Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

Hank Ballard For so long I knew Hank Ballard only by reputation. The first record I found of his was Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go, and later I got The Switcheroo. In the end I settled with 4 songs (the other two were The Twist / Teardrops On Your Letter). It was only I after I got there that I found Sex Ways, The Best Of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters at the central library, and my world is just a bit more complete.

Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

Get It – This is raw R & B, that’s all.
Work With Me Annie – One of the most famous songs of the 50s R & B underground. Plain and simple, a song about having sex. Georgia Gibbs covered it, but she called it Dance With Me Henry.
Sexy Ways – No mistaking the meaning here. He gets into a nice sexy rhythm, but you ain’t heard this song till you heard Jerry Lee do it.
Annie Had A Baby – How many songs are there about love and marriage? A trillion. How many songs are there about the effect that children have on love and marriage? One. This is it.
Annie’s Aunt Fannie – And this one is about family interference…
Henry’s Got Flat Feet (Can’t Dance No More) – A not so subtle allusion to Georgia Gibb’s rendering of Work With Me Annie into Dance With Me Henry. Undoubtedly that’s the kind of dancing he’s referring to. They have a pill for that now…
It’s Love Baby (24 Hours A Day) – Ballard applies his slinky style to matters of the heart. “I need your love” he says, “to keep me gay.” It meant something different then.
Open Up The Back Door – Hank is having romantic difficulties, and tries to find a way around them. That “back door” thing, another common allusion in blues songs.
Tore Up Over You – Another song about a broken romance. The guitar solo in this brings up squarely into the modern era, as Henry’s voice soars, conveying a message very different from what’s in the lyrics.
Teardrops On Your Letter – The Midnighters’ debut top 100 single, a genuine ballad. It reached the top 80 in the winter of 1959; the flip side was The Twist which hit the top 30 a year and a half later.
The Twist – Here it is, the original. Chubby Checker covered this, at the urging of Dick Clark, and the rest is history. Chubby’s record reached number 1 in the fall of 1960, then again in the winter of 1962. Ballard’s record reached number 28 in the fall of 1960, and only on the strength Chubby’s record.
Sugaree – This is a term of endearment, though you may not know it. Fred Neil used it – Didn’t We Shake Sugaree. This may be where he got it. This is a Baby’s-coming-home song.
Never Knew – Different rhythm on this, Hank experimenting.
Look At Little Sister – Dance Little Sister Dance sang The Rolling Stones, but Hank got there first, so to speak. This is incest combined with pedophilia, not bad for one pop song.
Finger Poppin’ Time – This is where they reached the top 10, a song about snapping your fingers. But the song is really about “feeling good,” and that, of course, makes it all worthwhile. From the summer of 1960.
Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go – Yet another song about a great place to hang out. Stand in line behind 333, Sugar Shack, Down At Lulu’s etc. If this song is any indication, going there is as much fun as being there. Another top 10 single, this one from the fall of 1960.
Let’s Go Again (Where We Went Last Night) – You can read this in so many ways. A hit from the winter of 1961.
The Continental Walk – Speaking of continental things only makes sense if you’re English. From the spring of 1961.
The Switch-A-Roo – The song is, ostensibly, about a dance, but Hank is up to his old tricks. From the summer of 1961. This song about swinging (and I mean that in the dancingest possible sense) reached number 26 on Billboard.
Nothing But Good – Hank bids us farewell with this manic depiction of love in all its glory. From the fall of 1961.

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