Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arthur Lymon Group

Arthur Lyman This is Arthur Lyman’s Greatest Hits, which has all 3 of his top 100 singles. Along with Les Baxter and Martin Denny, Lyman was a purveyor of exitoca. His music has a decidedly dreamy quality…

Arthur Lyman Group

Taboo – His first hit, from the summer
Love For Sale – From the winter of 1963.
Jungle Drums
Black Orchid – I have this also by Martin Denny. Not the Stevie Wonder song.
Afro Blue
Bwana A
Yellow Bird – His big hit, from the summer of 1961. This sad tale of lost romance is best known by The Mills Brothers.
Cotton Fields – By Leadbelly. The Highwaymen put it on the charts, and so did The Beach Boys. The most idiosyncratic version may be by CCR.
Blue Hawaii – So many versions of this, even Elvis
Midnight Swim
Hawaii Tattoo – If this isn’t Hawaii’s national anthem, it ought to be.
Pele – A song about a volcano.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Carl Smith

Carl Smith When I found Carl Smith’s Greatest Hits at some second hand shop I’d never heard of Carl Smith. So I looked him up and found that in August of 1959 the song 10,000 Drums had reached number 19 in Toronto, and that he’d put 3 songs into the Billboard top 100, the highest placing being the aforesaid drum song, which crept up to 43, not quite the promised land of the top 40. Alas, none of the 3 songs were on the album, though most of the tracks had been hits on the country charts.

It was serendipity that I happened to have acquired a copy of a K-Tel album, a collection of great country hits, which happened to have 10,000 Drums. The last track, Tomorrow Night seems to have come from somewhere else as well, though for the life of me I can’t remember where.

And so a collection is born…

Carl Smith:

Ten Thousand Drums – This was the closet Smith had to a pop hit, it just missed the top 40. That was in the summer of 1959. The song is about the American war of independence, and it’s kind of a copy of The Battle Of New Orleans, but without the flippancy, which may be why it wasn’t a bigger hit.
Hey Joe! – This is not good, not good at all. This is an uptempo, jubilant, joyful, exuberant song about envy and betrayal of friendship, not to mention (but I am mentioning it!) superficiality. I love it. Not the Billy Roberts song, the one that was a hit for The Leaves and for The Jimi Hendrix Experience, not that one. The Searchers covered this on their live album. Number 1 on the country chart in 1953.
There She Goes – A hit for Jerry Wallace and a country hit for Patsy Cline. A song of remorse and regret, as the breakup is distilled into a single moment – “She’s walking away…” Smith put this in the country top 10 in 1955
Oh Lonesome Times – I don’t quite understand this one. He’s running around, he says, but blame old lonesome times. Wha? From 1955.
Are You Teasing Me – Another song of romantic insecurity. When he says “teasing,” he means “leading me on.” Number 1 country in 1952. I love the fiddles on this.
I Feel Like Cryin’ – Another heartbreak song. Interesting, isn’t it, how men have no trouble crying in popular music, though here, admittedly, he only “feels” like it.
Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way – This is how they sang about sex before it was ok to sing about sex. He promises marriage and everything. His first number 1, in 1951.
Doorstep To Heaven – A touching song of a highly dysfunctional relationship. Being together, he says was “living hell.” But then a potential reconciliation is the “doorstep to heaven.” He demurs, in the end, citing the lethal jealousy that poisoned their lives. Jealousy is easy to sing about, but really it’s a stand-in for the dysfunction of your choice: anger, depression, selfishness, take your pick. From 1956.
The Little Girl In My Hometown – Yet another song about leaving the girl behind for the bright lights, then coming back when it’s too late. Johnny Cash did Ballad Of A Teenage Queen, Tommy Roe did The Folk Singer, Conway Twitty did Don’t Cry Joni, and Jimmie Rodgers did Tucumcari. Won’t these guys ever learn?
If You Saw Her Through My Eyes – Don’t judge. That’s the moral. Then at the end he admits his guilt. Not that he’s judging, but that he’s the cause of whatever is wrong with the woman whom others are judging. What the heck did he do, sell her into slavery?
You’re Free To Go – Sure she is, and he doesn’t have to give her permission. But in his own heart, yes he does. He has to be able to say and mean it. He doesn’t mean it yet in the song, but that’s ok. He just needs to keep saying it long enough.
Getting’ Even – Difficult to tell what’s going on here, except that it’s a sermon against vindictiveness. It sounds like he’s going for a bit of a rock and roll sound, with an electric guitar solo, but the thing sounds so odd, like they’re trying to figure out how it works.
I Overlooked An Orchid – He was chasing Ginger, and Maryann was there the whole time.
Tomorrow Night – A song of romantic constancy. It’s the male side of Will You Love Me Tomorrow.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Santo & Johnny

Santo & Johnny Santo and Johnny are brothers. Johnny played steel guitar, Santo played “normal” guitar. They are still somewhat active, though they only had 6 top 100 singles: 2 in 1959, 2 in 1960, 1 in 1961, and 1 in 1964. I only have their Big Hit.

