Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bert Kaempfert

Bert Kaempfert This would be another of those “other people’s greatest hits” – he does songs by Sinatra, Al Martino, Nat King Cole, Wayne Newton – but for the fact the Kaempfert actually wrote these songs, co-wrote them actually; someone else wrote the words.

You can look him up on Wikipedia to get a list of his impressive musical accomplishments. But what the article doesn’t say is that Kaempfert was the first to record The Beatles. He used them as a backup band for second string singer Tony Sheridan, while they were in Hamburg. He let them do two songs without Sheridan – Ain’t She Sweet with John singing, and Cry For A Shadow, an instrumental.

The album, The Very Best Of Bert Kaempfert, is a double, and it has 7 of the 11 songs that made the Billboard top 100. It has been reissued on CD with a shorter running order.

Bert Kaempfert:

  • Strangers In The Night – This could be taking place in a singles bar, but that would take all the romance out of it. This K original single-handedly rejuvenated Frank Sinatra’s career in 1966.
  • Red Roses For A Blue Lady – The song was written in 1948 and was a hit by Vaughn Monroe. Winter of 1965 saw three competing versions: one by Vic Dana, one by Wayne Newton, and this one. Odd that K’s biggest hits were songs he did not write. I did not understand, being 8 years old and hearing this, why the lady was blue. I did not know then that “blue” meant “sad.” This is, in any event, great ballroom stuff.
  • Lady – Back to originals here. A hit for Jack Jones in 1967. Not the Styx song.
  • Bye Bye Blues – From the winter of 1966, very jaunty. Bye bye blues indeed.
  • Wiederseh’n – Goodbye by any other name…
  • L-O-V-E – Love in the abstract and love by letters, a hit for Nat King Cole in 1964. It’s better without the words.
  • Remember When (We Made These Memories)
  • The World We Knew (Over And Over) – Another one that Sinatra ran away with. That was in the summer of ’67.
  • That Happy Feeling – Tell me about it…From the summer of 1962.
  • Three O’Clock In The Morning – Another hit that he didn’t write, from the spring of 1965.
  • Caravan – By Duke Ellington. This song took on a life of its own, with versions strung as far afield as Nat King Cole (with words) on one end, to The Ventures on the other. Not the Van Morrison song.
  • Danke Schoen – You’re welcome. Another of K’s creations, this one became Wayne Newton’s signature song, in the summer of 1963.
  • Spanish Eyes (Moon Over Naples) – And they keep on coming. This one was a hit for Al Martino in the summer of ’66, and it was recorded by thousands. The original was a hit in the summer of 1965.
  • Hold Me
  • Sweet Maria
  • Hold Back The Dawn – I used to have a version of this by Al Jurreau.
  • Afrikaan Beat – It’s been suggested that this was the beginning of World Music. Maybe. From the winter of 1962.
  • Wonderland By Night – His first and biggest hit. He had competition from Louis Prima (a similar trumpet arranged recording) and from Anita Bryant (with words) but K won hands down, his version reaching number 1 in the winter of 1961. I Can’t Help Remembering You
  • You Are My Sunshine – He gives it his best effort but it’s still You Are My Sunshine.
  • Balkan Melody
  • Steppin’ Pretty
  • A Swinging’ Safari – A winner. Billy Vaughn did a note for note copy and put the song into the top 20 in 1962.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Anthony Newley

Anthony NewleyI suppose that romance is in the eye of the beholder, or better, in the heart of the beholder. And we all have different ideas of what romance is. And for our purposes, we all have different ideas of what romantic music is. Now that’s a topic that deserves a blog post of its own.

We also have ideas of what romantic music isn’t. And for my money, and to my ears, Anthony Newley, whatever his music is, it isn’t particularly romantic.

I say that because I found this LP, a collection of his hits and misses, which is part of the “The World Of…” series. (I have The World Of Ray Charles, for example, and The World Of Cat Stevens). But his is titled The Romantic World Of Anthony Newley. So I suppose that his world may be romantic. But, as I say, his music isn’t especially, the album title nothwithstanding.

Newley was English. He is someone to whom others are compared. David Bowie, for one, in his pre-Space Oddity days, is often compared to Newley. He put 10 songs on the UK top 20 between 1959 and 1961, one of which reached number 1 (Why) and three of which are on this collection, and 4 songs in the Billboard top 100 between 1960 and 1962, none of which reached higher than 67 and three of which are on this collection.

