It’s been so long and I seem to have so little energy for it….
But still youtube remains loaded with gems like this
An English sixties band doing a cover of an American song that isn’t pointless compared to the original, by gum. Here’s the Hollies’ exciting and dynamic cover of ‘I Can’t Let Go.’ Listen to the three point harmony on the word ‘Goodbye. No wonder David Crosby stole Graham Nash away – the boy can harmonize!
There’s a nice clip of Evie Sands singing the original that my regular readers will both have seen a couple of months ago when I posted “the curse of Evie Sands.” (Yeah, that’s right, I’m not ashamed to put up links to my own blog – I need the hits dammit!)
So, I Can’t Let Go by The Hollies – the exception that proves the rule – but listen to ‘Stay’ by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs, or better still Doris Troy’s version of ‘Just One Look’ and tell me I’m not right about the Beat Boom being rubbish.
There’s a show called Sounds of the Sixties on BBC Radio 2, or ‘Radio 2, from the BBC’ as all their presenters now have to call the station. (I assume that one was thought up by private marketing consultants – I wonder how much of our license fee was handed over to the authors of that particularly bit of brand re-positioning.
“Oh! Tarquin come and look! There’s a publicly funded organisation in reception – we can all have new Bentleys!”) Anyhow Sounds of the Sixties is presented by Your Old Mate Brian Matthew, and it is a strange beast, to my ear at any rate. I should probably say here that, though I was born in the sixties, I don’t actually remember them. My first cultural memory is the Apollo 11 moon landing, (December 1969 fact fans,) I’d just turned 5 at the time. Sounds of the Sixties caters to an audience who, by and large, do remember the sixties – and most of them, judging by the requests read out by Your Old Mate Brian Matthew, are desperate to hear the b-side of a middling hit by Billy Fury or Petula Clark that they grew up with but haven’t heard since their big sister left home in 1967 taking all her 45s with her. And the sixties of memory is a different decade to the sixties as imagined by the likes of me and those younger than me. Sounds of the Sixties teaches us two important facts. The first is just how rationed pop music was in Britain at that time. Up until 1974 every British household was permitted a maximum of 5 pop singles and one ep – usually Twist and Shout, with the Beatles leaping above a wall on the cover – and the kids in the house had to play both sides of everything they had whenever they switched on the radiogram to make sure the precious records wore out evenly. In those days all records had proper b-sides and none of this ‘remix’, ‘accapella’ or ‘bonus beats’ stuff on the flip.
The Second thing you quickly come to realise is that the British Beat Boom was rubbish, and the Blues Boom was even worse. Seriously, you have to be blinded by nostalgia to give this stuff the time of day.
The other night there was a documentary on about the history of British Motorways – riveting stuff – it included a little newsreel clip of the Rolling Stones from early in their career , the music in the background was their recording of Hitchhike and it was bleeding diabolical – you wouldn’t pay them in washers! I won’t inflict it on you (mostly because I can’t find the clip online – just some stills) but here’s Marvin Gaye:
This is not an isolated example, and I may continue on this subject at another time – I have a 70 song playlist to back up my argument. I’m serious here. I’m compiling a third CD of great American songs that were given the highly inferior cover version treatment by a British Invasion era act, and there are remarkably few cases where the Britsh recording adds anything to the original, even when its much more familiar than the original.
Anyway, to put it simply, the British Invasion groups only got any good when they started writing their own songs – ( and the blues in the sixties, as Hip Hop is now, or Reggae was in the seventies, was the black music genre that white kids just should not have been messing with.)
Exhibit A. The Searchers vs Jackie De Shannon – but I’ll warn you it’s not a fair fight, Jackie kicks seven colours of crap out of those boys.
Four words sum that performance up for me: Chicken in a basket.
Now the next clip is of dubious quality – the years have not been kind to the video tape, and the performance is pretty jokey stuff Jackie is lip-syncing to her record although the hand claps are live, and she’s goofing with all the boys on stage. But if you look past that to her recorded performance of the song…..
In particular at around 1 minute 55 you get the bridge – key line and emotional heart of the whole song:
“Why can’t I stand up and tell myself I’m strong?”
“Because I saw him today…”
What do the Searchers do in their version ? Fill the silence with a drum roll – and then run through the first verse again – ho hum.
OK, more Jackie, a very cutesy dance, but a mighty, mighty record. She’s a young woman singing about her feelings, and they’re strong. Maybe they got her to mime those shivers so she seemed nice and unthreatening.
I’m not even going to humilate the Searchers by showing you their weak ass version of this one:
This is becoming an oft told tale, but was Evie Sands the unluckiest woman in 60’s pop?
In 1965 a teenaged Evie was signed by Leiber & Stoller’s Blue Cat label and teamed with producers Chip Taylor & Al Gorgoni. (Taylor is, of course, the brother of Jon Voight and the guy who wrote “Wild Thing” made famous by The Troggs.) Taylor and Gorgoni recorded a classic debut single with Evie called “Take Me For a Little While.”
