Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paul Anka, George Hamilton IV, & Johnny Nash

The world’s first supergroup. I guess you could say that the concept had to develop some. What’s interesting is that both Anka and Hamilton were well on their way to reasonably successful careers; Nash, though he had one top 40 hit early in 1958, really wouldn’t catch on for another 10 years.

Kudos to those responsible for making this an inter-racial project, which was not to be taken for granted in 1958.

Paul Anka, George Hamilton IV, & Johnny Nash:

The Teen Commandments – Just when rock and roll threatened to corrupt the youth of the world, someone came up with this brilliant idea: put “be good” into a pop record, and everything would be ok. Not to be confused with The Ten Commandments Of Love, this was an exercise in pinhead moralism. “At the first moment,” emphasizes our friend Mr “I don’t like to sleep alone and you’re having my baby” Anka, turn away from unclean thinking. And then there’s obedience. To anyone? About anything? This was a hit in the fall of 1958.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Billy Grammer

Billy Grammer had a handful of hits on the country charts over a 10 year period; he had 2 records, 3 songs, on the pop charts, all in 1959. He got all manner of honours, country music hall of fame, Grand Ole Opry and the like, but who’s heard of him?

Reading Wikipedia tells me that he was a supporter of George Wallace. I’ll have to stop reading Wikipedia. There are some things it may be better not to know.

I have his one big song; I found the single somewhere or other, I’m guessing Sound Exchange.

Billy Grammer:

Gotta Travel On – The second track on the third side of Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait is Gotta Travel On, a song about rambling and moving from place to place written by Paul Clayton. It’s a perfect fit for the album, and Dylan does a wonderful version. The original was a hit for Billy Grammer, and it’s more countrypolitan than Dylan’s remake 10 years later. From the winter of 1959.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

December, 1958

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Five Blobs

Now this is what we record-crazy people live for. Funny thing is that I don’t even remember where I found this single, probably at the Sound Exchange. They overpriced their stuff, but even so, I didn’t pay $170 for this, which is what the only copy available on Amazon is listed for at this moment.

The Five Blobs were never a real band or anything; they were one guy, named Bernie Nee, and presumably a studio band. And it’s finds like this that make those hours and hours spent digging through dusty cardboard boxes full of old Andre Kostelantz singles all worth while.

The Five Blobs:

The Blob – Self-evidently silly. This song was the theme of a movie with Steve McQueen, presumably a silly one. Written by a young Burt Bacharach with Mack David, brother of Hal with whom he would write all those Dionne Warwick songs. Altogether a transcendent moment in pop music history. From the fall of 1958.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

November, 1958

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Kingston Trio

I hear The Kingston Trio and I hear authentic folk music, acoustic guitar (Martins, no doubt), banjo, pure harmonies. No strings (well, later, ok), no electric piano, no piano at all, no saccharine.

But it’s an illusion. In its time, it was derided for its inauthenticity. 3 part harmonies? No way. Folk music was Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, none of it pretty. It’s just kind of a weird time perspective we have, and hearing through so many decades of the Barry Manilowization of everything, and so it's refreshing, and pure sounding. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Best Of The Kingston Trio was an LP I found at some library or other, long ago, and it ends at A Worried Man. So The Reverend Mr. Black, unaccountably left off, came from a Capital Records various artists promotional LP, and the rest comes from the actual singles.