Anthony Newley:

What Now My Love – A 60s standard. My favourite version may just be the one by Miss Piggy.
Strawberry Fair – This is kind of nursery rhyme but it’s just a bit bawdy. From the fall of 1960.
The Father Of Girls – There are more songs about being a son / daughter than about being a parent, and this is why. Is so hard not to be maudlin.
Deep River
And The Heavens Cried
You Made Me Love You – The Tin Pan Alley standard. Listen to Harry Nilsson’s version.
What Kind Of Fool Am I – A bit hit by Sammy Davis Jr, a small hit by Robert Goulet, and a smaller hit by our hero. From the fall of 1962.
Yes We Have No Bananas – Honest, he really does this song…
If She Should Come To You – A hit in England in the summer of 1960, and in NA in the fall.
I Saw Her Standing There – The only other cover of this that I know of is the one by Elton John and John Lennon. This has to be one of the worst Beatles covers I’ve ever heard.
Girls Were Made To Love And Kiss – Gloria Steinem’s favourite song, I hear…
Pop Goes The Weasel – This is a song about Pop Goes The Weasel as much as it is Pop Goes The Weasel. From the winter of 61 / 62, though it hit in UK half a year earlier.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

James Hurst

James Hurst was a novelist but I don’t think this was him. It may have been, though, because the author had some kind of musical career prior to his becoming an author. I question it, though, because him musical career was said to be of the operatic variety.

Whoever he was, this James Hurst was in at least one Broadway musical, a Noel Coward play called Sail Away, and no James Hurst has an entry in Wikipedia.

That’s the thrill of second hand shops; you pick up random singles like this and then you’re left to puzzle over them for years….

James Hurst:

Something Very Strange – Another song about falling in love, from the musical Sail Away, in which Hurst performed.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

André Kostelanetz

André KostelanetzI was sitting at work innocently listening to a collection of tracks by The Tornadoes, when Tim The Enchanter, who is our sysadmin, made a comment.. “That’s elevator music, man,” he said.

Tim The Enchanter knows how to fix a server, but he doesn’t know squat about elevators.

Now André Kostelanetz, that’s elevator music….

Kostelanetz, he never had an actual hit, so I don’t know what business he had having a Greatest Hits album but have one he did…

André Kostelanetz:

Bluesette – I don’t have any other versions of this, though apparently Ray Charles did it.
The Shadow Of Your Smile – A 60s lounge favourite.
Lara’s Theme – aka Somewhere My Love, from Dr. Zhivago, a hit for The Ray Conniff Singers in 1966.
Everybody Loves A Lover – A hit for Doris Day et al
Night Of The Trumpets
Calito Lindo – I think this is Mexican. Frito’s used this ages ago in an ad – Aye aye aye aye, I am the Frito bandito… they got a lot of heat for it.
The Blue Danube Waltz – A truncated version of the Strauss waltz
The Grand Canyon Suite – a truncated version of Ferd Grofé’s American classic
Fools Rush In – The Tin Pan Alley standard. Rick Nelson did this; so did Brook Benton.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Harold Dorman

I took great pains to get the sound just right. The cables got loose, I’d have to fiddle with them to make sure the sound was balanced properly. I’d check the speed on the turntable, adjust the anti-skating, clean the record surface with my discwasher equipment (brush, antistatic gun etc.), adjust the bass, the treble, speaker placement. I’d very carefully clean the stylus with special equipment and fluid.

Then I’d play some scratchy old 45 that had been used on an old portable (obviously mono) record player in someone’s bedroom, that may have been used as a frisby, and I’d hear this:

Pshhstbbszztashtxxlwwtttsss standing on a mountain looking out on the city aptttrsswqrrtzzxzxzxzsssssplpsltttsssx the way I feel is a doggone pity rtrtryygggerrssssssnsssvxxxszzsc...

But... all the scratches would be faithfully reproduced...

