Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Little Anthony & The Imperials

Little Anthony & The Imperials had the distinction of being a 50s group in the 50s and a 60s group in the 60s, and there are not very many groups who made that transition so successfully. I heard them way way back, at the beginning of musical time, which for me was the summer of 1965, when Take Me Back was in rotation.

But the song disappeared from my conscious mind. And it was later as an adolescent that I picked up The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll by Sha Na Na, and it was there that I learned so many great 50s songs, among them Tears On My Pillow, of which I later discovered the original, and I said to myself, Little Anthony & The Imperials, hmm, don’t I know them? And it was later still, when I began collecting in earnest, and when I got the books, Rock Almanac, Whitburn, that I saw it there, Take Me Back, and I said Hey! I remember that! That’s what I know by Little Anthony & The Imperials!

I got The Best Of Little Anthony And The Imperials back in the heady days of my second hand escapades; it came from Argy’s, and it was a bit scratched up, but serviceable, and cheap. The 50s tracks were actually remakes, because the group had changed labels, so I got those elsewhere. The group had hits for many different labels, End, DCP, United Artists, Veep, Avco. The LP I got was on UA and had their some of their DCP hits. All told the group had 19 singles on the top 100 between 1958 and 1974.

Little Anthony & The Imperials:

Tears On My Pillow – Well maybe rock and roll, and R& B, is youth music, and sure it still is, but here is a song of heartbreak by a senior. It must be by a senior. Why else would he sing “you don’t remember me,” especially given that “it was not so long ago.” Johnny Nash also did such a song, but this is the famous one. The songs is as over-the-top as a heartbreak song can get, but a classic nonetheless. From the fall of 1958.
Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop – Another “jungle” tale. I wonder how these guys got roped into doing songs like this. Not that I don’t like it… From the winter of 1960.
Two Kinds Of People – And what would they be? Sure you guessed it – a boy and a girl. Simple, no? The b side of Tears On My Pillow.
Goin’ Out Of My Head – It was Little Anthony who first put this 60s pop standard on the chart. That was in the winter of ’64 / ’65. The Lettermen put it back on the chart a few years later in a medley with Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.
Take Me Back – To my ears this has a style in common with songs like Make The World Go Away, by Eddy Arnold. Not that, you know, The Imperials were country, or that Arnold was R & B, but that’s the point. Both artists seem to abandon his chosen genre in favour of unmitigated mush. There’s a spookiness to this that I can’t quite understand, let alone explain, which may just be the lingering effect of how this sounded to me when I was 8 years old and discovering top 40. From the summer of 1965.
Hurt So Bad – Another song of profound heartbreak. The Imperials on this sound decidedly female, and choir-like. From the winter of 1966. Linda Rondstadt put this back into the top 10 in 1980.
I Miss You So – A cover of Paul Anka’s song of separation and longing. From the fall of 1965.
I’m On The Outside (Looking In) – He ends the relationship, then wonders why she won’t take him back.
Hurt – Yet another song of heartbreak. This was a hit early in 1966. Elvis pulled out all the stops on this, put it on the top 30 in the spring of 1976.
Reputation – This seems to be a theme that surfaces every so often, how your bad deeds come back to you, and it’s almost always about gossip. Not The Byrds song.
Our Song – Another very popular theme in pop music is the inability to let go and move on. Here’s one in which our hero tortures himself by listening to the song that reminds him of his lost love, over and over and over and over and…
Never Again – Do people really swear “never again” in matters of love? Perhaps, but very likely they end up like Little Anthony here, eating his words…
Get Out Of My Life – That’s telling it straight. But the delivery is very gentle…

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