So far so good, but here’s where the bad luck starts. A pre-release copy of the song fell into the hands of an A & R man from Chess records. Chess artist Jackie Ross had just had a big hit with “Selfish One,” and the label were looking for a follow up hit. The white label of “Take Me For a Little While” was taken to Chicago, and a version recorded with Ross and rush released before Evie’s original came out officially. DJs around the US started playing the Ross version believing it to be the original & dismissing Evie’s as the cover. A legal dispute between Blue Cat and Chess resulted in the Jackie Ross version being withdrawn – but the damage was done and Evie’s single never gathered the neccessary momentum to become a hit.
“Take Me For a Little While” was written by Trade Martin, the follow up “I Can’t Let Go” was written by Taylor & Gorgoni themselves. Another classic, but somehow not a hit for Evie. Perhaps the whole Jackie Ross “Take Me for a Little While” affair had left some with the incorrect impression that it had been the Evie Sands camp who’d been in the wrong. Whatever the reason, the single went nowhere, but the following year the song was an international smash hit for The Hollies.
Although Evie left Blue Cat and joined Cameo records she continued to work with Taylor & Gorgini, who produced further singles. In 1967 they must have thought they’d struck gold – Chip Taylor came up with arguably the greatest song of his career, and it was the perfect vehicle for Evie. It was recorded as a single. It came out. It started to get air play. It started to sell – but the curse of Evie Sands struck again. The Cameo label folded and the single disappeared. The song was “Angel of the Morning.”
Yes, that “Angel of the Morning.”
P.P. Arnold, Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts:
“Just call me Angel of the Morning, Angel.”
A song so robust even Shaggy couldn’t kill it, though he gave it a damn good kicking in 2001.
And so, despite 3 or 4 years of trying and producing a bunch of great singles including three stone cold classics, Evie Sands just couldn’t get a hit. If the material wasn’t up to par, if Evie was untalented or unattractive there might be an excuse, but not only is she a fox, she has a really good voice, an impressive range and a distinctive sound. Taylor and Gorgini had found or written & arranged material that suited her down to the ground. And anyway, to steal a line from Steve Jordan, you could’ve had Deputy Dawg singing these songs and still have had hits. How could she miss? And yet miss she had.
Strike three – but Evie wasn’t out quite yet. Chip Taylor hatched a plan. He’d given Evie his best new songs only to see other artists get the hits. So, this time, he took a song of his that had already been a hit, on the basis that no one was likely to record a spoiler version. The song was “Any Way That You Want Me” previously recorded by The Troggs. Chip came up with a new arrangement and a new bridge with more than hint of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and the result was – at long last – a monster hit in 1969. Here she is performing it live in 2006 with the BMX Bandits in Glasgow.
Evie is still musically active – check out her Myspace page, I think she maintains it herself. She’s still in great voice as demonstrated by “While I Look at You” the track you’ll hear there. You can hear clips from her last album Women in Prison, here. And you can buy CDs of her two early 70s albums from those nice people at Revola records, and I recommend that you do.
You know that moment. That feeling. The one you get when you think of the perfect reply. That witty yet cutting rejoinder that puts the other person in their place. Or those almost poetic words that turn the object of your desire into putty in your hands. Or that pithy remark that’s bound to impress everyone in the room, to make them look at you anew, eyes filled with admiration and perhaps even a little envy. You know that moment when the right words are just there, magically. In your head. At your disposal. The words that can turn any situation to your advantage.
You know that moment.
It happens anywhere between three hours and eighteen months after the time to say those words has been and gone. Lost forever. And you just standing there. Mouth gaping. With spinach stuck to your teeth.
One afternoon, I was flicking through the TV channels and stopped on an Oprah Winfrey clipshow, featuring highlights from years of celebrity interviews. They showed an amusing moment from sometime in the early 80’s where she introduced her star guest, Sylvester Stallone, with the words: “I’m here with Sly Stone,” The audience laughs, its a genuine slip, but Oprah’s a pro, she quickly corrects herself eliciting yet more laughter. It’s a cute moment between Oprah and her audience and Stallone’s kind of left out of it, with nothing else to do but sit there and chuckle in a good natured fashion.
Now I may be wrong, but I’d guess that sometime after he left the studio Stallone had one of those: “when she said that what I should’ve said was…” thoughts, that we all get from time to time. The only difference is that Stallone is a Hollywood star and he can insist, contractually, that the moment is re-enacted. Only this time he gets the chance to look just as sharp as a tack and as cool as a cucumber, because the next clip they showed was from a few years later, and Oprah is about to interview the stars of Tango & Cash. TV professional that she is, I don’t think she’d have made the same error twice, but sure enough she says: “I’m here with Kurt Russell & Sly Stone.” The audience laughs, Oprah adopts an ‘Oops! Aren’t I a scatterbrain’ expression, and the camera cuts straight to Stallone who utters the perfect response, the timeless words: “Boom acka lacka lacka! Boom acka lacka!”