Harold Dorman:

Mountain Of Love – His only hit, from the spring of 1960. A song of could-have-beens, love as a mountain, and what good is a mountain? It’s nice to look at, but you can’t take it home. The Beach Boys did this on their Party album, and Johnny Rivers put it back on the charts in 1964, and it fit him like a shoe. (There are two versions of this song, one with strings, one without. I have the one with)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jerry Butler

Jerry Butler As an adolescent R & B didn’t have a big presence in my collection. I had proto-metal (Black Sabbath), mainstream rock (Chilliwack, Three Dog Night), singer-songwriter-heartland romance (James Taylor), psychedelic (Hendrix). As I my teen years ended and my adult years began, I expanded into Janis Ian, John Prine, Kate & Anna McGarrigle. But apart from Stevie Wonder, I didn’t have much soul.

Since then, or course, various albums from that era have snuck their way into my collection: Curtis Mayfield, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway.

But no Jerry Butler. The only Jerry Butler album I ever got was The Best Of Jerry Butler, an original Vee Jay pressing released in the mid 60s, and I picked that up in the early 80s at Pyramid. The most striking thing about the album was the incredibly poor sound quality, which seems to have more to do with the pressing of the LP than with the original production. But many of the tracks sound as though Jerry is singing with a pillow crammed over his face, while the band remains locked in the bathroom at the far end of the building.

Punk bands spend years trying to get a sound like that...

Jerry Butler:

He Will Break Your Heart – Maybe he will and maybe he won’t – but it matters not, as Percy Sledge tells us, lovin’ eyes can never see. Jerry, though, acknowledges that he’s lost the girl; one gets the feeling that he’s singing to her after she’s gone. The voice on the chorus sounds like Curtis Mayfield, and it probably is. And the arrangement is very low-key, no horns on this, just rhythm guitar and rhythm section. From the winter of 1960 / 1961. There’s a version of this by Jim Croce, recorded before he became famous, and Tony Orlando & Dawn sent a remake, retitled He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You) to number 1 in the spring of 1975.
Come Back My Love – Waltz time R & B. Come back, he sings, and correct all the harm you’ve done. Not bloody likely.
Rainbow Valley – Come home, he pleads, yet again. Not sure where Rainbow Valley is, or why he’s singing about it…
I’m A-Telling You – Curtis Mayfield up front and centre again. A song about the challenges of everyday domestic life, which he makes sound like a POW camp. From the summer of 1961.
Aware Of Love – On my copy the vocals are barely audible, but I can tell you that there’s a piano and a horn that plays throughout.
A Lonely Soldier – Strings on this. Not to be confused with Mr. Lonely by Bobby Vinton, which is also about a soldier. Same idea, same bathos.
Moon River – Nice MOR arrangement on this with strings and harmonics, but Jerry, whose again sounds muffled, doesn’t sound all that comfortable with this. There are millions of versions of this, and people will think of the original by Henry Mancini, or Andy Williams, but, believe it or not, this version was the only hit version besides Mancini. From the winter of 61 / 62.
Find Another Girl – Maternal advice. Mom was on the right track here, according to statistics. She’d reappear, Mom would, in Only The Strong Survive. From the spring of 1961.
The Gift Of Love – Generic Butler. At least there doesn’t seem to be any sadness on this one, though you wouldn’t know it unless you pay close attention to the lyrics.
Where Do I Turn – Strings up high in the mix, and Jerry voice way down. Sadness throughout.
Couldn’t Go To Sleep – A song that would have sounded good by Bobby Vee or maybe Frankie Avalon, but neither would sound remotely like this.
I Stand Accused – Love as crime, not a highly original idea, even then. From the fall of 1964.
Need To Belong – Longing for love. Hurts to be known as no one, he laments. I guess so. From the winter of 1964.
Let It Be Me – This is the duo of Jerry Butler and Betty Everett. Their remake of the Everly Brothers classic was a hit in the fall of 1964.
Smile – Another duet with Betty Everett. From the winter of 1964 / 1965.
Hey Western Union Man – We are now into his Mercury years, which lasted from early 1967 until mid 1977. His voice is still there, and it’s all generally some form of R & B, but this is so different that you wouldn’t know it was the same guy. The producers get behind the beat, showcase Jerry’s voice in a muscular arrangement , and the results sparkle. From the fall of 1968.
Never Give You Up – I will stay with you, he proclaims, no matter how bad you are to me. I’m not sure what merit there is in that, but ok. From the summer of 1968.
Moody Woman – He likes her, moodiness nothwithstanding. From the summer of 1969.
Lost – A lilting melody and a smooth arrangement. Deserved to do better than number 62. From the winter of 1968.
Only The Strong Survive – Mom’s back, and her advice isn’t all that bad. From the spring of 1969.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gary U.S. Bonds