Santo & Johnny:

Sleepwalk – Sleepwalk takes its place among instrumentals that hit number 1 (Autumn, Theme For A Summer Place, Telstar). The title is apt, as there is definitely something somnambulant about this slow dance. There are a slew of covers. It was number 1 in the fall of 1959.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson Stonewall Jackson’s real name is Stonewall Jackson. He was named after the Civil War Confederate general whose real name was not Stonewall. He didn’t have much of an impact on the pop charts, 4 top 100 singles in 2 years, but he had a bucketload of hits on the country charts, over a few dozen years. I looked high and low for a number of years for a collection that I wouldn’t have to pay full price for, and I finally found this in the summer of 1996.

Stonewall Jackson:

Waterloo – To the ringing banjo and bass drum we are regaled with the dismal fate of Adam (and the “apple” of course), Napoleon (gettit?) and, who was then a recent cultural reference, Tom Dooley. This very hummable but dismal tale of the weakness of human nature was Jackson’s Big Hit, that was in the summer of 1959. Not the Abba song.
Don’t Be Angry – Not the Nappy Brown song. In simple but eloquent phrases the general tells us a tale of contrasts: how fortunate he is, and how insecure. He doesn’t understand why she gets angry at his failure to understand. Frankly, neither do I.
Mary Don’t You Weep – A not quite martial rhythm accompanies this Civil War tale of a soldier who leaves his girl “on their wedding day.” As he adjures her not to cry because “the war will soon be over,” we are left with the conflict between his optimism and the reality of his death in the burning of Atlanta. From the winter of the 1960.
A Wound Time Can’t Erase – A man who is both mystified and bitter about being dumped. It’s not clear, though, why his particular heartbreak is impervious to the healing powers of time. A hit on the country charts in 1962
B.J. The D.J. – About a disc jockey with an overprotective mother. No wonder he drove so fast to work. Went to number 1 on the country chart in 1964.
Blues Plus Booze – Our hero advocates against using alcohol as an emotional pain-killer. “Blues plus booze means I lose,” he intones, though he mercifully spares us the details. The honky tonk piano evokes the place he’s doing all the boozing in. From 1966
I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water – I tried, really I did is the message in this tale of a guy who couldn’t go straight no matter what. Through it all is a typical failure to take responsibility. “I fell in with bad companions.” From 1965. A hit on the pop charts a year later for Johnny Rivers, and Charlie Rich had a crack at it.
Life To Go – Stonewall is incarcerated (inside stone walls ha ha), apparently in a jurisdiction where parole is unknown. 18 years, he tells, us over and over, he’s been there. Meanwhile, he’s a normal guy, wife, kid, job, the whole routine, who just exercised bad judgment one night “where the lights were bright.” They’re all normal guys, all the guys in prison in country songs, and even in pop songs (Skyline Pigeon). This was his first hit, number 2 on the country chart in 1958, written by George Jones.
Old Showboat – And here’s where his humour kicks in. Showboat is a horse, the narrator is a rodeo rider, and when he gets his leg broken trying to break the stallion, the nurse turns out to be the cute girl in the audience. “I’m getting married,” he sings, “and Showboat you’re to blame.” From 1963.
Angry Words – From 1968. The role that anger plays, and shouldn’t play, in a relationship. In the end it’s all about maintaining perspective. Listen carefully…
Help Stamp Out Loneliness – A female chorus and an array of fiddles help Stonewall convey this old fashioned waltz. From 1967, the year of Sergeant Pepper.
Me And You And A Dog Named Boo – Lobo’s hit version is a hippie odyssey; Jackson’s country version, a bit more salty, falls between hippie and hobo. From 1971.
If This House Could Talk – “…almost became a happy home.” Pieces of your life get torn away, the physical evidence remains, and you’re left to deal with the emotional fallout. From 1965.
Greener Pastures – “It’s really not love that you are after,” he sings. A country hit and a Canadian hit in the spring of 1961
“Never More” Quote The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe in the service of romantic wrongdoing and regret. From 1969. It’s astounding how little his style change over the years.
Why I’m Walking – He’s off to see his true love with singular determination. One can only wonder what will happen at his destination. From 1960.
Promises And Hearts – Both “made to break…” From 1967.
That’s All This World Needs – A feel-good song with a honky-tonk sensibility and a hokey children’s chorus. From 1972, the year of The Candyman, which is probably no coincidence.
Leona – A man confronts his wife who is having an affair, he begs, he pleads. The other man’s wife, though, isn’t so gentle; she shoots them dead, leaving his 2 year old “baby” calling for her mother. All this in waltz time. From 1962.
Smoke Along The Track – Orange Blossom Special redux, as is probably every country song written about trains. All that singing of escape, movement, possibility. Just ask Johnny Cash. Stonewall’s no slouch either. From 1959.
Blue Field – A country soap opera about bootlegging and murder, reminiscent of Bobby Bare.
A Little Guy Named Joe – The mother dies in childbirth, the father goes off to war, the kid is left “alone.” Strange. Another tale of wartime difficulties. From 1960.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dinah Washington