The Kingston Trio:

Tom Dooley – The song that single handedly kicked off the “folk revival” of the early 60s. It’s an old folk song about a love triangle, murder, and execution. Fun. It was a number 1 hit in the fall of 1958. There’s an uptempo version by Lonnie Donegan.
Tijuana Jail – The fabled town on the Mexican border, to which so many have paid homage. Just ask Herb Alpert. This hard luck tale of some sap who finds himself in the slammer was a hit in the spring of 1959. The trio proves that they don’t take it all so seriously.
Scotch And Soda – Stripped down to the basics, guitar, bass, one voice. Booze as a metaphor for love, from the spring of 1962.
Bad Man’s Blunder – A humorous song about murder. From the summer of 1960.
Raspberries Strawberries – This is a wistful song about Paris, youth, love, old age and disillusionment, all in just about 2 minutes. From the winter of 1959.
M.T.A – When I came to this city in 2002 a monthly transit pass cost $50. Now (8 years later) it’s $70. That’s what? A 40% increase? The song goes one better. A ten cent fair rises in one go to 15 cents, that’s like 50%. Wow. And poor Charlie, the hero, doesn’t have the extra nickel, so he can’t get off the subway, and he rides forever. Poor poor Charlie. From the summer of 1959, when you could still get on the subway for 10 cents.
The Merry Minuet – this silly song about catastrophes of nature and man’s inhumanity captured the entire protest song movement in about a minute.
Where Have All The Flowers Gone – By Pete Seeger. This should be strident, but it’s not, an anti-war song that you can actually listen to. And it hasn’t dated all that much. Peter, Paul & Mary did a good version, not surprisingly, and Johnny River put it back on the chart, in a rather quirky version, in 1965. This is from the winter of 1962. You can hear John Stewart on this one.
Take Her Out Of Pity – Bizarre, but it’s kind of what Joe Tex was doing on Skinny Legs And All. A song about the misfortune of being unattractive, though I don’t think pity is all that useful for that kind of thing.
A Worried Man – This tribute to anxiety was a hit in the fall of 1959. A great album closer.
Greenback Dollar – That’s John Stewart again, on the second verse. I don’t give a **** about a greenback dollar they sing, because the censors didn’t allow then to say “damn.” So fill in any word you like. That’s how the original was, and it’s what I have. Reissues have reinstated the forbidden word. A hit in the winter of 1963. There’s a more than decent version by Jim Croce, back when he was still in his band. He says “damn.”
El Matador – A song about a bullfighter, and a serious one. Ernest Hemingway would be proud. From the winter of 1960.
The Patriot Game – Nationalism run amok. Another anti-war song. The tune is the one Dylan used for With God On Our Side, and Judy Collins did this on her Whales And Nightingales LP.
Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream – Yet another anti-war song. Simon & Garfunkel did this on their first LP.
Reverend Mr. Black – All about character, and turning the other cheek, especially when you have the wherewithal to fight back. It makes its point I guess, but it’s a bit simplistic. From the spring of 1963, their only top 10 hit besides Tom Dooley.
Home From The Hills – This is somber. Very somber
The New Frontier – At one time this was timely, but not by the time The Trio got hold of it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Peter Sellers

I got this LP, it was called The Best Of Sellers, and it wasn’t in very good shape. No man. It was a true artifact of the age of vinyl, so scratched you could not hear the recording. I stuck it in though, most of it, between Conway Twitty and The Kingston Trio, and there it sits.

Not only can I not hear the jokes, but I wrote down the tracks on the cassette label with a yellow marker, and it’s faded, so I can’t even give you the track listing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Conway Twitty

I can’t say that Conway Twitty played a huge role in my life; I only really remember two of his songs: the sex one (bom bom bom), and the other sex one (with your hair up in curlers I’d still love to…)

The early stuff he recorded, the stuff on MGM, I got on a Greatest Hits album that came from Pyramid Records, and the later stuff came from The Very Best Of Conway Twitty, and I picked that up on a cassette at Sam The Record Man.

Hey, have I ever written about Sam The Record Man?