Gary U.S. Bonds Not all rock and roll is party music, and not all party music is rock and roll, but when the two worlds intersect, you get Gary U.S. Bonds. Everything he did, (all his hits, anyway) is about non-stop dancing, drinking, pass the punchbowl, let’s have a good time. And it all sounds like it’s coming from a cheap transistor radio; it doesn’t matter how good the sound system is.

All this comes from a single LP called Greatest Hits and credited to U.S. Bonds, no “Gary” credited anywhere. And Gary is the only part of his name that’s real. It looks to me like this album was realeased c early 1962, as it has all his hits up to that point, and then it was reissued with a slightly changed track listing, including a track from 1967. So it’s all a bit weird.

Gary U.S. Bonds:

New Orleans – Party central, to hear Gary sing it. When did they move the Big Easy to Mississippi? Oh wait, no it’s down “the” Mississippi, not down “to” Mississippi. Sorry. And it’s not easy typing “Mississippi” so many times. From the fall / winter of 1960. Neil Diamond had a crack at this during his tenure with Bang Records.
Not Me – Who then? A hit for The Orlons, not for Gary.
Quarter To Three – Perhaps the ultimate party record. One assumes we are talking about AM, as in time, not radio. This bears no small resemblance to the musical refrain in Runaround Sue by Dion. The rhythm here isn’t frantic, but there’s a syncopation going on that makes it hard to resist. Went to number 1 in the summer of 1961.
School Is Out – The ultimate celebration.. This has none of the destructive glee of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out. From late summer / fall of 1961.
Dear Lady Twist – Notice it’s not Twist Baby, it’s “dear lady,” an allusion, no doubt, to the popularity the twist had won among “adults.” From the winter of 1962.
Havin’ So Much Fun – See? It’s what it’s all about…
School Is In – He celebrates the end of school, he celebrates the start of school. There is no contradiction. But what happens at exam time? From the fall of 1961.
Twist Twist Senora – This is what Chubby Checker spent his entire career aiming to achieve…From the spring of 1962.
I Dig This Station – Let’s turn on the radio… and party!!!!
Mixed Up Faculty – A bit of fun at the teachers’ expense.
Workin’ For My Baby – A bit off topic…
Gettin’ A Groove – That’s what it’s all about…

Sunday, March 20, 2011

November, 1960

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ike & Tina Turner

We nevah eveh do anything nice ... and easy....

The newspaper lamented the fact that the city had not much soul; they were commenting on the relatively poor turnout at concert given the previous evening by The Ike & Tina Turner Review. That was in the early 70s, and even then in my adolescence something about it struck me as unfair. The city, I would have told them, had plenty of soul. The radio was full of the Philly soul of Jerry Butler, The O’Jays, The Spinners, the commercial slick soul of Stevie Wonder, the come-on fast-talk soul of Marvin Gaye, the proto-disco of MFSB and The Three Degrees, the Hollywood soul of Earth, Wind & Fire. We heard Gladys Knight & The Pips, Barry White, The Undisputed Truth.

I knew even then that Ike & Tina weren’t exactly typical soul. Dave Marsh delicately described their approach as Ike turning Tina “into one slavering advertisement for a hot ...” - well, something not nice. What they were was soul burlesque – everything outsized, everything exaggerated. And though Marsh may have exaggerated, they weren’t exactly subtle about the message they were sending on stage.

And Tina said it; they never did anything “nice and easy.” Oh, they did ballads, but the ballads were intense, never mellow, never seductive, which is a bit ironic given their overall approach.

The first song I ever heard by Ike & Tina on the radio was Proud Mary; the last was Proud Mary. It’s true that our local top 40 station played soul; it’s also true that, apart from their one big hit, it didn’t play Ike & Tina. That alone could explain the less than stellar concert attendance.