I discovered Dinah Washington at Woolco. Imagine discovering Dinah Washington at Woolco. What I found there was a budget reissue of some greatest hits collection, featuring some of her more popular songs from the late 40s. I found it in a clearance bin, and it was $1.25. At the same time I found The Harptones, The Five Keys, and Ramsay Lewis. I don’t remember what I’d gone to buy. Maybe a mattress.

Later I picked up a collection of her “jazz sides.” The quotation marks are there not because the recordings were not jazz, but because jazz informs everything she did. Would you pick out certain recordings by, say, Miles Davis as his “jazz sides?” I didn’t think so.

What this collection is is that original LP, plus excerpts from a box set, and altogether it doesn’t say much about her as a “hit maker,” such as she was, but notwithstanding the fact that she put 21 records into the top 100 between 1959 and 1963, hit making wasn’t what she was about. When was the last time you heard Dinah Washington on oldies radio?

I thought so.

Dinah Washington:

Salty Papa Blues – “I’ve got a man,” sings Dinah, “and he treats me like a rat.” Oh my. Not sure, though, whether it means “he treats me as a rat would treat me,” or “he treats me like he would treat a rat.” The first makes more contextual sense, but the second is more correct syntactical reading. Otherwise, “he treats me like a queen” is pretty weird.
It’s Too Soon To Know – Not love at first sight, not by any means. Take your time, get to know each other, figure things out. I have a version of this by Pat Boone, but I daresay that Ms. Washington is a better bet.
Blowtop Blues – Mental illness, does with pizzazz and humour. Figure it out.
Am I Asking Too Much – How often we want what everyone else seems to get effortlessly….
I’ll Never Be Free – I have this by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
How Deep Is The Ocean – An Irving Berlin song.
I Sold My Heart To The Junkman – All the internet references to this credit it to Pati LaBelle & The Bluebelles, who indeed hit with it in 1962, but the song is obviously much older, unless it’s a different song, but the arrangments are so radically different that’s it’s hard to tell for sure.
Evil Gal Blues – Her man is in the military, and things are not going well…
I Won’t Cry Anymore – Also done by Tony Bennett.
A Slick Chick (On The Mellow Side)
What Can I Say Dear (After I Say I’m Sorry)
I’ll Wait
Trouble In Mind – I have a version of this by Lou Rawls.
Am I Blue – I have a version of this by Ron Paley.
Love For Sale – Jerome Kern, wasn’t it?
Blue Skies – Another Irving Berlin song. Exquisite. This may be the best recording of a Berlin song, and that includes about one million recordings of White Christmas.
I’ve Got You Under My Skin – By Cole Porter. My favourite version is by The Four Seasons.
Blue Gardenia
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – Another Jerome Kern song, most famously done by The Platters; Dinah’s version has a completely different feel, just as lush, orchestra and all, but more soulful.
All Of Me
What A Difference A Day Made – I was in Ottawa with some pals, this was a long time ago, and I’d have enough Ottawa. My pals, they said we’ll stay one more day. We were having this discussion sitting in a beer garden by the Rideau Canal, and when the jazz singer who was performing segued into this song my friend said see? See? One more day makes a difference. And I couldn’t argue with it, could I. This was her breakthrough hit on the pop charts, hitting number 20 on Billboard in the summer of 1959. • Unforgettable – More closely associated with Nat King Cole, Dinah’s version was a hit in the fall of 1959.
A Bad Case Of The Blues
This Bitter Earth – This ascerbic look at life was a hit in the summer of 1960.
September In The Rain – Nostalgia to jazz rhythm. From late 1961.
Mad About The Boy