Conway Twitty:

It’s Only Make Believe – For all his salacious success in the 70s, this, his first hit, unabashedly romantic, was his biggest. The first time I heard it wasn’t by Conway Twitty, it was Glen Campbell’s string-laden recording that was a hit in the fall of 1970. From the fall of 1958.
Danny Boy – Conway rocks it up, irreverent in the extreme. His fans loved it; it was a top 10 hit in the winter of 1959 / 1960. It was the highest charting version, competing with 5 others, from Andy Williams to Jackie Wilson.
Heavenly – This wasn’t the first time a woman would be associated with paradise, and it wouldn’t be the last.
I’ll Try – An odd name for a love song, but realistic. The may be the most Elvis-like of all his early tracks.
Lonely Boy Blue – More Elvis soundalike stuff, in this case down to the message. This was a top 10 hit in the winter of 1960.
Halfway To Heaven – Wow, the bells are actually ringing. This is a common theme also, think Halfway To Paradise by Tony Orlando or Billy Fury.
Is A Blue Bird Blue – Do I love you? Is a blue bird blue? A blue bird, is that the same as a bluebird? This was a hit in the summer of 1960.
The Hurt In My Heart – Originally The Hurt In My Foot, but then someone had an idea…
Mona Lisa – A rocked up version. The original was by Nat King Cole. Carl Mann also did a rocked up version, but I don’t have that one.
The Story Of My Love – The story of my life is the story of my love, and the story of my love is the story of my life. A song about unhealthy reality. Didn’t Marty Robbins do this? From the winter of 1959.
What Am I Living For – A hit for Chuck Willis. And more of the same. I’m living only for you. Erich Fromm didn’t think much of songs like this. Also covered by Jack Scott. Twitty’s version was a hit in the spring of 1960.
She’s Mine – Of course she is. Whose else would she be. She’s mine was the b side of Is A Blue Bird Blue, and it snuck into the top 100 for one week in August of 1960.
Hello Darlin’ – And so begins part 2 of Conway Twitty’s illustrious career, this time as a country idol, with his first hit since 1962’s Portrait Of A Fool, which wasn’t much of a hit. The whole time he was obsessed by the girl in the song, which seems to be a problem of his. Keep listening. This was from the summer of 1970. Hello Conway…
Fifteen Years Ago – See what I mean? 15 years later he is still obsessing. From the fall of 1970.
I Can’t See Me Without You – Alright, a breakup song. Let’s give him this one. There’s truth in it, for many. That’s about the trauma that happens when the breakup first happens, the unexpected, the void one faces before one has the opportunity to work things through. But we survive, don’t we… From 1972
(Lost Her Love) On Our Last Date – This is Last Date, updated. The way he sings it, it’s tragic. From 1972. An earlier hit for Skeeter Davis and for Floyd Cramer.
Baby’s Gone – And he lived to tell… From 1973.
You’ve Never Been This Far Before – The song that put Conway Twitty on the map for so many, me included. It’s meant to be adult, mature, real. In the end it’s really just salacious. From the fall of 1973. I was in grade 11. And as big a hit as it was, it only reached number 22 on Billboard. It’s the only one of Conway Twitty’s songs that I remember hearing on the radio.
I’m Not Through Lovin’ You Yet – A song of a failing relationship, and the refusal to give up, to let go. I just need some time, he sings, to make the plans that we made come true. One of his better ones. From 1974.
(Lying Here With) Linda On My Mind – A hit from the spring of 1975. A cheating song. Everything is always reduced to the lowest common denominator in country songs. The first girl I ever danced with was a girl named Linda.
There’s A Honky Tonk Angel – With a salute to Hank Thomson. A song of a dead relationship. The kind of stuff you say in songs that you could never say in real life. From 1974.
I Can’t Believe She Gives It All To Me – Get your mind out of the gutter … well it’s that too. But overall it’s about love, about life. And you know, it’s the other side, and it’s real. From 1976.
I See The Want-To In Your Eyes – Well we know what this is about, don’t we. She marries. Say no more.
Don’t Cry Joni – The story of a May – December romance that ended sadly. The Joni in the song, the one singing, is his daughter.
Georgia Keeps Pulling On My Ring – Another one of those songs. Jim Croce also sang about Georgia (Walkin’ Back To Georgia) but I think that Hoagy Carmichael was writing about the state.
I’ve Already Loved You In My Mind – Not the smoothest pick-up line in the world, but that’s what this is about.
Don’t Take It Away – Routine stuff – I screwed up, I’m sorry, etc, etc.
I May Never Get To Heaven – Brings into a light countrypolitan song the entire philosophical questions of how doing something that seems so wrong feels so right.
I’d Love To Lay You Down – I remember this from my cab driving days; I’d spend a week now and then listening to the local country station (CKRC then). That would have been 1979.. The song bridges the gap between the quick pick up line and a life-long love.
Rest Your Love On Me – A song about overcoming emotional resistance. Don’t we all know it…
Tight Fittin’ Jeans – Here he is singing about appearances and reality. I can see right through your tight fittin’ jeans, he says, in one of the best double meanings in all of country music.
Red Neckin’ Love Makin’ Night – Conway rocks out, country style. And how many got the red neckin’ pun. From 1981.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Georgia Gibbs