I picked up a collection called Soul Sellers that featured a few of their bigger early hits; the rest were from 1969 on. That left a big gap. I picked up a few more of their early songs from some random bargain cassette, and their mid 60s Phil Spector recordings from Back To Mono, the Phil Spector anthology. Over they years Ike & Tina recorded for Sue, Kent, Philles, Minit, Blue Thumb, Liberty and United Artists. Those are just the ones I know about. Their collections seem to have a gap from about 1964 to 1969. Possibly they didn't do much then; I have no idea...

Ike & Tina Turner:

River Deep Mountain High – After the Righteous Brothers, Phil Spector’s next project was Tina Turner. He sent Ike away (paid him $25,000, according the gods on Wikipedia, to stay away), though the name of the act remained Ike & Tina, put Tina in front of his legendary wall of sound, and the result has long been considered a masterpiece by the pundits. The radio stations, though, wouldn’t play it, because they didn’t like Spector, and so it only made it to number 88 on Billboard. (It reached number 3 in the UK). The song, written by Spector with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, ties childhood sentimentality to adult hormones, and Tina lets loose on the chorus as only Tina can do. From the summer of 1966. The Supremes & The Four Tops put it into the top 20 in 1970, and Harry Nilsson did a splendid version on his first LP.
Save The Last Dance For Me – Another Phil Spector production. This cover of The Drifters hit from 1960 doesn’t work all that well, with Tina turning the gender around, and she can’t really play the wallflower very well.
Nutbush City Limits – Tina and the group sing of the most mundane urban reality, and set the whole thing on fire. From the fall of 1973.
I Want To Take You Higher – There are different ways to be high. Likely Sly & The Family Stone sang of chemical highs on the original. Tina was thinking of something else. From the summer of 1970.
I’ll Never Need More Than This – Starts like You Can’t Hurry Love, and Tina’s unique personality promptly gets buried under Spector’s arrangement.
A Love Like Yours – Originally recorded by Martha & The Vandellas, whose version wasn’t a hit, this is a tribute to a guy with no boundaries. She is very grateful for his generous and kind nature, but trust me, this relationship is hell-bound. Spector lays on the sentiment, like his Righteous Brothers ballads, and Tina does it proud. A UK hit in the fall of ’66.
It’s Gonna Work Out Fine – Great tremolo guitar from Ike, and the vocal interplay between Ike (reputedly the vocal is actually by Mickey “Guitar” Baker, of Mickey & Sylvia) and Tina is priceless, though it’s one of those times when it’s better not to know the truth of their relationship. From the fall of 1961.
Workin’ Together – A bit of social consciousness from our heroes.
Honky Tonk Women – A cover of the Stones’ hit from 1969. Live
Baby, Get It On – A great song about uncontrolled lust, and the electric rhythm makes it very real. Rare vocal by Ike. From the summer of 1975, their last chart entry.
Come Together – Stays close to the Beatles’ original arrangement, but John Lennon only wished he could sing like this. From the spring of 1970.
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long – This is what happens when they do a ballad. The song is best known by Otis Redding, and Tina takes it someplace else. From the spring of 1969.
Sexy Ida (Part 1) – The guitar carries the rhythm, Tina comes in and the drums set the whole thing aflame. The story of a baaaad woman, sister of a black widow spider (if her sister is a spider, what is she?), with synth and clavinet providing the evil underpinning. From the winter of 1974 / 1975.
Proud Mary – This cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s riverboat song was far and away their biggest hit. As I said, it’s the only one I ever heard on the radio. They set out their philosophy of record making, and use this tale of dirty plates, paddlewheels, and New Orleans to whip up a musical storm, with a horn section that could use a good dose of valium. From the winter of 1971.
Crazy ‘Bout You Baby – Tina presents her usual tough self in a one-sided, possibly abusive, relationship. The musical force of this is enough to overwhelm even the most aggressive of partners.
Sweet Rhode Island Red – The best proof around the even a synthesizer can have soul. Otherwise, the song is about a woman as chicken, and sounds like something a pole dancer might sing. Weird.
A Fool In Love – Their debut hit. Interesting that they started their career with this paean to an abusive relationship. If you don’t hear it in the lyrics, you can hear it in Tina’s screams. From the fall of 1960.
Ooh Poo Pah Doo – A cover of the Jessie Hill hit, with a piano intro worthy of Franz Liszt. From the summer of 1971.
I Idolize You – Ike would settle for no less no doubt. Tina gives it her all. From the winter of 1960 / 1961.
Let It Be – The Turners do The Beatles. They turn it into a civil rights song with gospel inflections.
Get Back – Well she made Lennon jealous, now she got to give Paul the treatment. Meanwhile the musicians sound like the best bar band in the world.
River Deep Mountain High – This is the live version, included on the LP because they obviously couldn’t get the rights to the Philles masters.
Poor Fool – A Fool In Love redux, with the story turned somewhat around. She is in love with some poor nebbish. From the winter of 1961 / 1962.
Good Good Lovin’ – Not the James Brown song. “If I ever catch him, I’ll break his neck” she sings. That’s good lovin’ alright.
Mojo Queen – How much effort to we put into getting people, our partners especially, to do what we want them to do. Lots. In what may be the ultimate fantasy, Tina can do it.
Letter From Tina –Tina expresses her innermost feelings, in what would otherwise be a silly record.
You Should’ve Treated Me Right – From the summer of 1962, but I bet it could have been her theme song about 20 years later.
Tra La La La La – From the spring of 1962.