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jan & Dean

The Very Best Of Jan & Dean My collection started with a United Artists LP called The Very Best Of Jan & Dean which had 10 tracks, but later I got serious, with all three volumes of Golden Hits (the third of which gets roundly trashed on Jan & Dean’s own web site (by Dean??)), plus tracks from a few cassette compilations that I picked up at Woolco, plus a few odd tracks that I picked up off singles or stray LPs. At this point, I have pretty much all their original studio albums, on various media, and all their hits but 1 (Fiddle Around). I have Gee And There’s A Girl, but not on this made-it-myself collection.

I could never quite figure these guys out. They seem to be a vocal duo, but the only voice you really ever hear is Jan’s; on Save For A Rainy Day, credited to Jan & Dean but on which only Dean sings, we hear why. As a vocalist, Dean was a good graphic artist. So what exactly was Dean doing the rest of the time? And what about all the instrumental tracks on their LPs?

Meanwhile, Jan & Dean had 24 hits on the top 100, the first in 1959, the last in 1966. They did kind of faux doo-wop and random pop until surfing music appeared, when they jumped on the bandwagon and palled around with Brian Wilson and his bros. They sort of experimented with different stuff later on, but they never got serious about anything.

Jan & Dean's Golden Hits

Jan & Dean:

Jennie Lee – A hit for Jan & Arnie in 1958, redone by Jan & Dean a few years later. Jan is the same, Dean is not Arnie. Its presence, though, on The Very Best Of Jan & Dean fooled me into thinking that I had the original. I know better now, thanks to YouTube. Later they wrote new lyrics and it became Bucket T, about a car. Keep reading.
Baby Talk – Their first hit, from the fall of 1959, well before hot rods and surf were a thing. In fact, they are still in doo-wop mode, singing about talking baby talk to your sweetie. How charming…
We Go Together – A kind of love ballad, about going steady, orchestrated and all. Note the double meaning. From the fall of 1960.
Pallisades Park – Comes from Jan & Dean’s Golden Hits, a cover of Freddie Cannon’s rather dumb song from 1962.
Who Put The Bomp – Barry Mann’s song from 1961. A celebration of all those nerdy rock and roll hits with the nonsense syllables. Jan & Dean, though, they took all the credit (“we put the bomp…). They also goof around a bit, establishing their personas as cut-ups.
Heart And Soul – The song is typical Tin Pan Alley romance, in this case written by Hoagy Charmichael and Frank Loesser in 1938. Jan & Dean rock it up, with a lot of doo wop, and it was a hit for them in the summer of 1961. The Cleftones put a similar version on the charts during the same year.
Barbara Ann – A sound extravaganza; it’s all about the ba-ba-ba’s. The song was a hit for The Regents in 1961. But it was an ideal vehicle for Jan & Dean’s style. Dean Torrance reprised his performance in a recording that The Beach Boys did in 1965, which went to number 1.
Poor Little Puppet – Being a puppet isn’t always seen as a bad thing – think Puppet On A String by Elvis, Puppet On A String by Sandy Shaw, I’m Your Puppet by James & Bobby Purify. Here though, it’s bad, a song about a guy who it totally p-whipped, and it’s not a pretty sight. In the end we learn that he’s singing about himself. Clever.
Tennessee – This tribute to the state that country music calls home, of which I can not understand a single word, was a hit of sorts in the summer of 1962. Not the same song that Carl Perkins did.
A Sunday Kind Of Love – A cover of The Harptones song. They give it a big production with bells and trombones and who knows what. Spent one week in the top 100 in January, 1962. Also covered by The Del Vikings.
Linda – An uptempo tale of unrequited love. This was from the summer of 1963, around the time that Jan & Dean were coming into their own. The first dance I ever danced was with a girl named Linda. I was 12.
She’s My Summer Girl – A track from Ride The Wild Surf, a 1964 album. The concept, imagine, a summer girl. “I wonder how it’s gonna be when summer’s through,” sings Dean, “I’m gonna have to quit all the groovy things we do and forget my summer girl.”
It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3 – A song about being apart for the summer. Unlike Sealed With A Kiss or Save Your Heart For Me, this one is kind of unstressed. I wonder who the female vocal harmony is by, surely not Dean. From the Dead Man’s Curve / New Girl In School album, 1964.
Surf City – Look out Dick Dale, Jan & Dean are hitting the surf. All the surfing clichés, wrapped up neatly into a song that hit number 1 in the summer of 1963.
• Honolulu Lulu – Gotta give ‘em points for the name. This tribute to the queen of the surfer girls was a hit in the fall of 1963.
Old Ladies Seldom Power Shift – An instrumental from the The Little Old Lady From Pasadena album. Given that neither Jan nor Dean appears to have been a musician, it’s odd that their LPs are peppered with instrumentals.
Drag City – Surf City redux, this time about drag racing. From the winter of 1964.
Move Out Little Mustang – The Beach Boys did Shut Down, and it was the last word on car race songs, but not everyone noticed. The hook here is that his rival is female. In the end they join forces, or something. From The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.
Sting Ray – Another instrumental, this one from the Drag City album.
Little Deuce Coupe – Jan & Dean do The Beach Boys. The harmonies are similar, and so is the arrangement. From the Drag City album.
Summer Means Fun – Summer songs are legion. Given that Jan & Dean moved in the same orbit as The Beach Boys it was natural that they’d go for the mythical musical summer, and so they did. This was a hit for Bruce & Terry in 1964, the Bruce of whom was Bruce Johnston who later (ready?) joined The Beach Boys. J & D’s version is from The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.
Surfin’ – The debut Beach Boys hit. J & D’s version has weird harmonies. It’s from Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin’, which was where they got into the surfing groove.
