Graduates, all meaning is eradicated. This record did make the pop charts at all, but it seems to have been from 1959.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jimmy Clanton

I was a stamp collector for one year. That’s when I was 12 years old. I got a stamp album, and I went to stores like Peg Stamp And Coin, and I bought big envelopes full of stamps at book stores. And I got approvals. That’s when some company sends you sets every month in the mail. And you keep the ones you want and send the money, and return the one you don’t want.

Well years and years later I got the same deal with CDs. I don’t remember where it came from, but the offer was try out each month’s selection. Keep it and pay, or return it and pay nothing. Sounds good. So I got the first one and I listened to it and it sounded terrible. It was a rock and roll revival CD, and the selections were good, but the sound quality was horrible. But before I sent it back I retrieved Don’t You Know It by Huey Smith & The Clowns and Just A Dream by Jimmy Clanton.

And I sent it back, and they never sent me another CD.

I can’t remember where the others came from, but I know that Go Jimmy Go came from the 45.

Clanton had 11 records in the top 100 between 1958 and 1963, then a freak record in 1969 called Curly.

Jimmy Clanton:

Just A Dream – Everything’s gone up in smoke, was never very likely to start with. “Please leave me alone” cries Jimmy in desperation. Jimmy’s debut hit, from the summer of 1958.
Go Jimmy Go – Talking, dancing, kissing, Jimmy is up for the challenge. And he is setting himself up for a standard that he will not be able to maintain. From the winter of 1960.
Another Sleepless Night – Heartbreak manifested as insomnia. From the summer of 1960.
Venus In Blue Jeans – There is something different about this one. Harp, for one thing. Strings and horns for another, an angelic chorus for yet another. If there was ever a better song about adoring a typical teenage girl I’ve never heard it. Masterpiece. From the autumn of 1962.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

August, 1958

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Elegants

One after another after another. The Danleers, the last entry, they were a one hit wonder doo wop group from the late 50s. The Elegants were a one hit wonder doo wop group from the late 50s.

The Elegants were white. That’s interesting.

How many dances, talent contests, auditions did they do before they hit? How many recordings did they make of songs that were not released, or that were but which bombed?

And what happened after? Not much info on the web. Did they record follow-ups? If so, why did they bomb? They toured with star acts; we know that. So what happened?

Another rock and roll story whose details have yet to be told…

The Elegants:

Little Star – This is, in theory, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It is, but only the words. The tune is different, though the cadence is the same – it has to be given that it has the same words. The children’s nursery is transformed here into the ultimate statement of romantic longing. A number 1 hit in the summer of 1958. And, contrary to popular belief, the original melody was not written by Mozart.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Danleers

Another not-exactly-household name. They had 1 top 10 single and that was it.

The Danleers:

One Summer Night – A great great romantic prom slow dance. A story that could only exist in a pop song, couldn’t even get it into a movie without losing something, especially that “you and I under the moon of love.” From the summer of 1958.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Toni Arden

No relation to Jann.

She was a bit of an anomaly when she had her biggest record in 1958, coming as she did from a different era and style. No matter. Music is where you find it…

Toni Arden:

Padre – A marriage goes bad, and the brokenhearted wife turns to the priest who married her, looking for solace and understanding. A song about retracing one’s steps to the beginning, trying to find answers to life’s difficulties. From the summer of 1958.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Johnny Otis Show

Johnny Otis Odds and end, odds and ends…

I found Johnny Otis’ sole top 40 hit on a multi-artist compilation on Capital, and that’s my entire experience of Johnny Otis.

He was huge though, the fewness of his chart placing notwithstanding (he had 4 top 100 records between 1958 and 1960). He wrote songs (Every Beat Of My Heart), he produced classic recordings (Hound Dog by Big Mama Thornton), he discovered talent (Etta James, Hank Ballard etc etc).

And to me, he was reduced to a single random track on a random LP…

Life is weird sometimes.

Johnny Otis Show:

Willie And The Hand Jive – A kind of mutated Bo Diddley thing going on here, as Otis sings of a “dance” that involves nothing but hand movements. One can only imagine. Go Willie… From the summer of 1958.Eric Clapton covered this on 461 Ocean Blvd.
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