See how things get screwed up. We saw Georgia Gibbs as early as 1955. And here we are in 1958.

Well Ok. I just got this. See? A recent acquisition. Nothing I can do. I found it at the library, downtown. It’s a collection called The Complete Original Hits. It’s impressive, but it’s not complete. I guess, though, the ones that count are here, if that’s a fair thing to say, which I doubt.

Georgia Gibbs:

Kiss Of Fire – A song of dangerous attraction, with a “Gypsy” feel. This is from 1952.
Ballin’ The Jack – A song about dancing, get your mind out of the gutter. From 1946.
(If I Knew You Were Comin’) I’d Have Baked A Cake – Indeed. Wikipedia says that this is from 1970, but I think it means 1950.
Dance With Me Henry (Wallflower) – Roll With Me Henry, it was originally, but it was cleaned up in this version, though the line about everyone else “balling” is still there. The original was by Etta James. This is from the fall of 1955. It was an answer record to Hank Ballard’s Work With Me Annie, and this version went to number 1.
Tweedle Dee – The LaVerne Baker hit, which was an attempt to cuten up LaVerne, and here was Georgia whitening it up. Baker’s version was number 14, Gibbs’ was number 2.
Seven Lonely Days – From 1952. We learn that she’s been crying and crying.
I Want You To Be My Baby – This is a take on Rag Mop. I (I), I want (I want) etc. By the time she gets through, he has no choice in the matter. From the fall of 1955.
I Still Feel The Same About You – They’ve broken up, but hey… From 1951.
Cry – Her take on the Johnny Ray hit. Missing the melodrama, but that may be a good thing. From 1951.
So Madly In Love – This is straight MOR. Not surprising, really, but so many of her hits were jazz / R & B based. From 1952.
While You Danced, Danced, Danced – I had a date like this once. From 1951.
Happiness Street – Why am I happy, asks Georgia, why am I gay? How the language changes. From the fall of 1956. Perhaps this was an answer song to Heartbreak Hotel, (take a walk down Lonely Avenue…)
Tom’s Tune – Who’s Tom? We had Sam’s Tune, that was by Bing Crosby. This is from 1951.
My Favorite Song – Any song we’re dancing to. Cute. From 1952.
Good Morning Mr. Echo – Silly. From 1951.
Play A Simple Melody – From 1950. Someone sings with her but I don’t know who.
Sweet And Gentle – A song about the cha cha. From the summer of 1955.
Somebody Bad Stole de Wedding Bell (Who's Got de Ding Dong) – Very very silly. It was only a small step from this to Who Stole The Kishka. From 1954.
Kiss Me Another – She must be singing this while dancing around the room with a flower in her teeth. From the spring of 1956.
Tra La La – Sort of a Tweedle Dee reprise, for both LaVerne Baker and Georgia. From the winter of 1956 / 1957.
The Hula Hoop Song – I hear it was all the rage, the hula hoop. I don’t remember, having been about a year old at the time. From the fall of 1958.
Rock Right – Going through the every things of life, and rockin’ right the whole time. From the spring of 1956.
Great Balls Of Fire – Georgia’s take on Jerry Lee’s hit. She gives it her best, but alas…

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Shields

Another group that I didn’t have for a long time. Their one hit I got from the Doo Wop Box.