Now, if you don’t know why that was just the perfect thing to say run this Youtube clip, and make sure you’re paying attention around the 7:05 mark.
Here’s a unique tribute to the magic of Sly.
And here’s the best quality clip I could find of this summer’s shows – Sly Stone is 64. I advise caution .
My post on Dusty Springfield singing The Six Million Dollar Man Theme got me thinking about Petula Clark doing adverts for Chrysler in the seventies. I couldn’t find any video or even audio evidence of those adverts online, but I did find out that Pet recorded a “Things go better with Coke” radio jingle in the sixties – and apparently so did almost everyone else. Click here for a link to a page that includes playble jingles by Tom Jones, The Bee Gees, Nancy Sinatra, and one by the Supremes that sounds like it was recorded at Hitsville with the Funk Brothers.
60sgaragebands.com have made quite a study of bands who did endorsements from just within their particular sub-genre.
Below a number of other pop stars take the corporate dollar.
That’s the real Four Seasons, though they do seem kind of camera shy.
Is this why Peter Tork quit?
Lulu went on to advertise the Freemans catalogue
In Britain, Madness were the inspiration for a number of adverts – the British Meat ones in particular (Wot! No Meat? How about a bit of British Beef?) In Japan they just took the money and advertised the Honda City themselves.
It’s funny how one post leads to another around here.
Finding the Lorna Bennet version of Breakfast In Bed on Youtube, that I shared last time brought a couple of things to mind. I hadn’t heard it before, but it’s obvious that the UB40/Chrissie Hynde version of the song was a cover of Lorna, not Dusty, because they repeat Lorna’s mishearing of the original lyrics. Dusty’s “a kiss or three” becomes “kisses for me” when Lorna sings the song. Where Dusty ends the chorus:
“Breakfast in Bed
Nothing Need be Said,” then ad libs “Aint no need.”
Lorna gives us:
“Breakfast in bed
Love can make you see
Hang on me.”
Put it down to Dusty’s intentionally sleepy diction.
You’d often get that with a reggae cover version of an American or British pop song – I suppose it comes of learning the song from the record not the published sheet music, and you’d to hear those kinds of error in the lyrics when Britsh beat groups covered American R & B songs. –
For example on the orignal of Shout – The Isley Brothers sing:
“Now that you’re grown up, old enough to know,
You wanna leave me, you wanna let me go.”
On Lulu’s version (and to this very day) she sings: “You wanna leave me, you wanna love me so,” which doesn’t make an awful lot of sense. Somewhere, this very night, maybe right this second, Lulu is still getting the words of Shout wrong after forty years.
On Mod classic “I’ll Keep On Holding On” by The Action you’ll hear a little bit of vocal interplay that, I think, goes:
Looking for a chance….
A Chance to make you mine.”
That makes so little sense that later in the song lead singer Reg King, sings the lines:
“I’ll be waiting and watching….
I’ll be looking over my shoulder….”
On the Marvelettes original version, Wanda Young doesn’t sing ‘shoulder’ at all, of course. She’s singing ‘Sho’ nuff,’ which was probably unfamiliar enough a phrase to confuse a bunch Londoners in the mid-sxities.
Of course I might be mis-hearing some of these myself.
Anyway I like a good cross genre cover and so here are three groovy soul versions of rock classics for your enjoyment.
Lou Rawls: For What It’s Worth
The Isley Brothers: Love the One You’re With
Spanky Wilson: Sunshine of Your Love
Now because you’ve been good and read all the way to the end, here’s the flip side of that Lorna Bennet single, courtesy of mrrk on Youtube – a bit of proto-dub madness that they called Skank in Bed – featuring Scotty. I’d’ve called it Toast for Breakfast, but what do I know?
So, how many people reading this switched to CD and got rid of their turntables?
How many live with a spouse or partner who didn’t like the amount of space a record player and all that old vinyl took up? (I wouldn’t mind but you never bloody play any of it anyway.)
How many always intended to replace the old deck when it finally gave up the ghost, but just never got round to it?
Well, if you count yourself amongst that sorry band there’s no longer any need to worry. Thanks to countless Youtube subscribers you can experience the simple joy of spinning an old 45 from the discomfort of your own computer work station.
And there’s also a mountain of this stuff at the online home of the Motown Master, but the Master doesn’t allow embedding so you’ll just have to follow the link.
Now, go and buy yourself a fucking record player, you sad bastard.
(And if you already have one, change the bleeding stylus for God’s sake. – How long has that one been on there for? Since you bought the turntable? I thought so.)