Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ritchie Valens

Ritchie Valens He was young, a kid. That’s the thing that everybody remarks about when Ritchie Valens comes up. Well sure he was young. My best guess is, and this is no knock, that dying with Buddy Holly made him more famous and better remembered than he would have been had he lived. By the evidence, he was a talented guitarist, and an ok songwriter. In his very short career he placed 5 songs on the top 100, and all 5 are on this collection, called Ritchie Valens’ Greatest Hits, which I picked up so long ago at Records On Wheels.

Ritchie Valens:

Donna – There was time that I was sharing office space with a denturist named Jim who had a technician named Donna and a secretary / receptionist named Donna, and I had, at the same time, a secretary named Donna. She was the only person I ever fired. Then there was Donna W, whom I barely knew way back when in childhood. And there was recently a Donna in my French class; she was older than me, at least 10 years, and shared my surname. The song, that’s what we’re here for, right? The song was as good a specimen of wimp rock as can be found; Air Supply eat your hearts out. It was big, and that was in the winter of 1959.
Come On Let’s Go – And this is party music. Valens’ debut, from the fall of 1958. A small and not much remembered hit for The McCoys, at least. This, not Donna, was probably Ritchie’s greatest moment.
Bony Maronie – Richie does Larry Williams. He won’t make you forget Williams any time soon, but give him E for effort.
We Belong Together – The Robert & Johnny hit.
Bluebirds Over The Mountain – A hit by Ersel Hickey. I don’t have it. But I have the hit version by The Beach Boys, which, come to think of it, wasn’t much of a hit.
In A Turkish Town – A touch of the exotic, it always adds something to what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill pop song. I don’t know what it adds exactly, but it adds *something.*
Cry, Cry, Cry – Not the Johnny Cash song, and not the Bobby Bland song.
• The Paddiwack Song – This Old Man, Ritchie Valens style. Mitch Miller recorded this song, but not like this…
Stay Beside Me – Stay with me, be with me, support me, believe in me. Donna redux, really.
La Bamba – Some kind of Mexican folk song, it was considered somewhat sacrilegious when Valens made a hit out of this. I grew up thinking that it was by Trini Lopez, who indeed did a moderately successful remake, but it was Valens who first put it on the chart. It was the B side of Donna, peaking on the charts slightly earlier.
That’s My Little Suzie – This is Bony Maronie redux. From the spring of 1959.
Ooh! My Head – A Little Richard rip-off (Ooh My Soul). Zeppelin ripped it off from Richie Valens, on Physical Graffiti, and got into a legal jam.
Hi-Tone – A song about finding the real person under the snobby exterior. Never judge a book by its cover
Hurry Up – Kind of a proactive Stood Up. Richie isn’t pleased…
Framed – I was walkin’ down the street, says Richie off the top, identifying himself as “Henry.” A Leiber – Stoller song. It was never a hit for anyone, but there are versions by The Coasters, by Bill Haley & His Comets, and by Burton Cummings.
Last Freight – An instrumental. Richie demonstrates his guitar virtuosity.
Little Girl – A ballad in the Buddy Holly style. It was the last hit that Richie had, from the summer of 1959.
Malaguena – In case Last Freight left any doubt in our minds…

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