Dead Man’s Curve – One of Jan & Dean’s defining songs. This tale of near tragedy was a hit in the spring of 1964. There’s enough been written about Jan’s real live dead man’s curve accident, and how life imitates art, that I don’t have to say anything here.
The New Girl In School – This faux high school tale was the b side of Dead Man’s Curve, and a hit in the spring of 1964.
Memphis – The Chuck Berry song, and a less than eviscerating rendition. From Surf City, an album on which every song is a different city. Listen to Johnny Rivers.
Gonna Hustle You – This was the original version of The New Girl In School; they had to rewrite it for mass consumption. This version appeared on one of their live albums (Filet Of Soul).
The Little Old Lady From Pasadena – A car racing song with a twist. Co-writen by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys even covered it on their live album. One of their best known songs. From the summer of 1964.
School Days (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) – The Chuck Berry song. It comes from Dead Man’s Curve / The New Girl In School. That was in 1964, but it found its way onto a Liberty single and into the Canadian charts in the winter of 1966 / 1967. The Beach Boys did it much later, and did it better.
Ride The Wild Surf – This may be the last word in surf songs. All the elemental thrill detailed down to that one last ride. From the fall of 1964.
The Anaheim, Azousa And Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review And Timing Association – This takes The Little Old Lady From Pasadena to a whole new level. The title is not the longest title on record, the Jan & Dean webste’s claim notwithstanding. I don’t know what is, but Pink Floyd has a longer one on Ummagumma. This was actually the B side of Ride The Wild Surf, and it was on the chart in the fall of 1964.
Surfin’ Safari – Another Beach Boys hit, given an attempted carbon copy treatment. Also from the Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin’ album.
I Gotta Drive – Car racing as a life enriching statement. It was The Beach Boys nailed the concept on Don’t Worry Baby. This is from Drag City.
My Mighty GTO – Ronnie & The Daytonas did a song about a GTO, but this is different. From Dead Man’s Curve / The New Girl In School.
Sidewalk Surfin’ – A song about skateboarding, and why not. With a refrain of “bust your buns” the guys are all set to conquer the curb. The tune is Catch A Wave, by The Beach Boys. From the fall of 1964.
Freeway Flyer – A single only release, until the CD era anyway. About a cop who needs to get his quota. This was on the B side of Theme From The T.A.M.I. Show. It’s from early 1965.
Theme From The T.A.M.I. Show – Speaking of which… The T.A.M.I. Show was some kind of movie / concert or something that took place in the early part of 1965. Jan & Dean, if I’m not mistaken, were “hosts.” Featured were James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Leslie Gore, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys. Chuck Berry. So Jan & Dean got to record the theme, and its roll call of performers, with a lot of screaming in the background. I found the single, and it was quite a find, because it had an otherwise unavailable B Side, but it’s available now on the Command Performance CD. This is from the winter of 1965.
Jan & Dean's Golden Hits Volume 2You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy – This song about a deteriorating relationship is from the summer of 1965.
I Found A Girl – A joyful song of new love. From the fall of 1965. The guys were really getting away from the surf thing. “I used to go to parties all alone” he says. Parties?
Do Wah Diddy Diddy – A cover of The Exciters / Manfred Mann hit, taken from one of their live albums. Very horn-laden.
Dead Man’s Curve – Again. One version is the hit version. The other isn’t. One is taken from the live album, though it doesn’t sound live. Complicated.
Batman – This was in the days of the famous TV show with Adam West, and I guess everyone had to jump on the bandwagon. The song is just another restating of the Batman legend. Not the most inspired moment they ever had, and the album it comes from is truly terrible. Meanwhile, they vaguely quote the Batman Theme by Neal Hefti, but not enough to get sued. From the winter of 1966.
Detroit City – Bobby Bare’s great hit from 1963. This comes from Surf City, and they don’t make you forget Bare.
Eve Of Destruction – An almost carbon copy of Barry McGuire’s number 1 hit from the summer of ’65. From the Folk ‘N’ Roll album.
Hang On Sloopy (My Girl Sloopy) – Originally a hit for The Yardbirds in the UK, then a major hit for The McCoys in the summer of ’65. This version mimics The McCoys, with some jerking around by the guys in the middle.
Louie Louie – From a live album. Not the most inspired version of the old warhorse.
Yesterday – The Beatle song. Jan Berry is no Paul McCartney.
Walk Right In – The Rooftop Singers hit.
Everybody Loves A Clown – Live version of Gary Lewis & The Playboys hit from 1965.
Popsicle – How many songs can you do about summer? No limit, as long as you keep thinking of new twists. From the summer of 1966.
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) – The song is a great story of romantic revenge, probably the best ever, and it took John Lennon to come up with it, and put it across. Jan Berry is no John Lennon, though it’s still a good song. From Folk ‘N’ Roll.
Yellow Balloon – Sunny sunny sunny. This song was a hit for The Yellow Balloon in 1967. Jan & Dean did it on their Save For A Rainy Day album, and put out a competing single, but it went nowhere. This is actually Dean, Jan was waylaid after being wiped out at the real-life Dead Man’s Curve.
A Surfer’s Dream – A ballad like The Lonely Sea or The Warmth Of The Sun. It’s even in Jan & Dean's Golden Hits Volume 3waltz time. I took it from Wild The Wild Surf.
Bucket “T” – A song about a sports car. I think it’s a Thunderbird with a bucket seat (“There’s only one seat in my Bucket ‘T’”). The tune is Jennie Lee. The Who covered this.
One Piece Topless Bathing Suit – Another track from The Little Old Lady From Pasadena, and the old lady theme was getting stale…