Monday, March 14, 2011

October, 1960

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ken Colyer

So many of the Dixieland Jazz musicians were British. “Trad” jazz was big over there in the late 50s and early 60s.

This is from The Best Of Dixieland.

Ken Colyer:

Ballin’ The Jack – Signature jazz. If someone wants to know what “jazz” sounds like, play him this. An oft-recorded tune.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

September, 1960

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Johnny Tillotson

Johnny Tillotson Another guy who falls under the baby boomer radar. Tillotson had 25 singles on the top 100 between 1959 and 1965, 14 of those in the top 40 and 4 in the top 10, but most of us have never heard of him. It seems that he was some kind of teenage idol – “Johnny” is next to “Bobby” in the ranking of teen idol first names – but his music crossed over into country even on his biggest hits. Surprising that they didn’t call him Johnny Tee.

The collection here is from an Canadian release called Greatest Hits, on Quality. It had 10 tracks, and I threw a few singles in there as well, but I still come up short by thirteen songs.

Johnny Tillotson:

You Can Never Stop Me Loving You – Frustrated romance, the subject of a gagillion songs. This one, about how he’s going to get even with her by loving her long after she’s done with him, is from the fall of 1963.
I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You – Johnny does Hank Williams. Guy Mitchell recorded this, so did B. J. Thomas, so did a million others. From the fall of 1962.
Why Do I Love You So – A song about mixed messages. She gets his hopes up, then does a 23 skidoo. He still loves her notwithstanding her erratic behaviour. Of course he does; he’s still stuck on that girl he fell in love with, not the one who pulled the disappearing act. He sings like his life depends on it, especially the wordless oos. From the spring of 1960.
Dreamy Eyes – His first hit, from early 1959. It re-charted 3 years later. Everything you need to know about this song is in the title.
Poetry In Motion – His biggest hit. It’s dumb, but we all know what he means, don’t we, boys… From the fall of 1960. “She’s much too nice to rearrange…”
It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’ – It doesn’t really, keep on hurting. Only in pop songs. From the summer of 1962.
Without You – The label of the LP that I got this from credited this to Ham & Evans, the two Badfinger members who wrote the Without You that was a hit for Harry Nilsson. This is an entirely different song. It’s not The Doobie Brothers record either. From the fall of 1961.
Out Of My Mind – Here is where he comes out of the country closet. From the spring of 1960.
Jimmy’s Girl – Romantic daydreams spin out of control. From the winter of 1961.
Talk Back Trembling Lips – Relationship as a contest. Not healthy. From the winter of 63 / 64.
She Understands Me – Every man’s dream, framed in the context of “she’s better than you.” Bobby Vinton did this also. Its dum de dies and rolling melody say more than the words. From the winter of 64 / 65.
Send Me The Pillow You Dream On – By Hank Locklin. Covered by The Browns and later by Dean Martin. From the fall of 1962.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Johnny Burnette

Johnny Burnette It’s so easy now, go to Amazon, search for Johnny Burnette, you get two or three good collections to choose from, and there are new and used copies, imports and domestic. That’s in addition to all the Rock And Roll Trio CDs.