The Shields:

You Cheated – Cheating is such a hard thing to deal with, so difficult to capture in music with any degree of emotional reality. Still, that doesn’t stop anyone from trying. Anger is what we hear here, valid enough. Love is something you know nothing about, proclaims our hero, to his loved one, of whom he accuses of everything bad. Still he says, love me, like I love you, with totally misguided optimism, willing to forgive everything.. This is doo-wop in excelsis, from the fall of 1958.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Earl Grant

Earl Grant shows up on page 180 of The Rock Almanac, his song listed as The End, and when I saw that, the only song I knew called The End was by The Beatles, but I knew that this couldn’t be it, and I was right. That was his only top 40 hit – it’s actually called (At) The End (Of A Rainbow), though all the books I have list it just as The End. In the end (haha) he had 6 songs reach the top 100, five on this collection, which is pretty old. It’s called Earl Grant’s Greatest Hits.

Earl Grant played the organ, he played a few other instruments, piano one would guess, and he sang, though not all that impressively.

Earl Grant:

Swinging’ Gently – An apt title for this shopping centre organ instrumental. From the summer of 1962.
Beyond The Reef – Meant to invoke, undoubtedly, sunset on a Hawaiian beach. More vibrato laden organ.
Stand By Be – An MOR version of Ben E King’s hit. From the winter of 1965 / 1966, rather late for this sort of thing. Also John Lennon’s last hit before his extended leave.
More (Theme From “Mondo Cane”) – This may be the perfect elevator cover of this.
Sweet Sixteen Bars – An odd instrumental hit from the fall of 1962.
House Of Bamboo – We are treated here to Mr. Grant’s rather unremarkable singing voice, put to the service of this song about a gambling joint. From the spring of 1960.
I Can’t Stop Loving You – Don Gibson’s song, the Ray Charles hit. He sings this one, and he’s no Ray Charles.
Ebb Tide – A subdued version, with many bird sounds.
Ol’ Man River – A swinging version…
Yellow Bird – Best known by The Mills Brothers…
Drown In My Tears – Another Ray Charles song, done well by Joe Cocker and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Oh, and by Ray Charles.
(At) The End (Of A Rainbow) – This was his one and only real hit, long forgotten by oldies stations and those who’s job it is to remember songs such as this. His voice works well on this one.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ernest Tubb

This is Ernest Tubb’s Greatest Hits. He had a few pop hits during the 40s and early 50s; his country hits started in 1944 and lasted until 1983.

This album was released in 1968 and features a good cross section of his stuff. I’m sure I picked it up at Pyramid Records.

Ernest Tubb:

Walking The Floor Over You – Country as it was meant to be. A classic, and the first use of electric guitar in country music. Jerry Lee Lewis covered it to great effect. From 1941. This song, for some reason, seems to have made the top 30 on the pop charts, and not to have made the country chart at all. That is downright bizarre.
Rainbow At Midnight –Slow waltz time. I keep waiting for the punch line, but it’s just a straightforward love song. It was number 1 country in 1946.
Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello (In A Friendly Kind Of Way) – Very matter of fact for a break up song, but I guess that’s the point. This is from 1948.
Another Story – aka Another Time Another Place. Great country, the song that put Jerry Lee Lewis back in the game as a country artist in 1968. Tubb’s version is from 1966, not so far ahead.
Thanks A Lot – Covered by Brenda Lee. From 1963.
Half A Mind – That place where you’re in between staying and leaving. Nobody’s every said it better. From 1958.
I’ll Get Along Somehow – I’m sure he will
Waltz Across Texas – Texas is big. Mike Nesmith is from Texas. I work with someone from Texas, though not closely. From 1965.
It’s Been So Long Darling – And where have you been?? The original version of this was a number 1 hit in 1946. He probably re-recorded it for this album.
Mr. Juke Box – Typical barroom country fair, but not bad for all that. From 1963.
• I Wonder Why You Said Goodbye – He reads her letter, and can’t figure out what’s going on.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jerry Wallace