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Tempos

American GraffitiThere just aren’t that many other groups who name themselves after the nomenclature of music itself. The G-Clefs come to mind, and that’s about it. But it’s understandable. There’s not that much else available. The Quarter-Notes maybe. Otherwise what? The notes, the rests, the bars, Sharp & The Flats…

The Tempos had one other top 100 record besides See You In September. I only have the one song though, and it came from the American Graffiti soundtrack.

The Tempos:

See You In September – See, summer isn’t just for swimming and surfing and cruising and hanging out at both kinds of drive-ins. Summer is also a time of separation, and the sense of romantic loss that goes with it. When The Happenings’ version of this song hit the radio in the summer of 1966 it was my older sibling who pointed out the thematic plagiarism of Gary Lewis & The Playboys’ Save Your Heart For Me. But she was unaware of the 1959 original, with its plaintive harmony and unison singing, its heart-on-sleeve emotion, and its ever-so-slightly exotic percussion. “While you’re away,” they sing, “don’t forget to write.” Remember those days when you could only phone once in a while, and you had to write on paper with a pen, and put the letter into an envelope? I don’t know that all that texting and email and cheap long distance and messaging eases the longing all that much. From the summer of 1959.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Webb Pierce

Webb Pierce This is The Millenium Collection, and it disappoints me. Why, you ask. Pierce had 6 top 100 singles between 1957 and 1960, and only one is on here. So what kind of Best Of is this?