It wasn’t like that when I was on the hunt for Johnny Burnette. It was a bit odd, because Burnette recorded for Liberty, and he was produced by Snuff Garrett, and the others with those credentials – Bobby Vee, Gene McDaniels, Gary Lewis & The Playboys – weren’t so hard to find. But Burnette, couldn’t find him for trying.

I don’t remember where I finally came across this LP, it might have been Pyramid, but I remember how incredulous I was when the proprietor of Into The Music wasn’t interested in buying it. It’ll sell in a second I told him. Not from here it won’t, he answered, because I’m not buying it from you.

The LP was called The Best Of Johnny Burnette, it was a cheap years-later vinyl reissue, and it only had 2 of his 4 top 40 hits on it. I got the other two here and there, one on a single, one on a various artists Rhino compilation, the same one that had Rockin Round The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee, and DOA by Bloodrock.

Burnette was a rock and roller who sang lead the Rock And Roll Trio (aka Johnny Burnette Rock And Roll Trio) and then refashioned himself as a teen idol. His second career seems to have been so-so, he only put 5 records into the top 100, 5 in the top 20. He died young, at the age of 30, in 1964.

Johnny Burnette:

Little Boy Sad – Here’s a good illustration of the problem: Johnny sounds like he’s squeezing himself into a space that’s too small for him. Listen to him do Train Kept A-Rolling or Tear It Up with his brother Dorsey and Paul Burlison as the Rock And Roll Trio and you’ll hear what I mean. This tale of a hapless lover was a hit in the winter of 1961.
God, Country And My Baby – Religion, patriotism, and romance all rolled into one ball of melodrama. His last hit, from the fall of 1961.
Dreamin’ – His pièce de la resistance. This is producer Snuff Garrett at what he did best. Johnny's debut solo hit, from the fall of 1960.
Lovesick Blues – Johnny does Hank.
Finders Keepers – Not The Beach Boys song. This is alpha-male competition, and I hope real people aren’t like this.
You’re Sixteen – His best known song, easily. It was on the American Graffiti soundtrack, and Ringo Starr did a remake in the early 70s. Johnny was 26 when he did this, so you have to wonder. From the winter of 1960 / 1961.
Mona Lisa – Surprising how many rock and rollers, or quasi-rock and rollers, had a crack at this – Carl Mann, Conway Twitty, Pat Boone (yes, I know…) The original was a hit for Nat King Cole, and that’s where it should stay.
The Fool Of The Year – He sings here of the relationship between dignity and heartbreak. Heady stuff.
Clown Shoes – Another song about being made to feel ridiculous in matters of the heart. In this one his true love is sending him a very clear message when she gives him clown shoes for his birthday. The fact that he doesn’t get it lends gravitas to the emotional atmosphere.
Big, Big World – Searching for a girl he once knew, and he can’t find her. This is before Facebook. From the summer of 1961.
The Poorest Boy In Town – We’re not talking finances here…
In The Chapel In The Moonlight – A romantic ditty about getting married. It was a hit for Dean Martin and for The Bachelors, but Johnny version was earlier than either.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wanda Jackson

Our local “rock” station would not play recordings by female artists. That was in 1998. They had some kind of “programming” argument to support it. Didn’t fit in well with their format they said. And listeners didn’t want to hear it.

It wasn’t just offensive on principal. It was musically stupid as well. Isn’t the format narrow enough already, I thought, without making it narrower.

The truth is, though, that female performers haven’t had a huge roll in rock and roll (as opposed to pop, folk, country etc). That’s not to say they had a zero roll. But how many bona fide female rock and rollers can you think of offhand? I thought so.

So Wanda Jackson stands out for being a true rock and roller in an era when she may have been the only one. She is still around and kicking, played here recently.

Sadly, though, my collection consists of only two of her five hit singles.

Wanda Jackson:

Let’s Have A Party – And isn’t that what it’s all about. She lets out all the stops here, sounding like she’s just ingested a large amount of helium.
I never kissed a bear
I never kissed a goon
But I can shake a chicken
In the middle of the room

Couldn’t have said it better. From the fall of 1960.
In The Middle Of A Heartache – This torn between two lovers tale is reminiscent of Brenda Lee. From late 1961.
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