A collection of hits I got from Pyramid Records. You could get anything at Pyramid Records. It was amazing.

Wallace, a pop singer whose records had a very mild country flavour, had 13 records on the top 100 between 1958 and 1972. My collection has 7, and they weren’t all from the Greatest Hits collection; I had to get some others separately.

Jerry Wallace:

Shutters And Boards – Not only is the marriage over and the dream dead, but the house is all boarded up. I wonder why they couldn’t just sell it. And it’s all his fault. Of course. From the winter of 1963.
There She Goes – Another it’s-all-my-fault song. This was a favourite among country singers, but Wallace was the only one to have a pop hit out of it. That was in the winter of 1961. Patsy Cline did it as There He Goes. She would.
Am I That Easy To Forget – A hit by Debbie Reynolds, then later by Engelbert Humperdinck, but not for Jerry Wallace.
San Antonio Rose – Another chestnut. This was a hit for Floyd Cramer, without words, and we have versions by Patsy Cline, by The Sons Of The Pioneers, by etc.
I Can See An Angel – This is another song of lost, or perhaps unrequited, love. It has a swinging jaunty attitude, replete with whistling, but it’s not a swinging jaunty song.
Blue Jean Baby – Not a rock and roll song, its title notwithstanding. It’s basically like all his other stuff. The tune is very close to that of I Can See An Angel.
Angel On My Shoulder – Now we’re hearing a lot about angels, but this is just a song about looking for a true love. Gary Lewis & The Playboys did a song with this title, on the Listen! album, but this isn’t it.
You’ll Never Know – Another standard, this time from the pop world. Not to be confused with You’ll Never Never Know by The Platters. Seems we haven’t encountered it yet, but keep reading…
That’s All I Want From You – Not much, I guess. It’s never quite how we think it is, though, is it…
Swingin’ Down The Lane – This is just cheap Primrose Lane redux. It’s from the summer of 1960, and it only reached number 79 on Billboard, which makes sense, because probably the only people who bought it were confused about which song it was.
Life’s A Holiday – More Primrose Lane redux, this time usurping the actual lyrics. This take on the happy side of life was a small hit in the spring of 1961.
How The Time Flies – His debut hit has a bit more of an R & B feel than his usual fare, a bit of sax, a bit of groove, like he hadn’t quite settled into his pop – country style yet. From the fall of 1958.
Primrose Lane – Finally, the big hit. Primrose Lane, a song about some wonderful suburban street, was one of those songs about domestic bliss. A hit in the fall of 1958.
In The Misty Moonlight – Moonlight is always romantic, isn’t it. Isn’t it? Well, ask Van Morrison. This was a hit in the fall of 1964, and Dean Martin did it in 1967, and his version didn’t do as well, but it’s probably better remembered.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Applejacks

Dave Appell was a kind of musical jack-of-all-trades. He did his apprenticeship at Cameo-Parkway, then went on to produce Gary Lewis & The Playboys (when Snuff Garrett was otherwise occupied I guess) then Tony Orlando & Dawn. Before all that he was the mastermind behind The Applejacks, who had 3 hits, all in 1958 – 59. I have one.

The Applejacks:

Mexican Hat Rock – This sounds like a precursor to those TV inspired instrumentals that would pop up in the mid 60s, songs like Chiquita Banana and No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In) etc, complete with ethereal disembodied female voices and all. From the fall of 1958.
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