Well, let’s be fair. Webb Pierce was a country singer, and so this CD reflects his success on the country charts, not the pop charts, which is totally fair, really. So I have no business being disappointed.

But I am. I will, however, get over it.

…. Someday …

This is a recent acquisition; I found this at La Grande Biblioteque.

Webb Pierce:

Wondering – the aftermath of a broken relationship, can’t quite move on. Not only is our hero wondering what’s going on with his ex, he even wonders if she’s wondering about him. And he hasn’t given up. He prays for their reconciliation. Good luck. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1952.
Back Street Affair – Redundant, I think, back in the world of this song. An affair was backstreet by definition. He got duped, anyway, didn’t know she was married. I suppose it could happen but I have my doubts. Also recorded by Kitty Wells, whose version makes just a bit more sense. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1952.
It’s Been So Long – “It’s been so long since we said goodbye,” sings our hero, “I guess that’s why I sit and cry,” he explains. You’d think he’d have stopped crying by now. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1953.
There Stands The Glass – A classic drinking-to-get-over-heartbreak song. The focus on the glass, the profoundness of it, is different. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1953.
Slowly – A falling in love song. Not a love-at-first-sight song either. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1954.
More And More – An I’m-Getting-Over-You song. Thank goodness. This seems to have been his first and biggest pop hit, reaching number 22 in 1954, beating out I Ain’t Never by 2 points. Also a number 1 country hit.
In The Jailhouse Now – A moral tale, in theory. In practice it’s much too jovial sounding. He sounds as if he is delighted with the whole thing. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1955.
I Don’t Care – This is I Really Don’t Want To Know turned around into a positive statement of love and commitment, and light-heartedly at that. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1955.
Love Love Love – Not The Clovers / Diamonds song. Sounds like a straight love song, but then there are those little bits, life’s too short to fuss and fight, if you trust me… etc. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1955.
Why Baby Why – A straight reading of the George Jones song. Red Sovine sings on this. A number 1 hit on the country chart in 1955.
Honky Tonk Song – A honky tonk song about honky tonk music. This could be his theme song in a way, his and Ray Price’s and George Jones… A number 1 country hit in 1956.
I Ain’t Never – The title bespeaks the populism of the entire genre. Beneath the surface it’s just another love song, but what’s happening is that the hickness of the country is slowly disappearing. No fiddles on this one, but there is a chorus. From the fall of 1959.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Phil Phillips & The Twilights

Phil Phillips Another one-hit wonder. I can’t remember where I got this track either.

Phil Phillips & The Twilights:

Sea Of Love – An invitation to a doomed romance. Don’t believe me? Unless you’re a fish, you can’t live in a sea. Meanwhile, the humming (by The Twilights I would guess) behind the lead vocal is worth the price of admission alone. The Guess Who did a version of this but they buried it behind some inane (but funny) dialogue at the end of the Rockin’ album, and The Honey Drippers (with Robert Plant) put this back on the chart in the 80s. From the summer of 1959.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jerry Keller

Jerry Keller This guy kicked around a bit as a songwriter behind the scenes, but as a recording artist he was a genuine one hit wonder. I got this from a single re-issue, with some other artist on the B side.

Jerry Keller:

Here Comes Summer – It’s all about anticipation - how’s it gonna be, how much fun we’ll have. And with summer, you can list all the activities, and he does, but the real joy is in the ambience, the smells, the feel of a warm summer night. This song was one of the earliest summer anthems, and one of the most underappreciated, though The Dave Clark Five did a cover. It’s quite laid back, though the tempo is not slow, and it bespeaks a kind of languidness of hot days.. From the summer (of course) of 1959.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

August, 1959

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sammy Turner

Sammy Turner Sounds like a guy everyone knew in high school, Sammy Turner. Sure.

He actually had 5 hits on the charts, including Always which reached number 19 late in 1959, and which may or may not be the Irving Berlin song. See if it’s on YouTube, and let me know.

All his hits were on Big Top, the same label that Del Shannon recorded for.

Sammy Turner:

Lavender Blue- “I’ll be your king,” sings Sammy, “you’ll be my queen.” Romance as a form of royalty. Dilly dilly. There is one cover that I know of, by Bobby Vee. From the summer of 1959.
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